[Image: A black background with yellow text and the image of a crown on top. Text reads, “I can’t keep calm I’m fucking bipolar.”]
While I do have supportive people in my life, there are two kinds of people whose attitudes about my bipolar disorder really piss me off. On the one hand, there are people who, upon finding out I’m bipolar, treat me like I’m a completely helpless person who can’t make my own decisions or live my own life. On the other, there are people who completely forget or ignore that I have a major mental illness and treat me like I should be able to handle anything life throws at me with the poise and grace of someone who has never had a dark day. Neither is helpful, but I find that as I am able to live a full and busy life and be productive and happy, people start questioning my limitations and demanding answers for why I am unable to do something that normal people are expected to do.
It’s frustrating. It really is. I am a very capable person, but when I say that I can’t do something, I mean that I can’t do it. I don’t need questions, or comments, or suggestions on how I can do it. I need understanding that I am not able to do it. There’s no reason to judge me for what I can’t do. There’s no reason to judge my illness. And there especially isn’t a reason to tell me that I’m not “sick enough” to warrant this kind of limitation.
When I read over my semi-autobiographical novel, Portrait, it blew my mind. I was in so much pain, I was struggling so fucking much and no one had any idea. People who were around me either ignored my behavior or thought I was an asshole. No one came to me, sat me down, and had a serious discussion about my mental health. The reality of the situation was that I was dealing with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and binge eating disorder on my own. I was diagnosed with bipolar halfway through my senior year. And you know what? I still graduated on time.
But just because I’m capable of doing a lot of things doesn’t mean that I can do everything. I have limitations set on me from my illnesses and I have to be mindful of them so I can remain healthy enough to function as well as I do. I’ve lived through two suicide attempts, I’ve been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward three times, I’ve cut myself, I’ve starved myself, and I’ve done so much more. I am not the average person and I have not had average human life experiences.
I don’t need to be treated as if I’m incapable. But also don’t hold me to some superhuman standard, that no matter what my mental state is I always need to be able to deliver the goods, do it with a smile, and be eager to do more. Because I will have bad days. I will have times when I can’t. And I need it to be understood that the reason why I can’t is not laziness or refusal, but mental illness. Because I’m bipolar. And I have limitations.