Denying Bipolar Disorder
We all take part in the game of denial. Humans need denial to exist. We can’t think about our inevitable death, the fact that we are aging, or that our marriage may end in divorce and expect to care about jobs, mortgage payments and the obvious importance of Jimmy Choos. We know unpleasant possibilities and inevitabilities are true, but on a daily basis we deny them. We need to. Denial produces a workable life.
What gets under my skin though, is the fact people expect me to deny my bipolar disorder, my experiences with it, and its effects – mostly just to make them feel better.
Bipolar Diagnosis and Denial
When one receives the news either at a doctor’s office, behind a computer screen, or in a hospital, that they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, denial is inevitable. Learning that you have a debilitating lifetime illness is a nasty pill to swallow and a period of grieving, including denial, is normal and expected. We need time to adjust to this huge piece of new information.
This denial has to go away; however, for us to get better. We need to able to admit that we have bipolar disorder in order to seek treatment. We can’t deny that bipolar disorder exists and expect to get any better.
Bipolar Symptoms and Denial
I can understand the desire to cover up the fact that in your last manic episode, you spent $5,000 on stilettos because each design seemed more crucial than the last. I can understand you don’t want to talk about missing your mortgage payment because you were too depressed to get off the couch and take care of it. I understand wanting to deny forgetting your friend’s birthday because depression had you sleeping right through it. I can understand not wanting to admit to all the bipolar symptoms you are having – thinking about them is painful.
But as above, if you deny your bipolar symptoms it’s very unlikely that you can be treated for them. If no one knows the truth of what you’re experiencing then they can’t help you. Denial of bipolar symptoms doesn’t protect you from them; it makes you more vulnerable to them in the future.
Denying Bipolar Because Others Want You To
I’ve written here about being bipolar and damaged, and about being bipolar and alone. Both times people were quick to tell me that I was thinking about things in all the wrong ways. People told me I should reframe the issues, I shouldn’t think so negatively, and that if I think of myself as a victim, then I will always be one.
Well kids, I am damaged, specifically my brain is, I am a victim of bipolar, just like someone is a victim of cancer, and I am most certainly alone, and lonely for that matter. Other people’s desire for my denial of these simple facts shows how frightened they are that these facts might be true about them too.
Some people also want me to deny what bipolar looks, smells, sounds, and tastes like. They want me to stop telling people what my experience of bipolar is without first putting it through a therapy-rose-colored-Pollyanna filter. And while I appreciate a person’s desire for their own denial I don’t appreciate them being so insistent that I join in.
As a writer, I have the ability to stand next to a demon, watch it, record it, and illustrate it, without being gobbled up by it completely. I can have bipolar experiences and relate the raw truth of those experiences. I know that an inky, black, darkness lives right beside me. I see no reason to deny that.
If you choose denial, that's your business.
I Don't Believe in Bipolar Denial
But I will not deny my bipolar disorder, my experiences and what goes on in my sick brain just to make others feel better. Many bipolars want to hear a deep, genuine, authentic, unsanitized version of this disease because it makes them feel less alone; because, they realize that they aren’t the only ones going through this horror; because, they don’t have the words to express what’s happening to them; because, we all need people in our lives to know our genuine selves. And sometimes it takes reading about someone else’s experience to know how to make that connection; there is something to point to when asked how you feel, and you can point at the screen and say – that, I feel like that.
So no, I won’t be a party to bipolar denial. I don’t believe that denying the pain and suffering of reality is helpful. I believe that very scary experiences should be held lightly in your hands so that you can truly see, touch and feel it, so that you can understand and accept it. And hopefully move forward.You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.
Tracy, N. (2010, July 5). Denying Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/07/bipolar-and-denial
Author: Natasha Tracy
You're in a tough spot, for sure. I recommend you look up this book specifically on this subject: https://www.amazon.com/Someone-Mental-Illness-Treatment-Anniversary/dp/0967718937/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506352429&sr=1-1&keywords=i%27m+not+sick+i+don%27t+need+help
(Neither HealthyPlace nor me are affiliated with this book.)
- Natasha Tracy
Bipolar can be a bitch of a teacher. I learned to be teachable not because of it but in spite of it.
The person rejects the Doctors findings and has done for most of life
My family member treats themselves with Wine cannabis to extremes and suffers horrible withdrawal when the dope runs out.
The family member shuns help of any kind and suffers so much pain but also projects that pain and ugliness on to those who live in same house.
It is a cycle over weeks of mania shut down depression fighting with people in our street
Crash/burn/cat teams hospital shame.
We are tired of making excuses and accepting and excusing this behaviour to keep a relative peace-but how do you help some one who is help bent on destroying themselves
We say go work with the Docs used the meds they gave you get off the skunk and wine and see what comes in this approach
Sadly this person wont because they say they have a life time of pain and shame and I will treat it my way-stoned.
This is a curse of a disease But how do you reach a person pushing 50 to see the rocks and alter course./
God help us.
I fully understand why so many choose to go off their medication. It can feel great not to have to cope with all the nasty side effects either. But all I have to do is look at my depressing visa statement and around the room at all the ridiculous stuff I've bought while I cringe and recoil in shame and embarrassment of rembering other past bipolar behaviours as well to realize just how unwise that would really be
It takes me a while and a lot of hard work to begrudingly form the habit of doing what needs to be done again and again to getter better and then I get sloppy and the symptoms insidiously return and the reality of bipolar disorder slaps me in the face once again. It gets so tiring to try and live such a disciplined life that I need a break from it all now and again which of course one can never fully do. This illness can be so brutal, relentless and unforgiving that it wears me out sometimes
With bipolar disorder comes many losses and time needs to be given to grieve each one and learn something from them. First there's denial then anger then bargaining then depression and finally acceptance as per Kubler-Ross. I guess I still have a way to go. It's hard to make peace with what seems like an enemy and stigma can be the biggest enemy of all
I find even after the correction of a hospital experience it can be easy to fool myself into believing I don't really have bipolar disorder or that it's really not that bad as incredulous as that sounds because I can sometimes find ways to rationalize it was actually the stressful event that precipitated the bipolar melt down and not the bipolar itself that caused me to be hospitalized in the first place. Usually it was a bit of both. My belief can then be further strengthened by those around me who are also in denial because I tend to be a rather convincing high functioning type of bipolar. I'm very adept at hiding my illness from others most days. Denial also tends to keep my self esteem from completely shattering into a million pieces like a mirror and then giving me another 7 years 'bad luck" so to speak.
The line can become blurred by tears as to when it's important to deny this illness (especially in telling others) and when it's time to just accept it for my overall well being
I never denied having bipolar to myself, but I deny and lie about it to others as a general rule - why I can't do this or missed that. I lie to everyone, even my close friends and family that know I have bipolar. I also have this tendency to not want to use the fact I have bipolar as a crutch. It is hard for me to admit it to people it being the cause and it is awkward and uncomfortable to have conversations about it. No one understands.
Except that's not true, now is it? You talked about being alone. I totally understand that. But to a different degree, or because of that, you are not alone as I am not, the evidence is in this blog. That is the beauty of your words, aside from their eloquence: they show that there is someone, others, out there that are going through the same struggles; the same overwhelming pressures and demeaning and destructive thoughts, endless cycles like a roller coaster train.
And towards that end, alone as I am, though steeped in the heavy folds of a major depressive episode, because you chose to share your thoughts, you have brightened my day, if even by only a little, knowing that I am not, despite what I feel, completely alone in all of this.
Thank you for your thoughts and for your courage.
I'll leave you with a quote from a song by Lars Din:
"Livin' like a roller coaster train,
I get up high and dip back down again.
The trip is quick,
The dip's the trick,
I hope you understand.
Equal parts: metal, mountain, and human,
Just livin' like a roller coaster train."
Your statement: "Learning that you have a debilitating lifetime illness is a nasty pill to swallow" bothers me the most. Life is never perfect and I believe part of our difficulties in life arise from a gap between our expectations for life and what happens. Denial can be a way to close this gap and allow us some temporary relief. In the long run this approach usually doesn't work. At the same time, I don't think we need to be too focused on life long debilitation either. I think trying to get the most out of our of our lives with what we have can help us to keep in touch with what's going on, be open to possible solutions, and allow us to change course when the proposed solutions don't seem to be working for us. With bipolar disorder, at times it can certainly be difficult to be in touch with what's happening to us, so having a good support network is crucial.
When we are feeling better, we can make plans for what we'll do when or if things start to slip again (denial impedes this process).
It'd be nice if people were supportive of our needs, but we can't allow our own happiness to depend on what they do. Expecting people to empathize with something they haven't experienced can often lead to disappointment.
Congratulations on accepting your life and not caring what other people think about it. That's a huge step and it sounds positive for you.
Thank-you for sharing, and of course, for the compliments.
Thanks for sharing with us. I do agree that how you pick yourself up is important. I think the fact that some of us have survived such severe illness shows how we pick ourselves up.
I must say this though, all the diagnoses I have (I have several of them) are just A PART OF WHO I AM! I am not bipolar---I am a person who has mental health challenges....It took me awhile to realize this....
In my psychiatric history, I have been diagnosed (these are just what the psych people says I have....) with PTSD/DID (due to sexual abuse issues in my childhood), BIPOLAR DISORDER I (rapid cycling type)...yada yada yada
I have lived through some tuff stuff. However, due to this I have become more compassionate, understanding and caring for people. I have been hospitalized at state ran institutions and private psychiatric hospitals. Those times were necessary to keep from committing suicide.
Am I proud of those times? NO--however, it was during those moments, I have come to learn that I am a whole lot stronger than I thought I was.
Yes, it is horrible to have mental health issues. Especially since lots of society doesn't understand it nor do I think they really wanna understand it. Cause if they did--it would mean that they too, may have to deal with some issues.
There is not a person still breathing that hasn't been sad or down or 'blue' at least once or twice in their lifetime. The difference is in the way that person deals with it. I am more apt to have depressions now, that I have went through menopause than I am to have a full blown manic episode. I still have 'em (they just ain't as extreme!)
God bless you for sharing your journey. Thanks!
It's hard for anyone to admit that they have a problem, but doubly-so if the problem is the brain you're trying to tell.
It absolutely is sad, but hopefully one day he'll come to his own realizations about who he is, whether it's bipolar or other issues, and if he's lucky, maybe you'll be there for him then.
I wish you both the best of luck.
He then repeated the same conversation we had had some time ago about moving his business forward, but had not yet done any of my suggestions. I think he going through an advanced bipolar disorder. I feel sorry for him, he was always good to me
There are ways of acknowledging who you are are still having family and friends. Find a support group or a therapist and they can help you find those ways.
And Jesse, I believe there is something to being our authentic, genuine, honest selves. It's good for our own psyches. I didn't say easy, but I do think there is benefit.
broke up with her spouse in March, and spent months smoking, driving irratically and collecting speeding tickets, and attempting to socialize
with whoever would spend time with her. I put her in the hospital 2x and she would walk out after a few times and cont to not take her medicine.
She ended up in a hospital with nothing but the clothes on her back for days. This hospital kept her for 16 days, got her back on medication
and I realize this is something she will have to go through until she finds something that will motivate her to stay on her medication and pull her life together. My exhusband, her father is probably her main support system
at this time. He understands her because he has a schizo affective disorder. He was an educated, intelligent person who would not be bothered with managing his mental illness. I always picked up the pieces for him and I was his worst enemy for years. I want my daughter to
be successful but I realize that she has to find her way.
I'm not sure what your question is. If you're his caretaker for his health needs then you may be able to approach his doctor by yourself. If he is a danger to himself or others then you may wish to look into an involuntary commitment.
I hope that helps.
Feel free to speak up any time. Myself and the other readers here appreciate it, and many listen to you. You are not alone.
I have all the fears you have and I've had bad experiences in many instances as well. When I think about who I want to be though, I know I want to be an authentic person. If I were lucky enough to have a person fall in love with me, I would want it to be the genuine me, and not a sanitized version.
I know how disasters can result from disclosure, so we have to be careful about who we tell, but as you said, you feel alone. And we will all feel alone if there's no one in our lives to truly talk to. At some level, I think that's worth the risk.
You are free to comment in any way you please here. It's not "spew" it's conversation and that's quite alright with me. :)
Mental illness is an extremely touchy subject for people, especially if they already have it in their family. The way one person chooses to handle it may be different from another and that can causes rifts. It's really tough to have people around you who want to deny who you are. It makes it really tough to accept it yourself.
It takes time for some of us to admit that we need help. Honestly, it's a process, and even when people who love us tell us to get help, it's a personal decision that no one can make but the person who's ill. I know you know that. Hopefully, in time, your ex will be able to make the decision himself.
One thing I will say is that the best time to tell someone they're crazy is _when_they're_not_. When someone is in the midst of an episode, they are likely not going to be willing to listen. They probably aren't being very logical. They are being ruled by their illness, not their logic. When they aren't in an episode though, they may be more likely to listen. I know that doesn't help you at this moment, but it may help long-term. And if you try to address it in the future, try to be gentle and point out how he may have an issue using logic, not emotion. Emotion may just activate him or make him reflexively aggressive.
Congrats on taking steps for yourself. That sounds very positive.
Good luck. Drop by any time.
Well, just because I don't believe in denial it doesn't mean that I don't believe is selective disclosure. I can't wear my bipolar or my symptoms like a flag and expect to "win friends and influence people", if you will.
I think we need people we can be honest with, no matter what. And I think it's crucial that we don't lie to ourselves.
In my case I write about bipolar and so denial is of particular importance to me. I believe that my genuine authenticity is important, even when people don't like it.
That manifests in my real life in a variety of ways, but I do agree, you can't be raw and real around every person you meet.
Wow, this hit home for me, too. I'm not bipolar (just severely clinically depressed), but my, as-of-a-month-ago, ex-boyfriend is. He was diagnosed at about 12 years old and I don't think he really understands it yet... he's almost 30. The part about people around you wanting you to deny it? That's exactly what his family wants. He's not stable, won't admit it, won't go to a doctor, doesn't ever tell his med doc or therapist anything real or true, partly because he doesn't remember, but also partly because he's in denial.
I got a taste of this personally when, about a month ago, he decided I needed to leave and he methodically has removed me from his life. I've been trying to get through to him that a lot of this stemmed from his bipolar, but he absolutely refuses to believe me and his family just supports his denial because it's easier. And everyone thinks I'm just being negative... ha!
My question is: How do you get someone to deal with the reality when they've only been taught denial from their "support" system their whole life? Oh, and that self-esteem thing... that's a doozy.
It has even gotten to the point where his family has done a complete about-face and went from treating me like a daughter/granddaughter/part of the family to actually making plans to come into town to kick me out of the house. Did I mention his mom is bipolar and only medicates when she feels like it? I've sent the link to my ex and I hope he comes here to read this and even read this comment, but I don't really expect it. And that just makes me sad that I can't make him come here. :( But I know I can't fix him... I just wish I could get him to understand he can "fix" himself if he makes that decision.
Anyway... Sorry to just spew all this here, but reading this post kind of hit me right in the gut. I don't know if I might have Bipolar II or if I'm just the major depression-ridden slug I think I am, but I've been scraping bottom for a LONG time and this whole thing with my boyfriend WOKE ME UP! I'm working on the self-esteem every day... trying to find something I like about myself every day, even if it's something silly. I try to post every day on my blog, just to keep trying to look UP and claw my way out of that hole I've dug myself into. I know I can do it. I AM doing it. It's tough as h-e-double-hockey-sticks, but I have to do it. I'm done with denial and just "surviving"; I'm ready to really live. :)
Thanks for posting... and here's to looking UP!
I used to have faith that others were understanding and cared about illness, which most do unless it is mental illness! Fear, from lack of understanding or just plain not trying to understand, is reality in society! Now that's truth for those of us with bipolar or other mental illnesses, understand that! For 30 plus years of looking for understanding has helped me realize that it's few and far between who do or want to understand, which, in many instances, is okay for they themselves have their own problems in life to deal with! By learning this I have discovered that if I don't put myself in these positions, I don't have to subject myself to these behaviors, which in turn decreases my depression, my low self esteem, and lack of self!
Support from others who suffer from this illness and finding truths from the illness itself leads to better understanding. Trying to find from others never works. We are the masters of controlling our remission!
I'm glad it hit home for you.
I understand being frightened of your psychiatrist. I can only suggest being honest, strong, and taking control of your treatment. If you don't want a certain medication, you need to say so. You doctor isn't the one who has to live through the side-effects - you are. But, if you're honest, your doctor may have other suggestions to help, but you'll never know if you're not honest. The choice, of course, is up to you.
Thank-you for the compliments and for sharing your story. Yes, I like the hair, but it's a horror to keep up.
Choos are my manic weakness too - my credit card debt reminds me of that every day and yet still asks for more. ;) Still in denial here and definitely keeping others in denial by downplaying it, ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Obviously time to change.
Incere thanks for being a voice - to others and especially to me. Hearing you loud and clear. :)
YEAH for TRUTH!!! It isn't easy. It isn't easy to admit to those $5000 Jimmie Choos. Boy do I get that one. I get manic and I spend and I shop and I never have to leave the safety of my aloneness of my home because the internet is the world! I spend days and weeks learning where some of the world's best textiles can be found for the best prices. I let the dirty dishes pile up and forget to eat, and don't make my house payments because they are not nearly as beautiful as a Suzani from Uzbekistan. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I will worry about that tomorrow or next month... I am caught in my mania but I do hide it. I am afraid to tell my psychiatrist because I think she will put me back on drugs that made me gain fifty pounds in four months and all I did is sleep. All i could do is sleep. So I tell her I am still struggling with spending too much but I don't tell her I missed another house payment. I don't feel out of control. I don't have credit cards there is only so much trouble I can get into.....nothing like I did a few years ago.
Does it really matter what all the pieces are, all the hits you have taken in your life, all the soul breaking, heart stopping slams which have been inflicted, that somehow unleashed the monster of BP in your brain? Well, yes I think it does matter, because if you don't take it all apart and understand those pieces you can't begin to put them back together, try to repair them, mend them, heal them, or just give them a decent burial. All this brain plasticity stuff well, it goes all ways. I lived with a classic and cruel narcissistic sociopath for twenty two years and the damage he inflicted changed my brain chemistry; not for the better. Would I have ended up with a full blown hypermanic event had I been married to a loving and kind man all those years? I don't know....but I kind of doubt it.
I want to love myself. I don't want to live with a sense of shame because I can't get my house organized and cleaned up. Or because some people consider my clutter bad enough to call me a hoarder. I don't want their offers of help if all they want to do is come and box up my belongings and give them away to charity. I still have dignity. I still have boundaries.
In the movie "The Soloist" one very important point that was made is you don't come in from the outside and fix some mentally ill person's life the way you think it should be fixed. You offer them help. They can take it or leave it, but you don't go away when they don't like your offer. You still show up. You accept them for who they are.
How arrogant for someone,(and I have been guilty of this myself) to think that they can go in and fix someone's life when that person cannot fix there own? Yes they can help, offer their help, but rare are the times that another person can truly fix one's life. Our doctors are not Gods, our parents are not miracle workers, our spouses are just as human and frail as we are, as are the very best of our friends. We have to muster the wisdom and strength to say yes to what is truly helpful and no to what is not.
My daughter will not come and be with me when I am very depressed and crying and just need someone to be with me. I frighten her. She says she will come see me when I feel better. She is afraid she will come over sometime and she will find me dead. I feel so awful that I have filled her with such terrible fears but they are real. I don't want her to find me that way either. And how can one explain that kind of extreme depression? Yes, suicide is selfish, I understand that thinking. Yet I also understand how much sheer pain and despair can lead a person to it and I know at that point it is not an act of selfishness it is an act of desperation. The pain becomes unbearable, truly unbearable and there is no hope that it will ever ever end.
That is why it is so important that we do have in place lifelines. Someone we can call who will come over and sit with us when we are curled up in a fetal position sobbing on the bottom of the closet. Ideally you need about three or four of these numbers/people, because that night I called my daughter all my lifelines were unreachable and she was a last resort. A last resort that made things worse rather than better.
SO I am getting used to thinking of myself as a mentally ill person. I know my family does not like hearing me say that. They respond, "yeah, like who isn't". They question the cocktail of medications I take and not a single person in my family has said that I was courageous to tackle this and try to get better rather than just let it kill me. I don't think ahead too far. I don't dwell on the fact that this is incurable. I just had a month of feeling pretty good and now I'm slipping down again. It is a disappointment. I thought the new cocktail held such hope,, at least a few months worth.... But I live by this quote, " And this too shall pass..." And it always does one way or another.
Thank you Natasha for providing us with this blog and forum. You are indeed an inspiration... and I love your red hair!!!
Thank-you so much for your compliment and your thoughts. It sounds like you've been going through things that a lot of us have, so believe me, you're not alone.
fact that we feel bad, embarassed by what we have done in the past. Enough of the persecution. I dont hear voices, I am BP II and not phsyoctic or dangerous to others. I have had a life long friend turn her back on me when she found out about my suicide attempt...told me to get a life and get off facebook.....just like that. Buh-bye. I was deeply, deeply hurt. I guess I wasnt really her friend, and I was fooled.
Thanks for putting this opinion out there!
Not to worry, your English is just fine.
It's always hard to tell the people around you the truth. It's tough for me too. But one of the advantages is that it gives people the opportunity to understand and support you - and some will.
And congratulations for not denying it to yourself. I know that's hard too, but now you can learn and get help and try to get better.
You're definitely not alone.
I read this at the right time... I was wondering if I was right to tell everybody I've got this disorder. I denied it for a long time, now I can say it's terrible. I was almost destroyed because I avoid treatments, medication and thought "one day a magical cure would appear"...
One I realized that I had bipolar disorder and I told people about it, almost all my friends and relatives vanished, and I became suffering in silence for months, years maybe. But, one day, I decided to fight the prejudice, and told everyone at work, family and friends what I've done when I was at my manic episodes, and why I couldn't just leave bed to do my things when I was down... Or why I disapered some periods because I was at hospital after trying to kill myself (twice).
Sorry about my poor English... But I had to tell you how glad I am to find your blog and not feeling misunderstood and alone anymore.
I think education is important. We are not alone and we have to internalize that fact.
You're welcome, of course.
I am sorry you are going through such difficult "stuff. That would be really hard for anyone to handle.
I'm honored to have helped you and your relationship. Thank-you for such a compliment.
Well, yes, sometimes I get tired of certain questions. But my job as a writer is to entertain and enlighten, and sometimes that enlightenment needs to be repeated a few times. That's just part of the gig.
Thanks for dropping by.
Don't you get tired of explaining?
Natasha 3D version available on Bipolar Burble.
Thanks for your comment. I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks being realistic is different from negativity.