Having bipolar and being a strong woman is like speaking two different languages

Words & illustration by Alice Boyd

This article was originally published in Issue 10, December 2015. To read the full print magazine, visit: http://issuu.com/uobfemsoc/docs/twss_issue_10_winter_2015

Have you ever been in a situation where you go to explain something, or remember that name of that song and you just can’t? And you click your fingers and grit your teeth and you stamp your foot. But you can’t remember and you have to just let go of that feeling until you figure out the answer? Have you ever had that experience every single time someone asks you about your mental disorder?

I have. And it’s both soul- crushing and an encouragement of passionate and driven conversation at the same time.

There are some phrases in other languages that just don’t translate well into English. They usually describe certain feelings you have over events that happen. They describe moods that make you throw your fist in the air with relief or kick yourself with frustration. That is how I feel when describing mental illness but trying to exude myself as a strong, confident, very Feminist woman.

Especially when in conversation with someone who has never had a tangible experience with it.

There is a stigma around mental illness that suffocates people to the point that their illness becomes part of their identification.

If I complete something because I spent 48 hours sat surrounded by caffeine, because I am obsessed with the idea of finishing it, it is seen as an accomplishment by some. By others an abnormal thing. If I disappear for a few days and retreat to my humble abode (dressed in several layers under a duvet, even when it is 20 degrees outside,) I am seen as someone who is automatically on a low period. It is not seen as a symptom of a behavioural trait that I may have. No matter how loudly I speak, my specific symptoms and ways I do things will always overshadow why I do things. They always overshadow what I create and what  I feel, because how I do things irrelevantly, for whatever reason, actually matters more to people.

The point is, that no matter what actions I take, no matter why I choose to do something, it is always seen by those who are aware of my disorder as a symptom of an illness that is my ‘identity.’ Because of this, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify as a strong, confident woman. Or even Feminist.

How can I be a strong and confident woman who makes my own rational decisions, who without fail agrees with herself and her beliefs, who offers consistency to those who desire it? How can I accomplish that whilst being held back by a rollercoaster of emotions. At times I sit uneasy on my slingshot and I close my eyes as I feel the person behind me about to let go. And I wonder if it is two languages I speak or two people I become: the self-identified female and the hideaway girl.

Sometimes the way I speak and act translates very differently to what I believe to my core. My relationships with people tend to be difficult, ending turbulently, impulsively and hastily. Yet I am loyal and good- hearted and I wish to support others. I can be professional and reliable, but I can also be an unorganised, delusional mess of a communicator. I write because it is easier to edit what I say.

That is one thing no one has ever taught me how to accomplish. How to be a strong, confident woman that does not have to identify with a disorder. It is both conflicting and comforting. Both frustrating and free. Both turbulent and tangible. This is a very romanticising article, which is ironic as it has been so emotionally detaching and frustrating to compose and publish.

Thus, to be truly theatrical, I end this article as I dance around my room at 3am to ‘My Type’ by Saint Motel. Oh how sometimes the higher periods in my life give me a little bit of faith.

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