12/15/16

You Need To Stop Playing Your Mental Illness Card

Something I've found myself doing pretty frequently lately is saying "I can't." And usually, "I can't" is coupled with "Because I'm bipolar." or "Because of my anxiety." or a variety of other deviations that involve having a mental illness. I've been using my mental illnesses as an excuse to do or not to do things. To put it another way, someone close to me very honestly said, "You need to stop playing your mental illness card."







Ouch. I was upset about that for awhile. I used it as another excuse to wallow. As I lay on my bed, crying in self-pity, I thought things like "They just don't understand! They'll never understand!" and "I have every excuse to act the way I've been acting." and even "I refuse to change because that's just how my life is. I'm always going to have these challenges so it's not even worth trying." When I had wallowed an inappropriate amount of time, I sat up and started to actually think about what they had said. "You need to stop using your mental illness card." "Well," I mused, "At least they acknowledge that I have a mental illness card."

They were right though. I've been waving my white flag and giving up to every little challenge that comes my way. (One such challenge being writing a new blogpost. "I can't, I'm too anxious." etc...) It is also my number one excuse for acting poorly. Instead of saying, "I'm sorry." I say something like "I'm sorry but I'm just really depressed right now." An apology isn't really an apology is there's a "but" involved. Treating someone poorly is still treating someone poorly, whether or not there is mental illnesses involved.

Like I said earlier, I do have a mental illness card. It is really there, and because of it, there are some things that are out of my control. My bipolar disorder sometimes triggers rage that I didn't even know could exist inside of me. It is uncomfortable and makes me panicky until I do something about it. Not just irritation or anger, full on rage. I've just been letting it boil out of me, uncontrolled. (It's embarrassing to be so open about this, but I think some of you reading this might understand.) So, while I can't control the emotion, I can control what I do about it. I'm learning how to step away from situations that have triggered my anger and to take a breather instead of acting out. There are more ways than one to handle a situation, mental illness involved or no.

Another example of me playing my mental illness card comes in the depressive episodes that come with having bipolar disorder. There are times when the last thing I want to do is get out of bed. When a friend asks me to hang out when I'm feeling this way, I'll sometimes make up an excuse why I can't when my real excuse is that I'm just playing my mental illness card. Now, I am learning to recognize when getting out of bed just isn't an option that day. Those days happen. But, what am I going to do when those days happen? I might not be able to do my normal routine, but there are things I can do. Instead of playing my mental illness card, I have to do what I can for that day. Just because I am extremely depressed doesn't mean I can't try. Maybe I can't go out with friends like I normally do, but I can get out of bed and take a shower. Obviously those "cans" change with each situation, but it's those kinds of decisions that I am learning to make instead of falling back on my mental illness card and not doing anything at all.

It has taken probably hundreds of times of those close to me very nicely saying, "You're giving up to easily." in a multitude of ways before it finally clicked with me. It took, "You need to stop using your mental illness card." At the time, it felt like a slap in the face. But as time has gone on, it has turned into fiery motivation. I may have a mental illness card, but I don't need to play it to win.