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Game: Is it me or my mental illness?

Aug. 18, 2017
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Welcome to a rousing round of Is It Me Or My Mental Illness, where your humble author second-guesses her behaviors and motivations at every turn! Join me as I overanalyze my every action, from my shaking hands to my eating habits, and ask myself the most daunting question I could possibly come up with: “Why am I behaving this way? Is it me? Or is it my mental illness?”

Round 1: I’m screaming, crying, and throwing various objects at the walls of my apartment because I’m furious at my roommate/best friend for not leaving the remote in a place where I could find it.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: My mental illness. I remember the day this happened, and I remember I was already in a bad mood when the case of the missing remote occurred, but my reaction was a bit too extreme to be anything but a symptom of my bipolar. I have been in bad moods before, and they don’t typically result in me having a full-on temper tantrum meltdown.

Round 2: I just can’t seem to quiet my twitching/spasming hands.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: My mental illness. This one was pretty easy to figure out. Muscle twitches are not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder—mine start to spasm when I am especially stressed or upset.

Round 3: I find myself wanting to have sex… all the time.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: Both. Hypersexuality is another common symptom for people with bipolar disorder, especially among women, but I loved sex way before I got diagnosed with bipolar. From the moment I started having sex, I have had a very healthy libido, so I know that this one can be attributed to both my illness and my personal preferences.

Round 4: Sometimes, I hear voices.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: My mental illness. This was another symptom that was pretty easy to define. I was diagnosed bipolar with aspects of psychosis, and sometimes that psychosis takes the form of auditory hallucinations. 

Round 5: I can routinely eat more than an NFL linebacker.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: Me. Sometimes during depressive episodes people can have an increase in appetite, but I have always had a very large appetite. I have won eating contests in the past, and I know without a doubt that I can eat all day, every day, without feeling full. This trait is all me!

Round 6: My inability to get up the energy to finish even the simplest of tasks.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: Both. My biggest problem in high school and the first couple years of college was that I was lazy. It’s not that I was disinterested or didn’t care—I just loved to sit and watch TV to the point where I wouldn’t get my work done. That lethargy became more prominent during depressive episodes, where I wouldn’t get out of bed for days. I wish I could say this one was just my mental illness, but I know that sometimes my lack of energy and lack of motivation is just me.

Round 7: I’m so jumpy that my friends don’t want to watch scary movies with me anymore.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: My mental illness. I didn’t know this until recently, but it turns out that one general symptom of mental illness is jumpiness or being easily startled. Once I found this out, it made a lot of sense, because I jump at the drop of a hat these days. It drives my roommate nuts.

Round 8: I get extreme social anxiety to the point where I don’t know how to converse with other humans.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: Me. I know this one is just me because this has been a problem of mine since long before I was diagnosed. In fact, bipolar actually helped partially cure me of this anxiety. During my first manic episode, I was partying almost every night, and I talked to anyone and everyone about anything and everything. I realized that if I can be in a social setting while experiencing the effects of my mood disorder and be just fine, then I can be in social settings when I’m not manic and be just fine too.

Round 9: I get very easily irritated by the people around me, even the ones I love. Scratch that: especially by the ones I love.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: Both. Irritability is a symptom that people with bipolar disorder can experience during depressive episodes or manic episodes. I get so irritated with some of my closest friends and family that I have to take breaks from being in their company for days at a time so I don’t lash out at them. Although I would like to say this is all my illness, I can’t deny that I’m not the most patient person. My illness certainly made it worse, but my being an easily irritated person was there to begin with.

Round 10: I have a knack for making dumbass decisions and taking dumbass risks.

Is it me or my mental illness?

Answer: Both. Risky behavior and bipolar disorder are kind of a package deal. I can attest to this firsthand: I have had several STI scares from not wearing condoms when I slept with strangers; before sobering up, I did so many drugs that I should probably be dead by now; and I participated in some activities that are not strictly legal. However, even before these manic episodes occurred, I was prone to risky behavior and not thinking through my decisions. Even when I was a kid, my mom told me that my riskiness was what worried her the most about me. Turns out? She was right.