It is an interesting and difficult and sad part of life when something happens to drive a wedge into a relationship.
The wedge could be driven by a controversial conversation, maybe the usage (abuse) of a substance, disagreement about friends or even dating an enemy, bad habits, who knows. There are a million things that can do it and eventually it usually leads to the demise of the relationship. But until then, it becomes a huge uncomfortable impediment to your relationship.
Making everyone in your life aware that you are Bipolar is like throwing a massive wedge in every relationship you have.
It becomes clear very quickly (often because people feel the need to tell you) that everyone is treating you differently. The phrase I wish never existed is “walking on eggshells”, because about 30 people have said this to me over the last few years. And it seems a simple enough premise, if you don’t upset the bipolar, he/she won’t get depressed or anxious. And this is the real deal right here: if they commit suicide it won’t be because of some bad news I told them*.
*I’m gonna follow this gem up in a minute
And that’s fine, to an extent. Although admittedly, it holds much less validity when you then tell the bipolar that you are doing that. It tends to then become an obsession for me about who is hiding what and why is everyone lying and I can no longer trust anyone and my experience is now somehow invalid.
But, you don’t actually know what will cause my depression or anxiety, because I don’t know what will. This barrier that was created as a protection probably isn’t doing much beyond diminishing our relationship. And the big fear, suicidal ideation, for me at least has never been triggered by something someone said or even an event that occurred. The seeds are sown deep and the causes are probably pretty well known.
And please, let’s just call this what it is, selfishness. I get it, believe me. No one wants to feel like they were somehow a cause. And that is really what is so painful about suicide is that everyone feels guilty to some level; I should’ve been there, I should’ve seen this coming, I should’ve done more, I shouldn’t have done that. But that is really about you, and not about me. If you really feel like you caused my suicide then you have an inflated ego about your living space inside my head. Maybe I should be the one walking on eggshells about you.
But, to be fair, a lot of bipolars, including myself, have problems with stress. We get stressed out. Of course, that isn’t unique to bipolars, but it is obviously a valid concern. And it is also true that the weight of serious stress can feel crushing. And it is also true that bipolars tend to have obsessive ideation (I have laid out many of my obsessions in previous essays) and obsessing about stress can be stressful. This is all undeniable stuff. And it is a reality that these types of stressors can certainly lead to anxiety and depression. I won’t lie here just to push some sort of ‘treat me normal’ agenda.
However, I feel like I should more clearly define some mood states and tell you why they are not emotions. Terminology in mental health can be a nightmare (and I’ve also blogged about this before as well), and having to deal with a mood state of depression is very different from the emotion of depressed. And the triggers or causes of these things are very different. There is no real good explanation to this but think of it this way, short term stress doesn’t cause long term depression.
Now maybe you spidey-sense went off there. Does long term stress cause long term depression? Simplest answer? Yes. Things like a lost job or death in the family or long term money problems or other very difficult long term stressors can certainly contribute significantly to depression.
Here is the ironic part: these are not the issues people tend to ‘walk on eggshells’ around me about. And here is the clincher, I feel those stressors regardless of how light your steps are.
Someone telling me I’m an asshole, fighting with me, telling me I messed up really bad, telling me I’m not doing a good job, things like that are short term stress. They might upset me, cause me to have a bad day, maybe even make me emotionally depressed for a couple days. But if you honestly think that eight weeks from now I will be thinking of my demise because we got into a spat, well then I’m not sure which one of us is more out of touch.
These wedges in my relationships due to my illness, they really aren’t helpful. And if I can feel them, or if I know they are there it is actually much worse. You want to turn short term stress into long term stress? Avoid telling me I’m being a jerk today and instead tell me that the dynamic of our relationship is permanently altered due to a condition that I did nothing to contract and am working very diligently to counteract.
The wedge is fear, whether it is selfish or altruistic. It comes from not knowing how to deal with me and not knowing how much control and power you have. It is better to just not rock the boat, right? Sure! Unless you’re mooring that boat to a giant obstacle and letting it stagnant, that is.