Advance apology in case you are expecting a positive post- this isn’t one. It’s just something that came to mind, and I felt better after writing it.
How many times do you tell someone you feel stressed out or anxious and they say “Me too!”, but they really have no idea what kind of stress or anxiety you are talking about?
Why does it seem like a competition to see who has more stress or more “going on”?
I realize that venting is healthy, and some people cope with their stress or overwhelm by talking about how stressed and overwhelmed they are. That’s fine. I do it too.
I don’t think people realize how exhausting anxiety disorders are, and how exhausting bipolar disorder is. I mean sure, you can read about it, but unless you actually experience it, it may not truly make sense to you.
How can I be that busy or that tired when I work a 9-5 job and I don’t have kids or whatever extra responsibilities people have? Everyone has to cook and clean these days and everyone has been taking on more due to the pandemic. Switching to working at home hasn’t necessarily been easier either (especially if you can’t focus and need routine).
I think my mental illness counts as an extra responsibility. As much as I don’t want to give it that much attention, it warrants attention. It has needs. I have to pay attention to my moods and my triggers because the more I ignore my symptoms, the worse they become. Unfortunately mental illness is an invisible illness and not everyone can “see” how time consuming and exhausting having one (or multiple ones) can be.
I am that busy and that tired because stability in bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders require work. A lot of hard work, which is f***** exhausting and time consuming. Being functionally bipolar is not easy.
You may not understand why I have so much trouble running the dishwasher and emptying it, or doing my laundry from start to finish. Why I have piles of things here and there that could easily be put away. How I can hate mess and disorganization yet I have clutter everywhere and my bed hasn’t been made.
What comes easy to you may seem insurmountable to me (depending on what state I am in, it may be impossible).
It takes me longer to cook, tidy up, do laundry, do my work, because I am tired. And I am tired because my brain is always switched on. There is no off switch. No neutral position between on and off.
It takes a lot of energy to get up. To get out of bed (especially when you don’t sleep well), to shower and get dressed. Everything requires a spoon (or for those of you unfamiliar with the spoon analogy, a certain percentage of battery power). I only have so many spoons per day, only so much battery. I can only hold so much of a charge.
Spoons don’t seem to carry over into the next day. A battery can only hold a set amount of charge before it begins to deplete. I can’t borrow a spoon or a charge from the future either.
I never know when I will need a spoon or more battery for something unexpected so I can’t let my supply dwindle.
If I don’t return a call or a text message, maybe it’s because I don’t have the energy to. Sometimes I feel guilty because I worry I am not there for people when I “should” be. But who is defining this “should”? I have to be there for me, and that is what I have to remind myself I am doing when I may not respond to a text or call right away. I am taking care of myself. Conserving battery power.
Sometimes I also worry how will I have energy for other things if I am so tired now? But then I remember that I do have energy during hypomania (though not the best idea) and usually get a lot done during those periods of time. It kind of makes up for the non-productive times…even if it leaves me exhausted after. I guess it’s worth it? Hmm…debatable.
We all have fears and anxious thoughts. We all have bad days. We’re allowed to.
I have so many days where I hate how my brain works because I process the world and events differently. I experience things through a different lens than you do. I experience emotions and feelings very intensely, which is in itself exhausting. There are times though where I am so numb I feel nothing. Like I could care less about joyous things or sad things. Hypomania can do that to you. It’s very strange to go from feeling nothing to feeling everything and vice versa. It’s draining.
But I have had 10 years of living with bipolar disorder to work out some semblance of a routine and to work out my triggers. I know what and who set me off. I know what and who make me feel better now.
Life with bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders is not all bad; I manage to find joy and have fun, I manage to function well some days, and have a baseline level of function on others. I have had symptom free days. It is possible.
My brain can be kind to me, but only if I am kind to it.
Mental health advocate. Blogger. Writer. Creative being. Sensitive soul.
(Also wife, law clerk, social media writer/marketer and book worm).