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The Masks We Wear: Being Honest About Our Feelings

By: Conor Bezane

I feel a lot of pressure. Pressure to take my meds and stay on them. Pressure to be a good son, brother, and uncle. Pressure to be a man. Pressure to conform and lead a healthy, happy life. It’s tough, but I’ve learned to maintain composure and grace among the people in my life, i.e. the normies, people who are not bipolar or mentally ill.

“Look, he’s bipolar and he’s not a nervous wreck,” I think, as if observing myself from the headspace of those around me.  “Check it out, he’s bipolar and he doesn’t drink or do drugs.” “See, he doesn’t cry.”

Yes, I don’t cry. Not anymore. At least, not an unusual cry. I’m talking about crying uncontrollably. Hysterically. Crying like it’s 2008, the most depressed year of my life, when I cried buckets of tears every day. Ever since I’ve been on the right regimen of medication, I almost never cry. And thank God. I wouldn’t wish that kind of misery on the most evil of souls.

I don’t cry all that much anymore, possibly because my meds numb my emotions. I think the last time I cried was at the end of Coco, a film about a Mexican boy who, against his family’s wishes, follows his dream to play guitar. But those were tears of joy.

As a bipolar author, I sometimes feel presssure to be an “ambassador” for bipolar. A role model. A sober example. An upstanding citizen with a balanced mood. I strive to be these things, but as we all know, nobody’s perfect.

But the ambassador role is just a mask I wear. I’m plagued by the depressive side of my illness. Despite my meds, I still have throwaway days where I am just frozen. Debilitated. Days when I can’t write. Days when I don’t feel like eating, watching TV, reading, working, or anything at all. I only feel like sleeping. Sleep, glorious sleep — an escape hatch from the horror of my depression.

You would barely notice my melancholia if you read my blog. I report the news of the day, weigh in on the goings-on in the world of bipolar and mental health, write personal essays. I see a psychiatrist once a week.

And I have a dynamic duo of close bipolar friends. They know me in real life, and I can talk to them if I’m feeling off. They, too, can turn to me when in crisis or just need to vent or pass the time. We have a sense of camaraderie. There’s Ellen, a childhood friend who is a fellow writer and now an expert musician. I admire her. She is in charge of her bipolar and extremely empathetic.

If something as pedestrian as a rainy day clouds my spirits, I have Erin to turn to. She calms me down by listening and even brings me treats — she is a confectioner whose specialty is chocolate fudge. She’s also an accomplished and talented poet, whose work has been recognized by the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards.

I also open up to my parents fairly often. Just talking to them and hearing what’s going on in their lives helps heal me on depressed days. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they’re gone. Their eventual passing has been on my mind ever since my mom had a stroke (not severe, luckily) and my dad turned 80. Plus, when you’re experiencing a depressive episode, you tend to ruminate on such morose thoughts.

Meanwhile, I try not to broadcast my negative feelings to the world. No one needs more negativity in their lives. When all else fails, I drown these feelings in pop culture — music, movies, and good TV. We can wear our ambassador masks and, as they say in AA, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Because the music never stops and the dance party that is life soldiers on.

Comments

At age 72 after failing at a serious effort to kill myself, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1. I wrote a bipolar coping plan for myself. I think it may have value for your readers, fellow suffers. I will send you a copy. It's goal is help if it can. Lovexx, Robert Stephenson

How do you come out of it when every ounce of your soul has evaporated, leaving total emptiness where there was once life? How do you summon the strength when your thoughts portray only weakness and you won't even put up your guard when you see the punch coming? Waking is misery. Even trying to lay there in bed awake feels awful, but somehow it is oh so slightly better then accepting that you have to go through another day. Another day of nothingness. Another day of avoidance. Another day of worthlessness, accomplishing nothing. Just getting by. Slowly letting people down, many who aren't even aware you are letting them down. You are no help to anyone. You avoid contact or conversation at all costs. You spend a lot of time alone in your car, as you can allow the numbness to set in when you dont have to fake it at home, or at work, or with a friend. Your face hasn't cracked a genuine smile in months, nor have your thoughts found a reason to be thankful, though there are thousands to choose from, if you simply weren't blind to them; your muscles haven't wanted to be used beyond the basics and you lash yourself with the whip of guilt reminding yourself that you are able and so many are not. You pathetic sloth. Get up! Get going! Make it happen! Yeah right. "Fake it 'til you make it" doesn't ring true for you anymore. Tony Robbins' words fall on deaf ears. All the things you know you should do simply do not happen. You avoid. You hide. You eventually make it to bed, some times remembering to eat, some times not. Your sanctuary of sheets in purgatory beckons and you hope for the one thing that makes it all go away for a little while: sleep. Unfortunately, the inevitable wake up will come, the dread will set in, and the realization that the Black Dog still has his powerful jaw clamped on you will start your day in a shit state again. Another 24 hours has been chalked up. Wasted. Never to have again. You pathetic sloth. Me

we can imagine how tough this must be for you. We are deeply concerned about you and we want you to know that help is available to get you through this. If you are in a crisis, please call this number which is a crisis line with listeners trained to help you: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), as we are not a crisis center. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741. For a list of international crisis centers visit this page:http://iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

If you are not in a crisis and would like someone to talk to online, we recommend the websitewww.7cups.com It’s a free, anonymous online chat with a trained listener.

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PLEASE POST COMMENTS ONLY. If you are in need of an IBPF resource, please contact Aubrey @ agood@ibpf.org. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433.
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