I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago, after a lengthy battle with my mental health. When the pandemic hit and I started working from home, I finally had the time and energy to start managing my diagnosis. I’ve been in therapy, changed my doctor and my medications, and adopted various mindfulness techniques, and I now feel stable most of the time. My issue is trying to accept the “new me.” I used to experience long periods of depression followed by short, hyper-anxious and distressing manic episodes, but in between those two states I often felt great, on top of the world, even. People gravitated toward me, and I felt like the center of attention, just sailing through life. I’m sure I sometimes annoyed people in that mode, but I was so confident and self-assured that nothing could bother me. Before therapy, I considered this “the real me.” So did my friends. After a lot of exploration with my therapist, I now realize this was an extension of my mania. Thinking about the times I felt untouchable, I was actually engaging in really chaotic and risky behavior. I was impulsive and filterless.
It’s obvious to me now that this “real me” wasn’t me at all, it was a symptom of my illness. Now that I’ve settled into something more stable, I’m so worried I’m not fun anymore. Whenever my friends and family talk about me, they say I’m extroverted, loud, and vivacious, but I’ve discovered I’m actually an introvert at heart. I still enjoy socializing, but my “big personality” rarely appears now unless I have an episode. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, but I’m worried that once the lockdown is lifted, people will be bored by the healthy version of me. How do I become comfortable with myself after feeling like I was someone else for so long? And how do I explain how different I am to my friends and family?
—Not Always “Fun”