This Bipolar Life: Life lesson #2,437,604

Okay, so I keep trying to find something super interesting to write about and all I can think is to share my life as much as I can. So, here’s something I’ve learned about myself: I can be impulsive, overly so, to the point where it can become destructive and challenging to manage. It’s almost always precipitated by an anxiety attack and at some point some impulses become compulsions. I’m not sure when and which but I know it sucks. Note that this is one of the key things I’m working on in therapy, promise!

Impulsive behavior and thoughts are part of bipolar 1 and unfortunately not new. They are alive and well and one of the most common behaviors. Easily magnified by atypical anti-psychotic meds like Abilify and Seroquel (see pgk inserts) impulsivity can be risky and damaging to the world around us.

So, what do you think of when the word ‘impulse’ comes up? Huge spending sprees? Picking up a random item at the check out aisle? Picking up a small child for a quick spin-around? Hopping on a plane/train/car for a quick “getaway”, unplanned and unprepared?

I have done all of these and then some. However, no one talks about the other side of impulsivity: opening our big fat mouths and spilling out a stream of consciousness. Behind a keyboard or in-person, doesn’t matter. Although, frankly, having a keyboard delays me just enough to edit, which can be better than continuing to blurt out words that are unhelpful and destructive.

This is one of the most difficult and disappointing behaviors in bipolar, because words, once said, cannot be taken back. Yet I frustratingly continue to engage in it, less so now as I’ve gotten further into the self-work to deal with it, but still way more than I would prefer. Mind you this happens during mania *and* depression so it’s not like I ever get a break from it – ugh!

It’s almost as if whatever is bouncing around in my head causing anxiety just has to be spilled out and talked to death for me to put order around the chaos of the thoughts themselves. In the process I can bring up conversation topics out of the blue and blow them out of proportion. This doesn’t always involve tears and such, it’s just sometimes really hard. Difficult to accept the reality of the destruction I leave in the wake of my ugly energy in those moments.

Once I realized my impulsivity was a product of 1) bipolar, 2) an over-active imagination, 3) not all about me and 4) a reality about myself that I could accept or drive myself mad trying to change. Does that mean I’m not intending to work on it? Not at all. Just that I’m not going to keep spinning my wheels in frustration when really all I want to do is discuss things. I find it difficult that those same conversations sometimes lead to unpleasant results. See? Really what I want is to control the outcome but yeah, that’s a tale for another post.

Anyway, remember that crystal ball I mentioned? Yeah, that’d be really helpful *before* I start opening my mouth, right? That said, I also am working on honoring what does. It can be quite useful in figuring out my triggers and areas for growth. So, guess that means it’s last night has handed me life lesson #2,437,604.

And….on to manage the next impulse!

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: Who Am I, Really?

For years I have said “I am bipolar” when talking about my illness. Now, in therapy lately I’ve been challenged to rethink how I relate to bipolar and its impact on my life. Now I say “I *have* bipolar” which is very different for me and how I hear it.

People’s reactions to my disclosure are always interesting. Mostly folks don’t understand and just start to change the way they talk with me or just ghost me instead. Sometimes people will ask questions and when that happens I’m more than willing to answer. Breaking the stigma is so important.

A good part of my identity shift is because I am being appropriately treated and although I am still going to have episodes over time for right now I have an illness and am functioning fairly well. I am a well functioning person with bipolar disorder. I now know I am capable and stronger than I think or feel. I have made great progress and fully intend to grow into the best me possible.

Because I’m worth the investment. Always.

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.