I Cannot March But I Can Stand

On Saturday, people around the nation converged to march for reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, civil rights, disability rights and so much more. I was not one of them. Not for a lack of desire, not for a lack of passion, but for my own mental well-being.

On my academic disability form, I’m listed as having social anxiety and bipolar type II. Do I really have social anxiety, though? I love public speaking, meeting new people, being in positions of power. How do I have social anxiety? If you see a movie with me, expect to be there 40 minutes early and sit right on the aisle. Crowds? I’ll have a panic attack. Being in large groups of people with no immediate way to exit makes me feel like my chest is caving in on itself. It’s not just the anxiety that makes large crowds next to impossible, though, but the bipolar type II as well. Bipolar disorder is defined as “a bipolar spectrum disorder (see also Bipolar disorder) characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of major depression”. As of late, even with my medication I’ve been hanging on the hypomania side of the spectrum, characterized by persistent disinhibition and euphoria with an easily irritable mood. To prevent escalation of the hypomania, certain self-care must be taken. I haven’t had caffeine for almost a year now, I sleep (or try to) for seven hours a night, I keep a consistent schedule, I try to avoid high stress or high stimulation situations. If I slip up on any of these things, it’s not just a possibility of my hypomania worsening but a reality.

As much as marching for everything I believe in would give me joy, it would also worsen my mental health. I have so much respect and love for everyone who is able to march in support of these issues but I also have that exact same respect and love for those who can’t due to their disabilities, be it physical, mental, or other. There are many other ways to show support for these causes, be it donating to organizations such as Planned Parenthood or simply writing to your local representative. Don’t let your disability restrict you from doing something you love, but figure out the best way for you to participate while still keeping your health and well-being in mind.

If I let myself slip further towards hypomania, I won’t be able to function well enough to continue working for these causes I care so much about. I won’t be able to support my friends who are struggling with the issues so many are marching for. If I don’t have my health, I lose my ability to fight. That isn’t something I’m willing to lose.