Why Being Hard on Myself is Necessary for Bipolar Functioning
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
I’ve heard this statement my whole life, I think. I’ve always been driven. I was driven at school when I was young, I was driven at university and I’ve been driven in the work force. I have never been “easy” on myself. I’ve been mostly perfectionistic. No matter how unachievable perfection is, it always seems to be what drives me, regardless.
But, what I’ve found, is that being hard on myself is required in bipolar disorder in order to succeed. Hugging my inner child and being gentle isn’t the kind of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning when all I want to do is hide under the covers. No; ripping the covers from my body and kicking myself is the only thing that does. I have to be hard on myself or I would just never stand up straight and function.
Being Hard on Myself Because of Bipolar
And this goes for pretty much all areas of life. Unlike normal people, I have no motivation. Bipolar depression has stolen all my inner, innate motivation. So the only thing left is how hard I am on myself. I make it unacceptable not to do what needs to be done. I make it unacceptable to fail. I make it unacceptable not to get my writing done. I make it unacceptable not to cook dinner. I make it unacceptable not to make deadlines. I simply make not achieving unacceptable and, yes, I tend to beat myself up if I don’t meet any of those goals. I tend to feel bad if I end up doing what I deem unacceptable. It’s part and parcel. I have to be hard on myself when I don’t achieve otherwise I’ll never get up and try again.
People want to know how I succeed. This is how I do it. I beat myself with a stick repeatedly and force myself to do all the things my bipolar tries to stop me from doing.
But Why Can’t You Succeed Without Being Hard on Yourself?
I want to do nothing – ever. I don’t want to make breakfast. I don’t want to eat breakfast. I don’t want to start work. I don’t want to continue work. I don’t want to shower. I don’t want to see people. I don’t want to clean the kitchen. I don’t want anything thanks to that pesky bipolar depression.
But I know, logically, I must get these things done. Living requires these things. And the only thing that can make up for a complete lack of motivation is a boot to the head. The only thing that makes up for it is such a tight grasp on my life that my fingernails are constantly leaving gashes in my existence. At least, this is my experience of bipolar depression. You may experience it differently.
So I’m in a cycle of demanding things from myself. Things that I don’t want. Things that I need. Things that are usually slightly out of reach. And then feeling bad if I don’t get them. That’s just the way productivity works in bipolar disorder. You have to constantly do what you don’t want and the only way you can is with extreme external control. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.
Celebrating the Wins with Bipolar
This isn’t to say that I don’t try to celebrate the wins in bipolar. When I have a day when I write an extra article or I do some extra work or answer some extra emails, I try to pat myself on the back. Regardless, though, the drive to complete more is always there. It feels like the only thing I know. It feels like the only thing that keeps me going. It feels like it’s the only thing that keeps me breathing. Relinquishing that control, that “being hard on myself,” just feels like it would see me collapse into a heap of decaying flesh. And no one really wants that.
Bipolar and Being Hard on Yourself
This is not to suggest that I think other people should pick up this coping mechanism and run with it. I’m not saying it’s the best way to do things or the healthiest – it’s just the way that I need to function in order to get things done. I have to be hard on myself or the bipolar will win.
If you have a better solution for being high-functioning during bipolar depression, feel free to share it below.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.