(This post first appeared on my blog, PS I’m Bipolar)
My head hurts (and not just because I’ve had a migraine for 4 days).
It’s this build up of anger and irritability and thoughts.
So many thoughts – I don’t know what to do with them. There are so many at once, I can’t make sense of all of them, or write them down in time so that I won’t forget them- once they are forgotten about, they won’t come back.
I subscribe to BP Magazine (Bipolar Magazine) – and the Summer 2014 issue had an article about irritability and how it might predict mood swings/mood changes. I realize that sometimes my main symptom of depression is irritability (aside from very very very low motivation) but the irritability also precedes hypomania. I can have these very short bursts of hypomania (compared to how long the depression lasts). I am lucky in that the depression is not “paralyzing” in that I can still go to work, and leave my condo and do what I have to do, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. I just don’t present as overtly “sad” or “depressed”- or what “normal” people think depressed looks like…Because in the media, in the movies, on TV, depressed looks sad, despondent etc.
People assume persons with bipolar have marked symptoms and marked cycles. Because I have learned the art of suppression, it is harder for others to tell when the changes happen. I know when they are happening and shrug them off as best I can.
And I do think it is possible to be hypomanic (hyper) and sad at the same time. Just like you can be surrounded by people and still feel alone.
A few weeks ago I was out for a friend’s 30th birthday and after the dinner portion, which went on for 3+ hours, we went to a lounge/club and I just wasn’t feeling up for it and I could not bring myself to enjoy one minute of it. I just felt tired and exhausted and completely out of my element. That used to be my scene. I used to be able to go to these places and party and be carefree. USED to. Before the bipolar diagnosis in summer 2010. Before my anxiety returned in early 2008.
Isn’t it funny how a diagnosis changes everything? When I first met my psychiatrist, and we discussed family history, she put it out there that it was possible, that I could be bipolar, or it could happen. I have been seeing her since December 2002. I had developed anxiety in the Spring of 2003 – generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and agoraphobia briefly (thankfully- since it was the end of 1st year university and I had 3 more years to go). In January 2008, after the anxiety returned on New Year’s Eve of all days, we spoke of the possibility of bipolar again. And sure enough, in July 2010, diagnosis confirmed after a week of pure hypomania and sheer anxiety (thank you high dose of Celexa).
My prescriptions cost over $6,000 a year. Unfortunately, my work insurance plan only covers a maximum of $2,000 in prescriptions per year. But, as mentioned in a previous post, it is a better environment.
So, at the back of my mind, for years, I knew of the possibility of developing bipolar. But I didn’t understand what bipolar was, or what it could do. I just knew that I had a grandfather who passed away 5 years before I was born that had bipolar and an uncle I’ve never met who is bipolar. And other relatives who suffer with depression.
I have no friends with bipolar disorder. I have friends who have had struggles with anxiety disorders and overcome them. i managed to do very well off of antidepressants for a few years in between 2005-2008. That was my only reprieve.
I think the hardest part is accepting the diagnosis. And receiving the diagnosis of bipolar, or any mental illness, is just as hard as receiving a diagnosis of a serious physical condition or illness. There is a before and an after. There is no going back.
Maybe I am irritable because I wish I could go back, and warn myself to enjoy life before this happens…But everything happens for a reason, and I want to be a writer, that is what I always pictured myself doing. So, maybe this bipolar diagnosis gives me my purpose, and will help me to achieve my ultimate goal- writing a book.
The question is, do I write it in my own name, or a pseudonym. I could only imagine how my future in-laws would react if I wrote it in my own name!
I read two really amazing books written by successful people with bipolar, A Bipolar Life by Steve Millard and Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac by Bruce Goldstein. And they were brave enough to write in their own names.
I am irritable because I can’t do things as fast as I used to, be as productive as I used to, enjoy things the way I used to, sleep as well, exercise, control my emotions, be happy when I want to, get rid of the anger, be nice on command….
I am a high functioning bipolar person, yes, but I am used to more from myself. I know I am smart, I know I am capable, but I have seen myself do better and I want it back. Part of the problem is I am too aware of what is happening to me, but I am not able to stop it. It is frustrating, it is like watching a movie or a TV show and yelling at the characters, trying to tell them not to do something, but they just can’t hear you.
If someone asked me, what would make me happy, I would have to say honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things right now, which makes me angry.
I have immense difficulties making decisions, and I have perfectionist tendencies- not that that is a bad thing when it comes to work, because the quality of my work is great and appreciated in my workplace, but it means that until I am satisfied with what I write, I have to agonize over every little punctuation mark, re-word things etc.
Even writing this blog post is a project – I sit here hoping that the writing sounds great and smart!
I was composing an email to my bridesmaids and it took me half an hour because I was thinking “Oh I hope this sounds good, does this sound right? Will the future sister-in-laws feel they are being acknowledged properly?” etc. I know I shouldn’t be stressing about petty things like that…but if you meet them, you would understand.
We all say “I don’t care what other people think” or “I don’t give a sh** what other people think of me” but the truth is we do. We want to be liked, we want to be appreciated, we don’t like confrontation. Except for when we are irritable, then we seek out confrontation.
Being irritable all the time is dangerous- I have been irritable for months- it is very very hard to keep it together and not blow up at everyone over stupid things. And to not be petty. The best remedy is laughter- find something funny to watch, laughter helps. My grandfather always said laughter is the best medicine. He passed away unexpectedly in January, which was a huge blow to my family and I still can’t process that he is gone, he was a mentor to me, and was the best history professor. He was one of a kind. He never complained about his lot in life. We should all learn to be like him.
And then when I think of that, I get mad at myself for my pity party. Do you do that too? Feel guilty for being irritable, depressed, down, manic, whatever your state is? Minimize what you are feeling? That’s what we think we are supposed to do…but we are doing nothing wrong by having actual feelings. Humans feel, humans think. We are only human, we are allowed to make mistakes, to have emotions, to be emotional and have several emotions, even if they contradict each other.
So I have to learn to 1. Love myself 2. Not be angry at myself 3. Accept my diagnosis 4. Let it out 5. Tell my family to accept whatever mood I am in.
These are all hard to do, for different reasons. It is very hard to love yourself. You have to forgive yourself for all the “stupid mistakes” and “regrets” and understand it is part of your journey and there will be more, but in the end, you get to where you are supposed to be.
#2 is part of #1. Once I forgive myself, maybe I will stop being angry at myself. I have to stop expecting perfection out of myself. I don’t have to cook a perfect meal. I don’t have to write the most grammatically correct sentence, with the most complex, intellectual words in every paragraph I write. My home office does not have to be perfect. I have to stop stressing so I will stop losing my hair, and stop developing acne, and then stop touching my face, so I will stop having scars from the acne! Vicious cycle. Maybe once all of this happens, I will want to take better care of myself.
#3- Acceptance- well, the diagnosis is here to stay. What I am supposed to do with that? I am not going to stand on the top of a rooftop somewhere with a megaphone and shout out, “Hi everyone, I just wanted you to know I have bipolar II”. There are people who will say “good for you for doing that” and others who will look at me like I have leprosy. Some people just won’t understand. I have to accept it before others do, and it’s my diagnosis to accept first, and my acceptance is what counts, not the acceptance of others. I also read in my BP Magazine, regarding irritability and triggers that people have different triggers, and of course we know that no 2 people have the exact same experience being bipolar, depressed, or whatever mental illness they have. Everyone is different.
#4. I don’t know how to let it out with out exploding or I just end up suppressing what I am feeling. I will just let it pass, or end up having a tearful episode. I need to find an outlet- like what I am doing now, which is writing. The last time I felt I had to let it out, I wrote a blog post. Maybe I am learning. I think my perception of letting it out is narrow, and I interpret to mean, share with someone else. I prefer to write it down, or talk to my doctor.
#5 My family has to accept what bipolar looks like, whether they want to or not. I am not saying this includes future in-laws, because I do not have that level of comfort. They are aware of its existence but have not seen it in action. This of course is why certain comments have been made “i.e. I don’t understand how you are able to work” or “why are you bothering to have an engagement party, or a wedding if you have such bad anxiety”. Just because I don’t have overt symptoms in front of them, or all the time, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If I want to be tearful, sad, angry, mad, happy, hyper, giddy, LET ME. My parents and fiance should be happy that I am comfortable enough to take of the mask/facade. I am myself in front of the friends that know. I test the waters and if they are not frightened by me being hyper one week and quiet the next, then I know they are not afraid. I am not saying I am a dangerous person, I am just a variety of moods so some people may not understand how or why. The only person I am ever a danger to is myself, because I may not want to eat or sleep. I would never do anything worse than that. There is no situation that can’t be handled or fixed.
I hope other people read this and nod their heads and say, “yeah I know what she means”. I am sure other people have relatives or in-laws or significant others who forget what the mood shifts look like, and don’t understand at times, just how frustrating it is to be bipolar. Or people who still have trouble digesting the diagnosis because of the stigma society attaches to mental illnesses and therefore fear telling others. And people who have trouble with self-esteem and self-love and are afraid to be their true selves.
If you want to be irritable, or whatever mood you’re in, embrace the mood and let it out.