I don’t think I’m a bad person, although I’ve been told by many people that I am. I’ve been told I have no compassion, morality, heart, sympathy, empathy, kindness, etc. I don’t think that’s true. Depression, stress, and anxiety are dangerous. The effects of them aren’t always seen but felt. I’ve seen countless relationships (platonic & nonplatonic) end over miscommunications. Many of these relationships were my own. Everyone deals with depression, stress, and anxiety at some point in their lives. It becomes dangerous when we don’t have healthy coping skills. The costs and stigma of mental health keep people from seeking treatment. Since the health care system is so impacted, often attempting to seek help is a stressor! In therapy I learned that we, as a society, will have shorter conversations and be more productive if we learn how to handle stress, anxiety, and depression. In therapy I learned coping skills that instantly cure my stress: housing insecurity, job loss, financial problems, etc. I can calm myself down from any situation in 5 minutes. The stress may creep back in later, but I always know how to eradicate it. Life will be easier if we come to every interaction with no assumptions. I’ve become very good at reading people. I can tell when people are stressed, anxious, or depressed. I’ve learned to adapt based on people’s emotions. When someone is sad, I ask what is wrong and try to listen and help. When someone is frustrated, I let her vent until she’s feeling better.
We have no idea what shit other people are going through, so we have no right to assume. Assume everyone is in a crappy mood. How would you want to be treated if you were in a crappy mood? Treat everyone as nicely as you can stand. I don’t think we should argue if we agree, so let’s agree on this: Everyone deals with stress, anxiety, depression, etc. If we come into every interaction with no assumptions about what people are going through, how their brains work, etc., we’ll avoid a lot of tiny arguments. Then we can spend more time being productive people.
My brain works differently from other peoples’. In my personal experience, I’ve learned that people don’t like to be wrong. Most people I’ve encountered don’t respond to anecdotal or opinion based arguments; they respond to facts. Sometimes it’s not worth it to tell people they are wrong.
When people are wrong, and I do decide to tell them, I often apologize. I’ve found this to be a helpful tool because when I apologize, when I accept fault for inconveniencing people, they often exhibit a positive response. This has become especially helpful in service and management.
I’ve been using the apology as a crutch. I’ve been apologizing for things far too often. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to break.
When I constantly apologize, over apologize, I’ve noticed people begin to think I’ve done something wrong, even when I haven’t.
Since my brain works differently from other peoples’ brains, I’ve been able to learn from and adapt to reactions. It’s become a survival skill. Sometimes my incite is interpreted as arrogance. I want to be clear. I don’t think I’m better or smarter than anyone. I think I grew up in a way that forced me at a young age to learn and adapt to the behavior of others. People have told me I’m unable to put myself in someone else’s shoes. When I think about what I would do in a situation, it’s often different from what other people would do. I’ve been told I don’t have common sense, empathy, compassion, etc. I don’t think that’s true. I believe I have all those things. My brain and my experiences just causes me to act differently than other people would, and it’s hard for others to fathom that my brain works differently than theirs. It was a radical idea for me to wrap my head around when I was diagnosed. I just want people to understand that my difference doesn’t make me inherently bad.
I want my life to be easier and people keep giving me advice on how to do so: Calm down. Loosen up. Don’t be so intense. Don’t talk about your feelings. Don’t take things personally. Don’t act depressed. Don’t look sad. Smile more. Put on a brave face.
I’m finding it hard to follow all this advice. I want people to like me, but I don’t know how to change who I am. It is physically impossible for me to will myself out of a depression. When you’re clinically depressed, you literally cannot snap yourself out of it. You can learn skills to cope but not to cure depression. Each of these things may seem small, but together they amount to everything I’ve known. Everything I’ve been for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked hard to hide the depressive part of myself because I’ve learned people don’t want to see it.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve also learned no one wants to see my manic side either. I’m arrogant, rude, reckless, irritable, distracted. I’m always somewhere on the spectrum of manic and depressive. People don’t like to see either extreme. So I have to hide the extremes and attempt to live somewhere in the middle. In sociology, we call this passing, the ability to fit into an identity group other than my own. In this case, as someone without bipolar disorder. But of course, this has it’s drawbacks as well. When I look too healthy, when I hide the manic and depressive episodes, no one thinks I need help.
Today, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. My psychiatrist and eating disorder therapist both agree I have it. After running separate diagnostic tests, they both came to the same opinion.
At first I was overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn’t stop crying. My brain always goes the worst case scenario, and I couldn’t keep myself together. Luckily, I’ve made progress. A few years ago, I rarely reached out for help when I needed it. I told my four close friends I needed help in a group text and asked one of them to call please me. Within minutes, I was on the phone one of them. She reassured me and helped me get to a place where I could take the next steps I needed.
I’m going to list some other thing I never would have done years ago that I did today. I called my boss and told her I needed the rest of the day off. I went to Kaiser because I know they have a walk-in clinic. I called my grandparents and told them what happened and how I was feeling.
Each of those things helped me to feel better. When I called my boss, she was kind and understanding. She told me not to worry about a thing and take the time I needed. At Kaiser, I had a later appointment time with my eating disorder therapist. She did a test with me that also said I had bipolar disorder and talked with me about it which made me feel much more calm. My grandparents were loving, caring, and everything I could wish for in family at this time.
I picked up my new bipolar medication today and took them both before hopping on the train home. On my way home, I was thinking about some worry I had. I honestly can’t even remember what it was about now. And I thought to myself, “I can’t remember what I was thinking. That’s incredible.” Let me explain, my thoughts typically race at 100 miles a minute when I’m upset. It often feels impossible to focus on anything because these intrusive negative thoughts creep in no matter what I do. But in that moment, I realized my thoughts weren’t racing. I took that medication hours ago now, and my thoughts still aren’t racing. The medication worked.
I’m cautiously optimistic about this new diagnosis. It gives me hope, and sometimes I felt hopeless. Now I can focus on how to get better instead of trying to figure out what’s wrong with me.