Bipolar Thoughts

Keeping Up Appearances

One of the things I am best at, and a lot of bipolars are this way, is keeping up a good appearance when I am feeling bad. Not more than a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of one of my worst depressive stretches in years, when I felt I was acting oddly by leaving the room constantly and not saying much of anything, I was told by a family member that I looked like I was doing really well. I just nodded and said “sure”, what is the sense of getting into it?

I often feel under-appreciated for the hard work I put into appearing ‘normal’.

I don’t want to come off as whining about my troubles getting out of bed near daily. Or how my appetite is out of control in either direction. Or how I cannot process a single thought. Most days I want to come home and go to bed. If my wife ever left me, that is most likely what I would do 75% of the days.

But I don’t do that, I can’t. I have a family that needs me around. I need to take some of the burden of raising a child and caring for a house off of my wife. I’m still not very good at that, but I do try.

I feel guilty if I resign to bed before my daughter. I feel guilty if I mope around the house. I feel guilty if I don’t have the energy to help out. I feel like less of a man, to be frank. It often deepens my depression.

Worse yet, I still get a lot of push-back from close family when I do crack and show the signs of depression. Like, what, you didn’t know? I feel like I have to pretend to be perfect all the time or the ceiling will cave in.

The problem is two-fold: first, no one knows how difficult it can be (and believe me, very often is) to appear happy. I am often exhausted by supper from putting up facades every corner I turn. And second, this is part of the stigma surrounding the disease: if you can act well enough to appear okay, then you must actually be okay. Or worse yet, if you can act okay, then you aren’t really suffering.

So I spend a lot of my time wishing other people understood how much I was doing, how much I was working, how much I was sacrificing just to be the lazy, cranky, sack of shit I am. But instead I often just get asked to do more, and yelled at by frustrated loved ones for not being a better man.

I can understand their point of view, I get it.

The last thing I feel like doing after a long day of wearing a mask is come home or go out or attend a gathering and unload everywhere, it is easier to just keep the mask on.

But somedays I really just need to stay in bed, ignore the world and really experience my emotions without filters or prejudice. I rarely, or maybe I should say never, get those days, but I really do need them.



  • As a dad with two children and bipolar II, you have summarized a lot of the same conflicts I experience. Keeping up appearances is exhausting but something I feel that is necessary for the kids. Like I have to hide the deep blackness of my depression.

    One thing that you did not mention that happens to me… my mask comes off after the kids go to bed. This means my wife sees me collapse into my depression and it is hard for her to not take it personally. I am tired and want time to relax with the mask off, but that means she gets the worst of me when we are alone. If I can keep the mask on for my kids, why can’t I keep it on just a little longer for her?

    • I have found that if I need to “remove my mask”, as you put it, and be as miserable as I feel, it is just best for me to go to bed, or go see a movie. Even dinner alone can be a big help on my relationship. My wife doesn’t like that I do that, but she likes it more than my irritability and inevitable fighting and misery.

      Try to find a way that you can couple your alone time with your relaxing from your day time. And your wife needs to know that sometimes you just need to let it out. It is no different for her. I am sure she has bad days and needs to complain and commiserate and everything as well.

      If your disease really bothers her then consider buying her this book: “When Someone You Love Is Bipolar”. It is great reference for people living with people living with this condition

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