Living with bipolar disorder is hard. There are many people who think positively about their disorder, finding inspiration and a sense of uniqueness. I’m not one of those people. I find my disorder to be a burden. If given the choice, I would rid myself of it without hesitation. Every day I have to focus on my bipolar disorder, even if it’s just checking in with myself to see how my mood is or taking the multiple medications I use to control my symptoms. Other days it’s debilitating depression or irritable mania or hypomania. There are times when dealing with bipolar disorder is just too much. It’s during these times that I tend to isolate myself emotionally and, at times, literally.
Perhaps one of the reasons I would trade in my disorder is because I do not experience euphoric mania. I don’t get the emotional highs. I’m not excited or invincible. I’m one of the 60% of people with bipolar disorder who experience irritability. I’m keyed up with simmering anger. I lash out and speak without a filter.
During these times I also experience a heightened sense of anxiety. I’m prone to panic attacks. These are complete with sweating, difficulty breathing, shaking, nausea, a sense of foreboding and sometimes feeling as if I may be dying. If I should ever have a heart attack, there’s a good chance I will mistake it for a panic attack. They’re frighteningly similar.
During periods of mania or hypomania like this, I may attempt to isolate myself from others. That is, if I recognize I’m experiencing mania at all. It’s common for people experiencing mania to have a lack of insight about their episode. If I do realize that I’m feeling irritable or angry for no particular reason, I may cancel plans, isolate myself and become emotionally unavailable. It’s a coping mechanism, a maladaptive one, but a coping mechanism just the same.
As isolating as irritable mania may be, depression is far worse.
One reason is fatigue. Everything is just that much harder. Motivation is lacking. It’s difficult to think straight. I feel like I haven’t slept even if I have just spent the last 14 hours in bed. If I don’t have the fortitude to shower, I really don’t have the fortitude to interact with others.
Another factor in isolation is loss of interest. I just can’t summon the strength to care about activities or relationships I usually enjoy. I have no desire to go out. I have even less of a desire for people to come to me. After all, if I’m depressed it’s likely my house is a mess and the thought of showering hasn’t even occurred to me. I just don’t want to.
Probably the biggest reason I isolate myself is because of feelings of shame and guilt for being a burden. I’m different. I require more care than most people. I need social support I sometimes can’t reciprocate. I abhor my disease and my greatest desire is not to expose it to people I love.
Sometimes I feel like a sinking ship. I don’t want to bring everyone down with me, so I hide myself. Even if I do make it out of the house, if I’m feeling depressed, my ultimate goal is to hide it. I can’t be real because I don’t want to be real in more ways than one. Being alone with my thoughts of feeling worthless feels better to me. When I’m alone I don’t have to pretend. I can be miserable with myself and no one is there to judge.
Living with depression can be a lonely experience. Unfortunately the best solution is to get out anyway.
Image credit: reloeh