You’re Not Bipolar, You’re Just an A-hole

The challenges of an invisible illnes

Bipolar is a Bowling Alley

Mental Illness is hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it.

“You’re not Bipolar Sean, you’re just an asshole.”

This was the response the first time I told someone other than my wife that I had Bipolar Disorder.  Granted, it was a Big Lebowski reference, but he still believed it.

Couldn’t he see that I was obviously Bipolar? I had yelled at people in front of him for little to no reason. He’d seen me siting at the bar with a blank look, staring into space for hours. I’d once suggested we take a impromptu road trip–in the middle of my work-shift.

Bipolar, The best of both worlds

Fact of the matter is, he was right. I am an asshole, but then again I grew up in New England (sorry New England. Go Sox?)–you can see what I mean. But in addition to being an asshole, I am Bipolar.

It can be hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Mental illness is invisible. It sneaks in behind normal emotions, amplifying them to 11, crowding out any rational thought, replacing them with…well… spontaneous road trips.

physical illness vs Mental Illness mindset

Most people other than mental health professionals have a certain idea of what an illness is, and Mental Illnesses clash with that idea.

The lack of overt symptoms causes people to believe that there is nothing wrong. Unfortunately, that puts those of us with invisible illnesses into the position of explaining just what those symptoms actually are.

No, you cheer up! i’m depressed

I spent the next 45 minutes explaining that I actually did have Bipolar. That I wasn’t (just) and asshole.

  • That time when I was handed a last minute assignment that would have taken me 10 minutes and I exploded. That’s a symptom.
  • That time you found me sleeping at my desk–5 days straight. That’s a symptom.

By the end of it, he finally got it.

A Lantern in the darkness of mental illness

Now more than ever, it’s important that we pay attention to Mental Illness. It affects every part of our society. With so many resources for treatment, the only thing in the way is a lack of awareness.

It’s a hard conversation, but I think it’s worth having. The more awareness spreads, the more people will understand and accept Mental Illness as factual. That way, we can identify it more quickly and help alleviate the pain of so many assholes (and nice people) who are struggling.

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