Yes Happy – and by happy I mean scream, cry and hide in your bed – Bi-Polar day!
Yes there’s a day for every ailment now, but today is the day when you can learn a little bit more about those of us who have huge mood swings and can’t blame being a woman. (Disclaimer: women are actually more likely to suffer from bipolar than men – who knew…) So as they say, “Everyday’s a school day” so let’s begin a day in the life of a bipolar sufferer.
Alarm goes off at 7.20, you automatically hit snooze on repeat until your other half yells at you just like your mum did when you were 14. You finally drag your carcass out of the warm, safe and comfy place you’d rather be.
Trudge to the shower to wake you up, only you deliberately have the water a little too warm so it reminds you of your bed – at this point you somehow manage to sleep standing up. Again there’s a shout from your other half who you now realise is treating you as an additional child in the house – to be fair you deserve it.
You through all your pills down your throat washed own with a small pot of something that might be good for you, but you don’t really care. Grab a cereal bar (one of the kid’s ones, they’re much tastier and full of sugar) and head for the car.
Finally with a bit of space to think and music to sing to you start to wake up on your journey to work – autopilot has taken you most of the way there and you do wonder if you did just kill some pedestrians or go through any red lights. The car park is the usual battle for spaces so you go the wrong way round it because the rules were not made for you. The first swing of the day kicks in and you go from depressed to either hyper or pretending to be up for your colleagues so they don’t ask you awkward questions.
And from then on you are not sure what is happening as you try to cover the illness up – that’s when the problems start. You say things you either don’t mean to say (offensive, near the knuckle or just rude) and the guilt hits you immediately or worse the reality of your words kick in a couple of hours later when you get suddenly sweaty about your brow and realise you’ve just been a total dick.
Your work will be done in fits and starts as the little energy you have is bolstered by a sugary treat and you can churn out a weeks work in a couple of hours. Then your brain stops and just needs mundane tasks so you turn to Facebook or a 2048 game because that’s all you can handle at that point. To find an employer who understands all this is difficult. Yes HR and others may have been on courses but they don’t always understand the day-to-day reality.
You will always get the work done, but you have to get used to the way that your head works and learn to time things correctly so the energy is used well because too much can cause a huge drop in your mood. Push yourself too much and you crash. You can feel the tears welling up for no other reason than you want the ground to swallow you up.
The countdown until “hometime” sends you back to adolescence again as you clock watch for the bell that let’s you escape. You’ve done all you can and now you just need to get home and hide away from everyone for an hour or so. Later on you will have a clearer head to deal with everyone in the house and you will chat and interact with them like a “normal” person.
For the rest of the evening you just want to sit comfortably and escape in a good TV show or film – something to allow you to switch off. Your monosyllabic responses to your other half are annoying but if they are supportive they’ll understand and leave you alone.
Finally it’s time for bed – but moving is difficult. You are comfortable and going to bed means tomorrow is closer again. I don’t want to see tomorrow; can’t we just stay here in today, right now. Those tears begin to well up again as the depression is in full force. The hyper moments of the day have meant you don’t have the energy to pick yourself up again.
You’ll do this for five days a week, weeks at a time. Wishing your life away for a holiday or a long weekend where you can truly switch off.
People say they understand mental illness – but they don’t. If they did we wouldn’t need days like today. Awareness raising is fine as are courses but what people actually need is examples from those who live with it just to get the smallest glimpse of the pain, energy and moods it takes just to get up in the morning and try to be normal. What ever that is.