But You Look So Normal

Lisa.KeithI function at a pretty high rate most of the time. People often discount my illness because of that. I often hear, “ But you look so normal.” Whatever that means. I heard it said once that normal is just a setting on the dryer. And while I don’t think that everyone is “a little bit bipolar,” I do think that we all have our issues-some more serious than others.


But it frustrates me to no end when colleagues, who also have depression or anxiety, give me the cold shoulder when I occasionally drop the ball. As if being perfect all the time was a requirement in life.


There are also those who don’t struggle with mental illness and who want to blame every little mistake I make on me having bipolar disorder. As if everyone without Bipolar disorder is always mistake-free. Sometimes I do fail to follow through because of depression or anxiety. But most of the time, I just make a mistake here and there because I’m human.


So it hit me today, that this was an issue for many people like me, who have jobs, families and children, who live semi-normal lives, but regularly find themselves unable to focus for days at a time, or struggle to leave the house in the morning.

So what do I do when a good friend gives me the silent treatment for forgetting a coffee date, or I miss responding to a phone call or text message? There are 5 things that I can do to avoid feeling like a total loser on these occasions.



Taylor Swift by Eva Rinaldi
Taylor Swift by Eva Rinaldi

*Shake It Off: I am in love with Taylor Swift’s new song Shake It Off. I sometimes loop it over and over again on my Spotify just to keep me from feeling resentful or telling someone off over some really stupid issue. There are many of these types of songs I could listen to again and again. They include:

Lose Yourself by Eminem (the clean version)

Stronger by Kelly Clarkson

One Girl Revolution by Superchick

Fighter by Christina Aguilera

Get Over Yourself by SheDaisy

Overcomer by Mandisa

Happy by Pharrell Williams

My Give a Damn’s Busted by Jo Dee Messina

And more…but these are some of the best.



*Apologize: I’ve discovered than when you admit that you made a mistake, or forgot an appointment, there’s not much anyone can say back. You’ve admitted dropping the ball and apologized. Sometimes I’ll even send a handwritten card with a Starbucks’ card in it. If they don’t forgive and forget, they’re the jerks and you don’t need them in your life anyway.


*Take Inventory: Usually, when I’ve forgotten to do something or dropped the ball in some situation it’s because I’ve taken on too many projects and tasks. So when I do make a mistake – and I know it will happen eventually – I take some time to reflect on whether there’s anything I can take off my plate. Recently, I resigned as President of the Board of Directors of Mental Health America of the Central Valley of California. It wasn’t good timing for them, but it was something I had to do before things got worse for me.


*Say No: This is a hard one to learn for a people pleaser like me. I just want everyone to be happy and comfortable. But I’ve come to realize that I can’t help others if I’m not in a good place myself first. Say yes only to the things that will grow you and enrich you and for which you feel led by the spirit. As a fairly capable person who has years of experience working with children with disabilities, I know there are a lot of people for whom I could make a difference. My dad always told me, “ You can’t save them all.” I’m finally learning that. Saying no to more things that I say yes to helps me conserve my energy for when times really get tough in Bipolar Land.


*Burn it off: O.K. I’m not a runner, but boy I wish I were. I am, however, a walker. So I put my headphones on, dialRun by Luca Malago in to Spotify and my favorite upbeat playlist (you can find it on Spotify called “For a Run”) and walk briskly for twenty minutes. Burning off that anger and frustration really does help me think more clearly and gets rid of my negative feelings. Then, if I still feel like telling the other person to get over themselves, it’s usually because it’s really warranted and they should.



If you’re anything like me, you have enough negative voices inside your head; you don’t need someone else outside contributing to the diatribe of self-hate. We must actively think positive thoughts and tell ourselves good things. It just reminds me of Philippians 4:8 which says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”


I often stick up post-it notes and print out graphics with affirmations or other uplifting messages around my house where I’m most likely to see and read them. It does help counter-balance the negative voices whether real or imagined. I just don’t have time for any Nancy Nay-sayers in my life. I expect that you don’t either.


Next time, just shake it off.


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Oct 2014
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Oct 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.