Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

From My Journal

I always keep a journal in my purse in case I have ideas for blogs or thoughts I need to get out of my head. A few weeks ago I had this idea to make a list of things I “want” and how I “want to feel” and this was the result:

I want to feel unencumbered.

I want to know what it feels like not to hide in plain sight, what it feels like to be able to be easygoing, spontaneous and free, because I am none of the aforementioned.

I want that elephant sitting on my chest to find a new home; not in my brain or in another part of me, even if it’s temporary.

I want to know who “myself” is, so when someone says “You don’t seem like yourself” I know who they are talking about.

I want to stop looking over my shoulder, wondering when anxiety is coming.

I want to stop the feeling of suffocating from the inside.

I want to breathe deeply and take it all in.

I want to look in the mirror and recognize the person staring back at me.

I want to feel comfortable in my own skin.

I want to sleep and have good dreams and not dread going to sleep.

I want to be fearless.

I want to be courageous.

I want to make people understand what it feels like to have this brain.

I want to escape my thoughts.

I want a break from a racing mind overloaded with thoughts.

I want to shake it off,  let it go, forgive and forget.

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

When Numb Is How You Want To Feel

The feelings and emotions I experience are too intense to handle sometimes. To shield myself, I try to become “numb” so I don’t have to deal with what is going on. It’s not healthy but it’s how I have coped with events that have happened over the past three years.

I have been experiencing a mixed state for a while and my mind is so confused. I never know how I will feel when I wake up each day or how my mood will be throughout the course of a day. Will I be sad for most of the day, or will I experience a hyper mood later on?

When sad things or difficult situations happen, I transition into numbness by becoming “hyper”, because that way nothing can bother me. I try to appear “functional” by appearing “productive” and as if I am coping okay.

The problem is I make myself tired, and the feelings are ignored.

I typically experience anxiety every day in some form, but the severity varies. Last week I experienced an episode where I was convinced that I could not leave my home. I only felt safe there. It upset me because when I first experienced anxiety, I had agoraphobia and I know I do not want to experience that again.

In a numb state, you don’t feel, nothing bothers you, and you have a shell to protect you, but it doesn’t last forever and you do have to “feel” again. I want to be numb so I don’t have to feel anxiety or feel deep sadness.

Numbness may seem like a good state when you don’t want to face reality, but I have to stop using it as my defense mechanism before I burn out. Numbness is not self-care after all.

Bipolar Disorder, International Bipolar Foundation, My Real Opinion

#DearTeenageMe, Remember Where You’ve Been And How Far You’ve Come

This post originally appeared on International Bipolar Foundation’s website: 

Strength Confidence Within

I graduated from high school 14 years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago. I was a good student, I had friends, I experienced “teenage angst”, moments where I thought “my life was over” because I had a fight with a friend or something “embarrassing” happened. I was unaware of the 1 in 5 Canadians has a mental illness statistic and mental illness seemed like something that wouldn’t directly touch me. But it wasn’t long after graduating high school that I had my first appointment with my psychiatrist, experienced a full blown panic attack and began the journey that eventually led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

If I was able to go back in time, and tell my teenage-self something comforting, I would tell her that “everything happens for a reason, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time”.

I would say, “You are just as capable as anyone else”. I used to worry that people would look at me differently if “they knew” my “dark secret”, because that’s what it felt like. I worried that I would be seen as non-functional, unreliable, untrustworthy, erratic, or irresponsible.

The truth is, I am a functioning, hard-working, creative, responsible, reliable individual. But, during the lead up to the diagnosis and the first while after the diagnosis I didn’t believe in myself and I lost my sense of self.

Did bipolar disorder define me? Did it steal my identity? Did it swallow me whole? It sure felt that way. For a long time, it felt like I had a perpetual dark cloud hanging over me and lightening could strike at any time. I was terrified of my thoughts. My thoughts didn’t make sense. My mind was my worst enemy and full of negative, anxious thoughts that destroyed my self-esteem, self-worth and made me question myself all the time.

To my teenage self, I would also say, “don’t let your diagnosis define you. One day, you will see that the dark cloud will subside and there will come a point in time where you find that you are comfortable with your diagnosis and with sharing your diagnosis on your own terms”.

I have felt more at peace with myself since I began blogging for Healthy Minds Canada and International Bipolar Foundation.  I am pursuing one of my greatest passions, writing, while sharing messages of hope, resilience and a realistic view of living with bipolar disorder. I put my voice out there to #SayItForward and to educate others.

To be blunt, stigma sucks, and unfortunately we have a long way to go before we see the last of it, but don’t let it stop you from being an advocate and pursuing your passions.

One final message to my teenage self:  “You are a kind person, but don’t forget to be kind to yourself and to practice self-care. And always remember your favourite book quote, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important”.