Remember that you aren’t alone.
I struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and Bipolar II Disorder. I didn’t know I had it until last year when I was properly diagnosed. Previously, I had therapist tell me I was “dramatic” or “a mess.” As you can probably imagine, it didn’t feel great.
But I before I knew what my mental illness was and the symptoms that came along with it, I was at a loss. These symptoms — which I would like to reiterate are just that “symptoms” — are a result of these disorders. It does not define you. What you have is a brain disorder caused by trauma and a chemical imbalance. This is not something you can fix, but it is something you can learn to cope with over time.
But treating yourself this way is hard especially when you are barely holding on. You learn elaborate ways to cope. You learn ways to hide it from society. You need to hide it from society and your community around you because how would you even explain yourself? How would anyone understand? What could you possibly say to get them to see you the same way as before?
The stigma and conversation surrounding the topic of mental illness is not a constructive conversation. When you are on the outside looking in, the fear that you will be judged is overwhelming.
I recently read an article that linked the possibility that individuals with PTSD will develop BPD. There are things we barely have a grasp on. The brain is still unknown and we are learning about how it works everyday.
There is no clear cut answer why we are affected by these mental illnesses, but there is a way we cope, and that’s by hiding our mental illness altogether. Here’s how.
1. You say, “I’m fine.”
We say “I’m fine” because we want you to see that we are okay. The idea of explaining why we are moving a bit slowly today or are a little more sensitive makes our stomach turn. We find ways to be fine for you so you are comfortable and we can stay anonymous.
2. You isolate yourself.
We stay at home, because sometimes it is easier to feel the symptoms that force us to stay in bed or make us cry sporadically. We avoid human contact because how could someone else understand our feelings if we can’t even navigate it on our own?
3. You create a fake persona.
This is something I have done when I’m forced to interact with people because of work and/or creative commitments. I change my personality and overcompensate. I laugh more, I’m more animated, and I try to blend in.
I do this so I make my surroundings comfortable. I’m afraid I’ll make you uncomfortable… Don’t I make you uncomfortable?
4. You act out toward others.
I have written about how I used to be promiscuous in a very unhealthy way. I only talk about it again because I want to reiterate that these behaviors are sometimes only responses to having experienced trauma.
It’s not you and if it is you, then no one should judge it. But this isn’t the case for people who experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder/Bipolar Disorder. Sometimes, dissociating and living a life outside of your body is more comfortable.
5. You ruin relationships and friendships.
I have done this on multiple occasions. But now I know I did it to hide my true self from these people. I didn’t feel safe because I knew that if I showed my true self, I would be not accepted or I would not be “understood.”
It was fear, and I know many people do this as well. How can we be intimate with another person when we are constantly searching for a way to be intimate with ourselves?
6. You cut off contact with your support system.
This goes hand in hand with isolating ourselves. But it’s a little different because we ignore any attempt of contact from our close-knit friends and family. It’s easier to ignore it. You might think, “How can I muster enough energy to pretend to be the person they want me to be?” It’s easier to pretend they aren’t there.
If you take anything away from this, please know you are not alone, not in the slightest bit. We are all figuring it out and doing what works best to protect you in your darkest and more vulnerable moments. But please be safe and know that someone is always listening.