Belittling the Struggle

Belittling the Struggle

‘Belittling the Struggle,’ a painting I did while hypomanic.

The title of this post may be a bit misleading, because I’m not sure if this is belittling the struggle, but this is actually a common comment you can find all over the internet: people are not as put together as you think they are.

This is annoying to me. It suggests that we’re all ticking time bombs walking around, every single day, absolutely miserable, ready to explode at any given time, and at some point during the day, we do explode, leaving casualties all over the place. It suggests that happiness does not exist, because when you’re not put together, let’s face it, you really aren’t happy, because not being put together suggests an uncomfortable, obnoxious anxiety, and who is happy when they’re negatively anxious? But, contrary to popular belief, happy people do exist! When I’m not being bipolar, I am put together. Surprise! Surprise! And I’m not afraid to use bipolar as a verb because I do have this disorder and therefore, I am allowed to use it in that way.

You still have bad days outside of episodes, but maybe it’s because I have perspective, but I’m definitely A LOT more put together when I’m not in an episode.

In my last post, I admitted to being jealous of all the writers who could do writerly things that I cannot do because they do not have bipolar disorder. And guess what? I know these writers. And they do not have bipolar disorder! It is not comforting to me when you tell me that these people are not as put together as I think they are. These people do not have bipolar disorder, so they cannot know what it is like to be frustrated knowing you have limitations bipolar disorder puts on you, knowing you have limitations that are out of your control. Bipolar disorder is one of the few mental illnesses that absolutely MUST be treated with medication to manage the disorder. So you’re only in control when your meds are working the way they are supposed to be working.

When you are in an episode with bipolar disorder, just about everything is out of your control, and you are pretty much miserable EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. until you can get out of that episode. Perhaps when you’re manic you’re not, but the crash is never worth it, and you’re going to be doubly miserable for all those non-miserable days you didn’t have when you were manic. Some people don’t become depressed after an episode of mania. But even if this is the case, mania can make you destroy things you didn’t mean to destroy: your bank account, relationships with people, your job, and so on and so forth.

Everyone’s struggle is different. We all struggle in different ways. But when I tell you I am jealous of all those writers who can do all those writerly things, I am flat out jealous. Even if they aren’t that put together, they’re still doing the things that I WISH I could do but can’t. That doesn’t wipe away my jealousy by telling me those people might not be as put together as I think they are. They are put together in the writing department, that much I know. And I wish I could be.

So let me put it this way:

You are a recent amputee who had legs most of your life. You were a ballet dancer at one point, and you could still be a ballet dancer had your legs not been taken from you. You look at all these people with legs and envy what you can’t do anymore. You’re mad that they can do what you can’t. They can walk, jump, run–and dance. Would you want to be told by someone that those people with legs aren’t as put together as you think they are? Probably not. So why would you tell that to someone with a mental illness angry about people who don’t have a mental illness?

I know a comment like that is coming from a place of comfort, but I just want to let you know that it’s not. It really is belittling.

Feelings are feelings, and what you’re feeling at the time should never be belittled.


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