I’d like to tell a story.
I was a much younger man; still in college and engaged to my first wife. I had experienced both depression and mania, but had no idea that I was bipolar. At the time I was mildly depressed, and my self esteem was very low and I was easily intimidated by others. There was another couple that my fiancé and I knew socially and I was in awe of how secure and confident they both were. It seemed that they really had their act together. The husband in particular came across as someone who knew who he was; knew what he wanted, and how to get it. I often thought “This is how I want to be” and spent as much time as I could with him hoping that I could learn from him how to be so comfortable that he seemed to be with himself. This went on for quite a while, and I continually grew more and more impressed with how he handled himself. Then one day, we were talking and he said “Can I tell you something? Your self confidence and abilities are amazing, and I wish I were more like you. ” I was flabbergasted! Here I was looking up to someone and aspiring to be more like him, and he was doing the same to me.
The same sort of thing happened with work later on in my life. I was in one of my first management positions and trying to learn from senior managers how to do my job better and look for the bigger picture of the business. Even though I was a new manager, I was having a hard time understanding why the executives were making the decisions that they were. They just didn’t make sense to me. I thought that if I were in charge I’d do things much differently than what they were deciding. I told myself that I just didn’t have enough information and experience to understand where they were taking the company. They had decided to develop a new product that to my young opinion seemed to be a really bad choice. I couldn’t believe that the new service they were developing would ever be useful to any customers. But I kept my mouth shut and supported the development the best way I could. I was hoping that I could learn from the experience and become a better manager. We finished development and it was time to roll out the new product. It was a complete flop. Not a single customer would buy our new service. My role involved heavy customer interaction and the feedback I was getting was that they weren’t interested for all the reasons that I had believed. I was right.
I have a friend who is also bipolar, and he has an extremely low opinion of himself and no self confidence at all. Whenever we talk he’s always apologizing for being annoying and for being so stupid. He tells me that he feels like nobody likes him and doesn’t want to hang around him. But my opinion of him is completely different. He is one of the most compassionate people I know, and he is constantly giving me encouragement and support. His ideas are always good ones and have helped me overcome many hurdles and challenges. He’s a really good person and I like and respect him immensely.
The moral of these stories is that it’s never as bad as it seems. In spite of how bad we might feel and how insecure and worthless, there are always others who do want to be around you and look up to you with respect. Many times the very people you wish you were like are looking at you and wishing that they were like you. You are not stupid, and your ideas have merit and value to others. You’re abilities are stronger than you believe. It may not feel like it, but there are always others who think you’re awesome.
This is especially true for bipolar people. There is a tendency to be more intelligent and creative. We frequently have to deal with more challenges and disadvantages that would overwhelm the very people we think are looking down on us. It takes an incredible amount of strength to live with this disease, more than most people ever have to have.
I’m not the loser I think I am.