The title of this blog post has a dual meaning, the most obvious of which is that I haven’t blogged in a while. (So, hello BC2M family!) The less obvious meaning is something that has been bouncing around my head as I reflect on my first semester of grad school. For me, one of the most frustrating things about managing bipolar disorder is meeting people when I am manic or depressed. As soon as I get lifted out of the depression or come crashing down from the mania, I want a do-over. I want a second chance to make a first impression. Sadly, we aren’t really afforded those. I can hardly ever bring myself to explain away my bipolar disorder and its ramifications because it’s not as though I’m ashamed of it. As a result, I find myself embracing and owning whatever impression people got from whatever face I am putting forward that day.
When I’m depressed, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to engage with people. My first instinct is to retreat. I surround myself with close friends (if I’m even able to muster up the motivation to do that) and nurse my wounds. I have always found depression inherently selfish in nature. By that I don’t mean that I am selfish for “allowing myself to be depressed”. I mean that I get totally wrapped up inside my head. I am totally absorbed in my own world. It is hard to see past the immediate pain that I feel and it is next to impossible to care for anything beyond myself. The trouble being that I’m not that type of person generally speaking. I’m caring and empathetic. If anything, I’m too other-focused. When someone’s first impression of me is the depressed version, it is as if I’m giving them a false sense of who I am.
It’s no better for me to meet someone when I’m manic. One of the hardest things, as a person that prefers being in control, to accept about living with bipolar disorder is that there will be times when I make irrational decisions. There are other ramifications too. I get irritable pretty easily when I’m manic so it’s hard to give off my typical patient vibe. I also have a tendency to be more inappropriate in my humor and more forward in my flirting. (All this to say that my manic episodes are usually unmitigated disasters). I had a manic episode during graduate school orientation back in August. That meant that the students in my cohort got the image of me as a fast-talking, unfocused, out-of-control person. That’s the last impression I want to make much less the ideal first one.
Normally I like to offer a piece of advice in these blog posts or an uplifting final paragraph. However, in the case of this blog I just wanted to share with you something with which I am still struggling. So I put it to you: For those of you living with a mental health disorder, what do you find frustrating? For friends and family, what do you find hard about being supportive or what challenges have you found yourself facing?
Take good care,
PS. Since it is BC2M’s ‘Thankful Tuesday’, I wanted to let you know how thankful I am to have all of you in my life!