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.