I’m good at putting on a fake smile. I’m really good at it. I’ve been practicing at it my entire life.
I don’t think my eyes ever lie, though. They betray me when I want to answer, “I’m fine,” when people ask how I am.
I desperately want to hide the moodiness that my illness brings. I want to hide it so much that I generally hide my entire self from the world except when I am going into extremely safe spaces where I don’t think I’ll be judged too much.
Bipolar disorder is a thief. It has stolen my natural ability to regulate myself. I take my medicines like a good girl, but I deeply resent the fact that I have to take medicine to be a nicer, happier person.
My illness has been deemed unpredictable enough that I no longer have to work. I’ve gotten used to living with the internal terror that a psychotic episode could really happen at the drop of a hat if I get too little sleep or if something happens with my meds.
Those that have bipolar without the psychosis component are incredibly lucky. My brand of psychotic comes complete with grandiose conspiracy theories. I’d probably put on a tinfoil hat when it happens if they’d like me have access to it.
Bipolar disorder has been a social nightmare, as well. I’ve lost friends who couldn’t deal with my illness. There were people who I always thought would be there who will no longer speak to me because of the way I have acted when I was psychotic. It breaks my heart as I cannot stand to have broken relationships in my life.
What’s worse about the whole thing is that the psychosis used to be fun. I remember vividly the high I was on during my first episode. And my second one. And the third. And the fourth. But by the fifth episode, which was precipitated by my severe Lamictal allergy, things were scary. That was the only episode I’ve ever had in which I had hallucinations. I remember driving down the interstate to the hospital with Jared, and I thought he was turning into a snake. And then there’s the terrible sixth episode…my adventure at the Local Friendly Mental Ward. It started off well enough but by the middle, I was collapsed on the floor, convinced I was there to die in a little prison. Two weeks is a long time to be inpatient in a mental hospital, but I served the time because I had no choice.
So now, I live in fear that the nightmare will happen again. I have to stop and second guess every little motive I have for doing everything: am I “too happy?” Am I too active? Am I sleeping too little? Jared monitors my sleep like a hawk and I cannot stand the look on his face when I have nights where I have a hard time sleeping. He frowns on anything less than 6 hours. Rightfully so, but it’s still hard to deal with sometimes.
I might sometimes seem as though I’m preoccupied, lost in my own thoughts. Maybe sometime the fake smile will be painfully obvious. It’s true that I am often lost in my own thoughts.
Bipolar disorder has brought me to feel as though I live under a microscope. I’ve always been hard on myself, even before my illness manifested itself 15 years ago. Since then, though, it’s been 15 years of social anxiety that’s gotten progressively worse. I’m practically a hermit now. I don’t want to isolate myself and I used to thrive on social contact. I used to carry myself well in a crowd.
I may seem as though I am griping. There are worse mental illnesses to deal with than bipolar. Part of my talk here is that, while I will continue to talk about family issues, I am drawing this blog back toward my illness. It’s therapeutic for me and I’m told that I should find a niche for myself.
Time for self-care for the rest of the day. I’ve brought myself too far down with this post. (Note to self: be gentle.)