Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

How Well Do Your Friends Know You?

They say we have different friends for different reasons. There are times when you have to do some “spring cleaning” and determine which friends you do and don’t want in your life. While many of my friends know I have an anxiety disorder, not all of them know I have Bipolar Disorder and there are some I don’t think I want to tell.  Certain friends you know are not worth telling because they won’t know what to do with that information.

For example, someone who doesn’t believe in Western medicine and doesn’t believe that the treatment I receive is useful may not be the type of person I tell because I can foresee myself becoming frustrated and irritated at conversations over this. I have tried meditation and hypnosis and use these techniques when I don’t want to rely on benzodiazepines, but I know I wouldn’t be as functional as I am without my 4 medications, and that’s what works for me. Or it’s not worth telling people who use mental illnesses as adjectives, whether consciously or not because that is hard to be around. I’m sorry but the weather does not have Bipolar Disorder and I highly doubt you are in a state of depression because your favourite hockey team was eliminated from the playoffs. I know it’s really easy to forget and use the word “crazy” around someone who will find it offensive and refer to disappointing sports events as depressing. I am quick to point it out to people I know!

I read a couple of blog posts/articles about why we shouldn’t mental illnesses as metaphors and the dangers of doing so. By using mental illnesses as adjectives, their meanings change and people understand them less and less. Here are the links:

To get back on track, how well do my friends know me?

attitude195

At my bridal shower, there was a “How Well Do You Know The Bride” questionnaire, and  one of the questions was, “What is the bride’s greatest fear?” Two answers that irritated/insulted me were gluten and crowds. At my bachelorette party last weekend, there was a deck of cards called “How Well Do You Know The Bachelorette?” and guess what question reared its ugly head again? I was so mad! Of course my friend who was distributing the cards had no idea what each card said when she was handing them out. This time, two different people said gluten and crowds. So of course, because the answers were being said out loud across a very long table, I was somewhat embarrassed. The first thought that came to mind was, “What kind of impression am I giving off?” And then I thought, “Why do people think this about me?”.

In speaking with my friend about how/why this happened twice, we concluded that perhaps because the people who think I am afraid of crowds know I have anxiety assumed I was afraid of crowds. One of whom has seen me miss some events in the past. I explained to my friend that me avoiding events has nothing to do with fear of people. I am not actually afraid of crowds, that’s not the issue. Because I work full time in an office with 20 other people and have to be pleasant and “normal” all week, it is draining. I’m tired by the end of the week. In a crowd, I have to “work” a crowd and be pleasant and make conversation and if I am not in the mood to be around people because I don’t have the energy to, I would rather not be phony. I am not a phony person and sometimes I just want to be me, be moody and let it go so it would be better to be around the few people whom I can bare all to.

One other amusing question from this irritating deck of cards asked what type of ring my fiance got me, and someone answered, “A big one!” First of all, I am not a shallow person, and second of all, it’s a modest ring and I would never get anything “showy”; it’s very tasteful.

So what can I conclude from these events? Certain people really don’t know me or don’t know how to read me. But, those who really know me, are there for me and really care about me and I am lucky to have them. You don’t have to know my worst fear to be a close friend, but if you can accept my moods and help me during an anxiety attack, I know you get me. More importantly if I am comfortable enough to let them in to my life, and reach out to them when I am high or low and ask for help, that is a good sign.

snowflake

My wedding is in 3 weeks and someone once commented to me that she didn’t know how I would be able to handle an engagement party, two bridal showers and a wedding if I have Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder (because this person assumed I am afraid of crowds). I handled those parties. I will be great with the crowd at my wedding – it’s my day, and I can act how I want to and no one will question it. My Dad and I joked once that we should have signals so we can get each other out of conversations (like that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine and Jerry are supposed to help each other out). Luckily, our DJ wants us on the dance floor as much as possible. If there are two things that I know make me really happy, it’s good music and dancing like no one is watching.

The journey to this wedding has not been without difficulties – there have been frustrations, disappointments and it’s been difficult to enjoy the planning process. The frustrations – I will save that for another post- let’s just say they’ve helped me realize who my friends are, and given me some perspective on people’s true colours. I am finally in a calmer state about this wedding because all of the major things have been taken care of and I have a better picture of how the day will unfold. When I know what to expect, I am less anxious. I deserve to be happy and enjoy my wedding anxiety free.

For anyone who doesn’t understand how someone with a mental illness can be happy and enjoy life events – sorry to disappoint you, but I have the same right as you do to have and enjoy special occasions and life events. My mental illnesses doesn’t run my life. It may affect my ability to socialize at times, perhaps because I am tired or don’t want to explain myself to anyone, but I am allowed to have good days, be functional and be well. I got this.

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Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

You Know Yourself Best

I love going on Facebook and seeing articles in my newsfeed like: “What people with anxiety wish you knew”, “How not to talk to someone with anxiety”, “5 tips for helping someone with depression”, etc. I do read them sometimes, and sometimes they are true (for me), but sometimes they irritate me.

I read one about helping “someone with anxiety” a few days ago and the article itself made me anxious! The article said that you can help “someone with anxiety” by forcing him/her to remain “in the situation” and other things along those lines. I understand that different techniques work for different people. The gist of the article was that you have to force anxious people to face their fears and there were quotes from a psychiatrist or some authoritative figure about why this would be helpful. My reaction to that was “WTF….that is so mean! I would never do that to anyone anxious and I would never want anyone to do that to me!!!” I know if I am in a situation where I am anxious, I need to get out of there right away- and don’t tell me otherwise. I think forcing me to “face my fears” could possibly traumatize me further and then cause me to develop avoidance behaviours. That’s just me. As I am writing this I am actually feeling nauseous from thinking about anxiety/being anxious. That is how strong anxious thoughts can be! They literally make me sick.

Face your demons

And sometimes I come across an article that is actually meaningful and helpful. I came across this article, “How Not to Talk to Someone With Depression” and was surprised at how relatable it was. I especially enjoyed the following comment from the “Have you Tried” section:

Patients might also have pursued massage, acupuncture, yoga, crystals, whatever the fuck else. Trust me, people have tried. No, don’t tell me your aunt’s boyfriend’s sister went mud bathing and it cured her. Just don’t. It’s been tried.

Not everyone believes in Western medicine, or in one type of therapy. What works for you may not work for someone else. You can offer someone your advice, but it doesn’t mean they have to take it. As someone with anxiety, depression, highs, lows, rapid cycling, irritability and a whole lot of agitation, I have found that certain things help to put me at ease, and when I am feeling low and depressed, I know certain things make me feel worse and better. But only I know what works for me. And if the only solution sometimes is to take Ativan for a few days to get through a rough patch, and to take Rivotril to sleep, then I have to give in to what my mind/body needs me to do. They invented benzodiazepines for a reason right? It’s not a long-term solution, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works when you can’t turn your mind off and you can’t fend your thoughts off anymore.

Another great excerpt from the article,

The needs of individual people are hugely variable, so this isn’t a prescription for “how to support your depressed friends and family”. It’s a start. If you really want to know how to respond to depression, try asking the person who’s experiencing it – and don’t be offended if you’re rebuffed or the response is “I honestly don’t know.”

I don’t need to justify my state of mind to anyone; it is totally okay to say “I don’t know how I’m feeling” if that is the truth. This is my mind, these are my moods and I will deal with them how I see fit. I have an incredibly strong will and I am very strong, and I am allowed to feel what I feel. I am allowed to just “be”, to not feel, to feel “numb”, confused, irritated, however I want to feel.

accomplishment

My wedding is in 5 weeks, and I am definitely feeling nervous and anxious about it. We are very organized, all the main things have been taken care of, but we still have things to cross off our checklist, there have been many aggravations of various sizes, and stressful (non-wedding) situations that have been ongoing. I haven’t been sleeping well and my eating habits are off. I feel like my throat is closing on me, my chest is so tight and I am of course anxious which makes me nauseous and all of those somatic symptoms make me more anxious (And I am literally breaking into a sweat right now)! It’s a cruel vicious cycle and because I am beyond exhausted, it’s been really hard to be calm, to relax and to get out of the hypomanic state that has been going on for 2 months. You can imagine how irritated I am when someone says, “Your wedding is so soon! Wow, do you have everything done?” or, “You must be getting stressed”, “Are you nervous?”… You know, the typical questions. First of all, I get annoyed having to repeat myself, and I just don’t feel like responding but it’s not a good idea to be rude to prospective wedding guests! If people really knew me, they would know better than to ask.

I want to stop thinking about “the wedding” so my mind will be quiet and I can stop feeling this way, even if it’s for a few minutes. I know it will be a wonderful day, I will be happy, I will feel beautiful, it’s just the anticipation and build up that gets me worked up (typical anxious person). I am still somewhat of a shy person so greeting all these guests will be a lot to handle, and having so much attention on me will be too.

I told my fiance today I am worried about being anxious that day, and he told me just to give him a signal, and he will make me laugh to distract me (which usually helps relieve some anxiety) – and that’s why I am marrying him. No explanation needed- he gets me.

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