I’m Bipolar but I’m Not

Someone who I admire a lot, Bassey Ikpi, has a book coming out next year, “I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying.” (Please pre-order today!) The book of essays resonate deeply with me,  as they come from a black woman who, like me, lives with Bipolar II disorder. She also lives an important aspect of my life, the balance between being healthy, being creative, being a mother, and being an advocate. From the publisher:

Determined to learn from her experiences—and share them with others—Bassey became a mental health advocate and has spent the fourteen years since her diagnosis examining the ways mental health is inextricably intertwined with every facet of ourselves and our lives. Viscerally raw and honest, the result is an exploration of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of who we are—and the ways, as honest as we try to be, each of these stories can also be a lie.

I often feel like when I’m telling the truth here, when I can tell you today, October 14, 2018, that it was really hard to get up this morning, that it was hard to shower and brush my teeth, that is was really hard to put on my shoes to get out of my house because otherwise I would spend all day in bed — that when I am telling you this truth I am also lying because if that was so hard why isn’t writing this hard? If that was so bad, how do I still have what I have — a great career, a loving husband, three amazing kids (they really do amaze me), friends, family, etc.?

I’ve often had people tell me that they have a hard time believing in my diagnosis. I had a doctor tell me that it was a miracle that I had a third child because women with bipolar simply should not do that. A doctor recently expressed incredulousness at my life — her words, “Well, you must be a genius to have done all of this if your diagnosis is correct.” While I wanted to slap the shit out of her — because who was she, having listened to me for ten minutes, to question my LIFE, my experience? — I started to doubt myself. Maybe you don’t have bipolar II disorder. Maybe you don’t even have depression. Maybe you are just tired. Maybe all of my problems I bring onto myself because I try to do too much.*

Maybe everything I have been saying here and elsewhere is a big lie. Maybe I’m not actually sick, with a life-threatening disorder. Maybe I’m telling you a lie I don’t even know I’m telling.

Or maybe I am a fucking genius.** 

* Which is a symptom of bipolar.

** And this has something to do with Kanye. I’m still working through it.

2 thoughts on “I’m Bipolar but I’m Not

  1. I hear you, sister!! My life and my experience is similar (minus the great career). When I tell people that I’ve got ADHD and that it’s very bad, people go. Are you serious? How come you finished your Ph.D. then? Sigh… well, it took me TEN years, DUH! And my parents lived with me for 24 months (on and off), that’s how I finished. I had to finish, they were taking care of my kids and my house for me. I had to sit at that computer and write. Sigh…

    How dare these people doubt your truth?! They don’t live inside your head. They aren’t with you when you’re experiencing your condition. Who are they to judge? I am sorry you have to our up with them. I am thrilled you were able to finish and pursue a wonderful career. I have faith that you will succeed. Who are they to judge and doubt you?


  2. I really REALLY needed to read this tonight. I too am a lawyer with Bipolar II disorder that struggles with the dissonance between the way I present to / am perceived by others and the silent struggle waging within. Thanks so much for sharing your story & journey! ❤️


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