This Bipolar Life: The Coin Toss

Making decisions is not my strength, yet. I’m working on it but the whole finality of the choices gets me. Like, what if I’m wrong? What if it goes sideways? What if? What if? What if? Increasingly I am also making sure to wonder if I’m right too and that’s helping!

Fortunately I have tools to use. I use techniques like remembering to go through pros/cons and asking those around me to help play out the scenario over coffee/zoom. Their feedback is invaluable as I don’t quite trust my gut just yet (another thing I’m working on) because although my mind is on point my brain chemicals can get whacky occasionally and cloud my ability to clearly see options.

Seriously though, I’m a grown-ass woman who often get’s stuck and can’t figure out what to watch on tv, which craft to pick up, which project to start, business to launch, relationships to end/start, meals to make, jobs to choose, careers, empty nest decoration…just all of it. Talk about ridiculous, right? Well I have a tool that works really well, here goes:

My solution – AND IT WORKS 100% FOR ME – has been to rely on a coin-toss. After becoming fully aware of my choices, benefits and consequences I figure out my top two options and throw a coin up. While it’s in the air I instinctively know which one I want. Heads or tails, each representing a commitment to seeing something through, and I know. Instantly. Before it hits the ground, which choice I want.

ALWAYS. Then, no matter how the coin lands, I’ve finally made my decision and I can move on.

Just one tool that works for me. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too!

This Bipolar Life: Goldilocks and Me

Almost universally people with mental illnesses struggle with figuring out when they can trust their brains. Like, at what point is my depressed brain overriding my daily existence? When does it stop and I find a new normal? How do I know? When can I trust it? Now? Later? When I’ve gone X time since the last depression/mania? How long does that need to be before it’s okay to have faith in my thoughts and feelings?

These are just some of the questions that have bounced around my mind over the past several months as my moods have gone from chaos to relatively stabilized. See, I began weekly solution-based talk therapy about a year ago and four months ago removed some meds from my routine.

Now, when I rate my moods they’re all solidly in the middle, between ‘Slightly Happy’ and ‘Really Happy’ with the occasional ‘Kind of Sad’ but no longer any manic or devastating lows. Like, nothing. No spikes, no depressions, just middle. Like Goldilocks.

“Normal” is something I have worked for. Hard. I make efforts every single day to help live with my bipolar disorder but I still don’t trust it. I’ve lived with the chaos of depression and mania swings for so long this feels wrong. I mean, it’s good, not bad, but scary. Seems weird, huh? Like, how could you finally find a decent stability only to question it?

I do question it. I do worry. I want to trust it. So desperately.

Right now I’m taking a leap of faith.

In myself.

I can do this.

This Bipolar Life: Violence of the Mind

Before I dive deep on this please know I am in a stable place. I would have to be to even write this. Please keep any comments kind and supportive as this is easily one of the most vulnerable posts for me since I’ve started years ago.

Ever see those “8 things a bipolar person doesn’t want to talk about”? Well today I’m doing a bit of a post about that from my perspective. I’m totally owning mine. One of the things “most people with bipolar never want to admit” is that we are more prone to having more physical, emotional and physical agitation than the general population. Trust me, mania (hypo- or otherwise) doesn’t always involve euphoria, major spending, and grandiose thoughts. Emotionally, mentally, verbally and yes, in some rare cases, even physical violence can happen. In fact the behaviors I list below are also considered manic.

Here are my eight:

  1. I have yelled to the point of rage
  2. I have demanded things be done on my schedule
  3. I have expected others to do exactly as I did
  4. I have enforced what later appear to be fairly draconian house rules
  5. I have slammed the door behind me countless times
  6. I have slammed things on the sofa more than once
  7. I’m sure I’ve thrown more than one tantrum in my time, yes, even as an adult.
  8. So much more here that I either a) don’t feel like owning yet or b) the list is too long

In fact, my bipolar runs a pretty wide gamut. Sometimes I want to buy everything and give it away to make people happy, at times I’ve been paranoid because I was making mountains out of molehills. However, my agitation-related emotions are far less known symptoms and often I don’t understand what’s going on myself (much less those around me) well before I’m dealing with the the damage left behind.

Sometimes the injuries to other people can be repaired and others, well other times relationships are lost. Big and little ones. Not always but frankly it’s not uncommon. Sadly, sometimes friends are just not able to withstand the vagaries of being friends with someone who lives with bipolar disorder.

So I decided to do something about it. I’ve been actively working on my own anger management for the past year and although I’m nowhere near perfect my internal reactions have reduced some. This gives me room to respond in a way much more respectful, both to the other person and to myself.

Remember folks: Respond rather than React. Harder than it seems but critical.

More (very helpful) info can be found at this 2017 MedLine article.

This Bipolar Life: Remind me. Please.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who would need a small sapling worth of post-its just to keep me organized. I have a paper organizer. I have a fancy-dancy digital organizer. I have my phone calendar and notes. Hell, I even have a “sticky notes” app on my laptop.

Why so many? Because I need that many reminders. Yes, I really do. And so do many people with bipolar disorder. I wonder why it’s such a challenge for us. I know I literally copy things into every one of those formats just so I’ll remember them.

I know everyone forgets things but for people with bipolar disorder it can be quite different. For many of us it’s a brain fog issue. What’s that? Well it’s kind of like how when some stomps on your toe and then asks you to recite the alphabet. Can’t do it, right? Because the brain can only really focus on one thing at a time and people with bipolar disorder are often trying to think *through* the bipolar curtain. As so many memes say, the struggle is real.

I *often* forget appointments. It totally slips my mind that “xyz” likes “abc” on their <insert food here> or that so-and-so doesn’t like to do something. I show up late. I call and cancel. I freeze and don’t call at all. Really. It can get pretty bad.

I live completely unaware of my social calendar, especially when I make plans while manic that my depressed self no longer feels up to doing. I usually don’t realize I’ve done it until afterward and then I have a mess to clean up and an apology to give. Again.

And that’s not even going into the safety aspect.

And yes, brain fog and forgetfulness can be a safety issue. For me at least. I have left burners on, ovens still going, doors unlocked, and more. I now have a piece of paper taped on my stairwell reminding me to check the stove, oven, door, pets and candles. I have the same note by the front door. I need that kind of help. I’m not the only one.

Reminders are important. If you’re worried about using them please remember how beneficial they can be in keeping your world running smoothly and with fewer disappointments. Stop being prideful. Start being humble and recognizing this new limitation that *sometimes* might affect you.

If there is someone in your life you are concerned about please have this conversation with them. Do they need help remembering? Who knows? They might really appreciate it and feel relieved they don’t have to do it all alone anymore. Love comes in many forms and helping someone you care about who needs reminders is just one.

This Bipolar Life: Professional Mania

Here’s a story I’ve never shared: About two years ago I bought a new car, okay I did so with a loan, but I still put my ass in a new class of manic, even for me. Brand new. I didn’t even test drive it. Nothing. They pulled it up and I signed the papers. Even with horrible interest rates due to my terrible credit rating (you know, the well known spending/debt aspect of bipolar). Regardless of these risks, and I did understand them, I still just bought it. It was pretty. It was new. It would be mine. 

Had I gotten inside I would have realized it wasn’t the right car for me. It doesn’t “fit” quite right and it has zero in fancy features. Not that every car needs to have built-in GPS but I was awfully used to it in my prior car, a Honda Odyssey minivan. That thing had a ton of features but I didn’t take good care of it so I eventually needed a replacement. Heck, I even hate that “my new car” has fabric seats so it can get stained – yay? Something that I really can’t stand. I probably would have walked away or at least bought something different. Maybe.

Anyway, that night I drove home in a beautiful blue suv with the worst case of buyer’s remorse I’ve ever had. I should have been flying high and excited about my new car. Wouldn’t other people be if they bought a new vehicle? Reveling in the new car smell and the “newness” of everything around them. Learning the signals and the windshield wipers and the radio and all that fun stuff. But not me, I knew I had gone above and beyond anything I’d done manic in the past and yet I just kept driving. I could have turned around and nullified the entire deal but I didn’t. Why? 

Because I would look like an idiot, I told myself. Because I would have to confess my stupidity and make “them” look at me with sympathy. Because I wasn’t sure I would be able to get out from under the loan I’d agreed to. So many more reasons I won’t go into but they were definitely swirling inside my head turning what should have been a wonderful moment into something ugly and unpleasant. Anxiety swirled all around me and all I could think of was how much I’d f’d up. It was all my fault. I wanted to throw up. I had failed at impulse control. Again. This time I’d gotten myself into a situation of such magnitude there was no way to get out of it that wouldn’t be overly difficult.

Right after and to this day I regret every signature. I know I am very grateful for a universe that allowed me to have a functional and beautiful car but often I just feel a slew of emotions when I swing open the door. Every time I climb in to drive I am reminded of my illness. The guilt in those moments just makes me nauseous. And it is all my own fault.

I knew all of this and yet I still did it. I. Did. It. Anyway.

And that, my friends, is professional-grade mania.