Crossing the threshold you can finally remove the costume that you wear on a daily basis. Not uniform, work clothes or anything physical but instead the persona that exists when you leave the house in the morning.
There are times that the disguise slips and you find yourself exposed – outbursts when frustration just can’t be contained anymore or being caught staring into middle space halfway through a sentence as your brain grasps at words to fill the void. It’s no secret to those around me outside the house that Bipolar is just part of me, but there is a societal expectation to just “get on with things” despite it.
There is a genuine relief when you get home because you can let it drop to a certain degree. There are points where the kids come to tell you something and for a moment you have to remember that they are not the reason you feel terrible – then you have to use up the remaining energy to chat to them and see what they want to chat about.
And Energy is the key. When you are struggling with the black dog’s visit, energy and ability to function is limited so you have to control when you are “on” and when you have to recharge. As a teacher one of the most difficult aspects is you really have to be on all the time as with up to thirty in a class there will always be someone needing your attention or help. Even without the depression the job is a difficult one – the simile of spinning plates was invented for leading in a classroom and at the moment I try to find as much energy that I can but I’m aware of a crashing noise all round me.
The veritable vicious circle is ever-present as you use all your energy to function and then you have nothing left, causing more negative thoughts to flood in as you see yourself as a failure. You don’t see the illness, only the symptoms and anger rises at not being able to tackle things the way you would when well. I have been living with this old brain all my life, but I am only starting to understand how it works. Well, I say that but as my head doesn’t follow a fixed pattern I am often surprised too.
At work I have varying speeds like an old record player. Currently I am at 33rpm – lethargic and not quite up to speed, but when I’m better it turns right up to 78rpm to play catch up with paperwork, marking etc. Normal – if there is such a thing – is 45rpm but there are often points where the record skips or jumps. No matter what speed I am living at you are always aware that a flick of a switch can completely change where you are in life.
So day-to-day life feels like I’m wearing a human suit to disguise myself from the world. Hiding the reality of the inner fight from the world. Why? Because you feel that even though you know you can’t help it, others don’t want to be bothered by it. They don’t need their lives interrupted by someone who is broken – they have their own problems and lives to lead without carrying you as well.
There is a genuine sense of being a burden to those around you. While things usually even themselves out, the damage is done when you are at your worst and trying to make up for it is not as straight forward when people have been hurt or they have been left to pick up the slack you have left behind.
We all wear masks and disguises to make us into different people in different situations. But my one is wearing thin and you can see through threadbare parts and I am running out of places to hide.