All Articles Tagged "mental health"

When Hiding My Bipolar Disorder From My Employer Backfired

November 11th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Since my first mental illness diagnosis, I have been afraid to disclose my disease to employers. The stigma surrounding those with mental illness still brands us as incompetent and unstable — the opposite of a successful employee. Rather than be saddled with negative baggage in spite of my educational and professional accomplishments, I believed that hiding my bipolar disorder was the best way to navigate the workplace. I learned a few lessons from my subterfuge, mostly that hiding my bipolar disorder wasn’t as good for my career as I’d believed it would be.

During my first manic episode I was a marketing manager at a cosmetics company, which was a busy and stressful position. I had a great deal of responsibility, including the growth and revenue for my products, and I often stayed late to complete my work. With the high mood and quick thinking I experienced during a hypomanic state, I was far more productive than during average circumstances. I came to work early, flew through my reports quickly and responded to my boss’s requests efficiently. I was a model employee.

Then my depression hit and my behavior changed completely. I was sluggish all of the time and I took frequent coffee breaks to perk myself awake. I seemingly never got enough sleep, so I was frequently late — a habit sited at my annual review as a “career breaker.” Instead of going to human resources to disclose my disease and ask for an alternate work schedule, I said that I’d change but couldn’t amend my behavior, even when my psychiatrist tried changing my medication. Eventually lateness became unplanned absences because I couldn’t get out of the bed. Again, I continued hiding my bipolar disorder rather than making better arrangements for myself.

Eventually, I had to come up with a reason for my behavior and I told my boss that I’d been having panic attacks. At the time, I believed that panic disorder was more commonplace and acceptable than bipolar. I was mistaken, and some of my work duties were taken away by my boss until she felt that I could “handle” them.

At my next job, I was clear about hiding my bipolar — or any mental or emotional shortcoming — from my employer. I’d already experienced what I thought of as work-related discrimination as a result of a mental condition and I did not want to repeat that event. Instead I fell back into a pattern of behavior designed to cover up my bad periods. Overall, I was great at my job but was frequently late when my energy flagged due to worsening depression. To cover for particularly teary days, I called in sick or asked to work from home on a regular basis. If I could make it into the office, I tried to look busy even when my concentration flagged. Again, my boss noted that my lateness and absences were not models for executive behavior.

At some point, my depression got so bad that I couldn’t make it through my days. I started scheduling meetings out of the office so that I could knock off a few hours early and cover myself. My commitment to hiding my bipolar disorder was finally starting to affect my ability to complete my job. I eventually had to take time off work to get treatment for my depressive episode. When I returned, as a result of my previous behavior, my boss began micromanaging my time and my projects to make sure that I didn’t leave the office without permission.

In retrospect, I could have spoken with my human resources department about getting special accommodations for the symptoms of my bipolar disorder. I could have arranged for special permission to work at home when I needed to instead of appearing to have a spotty attendance record. Even though these accommodations are allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, I still feared the kind of backlash related to my disease that I’d already experienced once in my career. My reactions to my employer and, ultimately, my negative behavior could have been avoided had I initiated legal protection by disclosing my disease instead of hiding my bipolar disorder in the workplace. Lesson learned.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

The Dos And Don’ts When Talking To Someone With A Mental Illness

November 4th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 20% of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness each year. With those statistics, it’s easy to imagine that we all know someone with mental illness even, if we’re not aware of their condition. Because mental illnesses are virtually invisible, we all run the risk of potentially insulting 1 in 5 of the people with whom we come in contact regularly. That’s why you should know what you should never say to someone with a mental illness.

DON’T compare your sadness to their depression. It’s tempting to want to empathize with people, and when someone tells you that they have depression you may want to say, “oh, I was really sad when…” Don’t. Depression is orders of magnitude more heartbreaking than sadness, even if you were completely devastated when your dog died. Though grief may trigger a mental illness, depression has emotional, mental and physiological components that make it harder to overcome than average emotions.

DON’T tell them it’s all in their head. Technically, some mental illnesses — like bipolar disorder — are caused by changes in the brain. However, “all in your head” has the connotation of something being fake or imagined instead of a real disorder with real consequences. Someone with anxiety disorder isn’t pretending to have the physical symptoms associated with an attack any more than someone with migraines is feigning the pain and discomfort they experience. Try to talk about mental illnesses in the same way that you speak about physical illnesses, and give those who suffer the same respect.

DON’T imply that someone with a mental illness should “just get over it”. Would you tell someone with diabetes to shake it off? Should you tell someone in a wheelchair to just get up and walk? Mental illnesses are diseases just like physical ailments, and many are considered disabilities because they are so debilitating. Many people with mental illness have gone undiagnosed for years because they’ve tried to “get over it” and have thought themselves weak for not being able to overcome their symptoms. A common stigma of mental illness is that those who suffer are weak, and this thinking frequently leads to worsening of the disease.

DO use respectful language. Never refer to someone as “crazy” or “nuts”. Refer to diseases by their names, which will show respect to people around you who may be suffering from a mental illness in silence. So many stigmas exist against people with mental illness — in families, in the workplace, in romantic relationships — that simple words often hurt the people who suffer, even when no offense is intended.

DO sympathize. While it may not be appropriate to compare your feelings with someone’s experience of mental illness, you can still show compassion for someone’s struggle. If a friend is struggling with depression, offer your help with grocery shopping or other tasks they may be too exhausted to perform. You don’t have to know exactly how someone feels to help them.

DO ask questions. If you know someone with a mental illness and you don’t understand what they’re going through, you can always ask — respectfully. Depending on your relationship, you can ask about symptoms, about how someone feels or about their treatment. Don’t assume that you will learn all there is to know about someone’s disease, but asking questions will show that you care and are interested in their well-being.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

Freddie Gray’s Mother Attempts Suicide

October 23rd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Freddie Gray's Mother Attempts Suicide

Source: Corbis

Police report that Gloria Darden, Freddie Gray’s mother, attempted suicide on Wednesday evening.

Freddie Gray, Darden’s 25-year-old son, was killed in Baltimore, Maryland, last April at the hands of police officers. The news of heinous and tragic death captured the nation’s attention as it was one of a string of deaths of unarmed, innocent Black men at the hands of law enforcement.

After an investigation, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said the police officers had no good reason to arrest Gray and the neck injuries, that would later be cited as the cause of his death, were a direct result of the way the officers restrained him.

According to KHOU, police responded to a call “for a person needing medical attention” around 9:35 p.m. on Wednesday.  Gray’s mother reportedly suffered superficial wounds and was taken to the hospital that same evening. No surgery or stitches were needed.

She is said to have undergone a mental health evaluation on Thursday.

Diana Bruce, a neighbor, told CBS Baltimore: “I seen the police and ambulance right there. They were taking the lady out and putting her on the stretcher bed.”

The family lawyer, Billy Murphy, told CBS, “She is still mourning the loss of her son. The family asks that you continue to pray for her and for them.”

A month after losing her son, Darden sat down with Lester Holt, where she broke down in tears saying that she would never be the same since her son’s death. She was barely able to speak throughout the duration of the interview.

In September, the city of Baltimore agreed to pay the Gray family $6.4 million to settle a civil suit.

Gray’s twin sister Fredricka said, “For me to lose my twin I can’t sleep some nights. I cry. I really miss him…the pain I feel, it’s unbearable.”

When A Lover Threatens Suicide Over A Breakup

September 30th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: Corbis

Source: Corbis

Yesterday we were sad to hear Jim Carrey’s ex-girlfriend had chosen to take her own life. It was even more heartbreaking to read details that Cathriona White, 28, had reportedly left a suicide note citing her breakup with the comedian as the impetus for her suicide.

It’s a familiar tale. Even a somewhat personally familiar tale in my case as I thought back to January and February of 2014 when my ex began constantly sending me messages on Facebook, asking me to “just say something” to him. When I refused, one Saturday he sent a message that said “If u don’t call me in five mins I’m going to kill myself.” For a brief minute my world stopped. While I didn’t take the threat seriously at all, part of me was paralyzed by the thought of him actually doing it and the guilt I would feel as a result. Towards the end of our breakup in late 2010, I was convinced my ex had some mental health issues. In a way he knew it too, but was crushed by his attempt at getting help when he told a counselor he felt he was going crazy and was laughed at. I hurt for him, too, in that moment, but four years later the threat of suicide felt like another attempt at manipulation and I refused to be sucked back in. So, I still said nothing. Ironically, there was a sense of thankfulness when 26 minutes after the threat more messages began pouring in. And though this situation worked out, for lack of a better phrase, I’ve always questioned whether I did the right thing in that moment.

While there’s no evidence White threatened Carrey with suicide when they broke up September 24, many lovers do. According to, which covers borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, the most important thing you can do in this situation is take threats seriously. Specifically, tell the person making the threat that you are going to call for help and actually do it. If the threat is immediate, 911 is your best bet.

Another recommendation is to express concern, but don’t give in to the threat. Let the person know they are still loved and you want them to be happy, but being in a relationship with each other won’t fix the underlying problem. Be firm in your decision to leave the relationship while letting your ex-partner know their behavior isn’t healthy and they need to work on themselves without you in order to get to a healthy place and that you support that.

Third, don’t start a fight. While some people are terrified of a suicide threat, others may become angry that their old lover has put them in this position. Now is not the time to accuse your ex of attempting to manipulate you or question their sincerity or even dare them in hopes of stopping the attempt. It’s possible the person may actually go through with the act just to prove you wrong.

Regardless of the scenario that plays out, the one thing you must do for yourself is not assume responsibility for the actions of the other party. Quoting Thomas Ellis and Cory Newman’s 1996 book, Choosing To Live, BPD writes, “Remind yourself that you are not threatening the other person with homicide-the other person is threatening suicide.” At the end of the day, their choice is their’s and you are dealing with a mentally unstable person who needs professional help that’s above and outside of you. All you can do is try to convince them to seek it out, but should they not, again, that is their choice.

For more resources, check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,, or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

My Ex Got Married… I Got Depressed

September 16th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

A few months ago, or possibly when it was cold outside, my most recent ex-boyfriend called to give me an update on his life. Apparently things had been going swimmingly with the woman he was seeing — make that the woman he left me for, the woman he’d started up with while we were still dating. He wanted to tell me directly instead of having me hear it from our mutual friends, as if it wouldn’t have been equally annoying to hear from either source. I told him that I didn’t care one way or the other, which I didn’t. Then I learned that my ex got married and I cared a bit more, but not for the reasons you might think.

When your ex gets married you can be mad, or sad, or even glad if you’re one of those people who stays friends with everyone. To be honest, I’ve never been one of those “happy for my ex” people, though I know they exist. I’m more like a petty, wish you grief and unhappiness person, which is probably because I’ve been left more often than I’ve done the leaving. The last time I initiated a breakup was in my 20’s, at the height of my self-confident awesomeness when I was bold and assertive and positive about my love life. Then in my 30’s came depression and uncertainty and men breaking up with me.

I’m not exactly sure of the causality between my mood and the change in tide of my romantic fate, only that dating failures have heightened my depressive feelings. Perhaps my depression and underlying self-doubt made me a bad date, a bad girlfriend or a bad chooser of men. Either way, whenever an erstwhile suitor decided to call it quits, I sunk into a pit of hopeless despair and rumination over romantic failures. I always thought I’d done something wrong to make them not want me. I never thought I’d find the right person. I believed that I’d be alone forever.

The same feelings held true with my most recent ex-boyfriend, the one who just got married. This time, however, I’d been in love and while I thought he loved me too, I wasn’t sure we had the same definition of the word. He saw other women behind my back, which I didn’t think you did to someone you love. When I found out the truth during the breakup, I was completely devastated. I thought I’d been duped. I couldn’t trust any of my feelings because I thought my whole relationship was a lie. This breakup depression was deeper than any other I’d faced.

Then, a few years later, my ex got married. I thought I’d spiral back into depression about losing him forever, but that didn’t happen. Instead I got depressed about my own self. I was mad that a man who’d treated me so wrong could find someone to put up with his mess but I hadn’t been that lucky. I was sad about how I’d spent my 30’s and 40’s making myself sick over failed relationships instead of getting my shit together. And I was disappointed in myself for having let some jerks from my past take up valuable real estate in my head. I wasn’t going to do it any longer.

My solution was to take my issues to therapy, to talk seriously about wanting a romantic relationship but feeling trapped by my past failings. Speaking out loud to someone who could hold me accountable for my emotions and my actions is, at least to me, a good start on the path to wellness. And as for my ex — and all of my exes — we no longer speak. Cutting off contact is my way of making sure that I can live my romantic life in the hopeful present without being reminded of a less-than-successful past.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

“I Was Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired”: Celebs Who Had To Take A Mental Health Break

August 17th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Celebs Who Took A Mental Health Break

Image Source: WENN

We’ve all reached a point where the daily stress at work feels like too much. When these stars felt like they had bitten off more than they could chew, they decided to take a mental health break.

Treat Your Body Right: Health Screenings Every Woman Should Have

August 12th, 2015 - By Alyssa Johnson
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Going to the doctor for a health checkup can be a very unpleasant and nerve-racking experience. It can be frightening because it can make you think about your own mortality. You try not to think about it, but the reality that something could be wrong is what makes most of us procrastinate in getting these necessary checkups. Lack of insurance could also be a contributing factor, but with Obamacare, health insurance is within everyone’s reach. Having these simple, routine tests run by your physician can save your life. So let’s stop stalling.  Here are some of the most effective health screenings every woman should have and some you should be obtaining annually.

Suicide Signs To Look For In Your Teenager

August 12th, 2015 - By Rich
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Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between 10 and 19 years of age and the number is increasing. Although it is not always a comfortable topic, it is essential to know the warning signs and to know the right ways to react if you notice them. Parents, friends, teachers, and sometimes even strangers can help play a part when prevention and helping others is a priority in the community.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics these are the reasons the youth suicide rate has increased and some signs to look for:

Why has the youth suicide rate gone so high in recent years?

  • It’s easier to get the tools for suicide (Boys often use firearms to kill themselves; girls usually use pills);
  • The pressures of modern life are greater;
  • Competition for good grades and college admission is stiff; and
  • There’s more violence in the newspapers and on television.

Lack of parental interest may be another problem. Many children grow up in divorced households; for others, both of their parents work and their families spend limited time together. According to one study 90 percent of suicidal teen-agers believed their families did not understand them. (However, this is such a common teen-age complaint that other factors are playing a role, too.) Young people also reported that when they tried to tell their parents about their feelings of unhappiness or failure, their mother and father denied or ignored their point of view.

If your teenager has been depressed, you should look closely for suicide signs that he or she might be displaying:

  • Has his personality changed dramatically?
  • Is he having trouble with a girlfriend (or, for girls, with a boyfriend)? Or is he having trouble getting along with other friends or with parents? Has he withdrawn from people he used to feel close to?
  • Is the quality of his schoolwork going down? Has he failed to live up to his own or someone else’s standards (when it comes to school grades, for example)?
  • Does he always seem bored, and is he having trouble concentrating?
  • Is he acting like a rebel in an unexplained and severe way?
  • Is she pregnant and finding it hard to cope with this major life change?
  • Has he run away from home?
  • Is your teenager abusing drugs and/or alcohol?
  • Is she complaining of headaches, stomachaches, etc., that may or may not be real?
  • Have his eating or sleeping habits changed?
  • Has his or her appearance changed for the worse?
  • Is he giving away some of his most prized possessions?
  • Is he writing notes or poems about death?
  • Does he talk about suicide, even jokingly? Has he said things such as, “That’s the last straw,” “I can’t take it anymore,” or “Nobody cares about me?” (Threatening to kill oneself precedes four out of five suicidal deaths.)
  • Has he tried to commit suicide before?

Dating While Bipolar And Playing The Field

August 12th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

I enjoy being in a romantic relationship, but I hate dating. Dating, which to me is everything before a monogamous commitment, brings up all of my insecurities and control issues. I stress about everything I do and say, and how it will make me appear to the object of my affection. I’m convinced that I’ll be able to cleave him to my every will and am disappointed when, inevitably, that does not happen. And I obsess over every detail of early dates to figure out whether the man I’m seeing is marriage material or whether I should get rid of him and be alone. And dating while bipolar doesn’t make this any easier, leaving me prone to mood swings and deep depression when intense emotions are in play. But I’ve figured out a way to smooth out my rough dating edges so that I can act more like regular people. I’ve started cultivating more than one relationship at a time, what used to be called “playing the field” before the days of serial monogamy.

To be clear, I’m not using “playing the field” as a euphemism for “sleeping around.” I’m not really built for that, and I’ve found that having multiple sexual partners is detrimental to my mental well-being.  But that’s a story for another time. Rather, playing the field for me means that I have more than one man in my life at a time, and each relationship provides me with a different emotional outlet. It’s my strategy to make dating while bipolar more like dating is for “regular” people. Right now, I count three men among my field of suitors and potential partners. First, there is the man I’ll call Richie.

A friend of a friend, Richie has been around for a couple of years. We’d hung out a bunch of times, always with other people, until one night we spent some time alone, and the mood shifted. You could probably call what we have a classic “friends with benefits” situation; we hang out and talk and have sex, but there’s no expectation of commitment. From a practical standpoint, it’s easy for me to manage this situation because while I like Richie, I know we’re not compatible when I think about things from a long-term standpoint.

Under ordinary circumstances, I’d probably become more connected to Richie than I should because he’s available to me, and because I’m one of those people who bonds through physical intimacy. Since I’m dating while bipolar, the situation also might trigger negative thoughts about my desirability as a mate. Or my willingness to settle for less than true love, and those feelings might manifest in some undesirable behavior. I still have those thoughts, but I counter them with positive self-talk and the help of Jerry, my long-distance flirtation with potential.

Jerry and I met on Facebook, and we frequently flirt online and have phone conversations that last for hours. My interactions with Jerry provide a distraction from any discomfort I have with Richie, and distractions are a valid therapeutic tool for negative emotions. Also, I actually like Jerry, and our conversations tend to move towards life issues and major topics like marriage and children. Unlike Richie, I see long-term potential with Jerry. If we lived in the same city, I’m pretty sure we’d be dating. But as it stands, Richie can give me the physical closeness that I won’t get from Jerry until we meet each other in the flesh and figure out what we’re doing. I used to feel tense and anxious about what would happen with Jerry, but having someone local to occupy my time is helpful in quelling those feelings.

The final man in my love interest trilogy is Joe, whom I met through an online dating site years ago. Joe is everything I’d like in a romantic partner, except for the fact that he’s a Republican, and I’m not. For that reason, we never went out. This year, I’ve seen him dozens of times at our local coffee shop, and we’ve started talking, exchanging contact info and chatting in person. He’s turned out to be more of a Moderate than a Conservative and I can respect that. Plus, he seemed intrigued when I mentioned that I’ve been writing about my mental illness, so perhaps there’s hope. Thankfully, I have some other prospects to keep me occupied and deter me from blowing up Joe’s Facebook with the dregs of my desperation. I’m going to play it cool, mock him for being a Republican in this presidential cycle and see how everything turns out.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

When Depression Reinforces The Belief That You’re Unlovable

July 29th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

We’ve all been in a bad relationship. Despite our best efforts, we found ourselves mixed up with someone who didn’t have our best interest at heart or was just a bad match in general. I, of course, have been there a few times. When I’m feeling well and generally in my right mind, I can end a bad relationship as soon as I identify the signs of it. But when I’m feeling depressed or on the verge of a mental illness relapse, my judgment goes out the window, and I end up sticking around in an undesirable situation longer than I should.

I was friends with my last boyfriend — henceforth to be known as “Ronald” so as to protect the guilty — for many years before we became a couple. More accurately, we were friends for a while, then friends with benefits for a while and then, I would say five years later, we started dating. Everything was great between Ronald and I. We talked several times a day, had lunches and dinners every week, and the sex was terrific. Eventually, we had sleepovers, spending several hours in bed talking, reading, and making love. That’s right, I said hours. He said, “I love you” first, and I responded in kind. I was happy.

Anyone who has ever started a relationship with a friend knows the comfortable sense of intimacy you feel when you know someone well on many levels. Being with Ronald made me feel comfortable. Despite knowing each other for quite some time, we still laughed at each other’s jokes, remembered details about each other’s families and finished each other’s sentences. For me, the most satisfying thing about being with Ronald was that he knew about my bipolar disorder, and it didn’t change his opinion of me. He still thought of me as smart, successful and beautiful in spite of my disease, and even brave for being honest about my condition and fighting for normalcy. Being accepted with bipolar is a big thing for me, given the stigma that many people place on those with mental illness. We are thought of as universally broken, crazy, incompetent and any number of qualities that would be undesirable in a relationship. So being with someone who didn’t think those things of me, and who treated me like the person I am was perfect, most of the time.

Things with Ronald moved into bad relationship territory after about a year, when he started to become less communicative. Instead of him immediately returning my texts and phone calls, he’d go a day or two without contacting me. We’d see each other for lunches, but our dinners and weekend sleepovers turned into Ronald leaving my house after sex and requisite cuddling. I tried not to think anything of it, attributing the change in his behavior to the natural ebb and flow of a relationship. I thought about asking him what was up, but I was afraid to bring up the topic. Like a lot of women, I suppose I didn’t want to confront Ronald about the changes because I was afraid of what I might learn. Instead of talking about it, I ruminated and became depressed.

In the midst of depression, I did things that I would not have ordinarily done. I ignored my instinct to bring up my concerns to Ronald, preferring instead to wonder what I’d done wrong to change his behavior. I told myself that as long as I never said anything, I was in a relationship and having someone was better than being alone. I told myself that I’d never find anyone else who cared about me as much as Ronald did because of our history together. And I lied to myself, believing that I’d never find another man who’d accept me with my bipolar disorder and that I needed to hang on to Ronald as long as possible, no matter what. After all, he wasn’t exactly treating me badly, and he still told me that he loved me, so there was probably no reason to worry. He was probably just stressed out at work or something like that, and since men can’t multitask, everything would eventually return to normal.

As often happens in these cases, my relationship with Ronald never returned to its initial, happier tenor. We still talked and texted frequently, but we saw each other less and less. For months, I still held on to the belief that Ronald was my boyfriend, even though we were more like friends who had sex every time we hung out. I realized that while he’d frequently come to my apartment, I’d only once seen where he lived. And I noticed that he’d become increasingly vague about his whereabouts, particularly when rejecting my invitations to get together. I suspected that he’d begun seeing another woman and still I didn’t confront him because I thought it meant losing the only person who really accepted and understood me. I remained depressed, trapped in a series of negative thoughts about my self-worth and my relationship prospects as someone living with mental illness.

Of course, Ronald eventually confessed that he’d begun pursuing another woman, even while maintaining a romantic relationship with me. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to tell him never to contact me again since I don’t do liars and cheats. I know for sure that I never confronted Ronald because I was too depressed to think highly enough of myself to do so. I’ve been in other relationships in which I’ve felt good enough to end things when they went south, so I know that I can be honest with men about my needs. It was my mood that enhanced my feelings of self-doubt and the belief that I was unlovable, and those feelings made me stay in a bad relationship.

“Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.