Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

How Do You Describe Bipolar States?

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website: https://healthymindscanada.ca/describe-bipolar-states/  

I watched the documentary Bright Lights with my friend this weekend. Bright Lights is the HBO documentary about Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. It is a very honest documentary. There are parts that will make you smile and laugh, tear up and possibly cry, and nod in agreement.

One fan of Carrie Fisher’s said,

She epitomizes a strong woman who speaks her mind and I wish I was more like that.

Thanks to organizations like Healthy Minds Canada, many of us do speak our minds like that! I wish more people were that open about their diagnoses and felt free to talk about their mental illnesses. But, stigma is still a barrier.

I will take this opportunity to quickly say that March 30th is World Bipolar Day, so if you are on social media that day, post about it and help change the conversation about bipolar disorder and mental illness. This year, International Bipolar Foundation’s theme is “My Bipolar Fuels My Passion For” (#MyBipolarFuelsMyPassion4), and focuses on creativity.

Getting back to Bright Lights, there are clips of Carrie Fisher talking about bipolar disorder and describing her moods. This is one such line:

Roy is rollicking Roy, the wild ride of a mood. Pam is sediment Pam, who stands on the shore and sobs. One mood is the meal, the next mood the check.

What an analogy.

Mania is the wild ride, the carefree “I don’t give a F***” mood that just frolics around not worrying about the consequences of his destructive actions. Mania is the fun friend everyone wants to party with and get into trouble with. You don’t have worries when you have mania. You can’t feel worried.

Depression is watching the world go by and feeling like an outsider. You sob uncontrollably. Bipolar depression feels endless, and as though no one or nothing can comfort you. You feel so alone.

I know I am slipping into hypomania (a “milder” form of mania) when I become numb and start to care less about certain things I usually obsess over like having things very organized and clean. My laundry may sit in a basket for a week before I put it away, or I have piles of magazines, work, or mail all over my kitchen table and couch. “I don’t care, no big deal, it’s just paper, it’s not hurting anyone.” Or you can walk inside my condo with your shoes on and I won’t care vs. “NO- your shoes have been outside and they were in dirty areas and you will get germs everywhere!!!”

When the hypomania comes, I have energy, I feel reinvigorated and then all of a sudden I get things done at home and am very productive at work. Then I feel unstoppable and I think I can take on a lot more than I can. The creativity flows and the ideas are never ending.But I forget that what goes up must come down (even though I have experienced these cycles many, many, many times).

The best part of hypomania (aside from the creative bursts) is feeling numb towards emotions and feeling a reprieve from anxiety. When the high wears off, the anxiety comes back and sucker punches you so that you fall down and you don’t get up, because you become low. The depression sinks in. And so it goes, and if you rapid cycle like I do, you experience these states frequently, instead of having a predominant mood. I go through these cycles multiple times a year, sometimes in a month or in a week. It is exhausting.

I want to find a middle ground, but it’s so hard. The best coping mechanism I have is routine. I know what I have to do when I wake up, I know why I wake up and I know I have a purpose. I know I have responsibilities. Even in these contrasting states, I still function. I know there are people who criticize the use of medication, but you do what works for you. It works for me. It’s not the only reason I function, but it plays a significant role.

Carrie Fisher also said,

You know what would be so cool?….To get to the end of my personality…

The end of a personality. Where does my personality end? Maybe, as a creative person, it is endless. Maybe there are parts I have yet to discover. But that’s for another day.

I’ll leave you with this line that Debbie Reynolds said in Bright Lights,

The only way to get through life is to fight-you don’t make it through the easy way.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

How to Practice Compassion

This blog first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website: https://healthymindscanada.ca/how-to-practice-compassion/

ETTwitter-1024x512

I’ve written before about how powerful and overwhelming thoughts can be. When you are feeling anxious or feeling depressed, or a combination of both, you have thoughts that are hard to process and thoughts that lead to further feelings of distress. These thoughts are real to you and are important as part of your mental health journey.

There will always be people who think that our anxious or depressed thoughts make no sense, are illogical, and essentially are trivial thoughts. You know the people who I am talking about. The people who think other people have “real” problems (i.e. physical injury or illness, suffering a loss, surviving a disaster) and therefore your symptoms of mental illness don’t count, because other people “have worse problems than you do“.

Coming out and being open about living with a mental illness is courageous and a brave thing to do. I wanted to share my story and encourage others to do so because suffering in silence is painful and feeling ashamed of something that is no fault of your own is foolish. It’s just plain wrong. I say we are brave to be open and share our stories because that stigma is a real b**** and we have to teach her a lesson.

I always tell people don’t apologize for something you didn’t do, or something that isn’t your fault. So why feel ashamed, or apologize for our condition, or symptoms of our condition?

I know we can’t expect everyone to understand what mental illness is, what it looks like, or how it affects us on a day to day basis, but a little compassion goes a long way.

How can someone show compassion or understanding?

Let us be our real selves.Tell us it’s okay to let it all out. Tell us to take off the “normal mask” we may have been wearing all week at work (to make things easier at work), so the real self can breathe.

Don’t make us think our thoughts have no value, or are trivial. Help us work through our thoughts if we are willing to talk about them.

Let us be silent if we don’t want to talk. Enjoy the silence with us.

Let us speak when we are ready to.

Give us space when we need it. We need down time to decompress. Mental illness is exhausting.

Make sure we practice self-care and self-compassion. Teach us to relax if you can. Give us gentle reminders that self-care is important and that whatever we insist we must finish today can wait until tomorrow, because most of the time, it really can.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

A Shift In Perspective

This post originally appeared on Healthy Minds Canada: https://healthymindscanada.ca/a-shift-in-perspective/ 

ALTwitter-1024x512

Your thoughts are powerful and you can convince yourself of many things. You can convince yourself you are capable and smart, or you can convince yourself you are worthless and useless. It all depends on your state of mind, and what you want to believe.

Over the past few days, I felt brighter, and less foggy and actually wanted to do things. I noticed I had been productive at work (maybe having a long weekend last week helped) and I had been feeling like cooking. I am sure the nice weather helped too.

I managed to clean out closets/cupboards and make a stew in a crockpot (first time using one). I just did. I went for a walk on Friday. I never want to do these things. Maybe something inside of me is telling me it’s time to change or it’s time to make the time to do these things. I don’t always have time to cook, but I know (as much as I hate it) that some form of exercise is important for body and mind. It’s important to start small, but it is also important to have the actual desire or want. Without it, these activities seem like awful chores or daunting tasks.

I personally become irritated when someone tells me to be positive, because sometimes it is not always that easy, so I would never tell someone to do that. Instead, I like to think of having or being in a different, or “better” mindset as “a shift in perspective”.

Every day is different and some days are better than others. If I have been able to have a few brighter days for one reason or another, I’ll take it. Medications help, but they only go so far. We know how destructive thoughts are/can be and I don’t think medication can suppress my thoughts or make me stop thinking. Part of the recovery and healing process is learning how to reframe your thoughts, which if you think about it, is shifting your perspective, the way you see/think about things/situations.

Right now I am just grateful to have had a chance to genuinely laugh and smile this weekend and enjoy good company and not feel bogged down by the weight of the world (a.k.a. my thoughts).

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada, My Real Opinion

Be Relentlessly You

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website: https://healthymindscanada.ca/be-relentlessly-you/ 

RB1-1024x512

I am admittedly not a sports fan, but I did watch the Super Bowl last week, including the fantastic performance Lady Gaga put on. She performed a variety of her songs, including “Born This Way”, which has lyrics that I know resonate with many people, because of the message.

Predictably, Internet trolls and people who had nothing better to do started posting about Lady Gaga having a “stomach” and other unnecessary comments. As soon as I saw those articles start to appear on social media, aside from rolling my eyes, I felt angry and frustrated. This woman is a talented musician and she has an amazing figure and she is proud of her body. She is not ashamed. She didn’t have to, but she did respond to those “haters’, and what she said is powerful:

 

No matter who you are or what you do. I could give you a million reasons why you don’t need to cater to anyone or anything to succeed. Be you, and be relentlessly you. That’s the stuff of champions. – Lady Gaga

From personal experience, it is exhausting being anyone but yourself. The mask becomes heavy, you question who you are and if people actually know you. Having a mental illness is difficult for many reasons, but the worst part of having a mental illness is stigma. The stigma makes it difficult to be yourself, if you fall victim to it. I didn’t want to hide anymore, so I’ve been sharing my story. The best way to fight stigma is to stare it in the face and show you are not afraid. I am not afraid. I am not the problem. It’s people who are afraid of mental illness that are the problem- and we shouldn’t cater to them.

I also really appreciate that Lady Gaga is not ashamed to talk about mental illness. In an article from Esperanza Magazine, she discusses her experience with anxiety and depression and talks about acceptance.

 

No matter how much success you have, no matter how many people accept you to your face, the person that really needs to accept you is you. -Lady Gaga

Remember, your opinion is the one that matters the most.

 

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

Functional Anxiety

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website: https://healthymindscanada.ca/functional-anxiety/

BB3-Twitter-1024x512

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.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

Talking About Bell Let’s Talk

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada’s website: https://healthymindscanada.ca/talking-bell-lets-talk/

JKR1-Twitter-1024x512

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.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, Healthy Minds Canada

The Non-Resolution Resolution

This post first appeared on Healthy Minds Canada: https://healthymindscanada.ca/non-resolution-resolution/

CR-twitter-1024x512

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.

Standard