How to handle me when I am in a ‘roller coaster ride’

by Tammy Ozolins

I have always and still do try to cover up when I am feeling out of sorts.

I put on my mask and get through the day, but what people do not realize is when I am home I let it all out. My friends and family are who I rely on to get through the rough times, but at the same time I do not want to bother them with my bipolar disorder. I always feel like they will get sick of me.

The ironic part is the ones who truly know me will actually get upset that I did not come to them for help when I tell them I am having a rough time. They are the same people, who truly know when I am struggling. They see the signs.

When I am struggling and putting on that mask, I do get quiet and I am not that loud, silly self that everyone is used to.

Instead of that being OK, I feel like I have to be “on” all the time and it sucks. So, since a lot of people are not educated regarding mental illness, they may not realize I am going through a rough time.

I would like to explain how to deal with me in a positive way. I often tell people dealing with someone with a mental illness is no cake walk and I often feel like they have it much harder than I.

So here are some pointers for dealing with me.

First of all, please do not say things like, “Why are you so crabby today?” I might be crabby because I did not sleep at all (mania will do that to me) or I’m just in an irritable mood, (geez it happens to everyone, even if they do not have a mental illness).

If you see me quiet, please let me be. It is OK to ask if I am OK. And if I feel like talking about it, I will. If I say I am fine, please leave it at that.

The funny part is sometimes I may not even be having a mood swing, but I just want to be quiet. Why is it I have to be “on” all the time? In the past, people have said things like, “Nice attitude!”

Wrong thing to say.

Sometimes people will say things like, “Come on, lighten up. It can’t be that bad.”

Really people? Let’s see I have not slept in 24 hours, my body is exhausted but my mind will not shut off and you want to say something like that to me? Or if I am dealing with my depression, and I do not want to get out of bed, just not a cool thing to say.

Other times when I have said things like, “I’m just tired,” or “I am not in the mood,” people will keep talking, ignoring my words.

I even had people when I am in that type of mood turn around and get mad at me then and not speak to me for the rest of the day. They’ve told me I am in such a bad mood they do not want to deal with it.

Well, that sucks for you, but how do you think I am feeling?

People who don’t deal with mental illness just don’t understand. They think I can just get over it, even in a few hours. But that’s not the case most times. If there was an on and off switch, I would use it to make my moods stay level, but there is no such switch.

So, if you are dealing with someone who has a mental illness, the best advice I can give you is to go get educated about that illness. When I was diagnosed, I went ahead and researched my illness to learn more about it. I also talked to professionals and got in contact with my area’s NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). This organization has become a second family to me.

They have support groups, free family classes for family members to help educate them, and so much more. I learned healthy ways to cope and be able to manage my illness. I know I am the one in control of my treatment plan.

The bottom line is this, if you notice a change a in my mood, the best way to address it, is to say, “You don’t seem like yourself. I hope you’re OK. If there is anything I can do let me know.” Heck, even throw in a hug if you want.

But then let me be and I will be fine. I am a fighter!

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Despite my bipolar disorder, I’ve been able to hold down a job

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