I have typed the first sentence of this blog entry twelve times. So I've decided that it isn't going to have a first sentence and you will just have to join me midway through the post.
...more difficult when you know that there are coworkers, family members and friends who read the blog.
Here is the tricky thing about tickling out the truth from beneath whatever place it's hiding: it's messy. Messy truth.
I mean, when someone asks you the reason you did something, is there every really one answer? Probably not, and probably the one you come up with is just what your conscious brain knows about.
When your subconscious is driving the bus (and it is, whether you know it or not) your reasons for doing something might sound really dumb. But you are not exactly lying. Your brain just hasn't figured out how to tell you the truth.
I had a student the other day say, "Well, everybody is bipolar. It doesn't mean anything." Which is often my take on the whole bipolar thing. And I wonder if they are right. I wonder if I am one of a number of people who have been conned by big pharma or big psych or big whatever into believing that I have an illness.
And even when I've had a fairly recent episode (like the one in May when Pscyh NP put me on the Lithium because my hypomania wasn't looking so hypo at the time) I can be quite dismissive of my mood spells once I am doing better.
I'm sure it wasn't that bad.
I was probably just having a bad day (or week, or month, or season).
I should just snap out of it.
Maybe these people are right?
These strangers who don't know me at all can be surprisingly convincing when they dismiss bipolar as a fake disease. And if they can't even tell that I have this disease/disability it sure seems like they are right. It must be fake. I must be faking. I am a liar.
Because everybody does have ups and downs and mood swings. And everybody has more or less energy. And everybody sometimes gets pulled into projects that take up more of their time and attention that usual.
I listen to the words of strangers (with no connection to the mental health community as a whole or bipolar in specific) because they are the unspoken words that live in my head. When my conscious brain conveniently forgets any incapacitating incidents.
Like now, for instance.
Because I am doing well overall (with occasional blips) I want to become one of those strangers who believes that bipolar is fake. That I can just get over myself. That everyone is "bipolar" since it is just a way of describing someone's moods.
When I try to explain how my bipolar works it seems banal. Ridiculous. Trifling. And I think about people with much more severe bipolar, uncontrolled bipolar, uncontrollably bipolar and I feel like a fraud.
But the same thing happened when I tried to explain a student outburst to my boss. I knew (having been there) that it was a very stressful, unacceptable incident that affected the entire class and caused people to leave the room (and consider quitting the class) rather than deal with the stress precipitated by the student's behaviors.
When I wrote what the behaviors were they seemed... insignificant. So she didn't want to do the work, big deal. She wanted other students to be quiet and told them so. Okay. She spoke rudely to me and other students. And all these things can be no big deal. Or they can be HUGE. And unless you are there in that moment you don't know.
And I likely will not be able to explain how bad things are because, just like with this student, they might be obviously out of control in real life, but on paper it looks fine.
I made a lot of bracelets.
I spent a lot of time in my garden.
I had no patience for my children when they came home from school.
I was too tired to even think about dinner.
And see, this is a ridiculous looking list of symptoms. FRAUD FRAUD FRAUD. But I am not asking to be sicker, so what is my deal?
I want people to know and recognize that mental illnesses are real. That they are treatable. That when I am getting the appropriate treatment and on the right meds, I am largely asymptomatic. But it doesn't mean I am faking an illness.
I want to be able to tell people that I am living with bipolar and haven them accept that without attempting to convince me that I (and my doctor and my psychiatric nurse practitioner, and my psychiatrist, and my psychologist) am wrong.
I want people not to be surprised that someone living with a mental illness is functional and employed and has friendships and a family and gets out of bed and does what needs to get done.
Thus ends my manifesto
Ugh. Scattered and awkward. I'm out of practice.
Took my meds, made a bunch of appointments, talked to family, napped with daughter, wrote...
Quaker, teacher, parent,