Why she Tell These 4 Lies About Her Bipolar Disorder

After years of chronic depression, followed by a bipolar diagnosis, I learned to tell the biggest lie of my life — that I’m completely healthy.

Illustration by Ruth Basagoitia

Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.

I’ve always been a terrible liar, ever since my mom caught me in a fib and embarrassed me in front of all my friends. Growing up, I also never got away with untruths, or even selective fact sharing.

I’d either get caught outright, or I’d crumbled under my parents’ cross examination. They could always interrogate me and learn that, yes, there would be boys at the party and no, there wouldn’t be any parents in attendance.

Once, I believed that my inability to lie was a virtue — that truthfulness made me better than others.

Until I learned how to tell the biggest lie of my life: that I’m normal, capable, and definitely not suffering with a mental illness.

I told that lie every day, to everyone I met. Even when I stopped telling the lie, stopped hiding my mental illness, I found even more intricate levels of subterfuge.

I’m a liar, and I don’t believe I’ll ever stop.

Starting with the truth

The first person I ever told about my depression diagnosis was my dad. He was the most overprotective person in the world. No — even more than you’re thinking. We’re talking about a person who drove 80 miles on a Sunday night because my cat knocked the phone off the hook (many years before cell phones) and he couldn’t get in touch with me.

I was 22 when I told him. At first, I thought I shouldn’t tell him that I had a chronic condition because it’d cause him to worry about me even more. Also, when he got stressed, he would treat me like a child and raise my level of anxiety. I waited to tell him about my condition when I was well enough to handle both my self-care and my dad’s potential anxiety-inducing reaction.

Until then, I pretended that everything was normal. I figured I was keeping myself healthy.

Lie #1: “What, these antidepressants?”

As my depression worsened over the years, the untruths I told people to keep up my façade of health got more and more complicated.

At some point, I told my closest friends about my depression, and they were supportive. But I was less forthcoming in my intimate relationships.

Mostly, I just hid my antidepressants and said that my weekly therapy appointments were different types of meetups or obligations altogether.

At one point, I was in a relationship with a man named Henry and realized I’d lied about my entire life situation.

My reality: I’d taken leave from work to go to an outpatient program for my depression, and I still hadn’t been cleared to return back to work. Eventually, the timeline on the Family and Medical Leave Act expired, and I still wasn’t cleared to work. I couldn’t hold a train of thought or concentrate for more than a few hours a day. My job wasn’t held for me and I was terminated.

The story I told Henry was that I’d been laid off (not exactly a lie) because my company was restructuring (something that actually happened and was covered in the news, it just hadn’t actually affected me). I perpetuated that untruth throughout the relationship, through my recovery, and even getting a new job.

I believe that starting the relationship off on a lie kept me from connecting more emotionally with Henry, even though we dated for a year. I always knew that I was lying to him about our beginning, and about my depression, and that made it easier to keep the rest of my feelings bottled away.

It wasn’t the best choice for a romantic relationship, but I felt that I needed protection at the time.

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