Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Your Reality May Not Be Mine

During my struggles with my disorder, I've been called a lot of things. I've been told I'm illogical, irrational, even delusional.  While I admit my creative brain may wander more to the depths of imagination than the logical line of thinking, and that in my worst moments I may not be thinking the most rationally, I have never been delusional, and I recover rationality quite quickly once I'm not in the midst of a hypomanic or anxiety attack. I've been accused of being unable to handle life. On the less damaging end, I've been told I'm being too pessimistic, that I look at the glass half empty, that I need to just focus at the positive side of things. I've been constantly reminded that people have it much worse (I would never deny this), and that I need to "get a grip". And when I insist that I'm a realist, an optimist even, people tend to get bent out of shape.  Because they don't understand that my reality may truly be different from theirs.

My reality is that I have hypomania, depression, and anxiety. I have panic attacks. My reality is what I experience with this illness. Which means that when I get anxious or depressed or panicked about something that seems insignificant to you, it does not feel that way to me. It's not me "getting worked up" or "blowing it out of proportion" or "being dramatic."  I physically, mentally, and emotionally experience the situation differently than others may.  The best way I can describe it in more "physical" terms is this: If someone has bad asthma, and you go on a hike together, what may seem like a slight, easily navigable incline to you may be a challenging hill for them. Telling them that it's not a difficult hike, or that it's only a small incline, won't make it any easier for them to breathe. In fact, in addition to their breathing struggles, they may now feel self-conscious or frustrated, because you've pointed out that it "shouldn't" be tough, further emphasizing their illness. They aren't "being dramatic" when they struggle to breathe. To them, it really is challenging on their system. It's the same with my illness, except that the organ affected is my brain. 

To help illustrate how things feel and appear to me, here are a few examples:
  • You see a slight glitch in the plan for the day. I see, and physically feel, that the entire day's schedule now has to be rearranged, and that I must frantically try to figure out how I'm still going to get everything done. In addition to my mental and emotional feelings of anxiety, my heart starts pounding and I having trouble breathing. 
  • You see a minor "road block" that you can reason your way around. I experience the panic of having to completely give up the task/project/whatever it may be because it'll never come to fruition. My brain bombards me with numerous other examples of when I failed at a similar task, or sometimes just any task, which makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on finding a solution. 
  • You see the positives of the day. I see those too, but my brain highlights all of the things that did not go well, because those are the things I will, at least according to my brain, still have deal with later. So those are the areas that it focuses on, hoping to figure out what to do. It makes it very tough to "look at the bright side" and focus on the positive aspects when your brain is continually creating a list of tasks, stressors, and concerns. 
  • You see obvious solutions. I see fears. Why don't you make a phone call.  You mean besides my hone anxiety? How about you collaborate with so and so.  Because I have social anxiety and they won't want to work with me and I'll just feel inferior and insecure around them and... and.. . It'll be fine, just go introduce yourself. " I ...uh... (looks at ground awkwardly)...yes... ok.. yeah... you too (to nothing in particular)." And yes, I can push myself. To a point. But there's a fine between trying to work through your fears and pushing yourself in the direction of a massive anxiety attack. 
I realize that because you can't actually see my depression, anxiety, and hypomania, and because there are people out there who actually enjoy making everything more dramatic than it has to be, many people have a tough time telling the difference. Still, I ask you to err on the side of caution. Because even that "drama king/queen" may be struggling with low self esteem and feelings of inferiority.  They maybe they're completely ignored at home/work/elsewhere and just desperately need someone, anyone, to take notice of them. They may be crying out for some sort of help in some way that you don't understand.  You never know what's happening inside the head of anyone but yourself, and I would venture to guess that each and every one of us has something we're struggling with or battling that isn't obvious to others. And none of us would want to be judged, criticized, or mocked for that. So please, stop using phrases like "chill out" or "calm down". Stop accusing people of being dramatic, illogical, irrational, delusional.  They probably aren't, but if they're ill enough that they actually are having delusions, shouldn't you help them instead of getting annoyed at them? In your criticism and your name calling, not only are you judging them without all of the information, but you may be stigmatizing them because of an illness which they have little control over and certainly didn't choose. 


  1. i suffer from same sort of cycles every alternate day…i have embraced it and work with it….i am privilaged to be born in a business family…i go to teach at a school in the morning, and then afternoon onwards i spend my time managing a hotel and wedding hall place we own…i get off post 10 in the night…no weekends for me as my off days at school are incidentally the bussiest at my place of business…being married, i have to make most of the off time i get with my wife

    i cope with this routine by managing my mood swings…i have rented a two bedroom space which is mostly vacant except when i visit it for few hours during my off time
    i have also found things that help me brighten up during an off phase…i read and listen to good poetry…i make love to some new beautiful lady…i blow it off on people working under me…eating good food also helps a lot but i mostly avoid it because i have a tendency to get fat very quickly (i am a bit bulky already)…
    one other thing i have done is grow a beard…i have found out it helps me conceal my sulky expressions when having an off phase…plus makes me look more mature so i dont have to explain to people my reasons for giving philosophical replies to simple questions, something i tend to do when i am going through off time
    i have also found out that specifying somethings for yourself to do everyday no matter what, also helps….for me its jogging and praying altough i am never able to maintain it for long before having intervals when i dont do it
    i never take up any extra responsibility that i dont have to…i keep a strict circle of friends and avoid any desire or attempt to socialize with new ones
    at home i have adopted a laid back approach…i never react to anything said or done as i know it will mostly be erratic and angry due to my mood swing…i just smile and put up with my relations even if i dont like anything…when it gets too much and i blow up with my parents or wife, i apologize soon afterwards knowing that the venting out is due to my problem
    i know most of these strategies hinder me from becoming super successfull but i have stopped wanting that…i just stay happy with what i got
    plus i have found out that helping others gives me stabilising ego boost…as i am too moody to maintain constant energy for that, what i do alternately is to share my income…i give a certain part of it to people who i know need it…and i try and do it inconspicuously beacause i know if it becomes highlighted i might stop doing it
    key is to recognize things you are emotional about and trying to avoid and regulate them by adopting attitude and doing things that work best for you…you do not have to kill your problem because that is highly unlikely…you just have to conceal and regulate it properly
    i will like to add that i got enrolled in the graduation program of one of the top institutes in my country but could not complete it…the only reason i survived that was due to my privilaged background
    i had a friend back in university who suffered from the same…but he has been still to date unable to make anything of himself because he lacked the cushion i had in the form a loving family…i have mostly been thankless to them but i thank god a lot for it
    also i think one should be completely self aware of one’s problem but should try and solve it oneself and never admit any weakness openly…that helps one carry a sense of accomplishment which aids in fighting the problem
    when i failed at a few things, i never admitted any fault with anyone and kept a stubborn outlook…but inside i indulged in thorough self analysis and was able to gradually right a lot of my wrongs…its still the same struggle
    i am no success story…but i am living along relatively better

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I think being aware of oneself, and focusing on being happy with what you have. I think that is actually a big marker of success - so many people are not. I think it's great that you are able to give financially, and the fact that you do it inconspicuously, unlike many who do it for the accolades and how it looks to others, is great! Sounds like you've taken a lot of time to look inward and learn about yourself and what works best for you.