Personal Stories

The Struggle is Real

I wish that people could understand how much my disorders play a role in my life. I live with bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and seasonal affective disorder, but I consider myself to be high-functioning. Why? 1) I earned a Master’s degree from a prestigious school; 2) I haven’t had a manic episode in 15 years; 3) I used to be a mental health therapist so I have experienced mental health from two different perspectives; and 4) I have stabilized to the point where people would never assume I have any of these disorders unless I told them, but the struggle is real.

There are days in which I want to crawl out of my skin. There are days in which I am so paranoid I don’t want to leave my bed. There are days where tears stream silently down my face in the bathroom because I can’t handle the stress of the day. There are days in which I can’t concentrate. There are days in which I have to put my forearms under the faucet and run cool water down them so I don’t have a panic attack. But they don’t see that, nor do they want to. Instead they just demand more.

I am just that girl that’s just a little anti-social, strange and moody. The girl who prefers her headphones over small-talk. The girl that stretches the truth to make other people feel comfortable. When someone asks me, “How are you?” they don’t really want to know that my whole world is crumbling. They just want to hear that I am good and I can function in what we have constructed as, “the real world.”

This used to anger me a great deal. I couldn’t understand why the ones who knew about my disorders weren’t more compassionate. But the truth is unless mental illness touches you or someone very important to you, it just isn’t thought about. Of course, it’s important to me. I live it and would give just about anything to spare someone else a fraction of my pain. I look, “normal.” But I am not. I am touched by these conditions which are both a curse and a blessing. The blessing is the empathy it has taught me. The curse is the pain it has caused and will continue to cause the rest of my life.

All I am asking is for you to open your eyes. Be open to a conversation. Don’t ask, “How are you?” unless you are willing to get a real answer and truly listen. Know that even well-educated and self-sufficient people suffer from debilitating conditions and a little compassion goes a long way. Emotions are messy, but they are what makes us human and it is my contention the world would be a much better place if we were all a little more human. 


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