Some people believe having a mental illness means you can never enjoy yourself. That it’s impossible to laugh and have a joke. Living in a constant state of dread and self loathing you’re unable to function, ever. You must sit in darkness in a corner of a room swaying back and forth and of course, exhibit the stereotypical clutching of the head. Some in their ignorance, believe this to be true, others that know better expect you to live like this.
I am not a ‘swayer’ or a ‘headclutcher.’ I’m the sitting on the sofa unable to move staring into space or in tears type. I do have dark moments when I sit with the curtains closed and feel like I could never properly function in society again. Like everything in life, this feeling is transitory, an impermanent state. I start to feel more like myself. Then I feel like going outside, then seeing a friend, then levelling up to going out to social occasions. Although I appear to be stable and well, in the back of my mind is the knowledge that I have a severe mental health condition, Bipolar. It catches me out when everything is going well, and I know this stability could only be fleeting.
What I want to spell out is that you can have a mental illness and have a social life. Although I’m too ill to work a full time job, it doesn’t mean I can’t go to a party every once in a while. A night out doesn’t constitute to working 30+ hours a week. Having a couple of drinks in a pub on a sunny Sunday afternoon is not the same as working an 11 hour shift and doing the same all over again 8 hours later. When I have that inkling of stability, I embrace it. That party I was invited to a couple of weeks ago that I was going to turn down, I’ll go to. I won’t think twice about not going. Socialising is an important part of maintaining a healthy mind, so I see it as part of managing Bipolar.
There is a movement right now that seems to be cultivating the idea that if you’re mentally ill you must live a miserable life. If you’re unwell you must act like it, at all times, with no exceptions. Don’t even think about spending a penny on something that might be seen as a treat, or give you a glimmer of happiness. If you’re mentally ill and you’re seen enjoying yourself, you’re a fraud, and faking it. We are being made to be seen as lesser than the general ‘normal’ public. I don’t believe any of this stigmatising bullshit. Only I know my limits and how I’m managing.
I have good days when I can laugh and dance and socialise. What people don’t see are the bad days when I can’t get out of bed. The bad days when I’m suicidal or hearing voices. Never judge a person for enjoying themselves. We should be congratulating them for embracing their good days.