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High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder

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.

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.

326 thoughts on “High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder”

  1. So true. I keep saying I don’t feel like “me” anymore and from reading the comments I understand now that I am going through the motions just to get through each and every day. It takes a lot of work to manage my bipolar brain as I always say. I know how I feel inside but really couldn’t pinpoint why I felt in a flat robotic state with no spike up or down with my emotions. I keep wishing for myself back but I have to weigh the consequences of not taking meds or managing this illness. Thanks everyone for your insight.

  2. As i’m Reading this I am awe struck! I’m seeing a brain that literally is this web of electrical misfiring with no grey matter, just one big net of electrical circuitry that lights up randomly and has no decision. I have an associate that fits Natasha’s words to a Perfect fit. My heart sinks fathoms and wish I knew how to fix! One thing I do know is when the medicine is on board-I see a person who is able to move through the day high functioning with excellent business results. She can not afford the medicine and as a result fighting for her life beyond what is considered normal. I ask myself , Does President Trump know and understand or even care? Someone has got to be made aware of this gross travesty!! When one does not have the means to provide for their health and well- being, that is not acceptable in my heart and makes me venomously angry. As we know having a constant level in one’s system is key and one must have the assurance that they WILL HAVE medicines to do and keep that in place so they can be ALL THEY WANT. Surely there is in this United States of Americathe ability to Provide the Needed Medicines!!!

  3. Wow! so good to see written down what has been going on in my brain. i can “function” but it takes every ounce of my energy and leaves me depleted. I cant do any more, see any future possibilities other than getting htrough this day. thanks natasha for being brave enough to speak our truths.

  4. Oh my. This is so on target. Living just sucks the live right out of me. Just to fake it through the week. Thank you for putting into words.

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