This Bipolar Life: Chronic Illness

I ran across an interesting conversation about this subject recently so I figured it’d be good blog fodder.

Chronic illness: Continuing a long time or recurring frequently.

Mental illness belongs in that definition too. It matters. It is a medical condition caused by a *physical* chemical imbalance and it comes with a set of spoons and vocabulary.

Mental illnesses can be and often are chronic. So are a ton of physical illnesses and I know so many people who are facing severe pain all day every day. Chronic illnesses are no joke. Almost all of them are frequently very tough with flares, pain, injuries, fatigue, weight gain/loss and so many more difficult symptoms I could not possibly capture them all.

My point is just that we don’t need to compare illnesses to use a common language. We’re here and can stand together in support of each other if we try.

Image credit: MediSave (no affiliation – just liked the image for the topic)

NOTE: The image is nowhere near comprehensive of all chronic illnesses and I know this. It’s just meant to be referential.

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: The Dance

Better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t, right?

If I had known how things were going to turn out there are some choices I might make differently. What I’ve discovered though is that mistakes are lessons to learn. These might be painful to recall and process (with or without therapy) but the truth is just that. Facts can’t be discarded based on what I hope was different. What’s happened has done so and cannot be changed. However, improvement is always available and even a small step forward is sometimes the tiny bit of “oomph!” to give me what I need to keep going. 

I have chosen to see my bipolar disorder as something I treat and effectively work with while pursuing a successful career and relationships. To me it is a dance. One step forward and sometimes a step or two back, but always dancing forward regardless, just not always sure of the tempo.

It’s not something I would like to do and it’s cost me a metric ton of losses over the years but I’m getting better and managing the fancy footwork. Bipolar wants to twist my steps, pull me down or skyrocket me up and I refuse to let it, at least as much as is possible, because I want a stable life. As my therapist and psych dr. both say, I’m pretty stable and my bipolar is being treated successfully. Apparently this means I’m now strong enough to get my shit together, grow up, get a backbone where a wishbone once was and start contributing more intentionally and frequently.

I was resistant at first because I’ve been dancing with my demons for at least 15 years and didn’t think I would ever get out of my entrenched patterns. The truth is I still have a hard time and although I’m working diligently to improve it’s not always forward progress. Due to an excellent therapist and self-knowledge efforts, I know where I’m going but sometimes it feels like I’m just going ‘round and ‘round in circles, you know?

When someone brings a character or behavioral issue to me I try to keep an open mind and be receptive to respectful critique. That’s generally not what happens though. Usually I get immediately defensive and stand my ground regardless of whether I’m right. I tend to think whatever my opinion or version of something is the truth. I forget that my memory is not what I would like and sometimes (ok, lots of times) I need to be reminded to accurately recall something or realize I don’t truly “get it” and finally defer to other people’s memories. As I’m sure you can appreciate this is extremely frustrating, but it is a reality of my disorder.

I survive it. I will continue to do so. As above, it’s better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t. At this point I am intimately aware of all the ups and downs of bipolar and ready to two-step anytime. I’m the boss of my bipolar.

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: News Update 8/4/19

Here is the latest and greatest news about bipolar disorder throughout the world. Of course this is not exhaustive but it’s a nice wrap up of a few important articles. I hope you enjoy the post and feel free to ask me questions in comments or via email.

The Unacknowledged Prejudice Against People Living With Mental Illness – James Norman (7/13/19)

There is widespread focus on racial, gender and wage, and LGBTQ+ rights/discrimination. However, in my opinion, little attention is given to the facts, conditions and prejudices faced by people with mental illness because of the policies and practices of federal/state agencies, public/private employers, as well as the population at large…

Saoirse Kennedy Hill once wrote about her depression. Patrick Kennedy wants you to read her words – Jason Hanna (8/3/19)

Former US Rep. Patrick Kennedy left office years ago to focus on battling a drug addiction and bipolar disorder. Now, after his relative Saoirse Kennedy Hill died this week, he’s praising her for…

9 Taboo Manifestations of Bipolar Disorder – Cherie Davies (8/2/19)

For me, bipolar is a dense demon to diminish. Although people experience it differently, this symptom showcases the complex nature of bipolar. It can be pretty hard to come to terms with, especially with mental illness being such a taboo subject…

Strategies to help prevent infanticide, suicide in postpartum psychosis – Luykx JJ, et al. JAMA Psychiatry. (7/31/19)

For the prevention of infanticide and suicide in the postpartum period, experts wrote that inpatient care — preferably at a mother-infant unit — is vital to guarantee safety, complete the diagnostic evaluation and initiate treatment…

Thanks for reading and please, if there is something you’d like me to post about, just let me know 🙂

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