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: 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.