There are days where the depression hits and I cannot move or speak or eat and even breathing hurts. And then there are those fun days when no matter what, and for no reason at all, the only thing I can do is cry. It can be hysterical and “ugly sobbing,” or tearing up at the littlest irritations or situations — but just the constant urge to cry.
At home when I’m alone this isn’t as much of an issue and I know when I need to take a day to myself to get my head into a better state of mind. However, as someone who struggles with bipolar disorder but is still extremely high-functioning, I cannot hide in my room every time this happens. I have to work and live my life. Now, when it happens at work, I will admit it can be embarrassing and distressing. I recently had a bad week of depression and by the end of the week, I had to go back to work. While I was feeling better enough to function and get out of bed, I still could not control my crying. I was irritable and cranky and little things were making me tear up. I work in hospitality so I deal with my fair share of difficult customers, but the things I can normally handle like a pro were just hitting me like a punch to the gut on this particular day. Having to run to the bathroom a few times throughout the day to let it all out isn’t particularly conducive to a fun day at work, I will admit, but nonetheless, it happens. And while I was upset and frustrated, I knew what was happening, I knew it would pass and I knew what I needed to do to get through the day.
What a lot of people who don’t experience this don’t understand is that I have done this before. Unfortunately, this is nothing new for me. I can still get on with my life, I can still do my job and I am still a high-functioning member of society. The thing about mental illness and the many symptoms and episodes people with it face, is that a lot of us learn how to deal with it. We learn how to individualize how we do things, how we process things and the things we need to do to get through the day. While it may be harder for us at times and we learn to push ourselves more, it doesn’t make us any less hardworking or efficient. Most of the time we are masters at hiding it and it is really just us that can see and feel these bad days anyway.
But here is the important thing to remember: this is a symptom of my disease I am very familiar with. I don’t need sympathy or special attention or a less stressful job. I have learned what I need, how to live with it and how to work around it and handle it in certain environments. And while it is important to support and be kind to people you know who may struggle with their symptoms, there is no need to treat them differently or feel sorry for them. It does not make them weaker. Trust me, most of them are strong enough, seasoned enough and brave enough to know what they need.