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.
Tracy, N. (2013, August 20). I Can’t Go Out, I’m Too Depressed; I Mean, I Have The Flu, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/08/cant-go-out-im-depressed-i-have-flu
Author: Natasha Tracy
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.
Anyway i just wanted to say thank you
Sarah, I know what you mean about picking battles, I chose mine because I believed (and still do) that there was no other choice. Little did I know it would be a war. Too bad for them; I made sure I was on the strongest possible footing before taking any action. The longer they take it, the more expensive it gets, the less likely I'm inclined to settle, the settlement gets bigger, and oh so many wonderful things to learn and find out about. ;) Yes, I'm a little cynical now with this.But it's not were I aim to be of course.
You might want to read this article I wrote on the best things to say to a person with a mental illness: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/10/supporting-the-mentally-ill-best-things-to-say/
My friend has had a lot of bad days recently and I have been trying to be as understanding and supportive as possible. What I find myself wondering is: what is the best way to support someone who is having a rough time? I plan to talk to her about this once things are a little easier for her. Any advice that you or the other readers could give me in the meantime would be much appreciated. Many Thanks!
You would have to be completely devoid of a conscience, and that would make you inhuman.
It's nice to hear that someone thinks I at least deserve some legal redress though.
Sorry, where did you ask that question? Maybe contact me through Facebook.
Switching focus, I think the only thing perhaps missing from this article is the recognition and acceptance that sometimes we have to beat our own illness. Knowing when to rest and when to push through, when to isolate versus when not to, is UNBELIEVABLY (at least in my opinion) crucial. Do we not do the same for any physical ailments? I always did. A simple cold never kept me from anything--that's not sick in my book. Of course if it's a full-fledged cold, that's a different story. You don't want to get the rest of the world sick and you don't want to move anyway. But I digress. For me it was learning how to rest that was the trick. And I think that we who have mental illnesses really need to work especially hard at achieving this balance and being accountable enough to own up to our illnesses, if not by name, at least by manifesting symptoms and difficulties. Only then can we really expect any hope to reduce associated stigmas, despite how hard that may be.
p.s. Natasha, did you see my questions about catatonia?
It's gotten me fired before. The actual reason for letting me go was because I beat my boss in an argument. But too much being 'sick' was a good excuse to get revenge. Sounds ridiculous? It was.
It's brave to admit bipolar disorder but it's also empowering.
It can also lead to annoying situations like people who don't know what to say, and they try to empathise "oh I have trouble getting up in the morning too". There is a definite difference between not wanting to get up in the morning and not being able to. Sigh. You can't explain the difference without offending, even though the person already has offended you.
It would be like saying to someone in a wheelchair how difficult it is for you to climb the stairs.
Everyone who knows me, knows this means I'm too depressed to function.
Sad but true. But I'm not ashamed, I'm just honest with everyone. I have also said, my mind is not well. And sometimes I say, I working on "Auto-Pilot" today, which they know means, don't ask more of me then what I'm giving you.
Thank you for sharing this post.