So, if look up articles about what bipolar is all about, you get the standard definition of ‘cycles of depression and cycles of mania that the person transitions through, with periods of normalcy in-between (what ever the hell that is).’ OK. Got it. But, there’s more: anecdotal (yes, I had to look up that spelling) evidence suggests that people with bipolar are also ‘liars who exaggerate things and are manipulative, along with having a lack of self-awareness.’ Well, spank me hard…I should be locked up!! Of all of these “extras” that we can have, I think the idea of lying hits home for me the most.
We all lie, don’t we? Someone asks how they look in an outfit. You aren’t going to say, “Girl, that outfit is ass ugly!” You’re more likely to say, “Girl, you look fine!” The reason for the lie? You want to protect their feelings (which is what us empaths do). My grandma used to make ham loaf which had to be the grossest food on the face of the earth, except for pickled beets.
But, I would say, “Grandma, this is good!” as I was hiding bites in my napkin. She worked so hard on the dinner, how could I tell her it made me gag? White lies are often harmless, and aren’t used maliciously, but graciously.
But here’s the thing. When people know you have a mental illness, so much of what you say is questioned, examined, and often downplayed as just another wrong opinion, lie, exaggeration, or what-have-you since the person is ‘sick’. We’re often not taken seriously. And because of this, we, or at least I, get very emotional when trying to get the point across. Particularly when I’m accused of ‘lying’ when I’m not.
There’s a TV doc I used to love until last year when I watched an episode of their show that really upset me. A woman was on with her daughter who is with a guy 17 years older than her and they have a tot together. She also had her other daughter with her as well. The mom talked about signs of abuse in the couples home and also stated that her daughter told her the man said, “I’ll kill you if you ever try to leave.” OK. Sounds like abuse is going on to me, since this is a line most batterers use to keep their victim home. And we also know for women that once they do leave, the violence can escalate quickly. The other daughter confirmed that she saw signs of abuse too, and wouldn’t even invite the couple to her wedding because of the toxicity of their relationship. So, here’s what pissed me off: the doc was minimizing what the mom was saying and chuckled at her when she got emotional! He even asked the daughter: “Are you scared of him?” And guess what she said? No. What the fuck is she supposed to say? My God, all of us who have ever worked in DV or know anything about it realize that you NEVER ever question a victim in front of their abuser! The daughter went on to say to her mom (the woman who raised her, had a great relationship with her prior to her involvement with this ass, and did a lot together as adults…something else the other daughter confirmed), “I’m too good to be in your life.” She also said if her mom ever came on their property, she’d have her arrested for trespassing. Hello! Brainwashed much?
Doc believed the man and daughter in that she wasn’t being abused and berated the mom for getting so emotional about the situation. Are you serious? I don’t know about you, Grasshoppers, but if my young daughter was being abused by any guy, I’d be emotional too, particularly if I’m not being believed! Doc even said that if she was right about the abuse, she was handling it wrong, and if she was wrong about the abuse, she was handling it wrong! Wow. In other words, no matter what, she was in the wrong because she was being so emotional. Consequently, the abuse wasn’t addressed and the woman didn’t get the help for her daughter which was her intention. Oh, did I mention this boob was arrested for statutory rape (he copped a plea)? He was 19 and the girl was 15. The doc went on to say this wasn’t really a big deal because after all, you can’t tell a 15 year old from an 18 year old anymore. What the hell? He snickered when saying this. Hmmmmm.
I bring this situation up for a reason; when I’m confronted with something, I get emotional. Overly emotional because I’m bipolar and a very strong feeler to boot. But, emotions are often tied to lack of control, aren’t they? Think of what we tell little 2 year olds who are throwing a crying tantrum because they really don’t have any other way of expressing the strong emotions they’re feeling at that age: “Stop that right now and get control of yourself!” So next time I have a student in my office crying about a situation and getting emotional, I’ll say the same. Right?
There have been times in my life where I’ve been telling the truth about a serious situation and I wasn’t believed. Guess what I do? I get emotional. I just do. And the tears, red face, and escalated pitch of my voice stymie anything I’m trying to say. In other words, I can’t win. Once, I was being threatened by someone who sent the threats to me via texts which I still have. Despite the concrete evidence of these, I was reprimanded at my place of employment then, and also attacked by his lawyer during an emergency Order of Protection hearing (where the perp and lawyers aren’t usually allowed) where I was told once again, it was my fault he did this. I was so berated, scared, and dealing with other traumatic things in my life that were breaking me down that everything thrown at me made me cry. I was already an emotional mess and couldn’t ‘fight’ back against all of this like I could now. And guess what? My emotionality (is this a word?) convinced these people that I must the one in the wrong. I mean look at me: I’m a mentally ill woman, bawling, not able to get words out, and reacting so differently at that point than probably anyone else would that of course I’m guilty. Lying. Trying to manipulate the system. After all, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Look, here’s what I’m saying: situations that bring up some emotion in other lives, bring up huge emotions in those of us with bipolar (and other mental illnesses as well). Hello! Emotion is so much a part of this freaking illness. It shouldn’t minimize what we’re saying or discredit it. We should still be listened too. Given time to explain. Understood in the context of our illness in that we’re often going to express a lot of feeling.
Maybe those extra characteristics of bipolars are true for some. Lying, exaggerating, etc. And maybe we do some of these during times of mania when we are so out of control, but those can also be an anomaly for us most of the time.
Trust me when I say this Grasshoppers: dealing with bipolar is tough enough. Real tough. And then not being taken seriously, being called a liar, and having your emotions used against you is even tougher.
So, how do we fight against this unfair treatment of us? This idea that our opinions, statements, and truths don’t really matter? I don’t know. Gee, it makes me too emotional to talk about, so anything I offer as a solution shouldn’t be taken seriously. Right?