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.
I can do this.
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.
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:
- I have yelled to the point of rage
- I have demanded things be done on my schedule
- I have expected others to do exactly as I did
- I have enforced what later appear to be fairly draconian house rules
- I have slammed the door behind me countless times
- I have slammed things on the sofa more than once
- I’m sure I’ve thrown more than one tantrum in my time, yes, even as an adult.
- 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.
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.
I’m not really sure what to write sometimes. I wish I had profound things to pass along but the reality that I’m just one person and I’m not even particularly witty hits me pretty hard on occasion.
See, before the onset of my bipolar I was a wreck but had my good moments. Once we finally had a name for it there was a mixture of relief and fear. I was so grateful to have an answer and then fear because there is/was no cure. Nothing. I just became wrapped up in anxiety knowing I would have to live with this very difficult condition forever. No breaks.
I know some prefer to not have to talk about bipolar every day. Guess what? Me too. But this is my lived reality and I’m not going to sugar coat it for your comfort. That would be lying. That being said, do you really want me to write down every negative thing? Me either.
So, rather than going through every emotion just know the most common emotional response is just “blank” and my logic response “numb”. I just don’t talk about it as often as possible. Instead I focus on politics and social justice (that is why my degree is in after all!) as well as trying my best to read real books and not just do them on my handheld or audio book, both of which I kind of suck at doing.
Now, what do I do when I get to these places? Well there are a few DBT tricks I pull out of my toolkit. First is opposite action, which means exactly what is sounds like. Feeling like you don’t want to shower, just get the hell up and do it. Next if that isn’t enough do something that interferes with thought, very hot shower, holding an ice cube, putting your face and/or hair under a freezing stream of water.
Seriously, changing your physical state can have a huge impact. Finally, if neither of those work then I turn to radical acceptance and try to just allow what is happening to be. Harder than hell but supposedly it’s a skill I’m supposed to learn to use.
Weird, for someone who didn’t know what to write I’ve managed to do quite a bit of typing.