Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

Functional Anxiety

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website:


If dysthymia is persistent mild depression, is there a clinical term for persistent mild anxiety?

There should be.

I’ve been feeling a chronic, mild state of anxiety for so long. I’m going to call it functional anxiety.

I have established a “baseline” anxiety and “baseline” depression level. I hate that they are both there daily, but I do have days that are better than others, my so-called “functional days”.

I find that the symptoms of both anxiety and depression are challenging to deal with but for different reasons. The symptoms of depression are easier to deal with when I am in public/at work. I find anxiety is a bit trickier because of the physical symptoms that come with being anxious like becoming overheated, becoming flushed, difficulty breathing etc.

I have mentioned before that I have become so good at hiding my anxiety (or moods) that the people closest to me miss it sometimes, or I even fool myself. I unintentionally became an actress of sorts.

This quote from an article on The Mighty, “A Day in the Life of a Girl With Anxiety“, is a perfect example:

I’m sure anyone who lives with anxiety can agree with me when I say hiding anxiety may be one of the greatest talents people with anxiety have. There are few people who can see through me, see past the walls I have put up and see the pain I’m hiding from the rest of the world.

It’s so true though, there really are few people who can see through the facade, and sometimes no one realizes a facade has been put up at all. No one notices at work, that’s for sure. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I sit in a semi-isolated area, so it is quiet a good deal of the time, and I am not forced to talk to people.

Another great quote from that article is:

You see, the thing about anxiety is that it is internal. I get to decide what you see me struggling with, and I typically choose to keep my struggles buried deep inside

A day in the life of a girl with anxiety looks just like a day in the life of a girl without it.

So functional anxiety is what it is. A functioning form of anxiety. I can work with it. I can go places with it. I can attempt to socialize with it. I don’t require daily doses of Ativan or Rivotril (Clonazepam). Breathing exercises and counting exercises are enough…when I am functionally anxious.

Speaking of enough, it is also important to remind yourself that you are enough. Try to be nice to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up for the bad days. Here is a helpful article I found about self-love and how to implement some self-love practices if you’re interested. I like the happiness jar idea.

There are other suggestions aside from gratitude journals, don’t worry! Sometimes the idea of “adding” anything else to your routine can seem overwhelming, but perhaps you can find something small or that’s easy to implement to show yourself that you do care about yourself, without creating additional anxiety or stress. Lately, for me, I have been colouring in adult colouring books when I have time and to make myself relax, having found really great ones with intricate designs that keep my mind distracted. I am also trying to read when I have a few spare minutes/before bed if I can stay awake because I get lost in books.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We read to know we are not alone”. I’ve always loved books. Books have been there for me through all my ups and downs and can be comforting.

It comes down to the power of words. Think of how words can be used to comfort…Positive words, phrases, quotes, mantras…We read books, articles and blogs to relate to each other and to know we are not alone, right? For one reason or another, several series of letters strung together in a certain order has the ability to bring hope and remind us of the light at the end of the tunnel or that tomorrow is a new day.

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

Talking About Bell Let’s Talk

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website:


When you feel “different”, and have difficulty “fitting in”, attending social events where you know few people is difficult. You hate being left alone even for a moment, because you are unable to start a simple conversation with another person. With depression and anxiety, socializing is difficult in general, because you don’t know what to say or how to start a conversation without worrying that you sound awkward or stupid. But, when you realize you are in the company of someone you have something in common with or you are able to find common ground, you feel less alone and awkward.

Reading about someone who experiences what you experience also lessens that feeling of loneliness.

One of the first things I did to help myself after my diagnosis was gather information so I could understand myself better. Psychology books, biographies, magazines…and one of the books I bought was “Wishful Drinking” by Carrie Fisher.

Carrie Fisher was not afraid to tell it like it is when it came to her mental illness. There have been many articles written about her passing and her legacy; one such article had a quote that stood out to me:

“The power of celebrity was best shown by Carrie that by being public, and funny, she demystified our diagnosis and showed by example we can live well and thrive.”

One of the reasons why I wanted to blog under my own name and “come out” was because I want to do those same things – show how a person with mental illness can live well and thrive and take away some of the mystery from the diagnosis. I want people to see that they don’t have to be afraid of someone with bipolar disorder or with mental illness.

Next week is Bell Let’s Talk, which is in my opinion a very important day for mental health advocates and for people who want to share their stories as it prompted me to share mine. This year will be my third year as a social media ambassador for Healthy Minds Canada for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. I do feel that every tweet and social post makes a difference; you never know how your words can impact someone else or comfort him/her.

I plan on making it a yearly tradition to take off work on Bell Let’s Talk Day, and use that day as a mental health day. I did this last year, and will again this year, because I want to tweet and post as much as I can, and because it really would be a day about mental health.

Bell Let’s Talk Day reminds us that we are not alone and people are willing to have a conversation about mental health. It’s okay to talk about it.

Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

The Non-Resolution Resolution

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada:


I’m writing this on New Year’s Day. The day where people usually want to put their resolutions in place. A fresh start after what most people feel was a bad year (according to an Ipsos poll) for a variety of reasons, including health or personal reasons.

I’ve already written about why I hate the holidays and this time of year, but I will share that I don’t think I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution. Past resolutions usually were to lose weight, go to the gym, be more organized, be more productive, have a better sleep schedule, eat better etc. Pretty typical for the most part.

Earlier today, my husband was telling me what his resolutions are, all good ones, which would be great if they are implemented and then asked me about mine. I said I don’t have any. I don’t think he liked that answer or understood why I said it since it probably sounded like me being a pessimist.

Yesterday someone asked me if I had any New Year’s resolutions and I said, “No, I never keep them, so I decided not to have any.” She thought it was a fair answer. I mean, if you’re not going to do something, why promise yourself that you will?

I think these resolutions lead to more disappointment, so I am boycotting them. That’s my resolution!

What I really mean is that I want to lower my expectations of myself, lower the threshold of “perfect”, “organized”, “a good day’s work”, “being more productive”, or “accomplishing a lot”, so I stop feeling disappointed in myself and stop hating myself for not doing better. So in essence, I am going to be nicer to myself. I am going to give myself the ultimate present…

What could that be? I am going to be kind to myself; perhaps a very good example of self-care. After all, “they” (whoever “they” are) say we are our own worst critics.

Maybe my non-resolution resolution will help with my inner critic. Change the dialogue. And if it doesn’t? That’s okay too, because it’s not really a resolution. I’ll think of it as more of a suggestion that I came up with.

As much as my medication works, there are days when I rapid cycle, feel extremely anxious for no reason, or painfully sad. This is okay. I am okay with this because I know it’s all part and parcel of my bipolar experience. I try my strategies to get through the day, sometimes I can help myself, sometimes only Ativan (Lorazepam) or Rivotril (Clonazepam) help, and I must give in. This is when I feel less productive and don’t feel organized. I can’t cook because I am nauseous and don’t want to look at food or am too tired to. The dishwasher is ready to be emptied and I can’t deal with it. The dryer has my clean clothes in it but I don’t want to fold them. I have papers and who knows what else all over the couch and kitchen table, but I can’t clean it up. I think this is what is called the “lack of motivation” component of depression. It is a symptom, and it’s a frustrating one. But don’t confuse it with laziness, because it isn’t. It’s not intentional. And pushing myself into a hypomanic state just to get things done is not worth the exhaustion and horrible depression that follows.

So you see, it is better for me to feel that I don’t have to reach a bar that is too high to touch.

Let me avoid or minimize the amount of times I am going to disappoint myself.

Let me feel what an accomplishment feels like.

Let me soothe my busy brain.