“Coming Out of the Bipolar Closet”


“You have a secret. A secret you’ve been keeping for years if not forever from your family, your friends, your boss, and maybe even yourself. A secret so secret that if people knew, it might change your relationships. They might judge you. They might hate you. They might even fear you. You’re different. You’re weird. You’re sick. You’ve tried to change it, but it’s just who you are, and you can’t keep it inside any more.

You’re bipolar.

Bipolar. Bi-polar. Manic Depressive. It doesn’t get easier the more you say it. You try to use “mood disorder” or “depressed” instead because you think it will have less stigma, but you know the truth. At the moment of diagnosis, you went from being that person — the eccentric-but-sometimes-sad creative — to that person: the crazy one. You know, the person on the subway who you avert your eyes from because you don’t want them to talk to you or get too close. You’re unpredictable. You’re freakish. You’re scary.

Pretty little cocktails of yellow, pink, and blue pills abound. One to bring you up, one to take you down, one to keep you in the middle. One to wake you and one to put you to sleep, because you sure as hell can’t sleep right. Sometimes you stay up all night shopping online, taking photos, or writing for hours on end, creative energy and ideas pulsing through your revved body and mind, and it feels great. Until it doesn’t.

Enter the inevitable crash. You’re suddenly knocked over by a massive wave of sadness, isolation, self-loathing, and hopelessness. You’re left on the floor of the shower trying to breathe through your tears. Sweating, trembling, heart palpitating.

You stop answering your phone, and eventually it stops ringing. Your friends are no longer your friends, except for those select few who won’t let you push them away no matter how hard you try. Your family is tired of dealing with it all, and you can’t blame them.

You stop going out. You stop taking care of yourself. Can you even remember when you last showered?

Soon you’re stuck in your room. Your computer and your TV are your only true friends, an ever-present distraction from reality. You Facebook. You Tweet. You blog. Pretending all the while that you are doing great. You smile for pictures, if you can remember how to smile. Or you use old pictures from times when you were thinner and happier, at least in appearance. If your Facebook world doesn’t know, perhaps it isn’t real. That’s the biggest closet of all these days. Perhaps you are still the smiling go-getter everyone else sees and thinks you are. Perhaps this bipolar thing is temporary or a joke. But you’re not laughing.

Things deteriorate. Not leaving the house turns into “a thing.” Anxiety, panic attacks, the whole deal. You stop working. You start making bad decisions and staying up through the night again. You’re erratic. Impulsive. Possibly even hallucinating or delusional. Are you really being followed?

You stop driving. You stop taking the train.

You stop caring about anything and everything.

You start to think everyone would be better off without you. You feel broken and unfixable, so why go through it all? Why? Things are hopeless. You begin to feel numb or dead inside, so you drink or take drugs, or hurt yourself just to feel something. You think you deserve to be scarred or bruised on the outside to match your damaged insides. You contemplate the ways in which you might find release from the torment of this life.

Then you see your perfect little daughter, your partner, your mother, or your friend, and you remember that you are not alone. You think of how screwed up their lives would be if you made your “great escape.” How much your actions affect others. You start to feel guilty for even having the thoughts, which only makes you feel worse.

Frustration. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Sadness. Repeat…

Frustration. Anger. Guilt. Shame. Sadness. Repeat…

Then comes the psychoanalysis and everything else they throw at you — dietary changes, magnetic and shock therapy, hospitalizations, more meds… You see modest if any results. You’re ready to throw in the towel, until one day something happens — you’re listening to Pandora while feeding your kid or walking the dog, when Sam Cooke comes on and sings to you… “It’s been too hard living but I’m afraid to die, ’cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky. It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

You feel a shift, and realize you can choose to live. Or at least try. It’s not easy. You’ve been flooded by emotional ups and downs, crying and then laughing maniacally, throwing things, feeling totally out of control. But in this moment, you finally realize that a change might possibly come. Not today, but some day. You were not given a death sentence. You can find a way to own your recovery, stop ignoring advice and stop hiding in that damn closet — take your meds, see your doctors, and be more self-aware — you can actually take some control, and start moving in a positive direction. One baby step at a time.

You look around you at the shambles that your life has become, and you see that there are still a few people in your life that find you worth fighting for, and that perhaps you should fight through this for them, and maybe one day you will even do it for yourself. You are strong. You are capable. You are talented. You are worthy of a life worth living. A change will come.

So you get your butt out of bed and make a sandwich. It’s a start.”



22 comments on ““Coming Out of the Bipolar Closet”

  1. Brian
    June 21, 2014

    This is such a testament to your ability to write. When the light is shining stronger all of this is your absolute undouted talent. This is YOU. A very brilliant and creative writer. The fact that the subject is your own life and struggles with daily existence makes it even more poignant and heartfelt. Love you Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A Bipolar Runner
    June 21, 2014

    Reblogged this on Run thru Bipolar and commented:
    A long read, but so spot on. Very true final paragraph.


  3. A Bipolar Runner
    June 21, 2014

    Reblogged, great read thanks for sharing


  4. drheckleandmrjibe
    June 21, 2014

    Reblogged this on The Bipolar Bum and commented:
    Beautifully written. Get over there and show some support everyone

    All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jeff Marsh
    June 21, 2014

    kindred spirits on the same roller coaster ride; but not…


  6. psychconfessions
    June 21, 2014

    Reblogged this on PsychConfessions and commented:
    I could relate to so much of what you describe (although I’ve yet to receive a bipolar diagnosis). Reading thishas made me feel less alone. Thank you for writing such an honest post.


    • catrionalunsford
      June 21, 2014

      To be clear, it wasn’t my words, it came from a Huffington Post article, but I relate.


  7. Eldritch Edain
    June 21, 2014

    Great post. I think the stigma of mental illness only compounds the challenges people face, and the stigma most of all is about what every person wishes to deny about themselves: just as everyone has physical problems (even those who are very healthy still have some issues), everyone has mental health issues. Mental health is a spectrum rather than an either/or (mentally ill or not). Recognizing that in oneself goes a long way to understanding others.


  8. Susan Irene Fox
    June 21, 2014

    Thanks for posting this article from Huff Post. Thanks for helping create community around the struggle.


  9. fabolousity
    June 21, 2014

    Reblogged this on BetterLateThanNever and commented:
    Awesome! Couldn’t have said it better myself, this HAS to be reblogged. Sorry guys lol 🙂


  10. nikeyo
    June 22, 2014

    This… Perfectly describes what we go through.
    Me, I can’t come out. When people comment on how I’m “really happy today” and then ask the next “what’s wrong? You’re not yourself” I can’t answer. My managers don’t even know to this day why I was away for 2 months after a sudden hospital stay. Pinning myself as “bipolar” just… I’m not ready for it!


    • catrionalunsford
      June 22, 2014

      There’s a lot of shame and fear involved, I’m still exploring all that myself. I’ve disappeared into hospitals twice in the past two years, and getting up the courage to tell my bosses my diagnosis was terrifying – but they understood, and it was such a relief. Now every single person I work with knows and they’re all supportive. I’m not saying that’s how it will go in every situation but you’d be amazed – every person I’ve told has come back with “my (brother, cousin, aunt, friend) has a mental illness/struggles with anxiety/is bipolar too” – if you think of the statistics, everyone is connected somehow and it creates empathy. I googled how to tell someone/your boss that you’re bipolar and even printed information out to offer if they wanted it. I hope this helps…


      • nikeyo
        June 23, 2014

        That’s actually very true… I can’t believe I forgot about that. You’re right, it does come from fear.
        Cause yes, everyone I’ve told has understood either from personal experience in having their own illness, or via friends and family.
        Huh. Thanks for that!


  11. missyparticle
    June 22, 2014

    it was written beautifully ♥


  12. hhhornblower
    June 22, 2014

    I quite enjoyed reading that. I was recently for at least a year and half going through a very rough phase – not sure about Bipolar as I never really had the money nor the effort to go get myself diagnosed, but severe depression for sure. Self-disgust, anxiety over things that aren’t even there, obsessive thoughts, mild ruminations on suicide, grandiose notions of myself…
    But, although unfashionable to talk about nutrition, have you ever tried eliminating all forms of sugar and carbs (wheat, rye, barley etc.) from your diet? (cold turkey.) I did and it hit me like a thunderbolt on a sunny day. In just 10 days my mood stabilized, no more excessive ruminations, and my anxieties have softened tremendously.
    Just curious. Cheers.


    • catrionalunsford
      June 22, 2014

      There are many theories about how changing diet can sometimes help – I know it’s been especially suggested for Autism. If you think about it, everything we put into our bodies creates chemical reactions and effects enzymes, so there may be something to it. I can barely remember to feed myself and am miles away from any kind of structured eating, let alone controlling a specific diet/set of restrictions, so I don’t have any experience with this, but that doesn’t mean there’s no merit to it. The only thing I have been specifically advised about is severely reducing my caffeine intake (anxiety, mania trigger) and completely avoiding alcohol (mood altering, can cause extremely dangerous interactions with my meds).


  13. hhhornblower
    June 22, 2014

    The way I saw it is that none of my other attempts at self-cure worked – forcing myself to be more active, trying to interact more with other people (which went against my impulses,) reading novels that helped it palliate (Matt Haig’s The Humans was a fantastic help!)…and these did help tremendously during the day, except for when the dusk approached and I’ll be terrified of what you may call as “dark nights of the soul” – scatterbrained, prone to ruminations, obsessive thoughts. You’re right – chemistry has a lot to do with it. Then I read “Grain Brain” by David Perlmutter and some of his descriptions and explanations struck me to the core and shook me by my foundations.

    So yes, hard as it is, just ask yourself what is there to lose, even if its a lot of effort to try to change habits of a lifetime? At the least, you end up eating better. I got the idea and suggestion from reading this great article:

    Hope this helps. Cheers.


  14. Addicted Scotian
    June 23, 2014

    Sometimes I wonder if I could be bipolar. I feel like I could have spoken those words. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  15. glenn2point0
    June 24, 2014

    For me the change in mindset from wanting to die to wanting to live was by my GP prescribing the medication that the psych’s didn’t “seroquel”, an antipsychotic. The BiPolar diagnosis came later when I requested another evaluation.
    Great piece that could only be written by someone who has experienced it first hand.


  16. lucidantidotes
    June 24, 2014

    Reblogged this on Lucid Dreams and Antidotes and commented:
    This really hit a chord with me. Such a beautifully written post.


  17. CMeCYou
    June 26, 2014

    This article is a good illustration of things that I hear from clients that have come out of the Bipolar closet. Not easy, very scary, yet they have decided to try anyway.


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This entry was posted on June 21, 2014 by in Anxiety, Bipolar, BPD, Coping, Depression, Irrational Thinking, Manic, mental health, Mood Swings, Panic.

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