Identity Crisis! Feeling Like A Freak On Show During An Episode Of Bipolar

This is a post I wrote in December 2017. At the time, I was probably experiencing a mild episode of bipolar and I was struggling – not with the episode itself, but with the ideas I had about being so different and dysfunctional to everyone around me. It made the episode harder than it needed to be and I’m so glad that since then, I have gained some more self-compassion and acceptance. I think it captures so perfectly what many of us with mental health issues must experience at times, so I thought I would publish it.

This week I hate myself. I’m struggling. I feel out of control. I’m emotional and unsteady and paranoid. I keep “spilling over”and I’m desperately, frantically trying to put my mask back on, trying to keep the lid on my emotions, trying to withdraw into myself so the world can’t see. But I can’t seem to do it. It’s like the more I try to contain the crazy, the crazier I appear. I feel like I’m wearing a neon sign announcing to the world that I’m fucking insane. I feel like I’m in the street and people are staring and I suddenly realise I’m naked. I’m the freak in a circus full of beautiful, elegant acrobats gliding about with ease and grace, and I’m sitting there on show, a grotesque and shocking sight that people find both amusing and appalling. Sometimes, I spend hours scrutinising my behavior trying to decipher if it was normal or not, acceptable or not. Was I too loud, too brash, too emotive, too quiet, too withdrawn…? Where’s the line between normal and acceptable and just plain weird? I can’t see the lines anymore and I’m panicking. And then I start thinking that I’m thinking too much and I start feeling paranoid and that reminds me that I’m crazy and I’m not being normal at all. It’s a vicious cycle.

Everything I do seems dramatic and unnecessary, or is it just my perception? I can’t tell anymore. I could barely make it to work on Monday morning, hitting the snooze button for an hour, pep talking myself all morning as I got ready, and then I had a mini breakdown of sorts on the way to work – standing in the middle of the street looking about me vacantly fighting the urge to run back home. I knew I had an important meeting that morning and I felt obliged to be there. I finally got to work to find out that the meeting was cancelled. I just cried. I was mortified! The tears just came and I felt irrationally upset about it. I had to leave work for an hour and get myself together before returning. I tried to laugh it off later, saying I was just overtired.

On Tuesday I became upset at my mother for not inviting me to a family dinner she hosted the night before. I vented to my work colleagues who were nearby when I found out and then went to see my mother to ask her why she didn’t invite me. Afterwards, I felt like a drama queen. I felt embarrassed for venting to my workmates. I became overwhelmed because on Wednesday I had an important work meeting, a tribunal and a job interview all on the same day. I remember a time when I would’ve made that happen, I would’ve tackled all those obligations head on. But instead, I took the day off work, cancelled the job interview and went to the tribunal. It took 30 minutes and I spent the rest of the day in bed feeling pathetic at how stressed I had felt. I felt guilty for not going to work and riddled with doubt for not going to the job interview. I’ve crawled into bed many times this week, hiding, trying to sleep away the crazy, hoping that I’ll wake up feeling better, trying to protect the world from me and my big emotions, my big words, and my big actions.  But even then I feel that withdrawing and being alone is showy and dramatic. There seems to be no “right” thing to do.

What the fuck is wrong with me? My brain is screaming “just be fucking normal”. I’ve told a few trusted people that I’m struggling then I despise their concern because I can’t decipher if it is just concern or if it’s pity. I feel mollycoddled and patronised. I feel like they’re talking about me, so I ask them as politely as I can if they are talking about me, and they get defensive and indignant and I spend the next few hours feeling like a drama queen all over again.

I want to understand bipolar and I want to understand me, so that I can manage the bipolar, which I suppose is me. I want to be able to lift the lid a little and let some emotion out without feeling like the lid has blown off completely and left me bare. I want to be able to maximise the days that I function well so that I don’t feel so guilty and useless on the days that I’m not doing so well. I want to be able to cry and feel disappointed, to laugh loud and tell gregarious stories, and to withdraw when I need to and tell people how I feel – without feeling like I’m a one woman freak show and without feeling guilty or ashamed or paranoid.

I want to know that even though I’m not like the graceful acrobats, I am unique and it’s okay. I want to feel like I’m looking out into a sea of faces and not seeing shock or pity or horror. I don’t want to hide the freak or tame the drama queen. I don’t want to be somebody else, anybody else, just me. I just want to be okay with being me.

Image by Ryan McGuire on Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Identity Crisis! Feeling Like A Freak On Show During An Episode Of Bipolar

  1. I admire your honesty. I suffer from anxiety, depression, and a borderline mood disorder, possibly Bipolar. I’m trying to be open in my blog as well about my mental illness. If you have a chance, check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve got a great blog 😊 Each post we write about mental health helps to overcome stigma so good on you for writing about your experiences. I try to be as honest as possible to show that there are positives and negatives to having a condition! Thanks for commenting x


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