Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Life is No Picnic

I was having a conversation with a good friend on Friday, someone I had not spoken to in a while. We both have had a lot going on in our lives, between work and whatever life has thrown at us. I was talking about how I was feeling (sad, anxious, emotional, fragile, unable to handle crowds/interact with others) and how I was not able to attend an event. I said that I felt like my reasons for not going “sounded stupid” and people wouldn’t understand.

My friend said something along the lines of, “Don’t stay it’s stupid, it’s not, don’t put yourself down- don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone experiences things differently. Something big may seem small to one person or something small may seem big to another person. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

I tearfully said, “You’re right. I guess I am in such a bad place my thoughts are telling me no one will understand and that it’s stupid and not real.” Hearing this from him and the words coming out of my mouth made me realize I was invalidating my own feelings and telling myself my emotions/feelings/thoughts don’t mean anything. I was judging myself.

It made me realize that I am in a darker place than I would like to be in right now. My friend, who had experienced depression before, tried to remind me that it can’t last forever and it will pass and though I won’t know when it will happen, the important thing is that it will happen. He also said, “There is a saying, life is no picnic.” The pessimist in me says, “I hate the idea of a picnic and being outside with bugs,” but the optimist in me says, “We would never know strength or appreciate what we have if we didn’t experience challenges.”

I know I have been in this dark place before but I don’t remember what brought me out of it. It’s a strange feeling to be in a mixed state and feel the symptoms of depression, hypomania, sadness, feel hyper, hopeless, have insomnia, anxious, tired, confused and frustrated. I can go from wanting to eat a whole bag of sour cream and onion chips to being completely disinterested in food and insisting I don’t need to eat. So, from emotional eating to avoidance of food. I feel all over the place and nowhere at the same time. I feel inflated and deflated. I try on numbness to shield myself but it doesn’t always work. I try to shield myself from myself, but the shield isn’t always strong enough.

It’s frustrating to know I can’t fix certain situations and I can’t fix my own brain, but, I can learn to reframe my thoughts, to distract myself, to try to stick to a routine and to watch out for triggers. I always remind myself of all I have learned about myself and this illness over the past 6 years, so I can remember that while life isn’t a picnic or a walk in the park, there are many reasons to keep on going.

What I do know (or as Oprah says, “What I know for sure”) is that having friends who care about you, who are like family, helps. If you can’t be yourself around someone, or worry about being judged, then that someone just isn’t for you. Just remember my favourite Dr. Seuss Quote, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” If you can be at your worst and let someone in or let them be there for you without you protesting, that says a lot. There are very few people I let in (aside from my husband), but those friends are like family to me. They know my patterns and know when I need them the most. I am always grateful for the text messages, impromptu visits, late night chats with friends who keep me company during these times. I think you know who you are, and thank you a million times over.



Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Anticipatory Anxiety

Why do you always anticipate? What are you worrying about? How do you know how you will feel?

Anxiety doesn’t always make sense. I don’t always know what causes prolonged periods of anxiety, but there are some times where I have “situational” anxiety because I am anticipating too much.

Every time I get an invitation for an event or learn this is an event or party I have to go to I start worrying and anticipating. Who will be there, what will I wear, what if I get a migraine, what if I can’t handle seeing people and of course, what if I’m anxious? What if, what if, what if????

I get anxious about the thought of being anxious. I experience anticipatory anxiety.

I know I can talk myself out of anxiety (though it takes a lot of effort), but I can just as easily talk myself into anxiety if I think about all the items on my never-ending to do list, about going to events and anything that involves change. It doesn’t take much these days.

So of course, being invited to 4 weddings that are taking place in the span of 8 weeks brought on panic attacks.

The first of these weddings was last weekend. My husband and I were part of the wedding party. I was feeling anxious leading up to it, because I had been feeling antisocial most of the summer and was not ready to interact with too many people and of course, the venue was a new environment. During the rehearsal a few days before, I was panicked because I thought the ceremony was going to be really long and I was worried about standing in front of so many people (since I hate when people “watch” me). You would think this would be easy for me, having already gone through my own wedding, but once a shy person, always a shy person. Of course, it was a nice wedding, everything was nice and I enjoyed it and of course so did the bride and groom.

We have other weddings and events to go to, and I know leading up to those events I will have a mini-war with my brain about how I am going to feel and I won’t feel okay until I get to the event, because that’s how it always is when I don’t know what to expect in unfamiliar environments, and that’s what anticipatory anxiety is.

I have to remind myself of how far I have come since my first panic attack over 13 years ago and all that I have been able to do. I have to. Going to an event for a few hours is only a temporary situation. If I try to enjoy myself and make the most of it, it will go by faster. I have to remember that I am stronger than I think I am!