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Price of Being Bipolar in Public

May 31, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Here I am. Writing. In public. About being crazy.

Here I am. Being crazy. In public. Under scrutiny.

I’ve been writing about being bipolar for seven years now, in a very closed, anonymous environment. People didn’t know my name, or see my face. By design. Anonymity has a way of allowing the truth to flourish.

The writing has always been just mine. It didn’t have to please anyone or be nice to anyone. It didn’t have to explain itself or be reasonable. It didn’t have to be good or make sense. It didn’t have to be edited or looked at ever again. The blood didn’t have to be scrubbed from its corners.

But now I have a face. A face with alabaster skin and blazing hair. Now I’m corporeal. Now there are people looking over my actual shoulder. Now everyone will see the blood.

And I’m terrified. I’m terrified to be here, to be writing, to be crazy, to be ill, to be seen. I hide in the shadows. I like it that way.

But like all other writers, I feel I have to write. I have to write. There are ideas and folds and fragments inside of me scratching and begging to be let out. Their claws are long, sharp, and cut so very deeply.

In real life, I feel so unexpressed. What little truth I share is a whisper in a windstorm.

I’m here. I’m over here. See me. Please.

But people, not surprisingly, see what I’ve externally crafted: what I’ve molded and put into place to hide the crazy.

I’m aware that I can’t afford for everyone to know I’m sick because it affects everything from how I’m looked at, to whether I’m trusted to babysit. I know being bipolar makes people frightened and creates a space between me and the supposed sane. I know that it hinders career trajectory or even my ability to get a job. I know bipolar disorder keeps people from seeing anything but a sad girl drowning in a Jackson Pollock painting.

But I also know that me, the actual me, is in here somewhere. It might be hiding behind the bipolar curled up, very small in the corner, or it might be locked in a closet with bipolar holding the key. But I’m in here. Somehow, somewhere, I want someone to understand who I really am, what I really do. Understand what it is to have to fight a disease so much bigger and stronger than, everything. To fight it every day. Somehow, I need to have people outside the four walls of my apartment listen to me scream. I need someone to witness the suffering. I need someone to palpate all dimensions of an all-consuming pain. I need people to know what real life is.

So I’m here, and I’m writing. So I’m here, and I’m trying. I’m trying to speak to you. I’m trying to tell you the truth.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, May 31). Price of Being Bipolar in Public, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/05/price-of-being-bipolar-in-public



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 BurbleTwitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Elliot
says:
October, 10 2017 at 12:26 pm
After singing in a choir I am afraid to talk to the people_
-but now I will remain even with fear of rejection and try to communicate then I al left to judge my performance ich!
Jordan
says:
June, 26 2013 at 1:08 pm
Well put. Keep on keeping on, for those of us still hiding in the dark, trying to pretend the pretend, and feeling like we are silently dying alone around all these familiar strangers.
Anthony
says:
May, 11 2013 at 4:09 am
Hi i feel your pain soo deeply and i cannot express it like you do it makes me cry.....
Sara Catron
says:
July, 1 2012 at 1:01 pm
Yes, that is what it's like to b bi-polar! Always hiding the real u. Because people are so judgement. They will treat u , like u have the Black Plague. They shun u sometimes. They just don't understand u. Yes, I too, will have to hide out, back in the shadows. Trying to keep it all hiding, from everyone else. Afraid to b the real u!! I have had a lot of mental & phyical issues. I just have to make myself go on!! Trying not, to b stuck, in your life!! Thank u for listening. I loved you open, & honesty!
Betsey
says:
August, 16 2011 at 6:40 am
I undersand where you are coming from, but I do object to referring to yourself as "crazy". I was diagnosed in 2003, although I knew that I was suffering from some sort of mental illness for quite awhile. If you call yourself crazy than you are just perpetuating a sterotype. Sterotypes are what keep people from seeking help.Bi-polar disorder is an illness and yes it is possible to get well, I did. Maybe this comes with age, but eventually you have to accept yourself as you are, and stop repeating the mantra that "I am mentally ill, and therefore I am crazy". Best of luck to you in the future.
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 25 2011 at 4:16 pm
Hi Chutty,

Thanks. I'll keep at it.

- Natasha
chutty
says:
July, 25 2011 at 3:52 am
hi natasha
i love your posts. you are a very courageous woman and a wonderful writer. keep writing.all the best.
Margaret Callahan
says:
July, 23 2011 at 5:59 pm
I lost a few jobs for being such a colossal jerk during a manic episode. I was ashamed for so long. Plus, I was known in the neigborhood, as someone who was a nut, and I was so embarrassed for years afterward. I suffered from agoraphobia, and anxiety disorders as well. After my manic episode, I retreated for months, in shame, having lost close friends, my college "career," and my reputation as a normal, quiet young woman. I had a long stint of not working (agoraphobia), and finally, with lots of therapy, got back into the working world. The fact that we are all still here plugging away is proof of resilience. We have to pat ourselves on the back because sometimes (mostly), no one else will. I hate having this condition, but I hate it mostly because I have a TERRIBLE habit of comparing my life with that of "normal" people. I never win. I am trying to be positive to lift myself out of the still shamefulness I possess for being "poor" in my middle age. I desperately want to be positive.
Corné
says:
July, 27 2010 at 1:47 am
Hi Natasha,

I came about your blog just now, while I was searching for something on the net.
I read a few of your entries and just wanted to say that I can also (like a lot of the people who left comments) relate to your words. Especially this specific piece of writing almost feels like it was drawn from my heart.

I can only remember myself as being bipolar too. I actually think that I have been suffereing from it my entire life, even though it was only diagnosed when I was about 24. So yes, I think bipolar is part of who I am. I'm also way more than just a person suffering from bipolar.

For the most part I am very open about my being bipolar, but I still feel like no-one really understands me. That is the one thing about Bipolar that I hate the most: being different. Being SO different that people do not understand who I am or why I am what I am. Feeling like I do not belong in any specific group of people. (or maybe just with the crazies... lol)

I have read a book written by a lady who travelled the world to find other Bipolar people just like her. She also felt different and needed to find her belonging place. You know what she found: that even after meeting all these other bipolar people, shee still felt different. Because each of us experience life differently. We all have different truths about the illness. We all have different coping skills. The only thing we have in common is: Being different.

I am looking forward to reading more of your blogs. Thanks for sharing with us.
josephmaher
says:
October, 8 2010 at 8:48 pm
Thanks Natasha,
You are wonderful to write what you did.I have Bi-Polar for 20 years and it has been far from easy at times.I find to keep a diary is a good idea about ones thoughts on a daily basis as its interesting to look back in to those dairys and in my case see that more or less the same type of thoughts reoccur.
David
says:
August, 15 2010 at 12:46 am
Thanks Natasha and I really look forward to reading more from everyone. I just have to say that I've woken up this morning feeling on top of the world and loving every minute of it. :)
Natasha Tracy
says:
August, 14 2010 at 8:43 am
Hi David.

Welcome. I'm glad you found something here to connect with. That makes my job worthwhile, and I'm sure the other commenters here are also glad to hear it.

I started blogging just to express all the things that were built up in my head too. I wrote every day, more than 1000 words a day I had so much to say. Not many people read it, but it wasn't about that, I too found that by writing them it got them out of my head, and that was the point.

Feel free to share you opinions and stories here. Many do find that camaraderie helpful.

Thanks.

- Natasha
David Shadrick
says:
August, 14 2010 at 3:43 am
I've got to say I just love this blog and thank you so much for putting it out there. I've been searching for a while now to find others who could understand where I'm coming from and reading this has finally done that for me. I also started a blog a short time ago, because I also felt that I had so much to say and share with no way of doing it. I'm not a great writer, but I've found that in doing I'm able to let go and not dwell so much on things the way I used to do. I've always kept a journal, but for some reason putting it out there for others to see has made a big difference for me. I'm on Face Book and my full name is David Shadrick and would welcome anyone who would like to be friends and share in this journey we're on. I'm also a recovering alcoholic and my experience in recovery from that has shown me that finding others who are dealing with the same thing and sharing helps me deal with things better than trying to do it alone. I don't know that I can really help any one except to share my own experiences and hope that they may help some one in some way.
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 27 2010 at 5:09 am
Hi Corné,

I'm honored you identify so strongly with my words.

Yeah, I know what it's like to feel like no one understands you. I think for anyone it's hard to find that close kind of relationship but it seems to much harder for people with a mental illness as our brain works so differently.

I have met two people in my life who I thought understood me so I know it's possible. I think it's possible for all of us, but it's just very hard to find.

- Natasha
Corné
says:
July, 27 2010 at 1:47 am
Hi Natasha,

I came about your blog just now, while I was searching for something on the net.
I read a few of your entries and just wanted to say that I can also (like a lot of the people who left comments) relate to your words. Especially this specific piece of writing almost feels like it was drawn from my heart.

I can only remember myself as being bipolar too. I actually think that I have been suffereing from it my entire life, even though it was only diagnosed when I was about 24. So yes, I think bipolar is part of who I am. I'm also way more than just a person suffering from bipolar.

For the most part I am very open about my being bipolar, but I still feel like no-one really understands me. That is the one thing about Bipolar that I hate the most: being different. Being SO different that people do not understand who I am or why I am what I am. Feeling like I do not belong in any specific group of people. (or maybe just with the crazies... lol)

I have read a book written by a lady who travelled the world to find other Bipolar people just like her. She also felt different and needed to find her belonging place. You know what she found: that even after meeting all these other bipolar people, shee still felt different. Because each of us experience life differently. We all have different truths about the illness. We all have different coping skills. The only thing we have in common is: Being different.

I am looking forward to reading more of your blogs. Thanks for sharing with us.
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 13 2010 at 9:12 am
Carmen,

Thank-you for the compliment. However, my poetry is limited to quatrains involving the man from Nantucket. I think it's better for the world of poetry that way. :)

- Natasha
carmen
says:
July, 13 2010 at 2:11 am
I just wanted to say that you expressed this horror beautifully...you really should consider poetry.
Natasha Tracy
says:
July, 6 2010 at 5:38 pm
Hi Lee Ann,

Let me say, I can see why you're such a great spokesperson, you sound very passionate and eloquent.

I'm an over-sharer too. It's bad and it's good - it does tend to weed people out fairly quickly, but then, I suppose, I'm alone too much too.

Who you share with and what you share is completely up to you, and it's different for everyone. I'm glad you've found some angels. We all need them.

The good news is with a diagnosis, hopefully you can find more effective treatment for you. And then you can be better to yourself and your family. It's a positive step, if a scary and hard one.

Thank-you, and good luck.

- Natasha
Lee Ann 255
says:
July, 6 2010 at 5:23 pm
Beautiful and wise writing Natasha. I have been thinking a great deal about this issue of late.

I was not diagnosed with bipolar until after I turned fifty, being told most of my life I was 'just depressed'. Then during a period that destroyed my financial stability, kept me going 24/7 taking care of my child with Down Syndrome who also has some physical disabilities who was having multiple surgeries with life threatening infections for several years, and being on the 'verge' off and on for months, my child's new psychiatrist diagnosed me the first time I took him to see her. Why I asked did all those other psychiatrists and psychologists miss something that was for her so patently obvious?

I am by nature an 'over-sharer'. When I gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome I made a very good advocate in the state because I was not scared to speak from the heart as well as the mind. But with this, with this diagnosis I am scared to be overly open. My ex-husband can use it in court to keep me from ever getting custody of my son back. I had to give him up after two years of that 24/7 stuff. I was not going to make it. I did not have enough support and I was falling apart all over the place. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made and yet it was also the only decision I could make at that time.

I want to be in people's faces with this. I want people to have to deal with the fact that there are others all around them who are struggling with various levels of mental illness and it is not contagious. Those people need compassion just as much as someone with a physical ailment. We don't grow out of this. We have it for life. AND they need to be disabused of the notion that we can pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and just tough it out, get better, make it go away.

I want to be a vocal and political advocate for the mentally ill and yet in my own life I have been rejected by friends, family, and given those sideways scared looks by my child's doctors who were obviously told by my ex-husband how mentally ill I am. I am not there yet. I applaud your bravery. Every time you share from your heart your thoughts and experiences you help break down barriers.

So for now I will remain very selective regarding who I share my diagnosis with. I have let the good weather friends slip away,,, many did when my child was born with developmental disabilities, they couldn't take me sharing my heartaches with them..... and treasure the very few true friends who accept me for who I really am. My neighbor who calls me every day when she knows I am going through an extremely dark depression and I haven't been out of the house in days. Those are the angels out there.

I will look forward to a day when I have learned how to live with this syndrome better.... when I can be of more help to others because I have learned to take care of myself better.

Thank you Natasha. You are young and you write very well. I wish you the very best.----Lee Ann
Richard J.
says:
June, 16 2010 at 8:40 am
Definitely, Writing is good. Your writing is good.I am just starting writing thoughs down again. Had a big period were I could not, luckly writing on blogs or just on the computerchanges that stigma for me. Awesome . I rapid cycle ( and no not a fast cyclist :) ) I like were you come from hope to here more. Thank you Be Well p.s I also have that going out in public thing as well. Some technics on anxiety or stress managment seems to help a out bit.
Helena Smole
says:
June, 4 2010 at 1:30 am
Hi Natasha!

I think you are a writer with brilliant prospects. And some day you will make a fortune by commercializing your pain.

I am actually a lot like you, only a bit less talented as a writer. I hope to be able to put my book about my life with schizoaffective disorder on the market as soon as possible (but not before Christmas probably).

My real name is Helena Smole. I come from Slovenia (Eastern Europe). I am also on Facebook appearing with my real name. All the people that know me, also know about my mental illness. I have also met a great guy 10 years ago on the account of my illness, for all the others ran away because of their fear. Pussies :)

The great guy is now my husband and the publisher of my book.

In the meantime you are welcome to read my blogs:
http://schizoaffective-helen.blogspot.com/

Take care and whatever you do - never stop writing, for you are absolutely brilliant and I mean it!
Helena Smole
Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 3 2010 at 4:22 pm
Hi Melissa,

I actually feel very similarly to you. Bipolar doesn't define me, but I don't know who I would be without it. I suppose it's because I have been dealing with it for so long I barely can imagine, or remember, my life without it.

I don't know what would be held against you, but in next week's audio I am going to be talking about what happened to someone I used to work with. It's not a fun story, but keep in mind, everyone and everywhere is different.

Thank-you for the compliment. I do love to hear it.

- Natasha
melissa256
says:
June, 3 2010 at 1:01 pm
I feel that my bipolar is such an integrated part of me that I am unsure of who I would be without it. I discuss it openly with anyone who wants to listen. It doesn't define me, but it is always there. I do worry some because I am working on my masters in special education. Would it be held against me? I don't know. Without it, I wouldn't be who I am. I like who I am for the most part.

Keep writing. You have soooo much talent!!!

Melissa
Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 3 2010 at 6:40 am
Hi Kris,

That's a brilliant analogy and I think very accurate. We are all two paychecks away from poverty (or for me, maybe one) and two pieces of luck away from mental illness.

It is bold and admirable of you to try to educate people about mental illness. Knowledge dispels fear and you are doing your part to get to rid more of us of that fear. Thank-you.

- Natasha
Kris
says:
June, 3 2010 at 2:23 am
Hi Natasha,

I, too, am concerned about how I might be appraised. I live with the knowledge that one day I might wake up and wound the people I love because of my mood instability. My children "check in" with me to see how I am; children should not have to do that all the time.

I've long since rid myself of the notion that there is a "magic bullet" out there that will save me from myself. I doubt there ever will be. So, I can't risk being seen. I am a teacher. My students often are very vocal about those in poverty. They don't understand why they can't pick themselves up by there own bootstraps. They don't understand why there is welfare. I figured out long ago that some students hold these attitudes because they are, deep down, scared to death that they are but a few paychecks away from a similar fate. The latest recession has proved my point.

This analogy works for mental health as well. People are scared to death they may suffer a similar fate. If we are out there, as people who seem so "normal" on the outside, many fear one day they may become mentally ill too. Or, at least, touched by it in some fundamental way.

So. I've decided my role is to educate people about mental illness. To challenge their bias. To see me as a flawed person who still has many gifts and strengths. Thank you for helping educate the public who run from mental illness lest it catch them.
Judith
says:
June, 2 2010 at 8:23 pm
Woops, wrong word. Very sorry. Take care.
Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 2 2010 at 6:04 pm
Hi Judith,

I don't feel inadequate. Just different. But I always appreciate a smile. Thank-you.
Judith
says:
June, 2 2010 at 4:32 pm
Natasha,
I didn't say my life was not without problems. I am retired now and spend all my time alone and do not have many friends that I get together with. My family is estranged. I was giving you the ideals I try to live up to. I have had some therapy and now they just want to model you to be a certain way and reframe your experience of reality. They don't have time to talk about your pain. Well, sorry I was not trying to make you feel inadequate. If I saw you in a store, I would want to smile at you and offer you my hand. But that may not always be the best thing to do?
Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 2 2010 at 11:02 am
Marie - thanks. Journalling can help no matter what you perceive the quality to be. It's about expression, not quality. I've written lots of crap, believe me.

Lisa - oh, I know people are judgmental. On that I am clear.

Robert - I'm honored. That's one of the most amazing things anyone has ever said to me.
Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 2 2010 at 10:57 am
Hi Judith,

It's good to know that you have found positive ways of looking at things and handling your life.

Everyone though, is different. In my case, I'm bipolar. What you're suggesting is just not that simple. If it works for you, that's great, but not everyone is you.

Some of what you propose is very cognitive-behavioral-therapy (CBT) like. This is a great form of therapy, and it helps a lot of people. I have done a lot of it, and while good for coping, it does not even come close to causing a remission of bipolar symptoms.

It sounds like you've had some "light bulb" moments, and it's great to share those. My brain disease just doesn't respond to those methods.

- Natasha
Judith
says:
June, 2 2010 at 10:10 am
Marie, Have you ever tried drawing if you cannot write your feelings down? Just wondered what effect that would have to help you self express. Colors can represent emotions.
You know once I was pretty depressed and feeling like I was so different and worthless. I had a lot of trauma as a child, and had married a very cold man who would put me down and actually use my pain to put me down. One day I looked in the mirror for a long time at myself and began to feel strange as if I was separate from that person. I had to stop looking because I became frightened. Sometimes we have to limit how far we let ourselves go beyond the usual in trying to discover who we are. I think it is possible to let ourselves go too deep in the darkness. We must seek the light, and try to stay there. We do develop patterns in our thinking and it can be like a path that we take over and over. If the paths seem unhealthy we must use our will power to find another one and repeat healthy thought of what we want to be like. It can help us to get there. I really think so, but be careful how people who know you respond, as they often cannot understand why you are different and they want to be your predictable self. Do not let them deter you. Many times these questions arise when we are going through transitions in life, between adolescence and into adulthood for many. Not so unusual. Some people have a harder time than others depending on your environment and support system. Believe in yourself, more than anything. Believe you are valuable.
Robert A. Havasy
says:
June, 2 2010 at 9:15 am
Thank you, Natasha, for some of the best writing I've ever read. I printed a copy to make more copies of and pass out to family and friends who just don't get it.

You are a credit to the human race.

-Rob (aka zero)
Lisa Burger
says:
June, 2 2010 at 9:12 am
Keep writing - people are so judgemental - it is there insecurities and ignorance that cause them to judge - remember that...
Marie
says:
June, 2 2010 at 9:02 am
WOW you hit the nail on the head with this. The only thing different that I deal with is not being able to write about any of what i feel as i get way too overwhelmed even thinking it never mind writing it. However having said that, I do some journaling so that the insane thoughts are not continually bouncing around in my brain.
Judith
says:
June, 2 2010 at 8:06 am
Natasha, What you need to keep in mind is that many people you meet day to day have similar feelings, or other issues such as depression, anxiety, etc., that you cannot see. It is not like a race color, it is invisible. When people don't react to you it may be because they have greater problems than you. You just can not tell by looking at them, no signs on their forehead or signs on their chest. All you can do is go out and stop focusing on how people react. Or stop making how they react so important. Try to focus on what you are doing and do not self analyze and be so introspective when out in public. I used to be terribly uncomfortable with other people until I was divorced. I went to school and became a nurse and then worked for government and had to talk to lots of people. It was not easy, especially a room full of people. That I avoided. Just remember you are like anyone else, no different. People have up days and down days. When you feel too up and may do things you cannot control then stay home when possible. When down go out and look at the world and not at yourself. I sometimes tell myself to stop my 'pity party" and that I am sitting on my head. That helps me bring myself out of it. It sounds cruel but I need to look at the positive things. Guess this has gone all over the place, but my message is that you must remember you are more like everyone else, than not alike, and that you do not know their inner issues they are dealing with so if they do not respond as you might wish, don't think it is you. More than likely you have had nothing to do with their attitude. Love:)
Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 2 2010 at 7:45 am
Cristina,

You're uniquely qualified to know about that :)

Thanks for the well-wishes and the advice. Drop by any time.

- Natasha
Cristina Fender
says:
June, 2 2010 at 7:38 am
Being in the public eye is a scary thing. I hope you will bode well. Remember to keep a part of you for just yourself.

I wish you luck at HealthyPlace.

Best,
Cristina
Luana Cepeda
says:
June, 2 2010 at 5:28 am
Thanks Natasha. I feel the same way. It's good to know that I am not alone.
Natasha Tracy
says:
June, 1 2010 at 12:25 pm
Thanks Patricia. Happy to be here.

June, you're welcome. I always like to know that someone else can identify with my thoughts.
June
says:
June, 1 2010 at 12:12 pm
My thoughts, exactly. Thank you.
Patricia
says:
June, 1 2010 at 9:35 am
Great blog, Natasha. Welcome to HealthyPlace.com.

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