Just because something needs to be said doesn’t always mean it needs to be heard.
Simple words like “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” can make someone blissfully happy; however, even more easily words can shatter a person entirely. As a longtime sufferer of anxiety, I’ve been all too aware of how something someone else says without a second thought can keep me awake for hours. It starts with me playing and replaying the memory in my head, trying hopelessly to try to figure out what the other person was thinking at that time, what they’re thinking about me now, and all the many many things I should have said in response but didn’t.
During my outpatient treatment, my favorite class was the one on healthy communication since that seems to be my biggest struggle. I now refer to my depressive state as Dr. Jekyll… she is unhealthily passive (but mistakes that for being easy going) and bottles all of her emotions up until she’s ready to explode, assuming she feels any emotions whatsoever. If my depressive state is Dr. Jekyll, then my manic state is the even less enjoyable Mrs. Hyde. Somehow, while manic, I can manage to use passive-aggressive, manipulative, or flat out aggressive styles of communication while very rarely managing to master the elusive goal of being assertive.
As I learned, being assertive is being able to express your opinion, wants, and needs while simultaneously being able to respect the opinions of others and accept when someone else is unable to give you what you’re asking for. When I finally started to express my feelings right away instead of months and months later, it was like a weight that had been on my shoulders for nearly my entire life had finally been lifted. Since I’m still someone who overthinks social interactions, I will probably never say everything I should but, on the opposite side of the spectrum, I also don’t want to say something… ill-advised that would lead to someone else sitting up at night thinking about it.
My greatest weapon against putting my foot in my mouth is counting to 10 when I’m upset or angry. Usually during that 10 count, I decide whatever hurtful thing I was about to say isn’t worth saying and I move on. In honor of the 10 count that has saved me from many a public outburst, I decided to put together the top 10 phrases that should be retired from the English language in order to be more considerate of those struggling with their mental health. Interestingly enough, these are all phrases I’ve heard in the past 6 months and a few I have to remove from my own vernacular. I find that when I feel threatened in some way I can lash out without even fully acknowledging the effect some of these phrases could have on another human being. So as to not write a post the length of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I’ll only go through the first 5 in this entry. Here goes nothing…
10. “All women are bipolar.” — I don’t think I can say enough about this misconception. When I’m depressed, I feel nothing. When I’m manic, I feel everything magnified by 10. Neither of those is an ideal situation and, obviously, there are males with Bipolar Disorder too so having a manic episode couldn’t be further from being on your period. The inherent sexism of this view point can really only be responded to with an eye roll so I’ll move on to the next one.
9. “You are an attention whore.” — Any attention-seeking behavior during my manic period was a cry for help and, if we’re being honest, it’s not unheard of for attention-seeking behavior by anyone to be a cry for help. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used this phrase to insult other women in particular, sadly enough. Moving forward, I’m definitely going to be limiting any name-calling or judgments from coming out of my mouth. If I hope to get the benefit of the doubt and maybe, perhaps, some compassion and understanding, it would be incredibly hypocritical of me not to offer the same to those around me.
8. “I think less of you since I found out you had suicidal thoughts. I thought you were stronger than that.” — No one ever has a full understanding of the inner workings of another person’s mind. We can empathize with other people but, at the same time, not know exactly how much pain and suffering they are experiencing. When it comes to my suicidal ideations, I cannot apologize for my thoughts, but I can certainly stand by my actions. I would emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength and we should not focus on a moment of weakness a person might have experienced.
7. “She/He/You’re crazy”. — I could not be more guilty of throwing the words “insane”, “mentally unstable,” and even “certifiable” around as if they don’t mean anything at all. I don’t really have to explain why insulting people with these types of terms is destructive and is counterproductive to efforts to destigmatize mental health issues so I, for one, am going to hold myself accountable and stop doing this one.
6. I liked you better when you were manic. — That one I’m sure was a lower blow than intended. I, at one point, liked myself better when I was manic too. There are so many attractive and actually addictive qualities of manic episodes. Being extra outgoing, bubbly, and confident sounds all well and good but, unfortunately, manic episodes don’t come with a la carte options and, consequently, there will always be the possibility of some less ideal and potentially dangerous symptoms. Now that I’m at my baseline, my memories of my manic episode are very similar to when the main character of Get Out is in the Sunken Place. If you haven’t seen that movie yet, I won’t spoil it for you but, it should go without saying that I don’t want to go back to the Sunken Place and I also don’t like the idea of anyone else wanting me to go back to that place.