I’ve been really struggling this year…
I’ve been out to gigs with friends.
I’ve had nights out dancing and joking.
I’ve caught up with friends over coffee.
I can still have a social life and *shock* have a good time even when I’m having a bad time with mental illness. I’ve written about having a social life with mental illness before. The thing about mental illness is it’s complicated. It’s not black and white. It’s not all or nothing.
It isn’t just staring into space, or laying in bed/on the sofa all day. There are ups and downs within a bad patch. I can smile and laugh in the same week as when I can’t stop bursting into tears. It’s complicated living with Bipolar and the mania/depression cycle.
People expect when you’re depressed that you must spend all day sitting crouched in a corner, clutching your head. I don’t think I’ve ever done this, once. They expect that you spend all day in bed in your pyjamas. Life goes on when you’re depressed and sometimes you have to go with it. It’s not all about putting a brave face on things. Sometimes, I just feel like me again. It might only be for a day, half a day even. In this short space of time of feeling better, you’re damn right I’m going to make the most of it. I go out and see friends and generally try to enjoy myself. I know it’s not going to last so I take advantage of the moment.
I can also be going through a manic phase, but deep down I’m miserable. I can hate my life and be despairingly unhappy, yet I can’t stop all the thoughts racing through my head.
It’s not just that people expect certain behaviour from you, they’re almost insulted when you don’t act that way. I’ve said I’m depressed and people have been surprised when I’ve managed to go to a party on Friday night. When I’ve been signed off work ill I’ve hidden from colleagues. I’ve gone into town during the day, or had a meal out in the evening and been paranoid someone would see me and assume I was faking being ill. So I’d isolate myself and sit at home. Then there’s the inevitable question people ask,
“But I thought you were ill? you must be better now, right?!” If my answer is no, I’m still ill and struggling, I can see the look of disapproval on their face. How dare I take control and embrace a few hours when I feel better? It doesn’t make sense to them, because they don’t live with a long term mental illness. I can understand it’s hard to empathise with something you haven’t experienced. All I expect from people is to try. To listen and put themselves in my shoes. If you knew life, every day, every moment was going to be monumentally tough for the foreseeable future wouldn’t you want to capture those fleeting moments of happiness? I think we can all agree you would with a resounding YES!