Mental Health Blogs

“High-Functioning” Bipolar Disorder

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.

High-Functioning Bipolar

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 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.

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Low-Functioning Weekends

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.

Energy is Finite, Bipolar 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

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.

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.

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.

This entry was posted in Being Crazy, Coping, Depression, How Others See Bipolar, Impact of Bipolar, Understanding Mental Illness and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

203 Responses to “High-Functioning” Bipolar Disorder

  1. Kristy says:

    I have “high functioning” bipolar and only recently could I admit it can be seriously disabling. I have gone to university but due to a fractured work history and discrimination I have little self esteem left and I am considering a job in a sheltered workshop to make ends meet. Ninety percent of the time I have more energy then others, but I don’t handle mornings well. One of the hardest parts of what I go through is people thinking I should get a job when I can’t.
    Today I am crashing I am too tired to do what I want to do. I feel I have to work so hard just to cope. I am tired.

  2. Jeni says:

    I also have been to university and have high functioning bi-polar; i do nothing more than take care of my child as a stay at home mom. I cannot manage the stress of anything else, including a normal social life or getting a job. I search job listings all the time when I am feeling good, but when I take steps to obtain the job, I am overwhelmed by the demands and unable to account for the lost years and poor work history/referrals. I am incredibly lonely and feel so inadequate. When people ask what I do, I have to say silly things like “i’m a kept woman!” or “The dog is just like a baby and so I have to be around for her!” My husband both claims I “would never be able to make it on my own if he didn’t support me” and also that I “am totally lazy because I don’t do enough around the house or for the family”. Sometimes he is supportive, though. I cannot be friends with hardly anyone as I cannot reciprocate in the normal way of birthday lunches or helping with their kids and I cannot be friends with other depressed types because my husband does not support any relationship with “abnormal” people. I am very lonely, but obviously dependent. We make too much money for any help from public services, but my husband won’t pay for therapy or doctor visits (giant deductible). I am very defeated and unable to connect with the world. Thanks for letting me post.

  3. Free Spirit says:

    Hi I too am very high functioning. I have bipolar and it seems the older I get the more I struggle. For the past 10 years atleast my work history is very unstable. According to others I can not keep a job and I’m a quitter. I laugh nowadays because if only they knew??? Which they do but I show no signs or I’m educated and intelligent or I lead a pretty sane normal life according to them. Or as my ex put it it’s all in my head and I’m just lazy. Well he is right about its all in my head but the laziness part, far from it. That’s the problem. Whether I take meds or not I tend to run k ‘re o the energetic, super woman, mom etc, side. And everyone loves me especially when I work. So in turn that is what is expected of me on a daily basis. So when I crash that’s when I’m TOLD, what’s wrong w you, you are late or not keeping up or as my last job put it, ” I am unable to fullfill my job duties and either resign or I was being let go. The first during allh my years of working was I told this.Well it’s about time I Said. I’ve asked for help I let it be known but some how it has to get to me being in a Crisis StaTe for people to hear my words only because they can see it see, I’ve lost 20 pounds, dark circles under eyes, etc. This is my life . And I’m burnt. I’m back w no job, no home, my boys live w there dad now. All because I’m so high functioning according to all that before I look bad or lose something , no one listens nor believes me. SOS . What part of I’m not doing so well or I’m burnt I need some help in any way,don’t people understand. I even tell them how they can help. I’m detailed in my explanations and still I’m on my own w myself putting back the pieces of my puzzle. I’m not a victim nor do I have pitty parties. Well they don’t last very long.So when I stay away because I feel they are doing me more harm then good,I’m considered selfish, and there is simething wrong w me. It’s come to this w me, love me and support me or get out of my face.plain and simple. I figure as long as I stay true to me and can still love others and be kind open minded and compassionate than I’m as human as human can be.My apologies, I went off on a tangent. One more thing. I can not seem to get any financial assistance like sdi, or ssi or ssdi because their reasons are, I have gone to school and obtained a degree,I have a history of working since age 16 and when I saw their psychiatrist and was asked to remember sequences and who the president is , well what the hell does that have anything to do With any of this. This meaning I struggle at keeping a job due to this mental illness.in school I was always seeing a counselor and my grades were so erratic my counselor even said it makes sense and it is a symptom of bipolar .thanks to the grace of God and perserverance and my boys, is how I got my degree. And trust me myself and all involved went through he’ll during that time, be caused I struggled so much. My life now, I’m 41 is lifeless . After all these years I’m finally burnt and tore up from the floor up, all because I function at a higher level than society perceives one with a mental illness should function at. And mind you this includes my family and certain friends. Thanks for letting me share and God bless.

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