Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

What You Don’t See

A recent UK social media campaign started by Blurt for Depression Awareness Week popularized a very important hashtag on Twitter, #WhatYouDontSee. I think many of us can relate to messages like this one:

People don’t “look” depressed because depression isn’t a facial expression #WhatYouDontSee

A mental illness is an invisible illness. It’s a battle we fight daily, even on good days. It’s not easy. Depression is more than just being sad. You don’t need to look sad all the time or be crying to be depressed. It’s so much more than that. The Mighty posted an article, “28 Parts of Depression That Often Get Missed” containing some of the best and most relatable tweets using that hashtag:

  •  The absolute exhaustion after getting home from a normal day at work faking it for the outside world.
  •  all the ‘concessions’ needed in order to function. can’t do too much, too fast, or you risk crisis. one step fwd, two back.
  •  The feeling of shame & self-doubt is crippling. Total lack of self-worth. Feeling worse for the effect it has on close ones
  • @BlurtAlerts  The times I’m told (& tell myself) that my situation is nothing compared to those with “real problems”
  •  is how painful it is when people dismiss your problems or aren’t respectful of your feelings 
  •  is the struggle, the pain, the exhaustion and absolute torture your mind puts you through. You are an empty shell.
  •  is sometimes I cry on my way to school or work because I know I’ll have to pretend to be fine.
  • people don’t ‘look’ depressed because it’s a freaking mental illness, not a facial expression 

These tweets are honest and I’ve experienced these feelings too. I’m exhausted at the end of the work day because I am trying to stay calm, neutral and get my work done (let’s not forget how hard it is to concentrate). Concessions? I must accept that I should not take on too much and should be careful not to overexert myself, except I am a people-pleaser so I don’t know how to say no. But I am learning to be more vocal at work — I have even started to “gently” educate people about using mental illnesses as adjectives, and when I am stressed and overwhelmed I make it known (in a nice way) that I am busy so people will leave me alone.

Feelings of self-doubt? I keep doubting my memory and my abilities to drive, complete work and focus. Feeling like people minimize my “problems” or feelings and like they aren’t “real”? There will always be people who think that mental illness is less of an illness than a physical illness or that you are not entitled to be depressed or anxious because you have a “good life”, “a lot going for you” and “should be happy”. I know many people go through difficult periods of times and everyone reacts differently. Regardless, you should never tell a person with a mental illness that their feelings are invalid or minimize their feelings; it can really make that person feel like crap. Lauren Bacall

Twitter is an amazing social media platform where you can meet fellow mental health advocates and bloggers. I find a lot of great information and people I can relate to. Someone I recently have been in touch with is @BipolarHotMess, whose post “Dear Friends, I Suck” is something I think friends and family members should read. I too know this feeling: “I have crawled into a cave and found myself a nice cozy blanket in there.” I feel like hiding when I am in a depressed state and anxious. I want to shut down and just take a remote control and press pause. It’s hard being a people-pleaser, someone who herself has high expectations, to learn to find balance (or try to) and it’s hard to relate to others at times. We are so hard on ourselves. We want to practice what we preach, but we don’t have the motivation or time to do it. Does it make us hypocrites? Are we sh**heads for having real feelings too and needing support? Nope. We’re just humans. We’re strong people trying to live well in spite of mental illness.

As I have said before, not every day is the same. Some days will be better than others. Some days I can be more productive at work and forget my anxiety. Other times it stops me from focusing. But no one at work can tell what is going on, because I have become so good at acting. That’s what they don’t see. I can manage feelings of depression and “fake it” at work better than I can while experiencing anxiety. Both are exhausting, but the anxiety is not as chronic, and I am trying to use deep breathing to control it and to distract myself at work. I appreciate that I am learning to take back control in that regard, so good work, Anxiety! And to my depression, I’m going to say let’s make a deal and listen to these lyrics of Chumbawamba’s song “Tubthumping: and move on so I can feel like I am living life:

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down

japanese proverb

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Making Your Workplace Work For You

It is easy to become distracted at work because of external noise. As someone who is very sensitive to sound and is currently easily distracted and easily irritated because of my mood to begin with, I sometimes find it hard to get through the day at work. I feel like I am less productive than I should be and then I worry that I am behind on my work and end up staying at work too late or working through my lunch break. Neither scenario is healthy.

I do like my job, and I am appreciated at my workplace, I just continue to have a hard time focusing. But when I can focus, I am very efficient and productive and I love it. I put 110% into everything I do, and I know that I set the bar too high for myself when it comes to how much work equates to a productive day. I know that if I really wasn’t doing enough, my employer would tell me.

This is the problem with anxiety and depression – they trick you! They make you fret and overthink and doubt yourself. You have thoughts you don’t want to have and you question what you like, what you don’t like, what you do and don’t deserve.

I decided that since I am in an emotional state and I don’t want my emotions to get the better of me at work, I have to find some strategies to make my workplace a better environment for me.

My desk is in an isolated area, beside a window, so I do have the benefit of sunlight, and when there are no meetings nearby, I do have quiet and I don’t have to interact with too many people. There are filing cabinets and photocopiers nearby though, so those are distractions. I have a radio/iPod dock on my desk and decided that since music always helps me in some way, I am going to make use of this and play MY music and not just rely on what’s on the radio and hope I like it. I even have playlists on my iPod for certain moods which is great, so I can easily put on music that makes me calm or happy.

If I am getting really distracted and keep reading the same sentence over and over, it’s time to get up and walk around. It can be something small like going to photocopy something, going to pull or put away a file, getting something from the supply closet, I just have to find a reason to move around.

I also have been trying breathing exercises when I feel tense or irritated, because breathing calms your whole body down. My face reddens very easily when I am angry or embarrassed so if I can “keep my cool”, it’s an accomplishment. This is important because, due to the location of my desk, people ask to borrow things or end up in my personal space frequently and it takes a lot of willpower not to say, “Get out of my personal space!” I know it sounds ridiculous, but when you are emotionally fragile and not sure what state you are in, you don’t want to talk to people, explain yourself or have people in your personal space, or interrupting your work flow. Once I am able to focus and I get going, it is so upsetting to be interrupted for no reason and lose my focus again.

Another way to ease my mind is saying a mantra. In one of my blog posts from last summer, I mentioned a mantra I learned from the HBO show Ballers that one of the football players, who has an anger issue, learns from his coach: “I am bigger than my problems.” I am not saying I have an anger problem, but irritability and agitation are part of the bipolar experience. I look at this mantra as saying “I am in control”, because I would never want to minimize “my problems” (what I am feeling, what I perceive my obstacles to be, “issues”, whatever I am working through), or have anyone else do that to me. The mantra means I am the bigger person; I am taking back control.

One more way to help make your workplace a better environment is mindfulness. I have decided I am going to look into mindfulness and see how that goes. A site that seems promising is Headspace, where the idea is to make mindfulness easy, accessible and convenient. I think I could make a commitment to this site/app- which is a big step for someone who has a hard time committing to new things!

bitter or better