I have a mental illness and it sucks

I’m fucking mad.

I’m mad that I have to take pills everyday. I’m mad that they don’t work fast enough. I’m mad that they have side effects. I’m mad that they stop working. I’m mad that I currently can’t run because of my meds. I’m really fucking pissed that I feel like a burden to my husband, despite his reassurances that I’m not. I’m mad that he’s afraid to leave me alone. I’m even angrier that I’m afraid to be alone. I’m mad that it seems that my husband and I have a weekly conversation about whether or not we should go to the hospital. I’m mad at how mad I am. I’m mad that I can’t handle stress. I’m mad that I can’t stay up late. I’m mad that I spend what seems like half my life in doctors’ offices. And I’m mad that I’ve had so many blood tests in the past month that the nurse can’t find my veins anymore. It’s like I’m a fucking heroine addict with collapsed veins.

But do you know what I’m most angry at? I’m fucking pissed off that I have a mental illness.

This cat gets me.

This cat gets me.

I may have won the genetic lottery in some aspects of life, but inheriting a mental illness that runs in the family wasn’t my luckiest moment. I don’t know which side of the family I inherited this damn disease from, but both sides make a compelling argument. We’ve got alcoholics to the right and severe depressives to the left, and sometimes the two happen to meet. It’s like my DNA was destined to be fucked.

I know I’m not supposed to say these things publicly because you know, fighting stigma means presenting people with mental illness as happy, healthy, and smiling. Mental health organizations and advocates want to ensure that we appear nonthreatening, so no one really talks about how shitty it is to have a mental illness. Well, guess what? I’m pulling back the motherfucking curtain (and using as many swear words as possible. Does someone want to start a fuck count?).

I have bipolar disorder II and it really fucking sucks. And despite what some mental health advocates say, our mental illnesses do limit our lives.

Almost every major decision that I make is influenced by having bipolar disorder. For example, at 29 years old I have to weigh the consequences of going to a party and staying up late because this means taking my meds late. Taking my meds late means that I’ll be incapacitated by grogginess the next day and waste it in bed. Every time I have a social engagement, I have to ask myself, is it worth it? Instead of agreeing or disagreeing based on my schedule, I weigh the consequences to my mental health. This may seem like a ridiculous, insignificant aspect of life to be worried about. But do it for 10 years and then come back to me and tell me how insignificant it feels. I guarantee eventually you’ll want to just say, “Fuck it! I’m partying tonight who cares!” And then you’ll feel like shit the next day, not because you’re hungover (because being bipolar means you shouldn’t really drink) but because you’re medication is slated to meant to sedate you. You’ll wish you were hungover because it will feel better than being groggy.

Sick person

Or how about this? My ability to manage stress is significantly lower than yours. I don’t know if this is standard across people with bipolar disorder, but it seems the more stressful the situation the more my disease rears its ugly head. This
sucks because I work in a fast-paced, high-stress job that I’ve just realized is not good for my disease. To make matters worse, I’m really good at what I do and I actually like it. A year ago I would have told you that this was my career and I would move up the corporate ladder. But now I’m floundering and debating quitting to work at a coffee shop. This weekend, I saw a job posting for a sales clerk in an odds and ends shop. The store was incredibly quiet and I thought – that would be the life! I know as soon as I can leave this corporate job, it’s the end. There’s no high powered, high paying job in my future. I feel deep in my soul that my life will be filled with part-time work that pays a minimum wage.

stressedSince I don’t manage stress, everything is so fucking overwhelming. I used to be a clean freak, now cleaning my house doesn’t even register on my radar because it’s too stressful. I’m so stress out that it’s a fucking miracle that I get out of bed. It’s a feat that I shower, dress, and put make up on. And guess what? It makes me so angry when I’m having a particularly hard day and someone says, “But look at how well you’re doing.” Well guess what? That’s because I slave away at showing you the put together, efficient, and intelligent professional that you think I am. I would love to show you the crying, angry, insecure mess that lives inside of me, but you don’t actually want to see that. Despite what you say.

When I’m home (never alone, obviously) it’s my husband who gets to see all of these nasty bits. My favourite thing to do right now is to rage cry. This is when I fly into a sudden fury and start throwing and slamming things around until I tire myself out and fall apart and start to cry. This rage is frightening. I’ve never felt anything like it before. On Friday, I flew off the handle in the  middle of the grocery store because I didn’t like the way our groceries had been bagged. The kid doing his job had used too many bags and not filled them with enough things, which made walking home with them impossible. I grabbed the bags and started flinging produce into the bag, screaming “this is how you bag fucking groceries. It’s not fucking rocket science.” (I would know, I worked in a grocery store for 2 years).

Luckily we weren’t in front of the poor kid, but I had completely lost myself inside the anger. This wave of anger was the first time I felt like I could potentially hurt someone else. As I slammed produce into bags, my husband asked if we should go home. He was worried. As a joke he said, “I’m afraid you might kill someone.” I shouted back at him, “Well if I killed someone they would probably deserve it for being so fucking stupid!”

Hurting myself is a regular thought of mine, but hurting someone else has never crossed my mind. And it terrified me.

depressionNormally the rage that lives inside of me is more self-directed. I was so angry this past weekend that I was seriously considering vaulting myself over the ledge of my 6th floor balcony because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m not being hyperbolic. I was weighing whether or not the distance from my 6th floor balcony to the ground was far enough to actually kill me, or just paralyze me. I don’t want to be fucking paralyzed and fuck up my husband’s life further than I already have.  I’m actually panicked by the impulsiveness of my rage that I might actually act on it. But suicidal thoughts aren’t new to me. It’s rare that I go one day without thinking about a way to die. Waiting for the metro, and all I think is how easy it would be just to step out and be gone. A cabby takes a left hand turn too quickly and I think, man wouldn’t it be great if he hit me and I died. I pass bodies of water I can’t help but think about drowning. I’m prepping vegetables for dinner and I think, man this knife just wouldn’t be sharp enough to slit my wrists.

This is the reality of my life. I am incredibly unstable right now, which is why everything is so extreme. So, no this isn’t the normal everyday life of a bipolar person, but it’s one part of what it’s like to have bipolar disorder. The hardest part of the disease is that stability is never a guarantee. Sometimes you bring it on yourself, and others it comes out of the blue.

But right now, I’m exhausted by trying to appear normal and pretending that living with my mental illness is no big fucking deal. So the next time you think about “how good I’m performing” or “how good I look” or “that I have a spring in my fucking step” remember that it’s all a performance, an act for your benefit.

The reality is, I have a mental illness and it really fucking sucks.


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Rage & love: A glimpse into a bipolar relationship

“Are you mad at me?” He asks from the sofa. I’m standing in the kitchen about to start dinner, and our dishes from lunch are still sitting in the sink.

“No, I’m not mad. Why would I be mad?” I’m doing that stereotypical female thing that, as a feminist, I hate so much. I hate being that trope of a wife. But the fuse in me is lit and it’s short.

“You sound mad…”

Boom!

Explosion

“Well I guess it’s up to me to do all these fucking dishes and make dinner!” I scream, throwing the dishes into the sink. Rage possesses me like a demon. It’s like there’s a little voice inside of me shouting at me to shut up, telling me that my anger at him is irrational, and brought on by the hypomania but it’s fighting a losing battle. I am the demon’s bitch. I don’t have control over my words or limbs.

“Well that’s unfair,” he says, joining me in the kitchen. “I was just going to check something quick on the computer and then I thought we’d cook together. I wasn’t leaving you to do all of this on your own. You know I wouldn’t do that.”

Of course I know that. For a moment the little voice inside of me has beaten the demon down. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I say clutching my head, as if holding my head between my hands will somehow keep the demon at bay. “That was totally irrational.”

“It’s okay, you’re not feeling well.” He tries to rub my back, but I feel myself shirk back. I try and mask my aversion to his touch by grabbing a head of broccoli out of the fridge, I reach for a cutting board, and a knife.

Bear

He’s right. I’ve been hypomanic for about 2 weeks and the rage is an indication that it’s about to break. I had felt a murderous pressure in my chest all day.I could have ripped the face off a bear. I scowled at anyone who looked at me the wrong (or right) way. It didn’t matter what was said or how someone smiled or even how they complimented my outfit. Everyone was out to get me. Everyone was an idiot. Everyone was in my way. Everyone was just so fucking slow.

The demon is back with a vengeance as I recall my day. Why can’t everyone just do what I want them to do at the speed and capacity that I want them to do it? I wonder, savagely attacking the head of broccoli like it has murdered my puppy. Like, why doesn’t my husband know that he should be fucking washing these dishes right now while I prep dinner? It’s all part of the plan so that we eat by 7 p.m. Why can’t he just see the fucking plan? Why can no one ever see the fucking plan?

“You know,” I say turning and pointing the knife at him. “You should just fucking leave me.” The words come out of my mouth like a flood. They come out before I even think of them because I don’t control them. “You’d be better off without me. Actually, everyone would be better off with out me.”

He takes the knife from my hand and places it on the counter away from my reach. He’s not afraid for his life, but he’s afraid of what I might do to myself.  But I’m not threatening suicide. I truly believe that he would be better off with a partner who wasn’t bipolar. I believe my parents would be better without a bipolar daughter. I know my employer would be better off without a bipolar employee. My existence is just a fucking disaster for everyone.

I have this sickness that turns our lives upside down. I have this sickness that makes me dependent on him in so many ways. He is my support system. He comes to doctors appointments with me. He worries about whether or not this will be the episode when I kill myself. He has been working on his thesis while picking up the slack at home. He does groceries when I cannot handle the people. He cooks. He cleans. He does all of those things that we would normally split because I have been mired in this sickness.

“I have some fucking audacity to be angry with you for not helping out. These past 6 months have been all you taking care of me and the house. Aren’t you tired of babysitting your wife? Fuck I’m such a mess and here I am, angry at you over some fucking dishes. You should just leave me before you just end up resenting me.”

He is crying now. But I’m not sure why. I’m giving him this out that so many men in relationships much worse than ours would beg for. I’m giving him permission to leave me; to be free of me and this illness. I often wonder whether he’s a masochist because the reality that he could actually love me this much is currently beyond my understanding.

The rage has now left me, as if I have gone through an exorcism. Now we can talk through the issues. I explain how guilty I feel. How sorry I am for yelling, for the sickness, and for everything I have ever put him through. And he tells me that he never feels like a babysitter because he loves me. He loves me and all my flaws. He has stayed with me this long and is not going to leave me, ever. I am stuck with him, not vice versa.

And then we fall back into our regular routine. He washes the dishes as I finish preparing dinner. But we both know that this isn’t the end. This won’t be the last time. But we take the calm as it comes.