Still acting as if… #bipolarwellness

More than a year ago I wrote about ‘acting as if’. It is a way of staying well, feeling well and achieving more. When we act as if we are well we will most likely appear well and most likely feel well. The opposite would be to act unwell, to appear unwell and feel unwell. There are reasons to act unwell but it is not a great way to live in the long-term.

Acting well, does not require any great effort. For most of us it is a habit. It is the habit that causes us to say, “ I’m fine” when someone casually asks how we are, and a moment later we think, ‘well, really I’m feeling a bit rough this morning’.

I act as if well almost all the time. The main exceptions are when I am at home. At home I tend to share my aches, pains, anxieties…

By putting all my unwellness into my time at home – largely into the hours of darkness, allows me to carry on acting well all day when out and about. Recently I have met several people I have not seen for years, who have exclaimed, “Wow, you’re looking well”. People are easily fooled by a bit of weight loss, tidy hair, neat clothes and a smile. They are not aware unless I say anything of how little I have been sleeping or that the weight loss seems to be related to serious health issues.

However, there are ‘downsides’ to always acting as if well when you know you are not well. It is reasonable to do this for a while, but if you know things are getting worse…. If you feel you are becoming more ill then at some point the acting has to stop. This is not about having a breakdown in front of the boss (Done this! It is rarely a good idea!). It is more about finding someone you trust and sharing your concerns. Ideally this person you trust will also understand that feeling bad and feeling anxious about feeling bad are natural and not a sign of weakness.

For me, I have reached a point where I cannot carry on doing everything I have been doing. I am fortunate that my only kind of regular employment is with a mental health charity, who understand anxiety is normal and anxiety can from time to time be disabling. I have not forgotten though what it is like to be unsure how your employer will react to admissions of emotional weakness. It could be that you will never feel able to act anything other than well when at work… even so, everyone needs sooner or later to find someone they can share their anxieties with… we all need a time when we can behave just according to our feelings, and for a while forget about the clever idea that our feelings usually follow the way we act.

I would love to hear your views on this article.

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