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I Can’t Go Out, I’m Too Depressed; I Mean, I Have The Flu

I have had a lot of bad bipolar days in my life. Days when I was incapacitated. Days when I couldn’t make food for myself. Days when I couldn’t work. Days when I couldn’t talk to anyone. Days when I just couldn’t function.

On these days, I’m sick. And in some regards, it’s a type of sickness that is like many others. I feel like trash, I don’t want to move from the couch and everything hurts – that could describe a cold or the flu as well. But as it happens, it also described a bad day for depression or bipolar disorder.

But here’s the thing, when someone calls and asks if I want to have coffee, saying I’m too depressed isn’t seen as acceptable. That’s seen as weakness. That’s seen as something wrong with me. Whereas, if I said I was sick with a cold, that would be alright, because, after all, everyone gets colds and when they get them, it’s okay not to feel like socializing.

And I can’t tell you the number of days I’ve said I was sick with the flu, or a cold, or a stomach bug or anything but sick with bipolar. But really, that’s what I am.

I’m Sick with Bipolar

Being sick with bipolar isn’t just an overarching problem, although it is, it’s also a daily problem wherein bad days come and make you feel very unwell. It’s the kind of illness that flairs up for no reason and must be dealt with immediately. It’s the kind of illness that can ruin your whole day, or week (or more).

I’m Sick with the Flu

And the flu is just like that too. The flu is some nasty virus that gets into your system and wreaks havoc for a while. It produces all kinds of symptoms and makes you feel very, very unwell.

People Understand the Flu, They Don’t Understand Mental Illness

The difference is, people understand the flu – they’ve had the flu – people don’t understand mental illness. People don’t understand how you can wake up one day and cry over peanut butter. People don’t understand how one day you can be fine and the next day the world can come crashing down around you. People don’t understand how your brain just ceases to work normally all of a sudden. So if I say I’m sick with bipolar, it’s just fundamentally something that people don’t understand. It just sounds wrong no matter how accurate it really is.

And this is sad. It’s sad to have to lie to others on a semi-regular basis. It’s sad that a virus is seen as more “acceptable” than a brain illness. It’s sad that admitting to a bad bipolar day will get you looks of scorn whereas a bad day because of the flu will get you looks of concern.

Changing the Perception of Mental Illness

But maybe we only change this by standing up and admitting to bad bipolar days, to bad brain days. “Sorry, I can’t see you today; my brain’s acting up again.”

It sounds a little on the funny side, granted, but it’s real and it’s accepting of the facts. It says that we’re not ashamed to be sick. It says that we’re not ashamed to admit that our illnesses get to us once in a while. It says that our mental illness affects us just like any physical illness does – because it is physical.

So yes, I’m having a bad bipolar day. I can’t come out and play today. My brain is acting up, again.

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

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

22 thoughts on “I Can’t Go Out, I’m Too Depressed; I Mean, I Have The Flu”

  1. Hello – thank you for your blog, which I’ve been following for quite a while. I’m in a similar situation as Nadia, a very close friend of mine has bipolar. He has been having a lot of bipolar days lately. He still works full time (we are colleagues) but seems to be struggling. I’m concerned that he is isolating himself more and more. He spends the entire weekend at home and watches TV. He has no family in the town where we live, and not many friends. He went through a very difficult and long depressive phase last year but appears to have been relatively stable since late 2012. I’m not sure if he’s sliding into depression again – he says it’s just a bit of a “dip”. He takes his medication and regularly sees his psychiatrist. We used to catch up on weekends but now he just seems to prefer to be on his own all the time.
    I’m not sure what I should do. At the moment I text him a couple of times on weekends just to make sure he’s ok, and he always responds. (He won’t answer calls though.) I don’t want to be intrusive but at the same time I’m very worried about him. He says that at the moment he’s totally focussed on himself and dealing with “crazy thoughts”. I would be very grateful for any advice or tips as to what I should ( and shouldn’t) do. I care about him and don’t want to let him down.

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