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High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder

January 17, 2011 Natasha Tracy

I have 'high-functioning' bipolar disorder so people think I'm not mentally ill. But the ability to function in public comes at the price of private pain.

Sometimes people don’t believe I’m particularly sick. They meet me, I look fine, I interact, I charm, I wit and all seems, if not normal, at least something reasonably normal adjacent.

And that’s fine. It’s by design. Being a high-functioning mentally ill person, I can’t really afford to run around with my hair on fire. But faking normalcy, happiness and pleasure is a tricky and very expensive bit of business.

Being a “high-functioning” bipolar doesn’t really have a definition, per se. The term indicates that I’m not in a mental hospital, and I do things like live on my own, pay rent, work and whatnot. I would suggest that being “high-functioning” seems to indicate that I can fake not being a crazy person.

High-Functioning Bipolar Weekdays...

It’s really important that I be able to put my bipolar on the shelf. I have to be able to put the crazy away so that I can talk to people, engage in business, produce technical documentation, write articles and so on. I wrote about 12,000 words last week for clients. You can’t do that if you’re pondering where on your wrist the best place to slice is.

...Followed by Low-Functioning Bipolar Weekends

I have 'high-functioning' bipolar disorder so people think I'm not mentally ill. But the ability to function in public comes at the price of private pain.

The trouble is, using all my control, sanity and energy during the week to try and produce enough work to pay my rent then leaves me with a really large deficit when I’m not working. I’m crazy. Remember? Not normal? I’m just faking the normal. And faking normal requires more effort than you can possibly imagine.

So then, as soon as I’m not working, I break into a thousand pieces all over the tiles on my kitchen floor.

Sure, you go out Friday night with friends. My Friday night is usually spent fairly catatonic trying desperately not to get suicidal.

Bipolar, High-Functioning Or Low, Is Exhausting

As I see it, everyone has a similar tank of energy. We expend that energy in lots of ways. We run after kids, we go to the office, we jump out of planes. All fine uses of energy. Me, on the other hand, I spend a massive amount of energy just trying to keep my brain in one place. I have almost no energy, or brain left, outside of that.

I Give Up a Life to Survive

I do know wonderful people and I do adore them. But that doesn’t overcome the inertia of having every drop of energy sucked from me so I can pay rent. So all the appearance of my functioning is paid for by utter decimation and exhaustion the rest of the time. I don’t have energy or brain space left to read, see friends, date or do pretty much anything else. The last thing I want to do is leave the house. I want to sleep. Forever. And ever.

Bipolar Sucks the Life You Don’t See

I’m the least fun person in the world. I work. I sleep. I have a schedule. I keep that schedule. I’m tired. I make excuses not to go out. I’m sort of the lamest person ever.

But that’s the mental illness sucking the life out of my ears. I want to go out. I want to see my friends. I want to do something fun. I want to have a drink with you after work. I just can’t. I’m too tired.

So yes. I’m capable. I’m talented. I work hard. I produce stuff. Yay me. But the price I pay for that is not being able to be anything else.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2011, January 17). High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/01/high-functioning-bipolar-disorder



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Julie
May, 7 2012 at 5:45 am

So I'm not alone in faking stable but hanging on by my fingernails? I've gotten better, over time, at leveling with my mental health professionals. "Look, I know you look at self-care and so forth, so this is how I'm dressed today, and I'm good at faking good. Here's what's really going on at home...."
It is incredibly painful to tell them the truth. It's painful to shatter the therapist's illusions about how well the treatment is "working" as I become better compensated to "fake good." Since when I came in the doors, I was totally broken down, beyond faking good, as I've recovered that ability, it looks like a lot of improvement.
Well, it is improvement. It's the improvement most of us get in therapy. It's the difference between compensating and decompensating--it's not how well are we really living, it's can we hold it together enough to fake it for the outside world. Our poor therapists and other providers just aren't used to knowing that harsh reality.
Sometimes, when I tell them how I'm really doing, I feel like I'm telling a kid there's no Santa Claus.

Linda
May, 5 2012 at 1:23 pm

Hello Natasha,
Thanks for your courage to post (and all who have shared on this blog)...My hubby and I are on the way to the hospital to see our 26 yr. old bipolar son (for his 5th hospitalization.) He was diagnosed at 21 yrs.
He is very creative & intelligent--even got a BS degree in his chosen field--exercise physiology/PE. Even though, at his best, he can intellectually handle college course work, though his social skills have digressed to practically 'zero'. His dream is to teach, though some miracles would have to transpire before that could happen.
As for insight, most of the time it is nonexistent with our son. Dr. Xavier Amador's book "I Am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!" is a real eye-opener. Also the free 12 week NAMI Family to Family workshops were so helpful to us.
Some psychiatrist are incorporating EmpowerPlus supplements into their practices. The founders of www.truehope.com have compelling evidence, with studies, including some double blind research. Definitely worth checking out.
Thanks for all the encouragement on this blog, and hopefully our son will find his way.
The best to you, Natasha, and all who've shared here.
With hope for the best to come,
Linda

Scheduling Nightmare | Suddenly Bipolar
April, 29 2012 at 11:53 am

[...] an interesting article from Natasha Tracy’s Breaking Bipolar that might explain why I feel more tired AFTER the [...]

jacqui
April, 9 2012 at 8:07 pm

Hi Natasha,
I can certainly understand how a doctor (and most people), would not be able to see beyond the high-functioning part of you. Being high-functioning is a real catch-22, because you desperately need to receive help, but appear too well to be extended the kind of help you need. I am sorry that you struggle so much without many people there to comfort you at the level you need to be comforted.
I believe it is almost like being split in two. One part (the sick part) desperately needs help, but the other part (the high-functioning part), has learned how to "act" well. The sad irony is that psychologists may never get to see how desperate you really feel, because some of us are consummate actors/actresses. I believe you have to learn how to suppress the healthy, high-functioning side of you when you are with a psychologist...allow yourself to act as ill as you are going to feel, as you walk away from yet another session of not being truly misunderstood.
In the past, in order to get help, I would pre-meditatively and purposefully act out to "prove" and demonstrate the degree of mental anguish I was feeling. (BTW, no borderline personality disorder here - just a very ill person who was forced to think "out of the box")! The healthy part of me was embarrassed and humiliated by things I did to express how ill I was. Needless to say, desperate acts are generally a "red flag" to most psychologists, so for a time, I received the help I needed.
For a while, whenever my high-functioning self kicked into over-drive, I suppressed it intentionally, in order to get the help I needed. Yes - it was SUPER-embarrassing to "watch" myself doing crazy things, just so professionals would finally "get it". I could NOT face going home at the end of a session having being misunderstood yet again, but then having to deal with the aftermath of my tortured mind completely alone.
It still baffles me that a very ill individual needs to sometimes "act" ill, if they are to receive help from professionals. So, if the alternative is suicide, then I advocate a little "acting out" in front of professionals in order to wake them up a little! It is very, very hard over-coming your inhibitions in order to act as crazy as you feel. It can be very liberating though:-)
All the best,
Jacqui

Christina Collins
April, 9 2012 at 6:37 am

I can completely relate to your article and so thrilled that you could articulate so well my experience. I am very fortunate to have a devoted, and loving husband, but it is very difficult on relationships when you are able to give and participate so well, but are unable to keep up the "show" when you are home. It is painful and very hard to see someone settling for less than a fully functioning partner in life. He always seems to get the worst of me.

Blanche Couture
March, 10 2012 at 11:48 am

Wow!...I don't know what I am --- I am old now but my life basically had been good except the episode of mania and the depression. The depression did not stick around for long either. Now that I am 70 years old I seem to be sicker when I do get sick and I am retired and stay home and see some of my friends sometimes. I am fine physically I still can work but here work is hard to find. I feel sorry for the young people with this disorder it's no picnic.

Cristina Adkins
January, 16 2012 at 11:00 am

Hi Natasha!
I am a frequent reader of your writing and I cannot praise you enough for what you do for your "family" of Bipolars.Now I am crying...I hurt for you because of what you go through...I never would have guessed this was your situation...Thank you for sharing because your article and all the responses have been such an encouragement to me....
I too am what I have always called a lucky bipolar,I guess maybe because I can hide it most of the time...I don't tell people...only three people at my work know ...they do because it took me a year to get my meds in order after me and my son were diagnosed at the same time ,and they let me take that time ...I was welcome back when I was able...
What keeps me going is that even though the day can be totally exhausting I get to be myself when I get home...my boyfriend at the time kept me alive and supported me through all the "ups and downs"you can imagine what he went through...I wouldn't be here if it were not for him and I am grateful everyday...he lets me be myself when I am with him...if i get a little too "exuberant" or melancholy,he will check with me to see if I ahve remembered my meds. my family doesn't really understand my illness,except of course,my son...
about him...He couldn't hide it as he had explosive and violent manic episodes and we could not control his illness through traditional meds...the reason I am bringing this up is that finally hie Psych Dr. at a large HMO here prescribed medical marijuana...It has been like magic...he presents like a "normal" calm friendly and even cheerful person...he still has his ups and downs as do we all..Has anyone out there tried it if you would be willing to share your experience I would love to hear it...

Dr Fred Von Gunten
January, 16 2012 at 3:07 am

Natasha...I'm back again to support you ( and all the other Bipolars,here), with a little more positive insight to what a "Highly Functional Bipolar" can work toward and achieve. When I was last in the hospital (1984), I told myself I will never return to this kind of place. I also told myself that I will never use the word "crazy" to describe myself. And I started to develop a positive plan to work toward an achievable goal of stability. Those were my positive challenges. I first had to believe in myself to prove that stability was possible,in order to become that True "Highly Functional Bipolar"...So I told myself that in needed to acquire,what I classify as "Episode Free Emotional Stability". That is building on each year with no episodes of any kind. With compliance of medication,Family support,and always keeping a positive attitude,I have achieved almost 28 years of "Episode Free Emotional Stability !
I know that this is possible...Because you are almost there, and you just need to stay away from thinking ....Crazy !
Remember the next step is : Functionally Cured !
Dr Fred

jscruggs2003
January, 15 2012 at 5:51 pm

I agree with your article. I’m not going to drown everyone in words, but I have been BP for 27 years and highly functioning. I’ve held many management positions over the years, from ten years as a Claims Manager, to seven years as a Finance Director, and finally six years as a Logistics Manager. I have really never let anyone in that I have an issue with the exceptions of close friends and family. I generally put in more than 80 hours a week, and rarely show any signs when I’m at the office. Some people get somewhat suspicious when you work through the night and you are still there in the morning when they return to work.
Other than working hard, I go to the gym, I go groceries shopping, I pick up the kids from school, and I take them to soccer and so on. Always with a façade on. Not something I really work at, more of a learned thing that I have always had to do. I use to be able to manage everything, the work-life and the personal-life without any issue, but as I’ve grown older, lost a bit of my metabolism, taken on an extensive amount of responsibilities, and am now medicated, the front takes its toll. A toll that I do not like at all.
I explain to both my psychiatrist and psychologist about the issue. After all, I’ve always been very hyper and skinny, then I’ve became a bit lethargic and a bit chunky. The MDs solution during med check was 120mg Adderall and 300mg Nuvigil a day mixed with supplements like BSNs Endorush and BSNs NOExplode. A bit excessive if I must say, after all I don’t want to be in the ER with chest pains. Now I’m on my own personal quest for the right mix, I will update you when I find the right it.
But overall a great article Natasha. Don’t let all the secrets out. The others still think I’m Superman.

Lori
January, 15 2012 at 4:40 pm

I had always wondered if there was a name for how I function, now I know there is. I sometimes work 24/7 and when I'm not actually working I go to school online. If I'm not running the NC Association of Peer Specialists, I'm working for my own company, or I am in a Board Meeting, or I am taking care of my ailing grandma. I am always busy and have to stay that way. I fall to pieces on the weekend and during the early morning hours because those are the times when I am not working. I don't know how to stop until it's crash time.
My family is often on edge with me. Half says nothing is wrong with me and I don't even have Bipolar but then the other half is right there with me to make sure I stay out of suicide or self-harming mode. They go with me to Doctors appointments, check in often, and help me get my medicine when I can't. I am very thankful for them.
I literally crash and burn around November of each year and stay that way until Feb or April. I still go to therapy and attend groups, my cocktail being changed often doesn't help as it aids in my crashing. But then I do realize sometimes I need that.
Thanks for aiding me in putting a name to it.

paul
January, 15 2012 at 1:20 pm

Straight from confussiuos, I wanted to escape public and government pressure by applying for work in a care home but needed my current employers oppinion and guidence on this issue, and would they give me a possitive refferance.
I wasbemused when my boss said i was his best employee but could not reccomend i do full time employment????
Catch 22 or what?

paul
January, 15 2012 at 1:11 pm

was 1st diagnosed bp 1992 aged 30 and am now aged 50 this month. during this time i have had over15 hospital stays and the majority being manic highs and sectioned many times.
The past 8yrs i have been employed part time working with adults with learning disabilities, (blind leading the blind says ignoramous). I love my job but even though i have escaped hospital clutches for 4yrs now i am really struggling with lows and all the nasty trait like impatients, bad temper and dreading going to the job i truly love.
I am trying to keep up appearances of this with it person but at the same time dreading an innevitable break down. I am exhausted ment and phys and my body aches.
surely this wretch is not the same person who drives a minibus picking up bros and sis to church and the same who is the concert chairman at the social club , but surely does his bit for society and gathers alluminium cans littered on streets and parks.
society cannot keep up with me and i struggle to keep up with me and the pressures of fiscal constraint and the pressures society's ignorance and discrimination against dissability and unemloyed.

Judie
January, 15 2012 at 12:14 pm

I can relate to so many of you on here...i too worked full-time all my life until i finally quit in 2004....i just couldn't take it anymore...and to tell you the truth at the time i really wasn't sure what all was going on for me except that once i crashed in 2003 and went thru treatment & am now a recovering alcoholic...i finally got my disability benefits from work (legal process for mental health issues doesn't get the "ok" without a huge struggle on the person who is already down & out trying to get time away from work to work on getting better!!!)
I have been diagnosed with PTSD, adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Major Depression, Generalized Personality Disorder....and it's finally taken til this past year to find a psychiatrist (at least 4 years ago been struggling to find a psychiatrist because i know i still not thriving & feeling down more than up and feeling suicidal notions all the time) Plus before all this when going thru the toughest times 2005-2007 no family doctor either.
Sorry to go on but since finding your blog here Natasha a couple of months ago & since being medicated now since last spring for bipolar (Divalproex) but not exactly "diagnosed" although i see it as bipolar II & cyclic from all i am reading.........i am struggling to get moving all the time. I remember in my mid 30's how i all of a sudden felt not wanting to be around people and it was getting harder and harder to be always the one who people counted on to SMILE...as if i was a robot they were expecting to be HAPPY everyday......so when i had moods i was NOT ALLOWED.
I struggle with organization & motivation & i too get people seeing me as "ok"/normal/doing alright" when i am around friends & family but it's the when i get home i have nothing in me to want to do anything....I have wanted to get to a point of doing some part-time with what i would like to do but not enough energy or motivation to be consistent enough to actually go & "do it".
I do volunteer work at the Health Centre where i am also a client now since 2007...i chair the mental health advisory group committee there which i find helps me to get out of my self and help others and to feel somewhat "normal" like others "normal" around me...said with a sarcastic tone!!! I also have taken a course on self-managing Chronic disease & now help co-facilitate it at the Health Centre & that too helps to PUSH ME to get outside and also helps me to realize i am doing the best i can do and to keep myself in check as to how I am doing helping others self-managing with their chronic illnesses.
Another thing that does keep me coping and moving and pushing me is that i have taken on a dog (mine passed away in 2009 - Smokey was 15 1/2...she got me thru the years where most of my craziness of drinking and doing really stupid things and was blessed she was able to stay with me thru my recovery so she could have a less crazy time with me in a more healthier state. Healthier meaning not drinking that would lead to to other stuff...i have a part of me that still feels guilty because of who & what i was then...) The dog i have now Kala, she is 12 (long story short, took her on from a homeless person who now has a place but still struggling to provide a stable home for Kala) Not that i have money cause i am on a limited income, but am doing as best i can with what i can do! Kala gives me reason to get up out of bed every morning now especially with the last year & half before getting her, i was really going downhill with my depression. Still struggle everyday with it but with Kala & my psychiatrist i feel more hopeful.
I relate to/identify with so much of what everyone says here, i just had to say thank you all for sharing and am glad to know others are going thru some of the things i am going thru. One person here said they are a "rapid-cycler, mixed states" and that is what i feel is always goin on with me. i cannot commit to anything fully. i have appt. & for the most part i get to them but when left to my own device to make an appointment sometimes it doesn't happen, or if it does it takes forever.
I really do get so upset and down when people friends...& most of my family to not "get it" about my mental illness even when they do have some of their own, but i at least am admitting mine and i know that a lot of what is going on for me isn't just like "everyone else has their problems" or " that's life, get used to it"...comments like this that just push me more & more into want to just curl up in my own little world & stay there....feeling unsupported!
Will keep checking in on your blog Natasha and reading others comments as it really is giving me some hope and helping me to cope.....
Again sorry for such a long comment. This is my very first time talking about the bipolar and only starting to understand what it really is & realizing more & more i am a person with bipolar charicteristics, but it's hard to understand......and having an extremely hard time explaining to others, when for the little amount of time "others" see me, it just really isn't the "REAL" ME!!!

Lisa
January, 15 2012 at 10:41 am

This year for some reason, I feel the depression more. I'm not sure why. Was hopeing to find an open chat. I have had no luck yet.

bill
January, 15 2012 at 10:30 am

Hi Caroline,
Oh, you're there? So I am not alone! So you are not alone in your marathon. Even though, I feel alone even when I have support from some others. Who understands really? I'm a rapid-cycler w. mixed states, they say, and labelled acute. I have gotten better, over the years, at getting up and having a life between the regular slam-dunks, though honestly I never have a day completely free of being on 'the ride'. Hang in there. Make the most of what you have when you have it. I can do that really well on a fully part-time basis -- always part-time. That's the best. I hate it. But looking back, I am glad of the bits that I have had of tolerable life. Glad I am not alone either. Nope. You aren't alone. Keep up the good work.

Lisa
January, 15 2012 at 10:23 am

I would like to say Thank you for this article. I collect disability & some feel I have nothing wrong, or that I am takeing the easy way out. It has taken me years to except that I do have an illness. I don't beat myself up for not being able to hack a full time job, anymore. I am still learning my limitations, but am haveing a tough time with it. I isolate, avoid people & just don't care what people think anymore.

Butterflywings
January, 15 2012 at 8:59 am

Natasha, no prob! :-) Thank you for writing this blog, have lurked for a while and found it so informative and helpful!

Butterflywings
January, 15 2012 at 8:49 am

Hi Caroline. I just wanted to say you're not alone. I am another high-functioning something (maybe bipolar, the docs can't decide) and people expect too much of me too. I too appear 'normal' - except when I don't, and then it gets labelled as moody, difficult etc, instead of what it is, which is 'used up all my energy trying to function and have overdone it, am overwhelmed and overstimulated'. Sorry your family aren't understanding - asking you to drive when you're on meds so you're not supposed to is just so unfair.
I can reccommend Twitter as a place to get support and information, there is a *great* community of people with mental health issues on there.

Natasha Tracy
January, 15 2012 at 8:41 am

Butterflywings,
Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by with your support.
- Natasha

Butterflywings
January, 15 2012 at 8:30 am

I wanted to add that I understand why you work full-time, and I wasn't criticising that, or anyone's decision to do so. I mean, I did for years, and would like to do so again, so I can sympathise.
Also, a really well-written piece which I will bookmark to send to those who don't get it.

Butterflywings
January, 15 2012 at 8:21 am

So true. I thought hibernating all weekend was just what people *did* for...well, since I started working. In the end a stressful job led me to have a breakdown. I now only work part-time which does allow me the energy to be a whole person - ish, just barely. But it means less money. I am on benefits which limit the hours I can do (I actually do far less, for my sanity). If I didn't work I'd get ill due to having too much time on my hands, but I have to be very careful not to do too much as stress also makes me ill. There is no easy answer!

Natasha Tracy
January, 15 2012 at 8:20 am

Hi Caroline,
I'm sorry to hear you're in this situation. I know how tough it can be. It sounds like you're in a rough part of the illness, but I can tell you it won't always be like this and I can tell you that you're not alone.
You might find the support you are looking for in the HealthyPlace forums here: http://www.healthyplace.com/forum/
Good luck.
- Natasha

Caroline
January, 15 2012 at 6:47 am

Looking fir support. I am a high functioning bi-polar, who luckily mostly "just"has a psychotic break every 5 years. A year an d a half ago I had a manic episode after only two years of sanity. I live in a very isolated place and I can't drive due to heavy medications I am on now. My doctor has given me samples of Saphris which seems to be helping me. Lately I am aware of how slowly time passes for me. I am aware of my craziness. People say they will call and don't and that drives me crazy. People think I look normal and speak normally (which my doctor says is a good thing). My sister who is in the mental health field wanted me to drive three hours to be with her three young children. My family is in denial about how ill I am. I can really related to the part about the weekends being tough.

HG
December, 10 2011 at 9:48 am

Oh my goodness I relate to this like crazy (ho ho). I strongly suspect I have Bipolar II but have been telling myself not to be stupid because I have a job and a boyfriend, and people I know think I'm odd but not insane, and surely I couldn't manage that if I was Really Sick. But this post describes exactly how my life often is.
'I spend a massive amount of energy just trying to keep my brain in one place' - god yes. Just because I do usually succeed, doesn't mean the struggle isn't real.
Thanks so much for this. I really have to get my shit together and see a doctor, and this helps with the 'But I'm not really ill' gremlins.

Casey
September, 21 2011 at 1:32 pm

You have described "Me" completely and to the tee. I work a hard 40 hours a week and dive on the couch as soon as I walk in the door. I am so totally exhausted from the "show" I put on all day at my job. I, like you, have no energy to date, socialize, etc. I am just too tired. My weekends are to quiet my mind and body and withdraw from the noisy world.
Thank you so much for your "very real" portrayal of your life.
Casey.....

Natasha Tracy
September, 17 2011 at 5:45 am

Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for the comment.
Yes, I continue to work with a doctor to find the right treatment. I suspect the struggle is infinite but I hope treatment will alleviate some of the symptoms.
- Natasha

Carolyn
September, 17 2011 at 2:31 am

Hi Natasha
This is my first entry on any blog ever but I was drawn to this topic as I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2008. My heart goes out to you for your pain and reading some of this blog has actually made me feel very fortunate that my brain feels normal nearly always. I've only had one manic episode when I had post-natal psychosis 6 weeks after the birth of my child in 2008 (and about six episodes of major depression). I understand but I also think it's sad when people have to fake being ok. Hopefully as the stigma of mental health problems continues to reduce we will one day reach the time where we can all be open and honest with anyone about how we are holding up. I admire you for working as it sounds like it is really hard sometimes. Please forgive my lack of knowledge about your past treatment
as I have only read a few of your entries, but are you continuing to see your doctor to trial new medications that may reduce your pain and struggle?
Carolyn

Kris
September, 15 2011 at 8:02 am

You nailed it with this posting. Right now my brain hurts. I

Sandra Sweeney
September, 14 2011 at 2:04 pm

Hi, Natasha,
Thanks so much for this article. I have BP and am currently out of work (but hopefully not for long - I have a second interview tomorrow regarding part-time employment as a special ed teacher). My current unemployment was caused by a car accident in March, but I've felt so much better since the accident; I haven't had to contend with colleagues each day, and that is much better for me. I am also awaiting a decision regarding disability insurance.
What struck me about your article, besides the topic, was how difficult it is to look and behave high-functioning yet have this level of living suck us dry. I cannot live like those without BP - it's too hard. I need to be alone more, to be more protected from "normal" situations (for example, I am better off teaching in private schools rather than public due to the variety of personalities and problems in public schools). One evaluation I received said, "May be too sensitive to work in a public school setting." I agree. But I am good - very good - at what I do and I want to teach and help kids achieve their full potential. I just cannot do that like most teachers can. Part-time employment sounds like the perfect answer, teaching in a private school without having a co-teacher (as I had for the last five years - only one of those years was wonderful and my co-teacher felt the same way; we both just clicked beautifully together, but we couldn't stay partners longer than one year.) I want to finish my master's degree in special education, I want to teach and I want to live my life to the best I can possibly live it. It's just taken me a long time to realize that this means living as only I can live it, and that is different from most of the other teachers working out there.

Maria
September, 12 2011 at 1:02 pm

I have the same problem. I have cyclothymia which is bipolar "lite", so since I'm not all over the place with mania people don't often take it seriously

Donna Vogl
August, 15 2011 at 6:44 pm

Bi polar is genetic,it runs thru a family like a wildfire , if you have it there is almost a 100 per cent chance that your children have it in one form or another. Raising them without being hospitalized for life ( is a great accomplishment all by itself ( I raised four). You don't have the luxury of going crazy , you you have to get them thru to the end and it doesn't end at 18 . I have been on medication since 14. If you have depression for more than six weeks run, do not walk to your psychiatrist and do the diagonosis thing,get help, you cannot do it alone.I am sixty two now and looking forward to dying of natural causes

Natasha Tracy
August, 15 2011 at 6:16 pm

Hi,
Oh, don't apologize. The internet is awash in archived-possible-useful-information.
I'm glad I could help.
- Natasha

ManicSleepSeeker
August, 15 2011 at 3:03 pm

Amazing article Natasha (apologies for not seeing it sooner).
I'm in the early stages of recovery from an episode, my first with this employer and have been looking for information that wouldn't scare the b'Jesus out of them.
Will be scouring your postings me thinks.
Thanks
Debs (UK)

iambipolar2
July, 25 2011 at 3:54 pm

Yes just to maintain some amount of normalcy is so draining. I often wonder if it is what I choose to eat or if I am just doing too much.

meredith
June, 29 2011 at 11:14 pm

There are more of us then people think. It is just no one talks about it out of fear of rejection.

themaskedmomma
April, 24 2011 at 5:45 pm

Most of this is familiar enough to me to make me cry. The lack of energy and the need for temporary numbness quells the tears. I keep thinking that if I just take a short nap, or go to bed earlier, then maybe, I can get done what needs to be done, later. There was a movie or catch phrase ( I don't recall at this moment which) years ago that even as a child I could relate to it. "Stop the world, I want to get off". Another favorite was a sitcom where one of the characters could freeze frame everyone else while they could still do whatever they wanted, or needed, to do. My fantasy wasn't to pose the others in awkward positions or humiliate them in anyway. No, it was time; where I could take a nap, get caught up, finish my work, anything or everything, and then snap my fingers and the world would spin again or the frame would unfreeze. Such glorious freedom.
You see, by nature, I am an extrovert. I hate that I want to just curl up and sleep. I hate that I want everyone and everything to just give me some peace. I don't want permanent peace and quiet, away from society, family and friends. I want the ability. When I am having a bad day, of up and down, panic and stress, anger and frustration, is it so much to want to hide behind my door, even if it just the bedroom door, with no interruptions, no emergency from an ill parent, hospital,school, no fear for my bipolar eldest to end up on the" happy farm" again, no PTSD breakdown from a spouse who can only project his secret demons onto me, no worries that my teenager, diagnosed with this same, lovely family curse, goes out on one of his destructive anger rampages? This he does because he refuses therapy, medication and even the diagnosis. He tells everyone it is ADD because that is socially acceptable to his peers and their high school. This is not. The ever running question in the back of my head of how long I can stave off these same devastating affects from reaching my other younger children.
So everyday, I drag myself out of bed, put on the mask, the "fake it 'til you make it attitude and pretend that I am the stable one. Little do they know how close I've come. Sometimes I am jealous of those who can hospitalize themselves. Even of those who can say " I can't deal with this, you need to do it for me." I can lie in bed and pray that my sleep will be never ending, or that I might have that temporary reprieve. Maybe a real night of sleep. Where my dreams don't torment me or make me work out solutions for problems unresolved during t he day, where one eye does not have to be open, one ear does not need to listen
Then in some manic high, I agree to take on more work for my community. It is amazing what things one may do for others so quickly, so simply, that is horribly debilitating when applied to myself.
I want to crawl under a rock when I consider all the projects around my own house that I have started when I've been on highly motivated, can do upswing. Once interrupted, it could be months, possibly years until I can pick it up again.The task becomes so daunting, it becomes an elephant sitting on my chest. His trumpeting call to action, outdone by the stifling crush of the weight of something undone.
When I read this as I write it, it sounds more sleep deprived or stress induced. Trust me when I say, this is a mask that is somewhat acceptable upon occasion to share. Just remember, no one really wants to know the truth beneath it all.

Kristina Guzman
February, 11 2011 at 3:04 am

Thank you. Thank you so, so much for writing this. It almost feels as though I wrote this myself, and completely forgot I wrote it. I am only 19 and I remember the day I finally admitted to my mother that all the laughing, dancing around, and everything else I did was just acting. No one even knew what I was actually going through. When something was supposed to be funny, I laughed. Because that's what you're supposed to do, right?
I thought I was boring, I thought I was a loser because I wanted to stay home. I always made excuses when I got invited places. And I admit, I still do it. When I get invited somewhere, just thinking about it makes me feel tired. It's completely exhausting. Physically, emotionally, mentally exhausting. For so long I've been feeling as if I am falling....
Reading this just makes me want to cry. It feels good to read that someone else feels the same way I do. I've never been able to relate to someone quite like this before.
So again, thank you.
-K

Natasha Tracy
February, 4 2011 at 7:57 am

Hi Idy,
This sounds _so_ familiar:
"My mind spins and tumbles like a rock polishing machine, and my synapses get all tangled up and frazzled and buzzing in my head... It’s like I’m sitting on a spinning merry-go-round, hanging on for dear life as it revolves faster and faster, hanging on for dear life so i don’t get thrown off and go flying into space."
Yup, sounds like bipolar to me.
Sounds like you have a coping strategy worked out though. Your husband may not always support it but at least you know what you need.

Natasha Tracy
February, 4 2011 at 7:53 am

Hi Cal,
Many people battle for a proper diagnosis, but one thing that I can tell you is that a qualified therapist can generally do a proper diagnosis. Not a "counselor" but a psychotherapist who's licensed can generally make a good assessment and suggest further involvement with a psychiatrist.
You have to understand that if a psychiatrist diagnoses you with bipolar, they likely will just give you drugs. If you want to go, go ahead, but if a psychotherapist can manage your needs, you might consider starting there first.
(But you are correct, you do need a proper diagnosis from a licensed professional. Anything else is really a guess.)
- Natasha

ldycheroke57
January, 29 2011 at 2:21 pm

I am also a high functioning Bipolar II (except not today!). Because I am so good at faking "normal", people who don't know me well, when they catch me doing or saying something "peculiar", they just think I'm a little wierd (I like to think of myself at those times as eccentric). Or worse, they think it is a sign that I'm not a nice person (thoughtless, gouche, rude, insulting, selfish, egotistic, loud, boring, fill-in-the-blank). When I'm hypo-manic, I can be any or all of those things. But that isn't who I am. I've lost a lifetime friend of 32 years because of this misconception. Either she never really understood, even after all those years, or she just got tired of dealing with my disease. Either way, it was one of the things that Bipolar stole from me. Not the only thing, or even the greatest thing, but a biggie, nonetheless.
I like how you described the fatigue that so often plagues those battling mental illness. The energy and stress of trying to appear normal in public is indeed tiring and stressful. So is trying to deal with the ups and downs of this terrible disease. And STRESS is a major trigger to relapse, isn't it? Circles within circles. Sometimes, like for the past month, I'm so tired almost all the time, even though I rarely go out. I have been cycling between depression and hypomania, sometimes several times in a single day! My mind spins and tumbles like a rock polishing machine, and my synapses get all tangled up and frazzled and buzzing in my head. I fight the negative voice that tells me lies that feel like the truth, and I can't hold on to any thought for very long. It's like I'm sitting on a spinning merry-go-round, hanging on for dear life as it revolves faster and faster, hanging on for dear life so i don't get thrown off and go flying into space. So I pull into myself, and grab a book, or sit at the computer and try to focus my mind on just one task (reading) or turn on the TV or watch a movie, because that helps me slow my mind down and drown out the rush of multiple thoughts (most of them negative) that threaten to overwhelm me. My husband, forgetting my illness, gently ribs me about being lazy and urges me to get out and get some exercise or go see a friend. He forgets that when I'm like that, trying to appear normal in public is beyond my ability; even moving out of my chair is almost beyond my strength at those times. At least I have come to the point where I no longer berate MYSELF for my inertia, or for any other symptom of my Bipolar illness. I have learned to allow myself the time and space I need to unwind and take care of myself. So eventually I can be there for him, and for my college-age son, and for my friends. Once I am able to be there for myself.

Cal
January, 28 2011 at 3:26 am

Hi, I can fully relate to the working 'thing'. I'm self-employed, so I must no matter what get myself out the door to pay for the rent and all other bills. I'm presently seeking help in determining if I truly have Bi polar. I fit most of the criteria, but I'm also finally dealing with all the sexual, physical and emotional indiscretions suffered from a toddler and adult. It would seem my social worker thinks all I need is therapy, but I want a full blown assessment regarding the bi-polar, and will not settle for less. I hate medications, I don't do drugs, and I am not addicted to alcohol. I have wine on occasions, but that is all. Have others had to battle to get a proper diagnosis? I also have a blog where I share my experiences on a almost daily basis. If you care to read please do. Would really like some input if possible. Thank you for listening.

Natasha Tracy
January, 27 2011 at 9:31 am

Hi Lynette,
Congratulations on reaching out. That's a great first step in getting the support system you need.
- Natasha

lynette
January, 27 2011 at 5:25 am

I totally agree with you, I was just released from the hospital and diagnosed as bipolar. I created an online blog to gain support and help from others. I look foreword to hearing from you.

Natasha Tracy
January, 26 2011 at 4:47 pm

Hi Sam,
"I honestly don’t think I’ve ever read something that made more sense to me."
Thank-you, that's an extraordinary compliment.
Glad I could help.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
January, 26 2011 at 4:46 pm

Hi Daisy,
It's all about how the disease affects you and your situation. I don't have the luxury of giving a 7. And I don't have the luxury of a day without illness. Not at the moment.
Without all that pushing I can't pay rent. Just a little thing. That I have to take care of. I don't have any backup.
Certainly I can appreciate your situation, but I also appreciate all the people out there that have to give a 10 just to get out of bed in the morning.
- Natasha

Sam
January, 25 2011 at 6:57 pm

The part about falling to pieces when not working is perfect. And I can relate to many of those friday nights. I honestly don't think I've ever read something that made more sense to me. Thanks for writing, you help more than you know.

Daisy
January, 25 2011 at 6:58 am

My husband gave me a great insight in saying that I was "always going for being & giving at the "10" level.Why not be satisfied with being a "5"?" Giving a little less, so I have more for me, for more satisfaction & more joy in my life. Now I am going for be satisfied with being and giving a "7"
Your comments remind me of me paddling up the river and pushing to hard. Like the untruth that what I give at work isn't enough. So I have to give more than healthily can.
We live with this disease, we do not have to be controlled by it.

Natasha Tracy
January, 23 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hi Heather,
You are not a freak. You're dealing with a very difficult disease in the best way you know how. You probably don't know any mentally ill people in your position in real life (I know I don't). So it's hard to understand that you're part of a really big group. A huge dysfunctional family, if you will.
I'm glad I could help remind you that you're not alone.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
January, 23 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hi Pam,
Yes, there are always things to fight for. No, I don't want people giving up either.
Thank-you for sharing your experience.
- Natasha

Heather
January, 23 2011 at 8:02 am

I am so glad I was shown this. It describes me so well. I'm basically a hermit outside of work. All I can think about at work is how I want to be at home in bed. I'm constantly canceling appointments because I can't face going out after being exhausted making it through work. I've tried to explain it to people, but they don't understand why I can't just force myself. I tell them that I use up all my energy being at work and there just isn't anymore left for anything else. It's comforting to hear that I'm not alone in this. I've been feeling like a freak for years. Thank you.

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