Recently, I’ve had days when I was useless due to bipolar disorder. My brain became a rock. I couldn’t get a thought through it if I tired. And thanks to my brain’s inability to think, I also couldn’t work. Trying to do anything — and I mean anything — brought about nothing but crushing overwhelm. And all of this lack of productivity brought about a lot of self-flagellation. I need to learn to forgive myself when I’m useless because of bipolar, though.
Why Does Bipolar Disorder Make You Useless?
Bipolar disorder can make you useless in a variety of ways. For example, if you’re tremendously depressed, it’s pretty normal not to be able to do anything. You drag your body from place to place, unable to find even a scrap of energy. This is not even mentioning suicidality. When you’re dealing with suicidality, that tends to overtake your reality, and everything else comes in a distant second.
This isn’t what happened to me, exactly, though. Yes, I was depressed, but not more so than I often am. I think what happened was an increase in cognitive load to the point my brain just seized. A number of emotional events happened over the last month. I was running from them, trying to avoid them deleteriously affecting my brain. However, as most people know, running from life events doesn’t work. You have to stay and face them at some point. Your body will punish you if you don’t do it willingly. That is what happened to me. I ran and ran; I tired myself out; my brain could no longer escape the impact of my own life. All this resulted in not only a useless brain but also a useless body.
I Beat Myself Up When I’m Useless
I despise being useless, no matter the reason. Really, I could have broken both legs and arms, and I would still beat myself up for not getting anything done.
I know why this is. It happens because I judge myself based on my productivity. This is a characteristic of those with long-term, severe depression. It’s impossible for these people to feel good about their days because it’s impossible for them to feel good. When they look back at their days, they have to judge them based on something, though, in order to have enough motivation to continue forward. This is why many judge their days based on productivity. Measurable achievements allow someone to feel positive about their day, even if they can’t feel happy about it. Believe me, this is a real coping skill that people with depression frequently use.
The problem with it is when you’re not productive. The problem is that when you’re useless for any reason, you feel terrible. You feel terrible about your day, and you feel terrible about yourself. For me, I feel guilty for not accomplishing what I need to on any given day. I should be working. I should be cleaning my apartment. I should be catching up on phone calls. And I don’t accept any excuses. I don’t care that my brain is a rock. I want to get shit done.
I Need to Forgive Myself for Being Useless
Being useless is something that every human experiences — bipolar or not. Everyone has lazy Sundays when all they do is relax and read the paper. This is okay. They shouldn’t beat themselves up for it. No one should. Every human also experiences days when they’re useless because of illness too. They might have the flu, an injury, or, yes, a disability. They should not beat themselves up about this, either.
I can say the above, and I can even believe it, but I feel like the rules don’t apply to me. My internal drill sergeant simply doesn’t accept weakness, illness, or needing a break as an excuse for anything. I’m inflexible that way because that’s what it takes to remain productive. That’s what it takes to have high-functioning bipolar disorder.
That said, I need to learn to forgive myself for being useless some days because of bipolar disorder. Useless days are unavoidable. Useless days are especially unavoidable for me, thanks to my disability. And beating myself up about this reality doesn’t help. Feeling bad about a lack of productivity due to something outside my control is not going to help make a single thing better.
Forgiving Myself for Being Useless Because of Bipolar
I’m still learning how to forgive myself because of useless days caused by bipolar disorder. That said, here are some of the ways I’m working on it:
- I acknowledge the lack of productivity. I view it as a fact with no judgment attached. It simply is.
- I acknowledge that I want to judge my uselessness. I acknowledge that it’s hard for me not to. I acknowledge that forcing productivity is a coping skill that often works but isn’t working right now.
- I acknowledge that I deserve the same grace as everyone else. I would never try to make a person feel bad for an unproductive day. I deserve the same treatment.
- I acknowledge that I am imperfect, and judgment will still likely creep in. That’s okay. I just need to go back to step one.
Truly, there is nothing wrong with a useless day because of bipolar. It is not a sin and thus doesn’t even require forgiveness. Nonetheless, as the work-in-progress I am, it’s part of what I need to do.
Do you beat yourself up for days when you’re useless because of bipolar disorder? Can you forgive yourself for this? How do you do it? Are the above four steps helpful?
Image by Flickr user deadoll.
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