I am not a jealous person. Really. Except when it comes to one thing.
I am jealous of those who don’t have anxiety. And I know you’re thinking “Well, everyone has something”.
Well, most people have a normal range of emotions (excuse my use of the word normal here). A range of emotions that includes feeling nervous, stressed, irritable and sad. But, I can almost guarantee you that most people do not experience emotions the way someone with bipolar disorder does. Or the way someone with a mood disorder/depression or an anxiety disorder does.
And that is why I am jealous. Because if you don’t experience anxiety or depression the way I do, or others like me, you don’t know the extent of what it’s really like. You can try to imagine what it is like but it is not the same thing. Us mental health advocates and mental illness “sufferers” (I hate that word because it isn’t all suffering, so let me change it to “experiencers”) try to describe the symptoms and feelings but words can’t do it justice.
Maybe you think I am being dramatic (which is actually something you should never say to someone with a mental illness FYI). I’m not. Maybe I seem bitter? I’m not. In many a blog post or Instagram post I have mentioned that I am not an optimist but I see myself a as a “realist”.
There are many things a person can be jealous about. Money. Love. Fame. Success. Careers. Family. Friends.
I don’t think I have met anyone who is jealous of my mental illness. Wouldn’t that be something if someone came up to me and said “OMG you’re so lucky. You have bipolar disorder!”. Yeah right. No one wants to have bipolar disorder. No one wants to have anxiety.
My husband and I were talking about growing older earlier today. He said he is afraid of growing older, but in a light-hearted way. I said I am, but I really am. I am terrified. It takes a lot out of me now to manage my illness. It takes a lot of strength to pull myself together daily and to keep my symptoms (mostly) at bay when I am at work five days a week. I am exhausted now, how will I manage when I am older?
What will life be like for me? Honestly, I don’t want to know. I’ve seen statistics about people with bipolar disorder having shortened life expectancies. The heightened risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, this and that. That doesn’t mean it will happen to me. That doesn’t mean better medications and treatments won’t be discovered. I know there is no cure.
I also know that believe it or not, this is a manageable illness. When you let your thoughts run wild, it seems impossible to fathom. There are two things I try to remember: 1) This is not my fault 2) I am not alone.
Sometimes I get caught up thinking about silly or stupid mistakes I have made. Chalk it up to hypomanic behaviour. I also want to mention that while hypomania is not as “severe” as mania, it is still very disruptive and destructive. I can seem like I am on a war path but I have learned some techniques along the way to stop myself from full blown self-destruction.
As my husband just said to me as I read him a draft of this, “It’s not an easy illness to have. You have to modify and adapt as a partner and as a family“. Which is what he has learned to do and what we do as spouses. Some days are not easy. Especially when I am irritable and agitated and want nothing to do with anyone, even him. I have learned to signal to him when I need space and try to do it as politely as possible because I know I can come off as brash when I don’t mean to.
Sometimes he asks me what he can do for me or how he can make it better. I may respond with “Get me a new brain”. He will tell me “You have a beautiful brain, don’t worry”.
Maybe he is biased but I have to put some stock into it because I am the way I am for a reason. Maybe it doesn’t always make sense, but after all, who says everything in life has to make sense?
As Carrie Fisher once said:
“I’m very sane about how crazy I am.”