The Bipolar Bucket, Sorting it All Out

This was written a few weeks ago and I decided to post it because I felt it might help some of you that are suffering.  Often, unless you suffer yourself it is difficult to understand all the mixed emotions that come with having a mental illness.  Some days you are truly tired and just want someone to “get it”.  I hope this strikes a chord with some of you.  From my stories to the stories you share, we’ll muddle through.  I wish you light along the path.

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I’m spent.  I am honestly exhausted, depressed, raw, and realistic. 

I’m tired of the day to day “pop psychology”, “feel good” statements that make perfect sense of some level, but are difficult to implement in real life.  Don’t let the simplistic messages fool you into thinking it is easy.  Healing and managing a persistent and severe mental illness is challenging, to say the least.

I grow weary of having to defend myself against those who comment on and criticize my functional level during episodes when I am struggling.  I often have to hold back when they ask if I’ve “taken my meds”.  Every negative emotion gets thrown in the Bipolar Bucket, often discrediting daily struggles that lie outside of my illness.  I am always striving to improve and yet, my illness is outside of those parameters, it will exist despite how “good or bad” I perform when it comes to maintaining healthy routines.  Often times, mania or depression will blindside me even when I’ve been doing well and feeling lifted.  It always is shocking even though I’ve lived with this illness for over two decades now.

Some people seem to think IF ONLY I exercised, ate better, slept, and engaged in healthy leisure pursuits, I wouldn’t suffer so much.  I feel I would be able to do those things if did not have an illness that by definition causes deficits in those areas.  Do these same people realize that I was athletically at the TOP OF MY GAME, the MVP and captain of the swim team and a lead in the school musical, when my illness first reared its vicious and ugly head stealing chunks of my life, my potential, and my peace?  My first episode occurred when I was in my teen years.  I was physically strong, in shape, and full of potential when this illness RIPPED my world apart.  It was then when I STOPPED SINGING.  I was frozen by this illness for many years.

It is exhausting when people, even family, use my illness as a weapon and a way to gain leverage in an argument.  For years, my ex-Narc would use my illness to avoid discussing  our relationship by stating I was “getting sick again” each time I pushed him to discuss our concerns.  I get tired of my symptoms being mistaken for my character.  My essence is not my illness, although I do acknowledge that having symptoms that affect my behavior lends to a confusing mess, even for me!  It has taken years for me to separate my identity from an illness that relentlessly tries to steal my sense of self and identity.  It is heartbreaking to have to sit on the bench and watch others compete and perform, knowing that my potential is being held captive by an illness.  Without this illness, I would have been able to manage my emotions and perceptions with ease and have the gift of taking it all for granted along the way.  Such bliss!

I get so fatigued from the process of trying and then later failing at work due to the symptoms and stigma of this illness.  It’s difficult to be raw and vulnerable, disclosing a stigmatized illness and requesting accommodations only to feel discriminated against in the end.  It was devastating losing jobs to an illness which meant an increase in symptoms from being triggered by the event and often times loss of housing, medical insurance, and medical providers.  This meant that my care was not consistent and my treatment was disrupted again and again.  

And as hard as that all is, it’s harder to hold all of that within you and know that people do not believe you, think you are not doing enough, making excuses, and just not taking control over your life.

This illness has stolen my potential, my credibility, my peace, many relationships, my health, my perceptions, my moods.  It has hijacked so much and yet, it is so misunderstood that we are still fighting stigma today.  When an illness affects your emotions and perceptions which alter your behaviors, how much of your performance is yours and how much is the illness? It is a beast to manage.  I reign it in, only to realize it’s dragging me down the road that I was certain I had closed.  Consistency is truly difficult to establish when your perceptions and emotions are continually held hostage..

THIS LIFE.  And AH, the windows!!  Those beautiful, crystal clear windows, where clarity is provided.  That picture is taken away and forgotten more quickly for those of us who suffer than those who do not.  When the windows of clarity are no longer in sight, it is so much harder to retrieve during times of decompensation.  Those beautiful windows disappear and are inaccessible even if someone on the outside is desperately trying to find a way inside to provide reason, clarity, and calm.   

I’m teasing it all out, right now.  The weight of this illness is crushing and it is a burden most will not understand.  It is like traveling a long journey with an 80 lbs “invisible” pack and because of the weight, you have to set it down sometimes.  There are times you lament about it, wish it were not there and possibly talk of giving up and not finishing the hike.  Others will fly by you, weightless, and they wonder why you have to take so many rests, why you gripe so much.  Given that it is invisible and not something you talk about openly, many will not understand how exhausted you are and some will discredit you, causing you to lash out in defense.  Others will blame and shame you, stating that perhaps you didn’t train as much as the others and will call you lazy.  No one is able to see the load so they are not able to understand your reality.  Thus, you suffer on, in a silent prison, with a weight you are unable to let go of while others share the many ways for you to “shake it off”.  All of these ways of which you have tried without success, but no one listens or believes you. The world gazes upon you with expectations that are unrealistic and it becomes a maddening and disillusioning experience to live through.

If people only knew… and some of you do.  

Today, is one of those days, I just want to sit it out.  I’m a bucket full of complex and conflicting emotions.  I just wish it were easier. 


4 thoughts on “The Bipolar Bucket, Sorting it All Out

  1. I have bipolar too and I totally understand; I feel it has robbed me of so many things and relationships; it hurts. And I find a lot of quotes on social media are overly simplistic ( a lot like 12 steps) and make the assertion that if one just tries to be positive or works hard enough; they can beat mental illness. It is a long road and sometimes despite your best efforts you are still depressed and anxious; it’s the illness not you. Thank for sharing this; it is helping a lot of people

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    1. Thanks for reading. I have suffered a lot of shame and self loathing because of this illness. Many times promising myself that I would behave in this way or that way. And many times, accepting people’s negative opinions and even insults. And then I realized, why do I blame myself. I would NEVER carry this pain if I could simply release it. It is a chronic, and often, severe illness affecting our moods and perceptions and it is often communicated through our behaviors. And in times of clarity, I realize, it is NOT me. So, yes, it is such a difficult road to be tied up to something that affects the way we view the world sometimes. Hang in there….. I feel our voices will truly one day make a huge impact. If nothing else, we know we do not suffer alone!! Thanks again!

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      1. Yes you are right; we are not alone and writing has a wonderful way of bringing those that suffer together; since blogging my life has improved greatly although I still battle depression. I wish I could get to point where I stopped beating up on myself; it’s a hard road but I commend you for blogging and look forward to reading more of your posts

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