The news of Robin Williams’ death is everywhere. It’s all over Facebook, every store has one of his movies on their tvs, everyone is giving their own opinions and their own spin on what suicide and mental illness is. There are so many parts of it that I find frustrating.
I suppose I must preface this with the fact that I’m packing for my move this weekend. I’m going to start a graduate program in a different state, and I’m not going to be able to come back very often. I met some people from my program and we’ve become Facebook friends, and real friends – if you can become a friend during an 8 hour orientation. I’ve also got two roommates, that I know of (there’s a fourth, unleased room that could be filled any day), who I really don’t know, but I am friends on Facebook with them.
So, a lot of my frustration is at the aforementioned Facebook. I really shouldn’t let social media effect me this way. People are posting everything they can find that they like about suicide and mental illness, and it’s good for awareness, I guess, but depression and bipolar are not the same.
Robin Williams was the poster child for bipolar. Pressured speech, ability to think quickly and move from subject to subject, and a ceaseless amount of energy – all of the things that made him famous. People loved him when he was manic. He was hysterical, a true genius, and it was his mental illness that made it possible. If he were depressed, he would have been a different person.
One thing that is difficult for me to deal with is that when I’m hypomanic I am my best self, and nothing else is the same. I can read faster, I feel like I understand more, I can have multiple trains of thought going at once, and I feel like a mental machine. I don’t need as much sleep or food, I’m usually pretty social – I may get snippy with strangers, and I can produce anything I set my mind to. I want to do an art project, and it’s finished. I’m learning the keyboard chords for a pop song, and it falls into place. I have a test tomorrow and I need to make 100 flash cards, I’ll study them at the traffic lights on my way to campus. It’s not that being stabilized is bad, it’s just not the same.
For me, the other side of bipolar is what keeps me stable. My depression heavily outweighs my hypomania, and I know the dangers that come with it. It isn’t worth the depression to have the hypomania.
Here, anonymously, I can say these things. No one may ever read them, but I can put them away and save them so they aren’t floating around my head pushing to get out, which brings me to Facebook. I don’t want these people I’ve just met to know about my bipolar. I’m actually quite scared of what might happen if they found out. It would probably be no big deal, but it would open up the possibility of being vulnerable, and that’s not something I’m comfortable with.
My worst fear, the extreme of the extreme, is that they would use it to keep me from graduating. This is a big fear for me because it happened before with my undergraduate degree. My first advisor told me that I didn’t have the proper disposition for my career path because she thought I was bipolar. At the time, I was only diagnosed with depression and anxiety, so I thought she was full of shit. When I was diagnosed with bipolar I thought maybe she was right about everything, but she wasn’t
I’m trying to talk with people who are opening up about their depression, people I really know and care about, but I can’t empathize with them on Facebook. I won’t lie, I will never lie about who I am and what I’ve been through, but I can’t write a message about how terrible bipolar is for all of the people on my friends list to see. I know I could make a special list, but that isn’t the point. These new people are going to be around me for more than a year, I don’t know if I can keep this secret for that long. So the only way to be safe is to keep the secret or tell lies about my diagnosis. “Oh, that’s my allergy medicine, yeah I take four different types, I have terrible allergies!” “Oh, you’re a nursing major and you know what Depakote is? I was just holding it for a friend…with my name.” “We’re six people stuck together in a tiny office while taking what’s been referred to as the hardest classes in our program, I’m sure I won’t cry, or laugh hysterically, or both.” It just goes on and on.
I know that it’s going to be fine. All of these people are going to get to know me for me, not for my disease, and if – for some crazy reason – they find out I’m bipolar, they won’t judge me for it. I just don’t know what to do until then.