Bipolar Disorder, My Real Opinion

I am Conserving My Energy

I don’t think any one enjoys getting older after a certain age. You realize that “adulting” is hard and it really sucks at times, for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it.

I recently turned 35. It feels so strange to say (write) that. I don’t know where time went. That “wasted time” fear is a topic for another day though.

I was thinking about who I “used to be” when I was younger. In two ways. Firstly as the person I was who was often the victim of bullying and struggled to socialize and fit in and then as the person who couldn’t get enough of socializing and clubbing and drinking.

I am neither of these people now though.

The first person, that scared kid/pre-teen/teenager – who let everyone walk all over her and was a people pleaser and so shy? I am a much stronger person now and I vocalize my feelings (as best as I can or I write them out) and I am no door mat. I am not shy about having anxiety and depression and bipolar disorder and my experiences with these illnesses. I stand up for myself and I have backbone. I have come a long way since then.

I don’t feel like I am a “loser” who did not feel like life was worth living sometimes. I don’t think I ever really told anyone how I first experienced depression when I was 13 and again 16 and 17 and then tried to shut it off for a couple more years (until it turned into a vicious anxiety). I hated myself so much. I didn’t want to exist. I never wanted to tell my parents this as I never wanted to worry them (and I still don’t) and I don’t often think about those dark times but for some reason lately I just started thinking about the distant past (because I am hardly ever able to stay in the present).

There are people who say they loved high school. I say it was one of the hardest periods of my life. I went to two different high schools and was bullied at each one. I was bullied in elementary school too (two of them). I just attracted bullies with my red frizzy hair, freckles, pale skin and shy disposition. I was an easy target because I did not know how to fight back. I’ve been thinking about how I survived all those bad days at school and I found my people (who are still in my life now). How did I even get through all of that?

Honestly, some of it is a blur. I remember many many pep talks from my Dad and advice from my parents on how to deal with bullies. I remember feeling I was different but never knowing why or understanding how. It didn’t make sense until many years later.

Flash forward to first year university and the me who wanted to party and socialize and drink and go clubbing and dance all the time. What happened to that version of me? I developed anxiety and was medicated briefly but I still wanted to go out and be fun. I don’t know when that changed. I think probably mid-twenties around my bipolar diagnosis. I was enjoying hypomania without realizing what was happening to me. I was not a pleasant person to be around when drinking per se (I was a bit belligerent and not cooperative when it came to leaving places) and I was very flirtatious and knew how to flaunt what I had (when I felt good about myself). Overall, I think I was fun though, and more carefree and spontaneous and easygoing. I miss that part of me.

I was talking to my best friend, Elana yesterday while listening to music and had an urge to go out to a club and dance. I expressed this and she asked me if I was being serious or was it the hypomania talking. I said I was being serious, which I was. I feel like I need to do something to burn off this energy. I want to have an “epic” girls night like we used to. I want to feel fun again.

I explained this and I said “When did I become so conservative?” She responded, “You are not conservative. You’re just conserving your energy.” Brilliant! The perfect response, and I know she is being truthful too because she is always brutally honest with me even if I don’t like it.

I often speak about the “spoon theory” and saving spoons and I tell people to “save their spoons” but I don’t save enough spoons for myself. Elana is right, I am conserving my energy, so that I have at least the minimal spoons I need to function. It’s easy for people to forget I have bipolar disorder when I go to work full-time and have my side business to run. It takes a lot of effort on my part though to do what I do. To be able to function at work and at home. I cook, I bake, I do “normal” household tasks like do the laundry and empty the dishwasher and whatnot.

It takes effort to fight with your brain. It can be your enemy. It can be your friend.

My experience with bipolar disorder is that I sometimes feel too much, I sometimes feel too little. Sometimes I feel nothing at all. Sometimes I just want to feel again. Sometimes I want to scream at everyone to leave me the f*** alone. Sometimes I don’t want to be left alone. Sometimes I feel so loved and wanted. Sometimes I feel useless, like a burden and worthless. Sometimes I know why I am here and what my purpose is. Sometimes I question why I am here at all. And that’s just a glimpse of what goes on in my very busy brain.

One song that really seems to calm me and soothe me is Alex Ebert’s “Truth”. My sister introduced me to this song. If you have never listened to it, listen to it, trust me. It may not be your taste in music but the lyrics are powerful. I’ll share the ones that really get to me:

The truth is that I never shook my shadow
And every day it’s trying to trick me into doing battle
Calling out “faker” only get me rattled
Want to pull me back behind the fence with the cattle
Building your lenses
Digging your trenches
Put me on the front line
Leave me with a dumb mind
With no defenses
But your defenseless
If you can’t stand to feel the pain then you are senseless
Since this
I’ve grown up some
Different kind of fighter
And when the darkness come let it inside you
Your darkness is shining
My darkness is shining
Have faith in myself
Truth

 

Every day I am doing battle with my mind. I have really good days, heck I even can have great days, but I admit I always have a “baseline” low level anxiety that lingers. Anxiety can make you forgetful, fearful, feel shocked, feel stunned, feel helpless. But I’m not helpless. Not if I’m able to write this blog and tell all of you about my journey.

I choose to stand to face my anxiety and my depression and hypomania and whatever else bipolar disorder brings with it. I am a different kind of fighter. I let the darkness of depression inside, yes, because I know it will pass, and because the more I fight it off, the worse it will be. I’ve grown up a lot. I’ve come really far. My “darkness” makes me shine because it makes me fight and it makes me strong. I do have faith in myself, and that my friends, is my truth.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, My Real Opinion

The Pills Are Looking At Me (It’s Not What You Think)

The bottle of pills is staring at me. It’s calling out my name. It’s within reach, but I am not going to be reliant on Clonazepam to get me through the rest of the week. I already took half of one today. I want to gain control of the situation, even though I know it’s okay to take it if I need it.

I haven’t seen my doctor since January 7th. I was supposed to have an appointment at the end of January but that was cancelled due to weather and then cancelled again due to a death in her family, and my next appointment is on Monday. I’ve never gone this long without going to my psychiatrist. It’s not that I need someone to hold my hand while I discuss my feelings and validate them. It’s not that I don’t have people to talk to, because I do. There is just something about seeing my doctor that helps me. She’s not there just to prescribe me pills. I have been seeing her for over 16 years, and I am used to my regular appointments.

I’ve made it this long, but I am trying to keep it together, I really am. I’m so nauseous, I can’t tell if it’s anxiety or something else but it really freaked me out this morning. Hence the need for Clonazepam. My boss could tell from my voice that something was off and sent me home and told me to just work from home.

I grabbed a couple files and went home. I haven’t exactly been productive- yet. I know I will get work done though, just at my own pace, even if it means working into the evening. As long as I put in the requisite number of hours, it doesn’t really matter when I do the work, right?

Anyways, back to how I am feeling today. So, I call this my “scary anxiety”, where I am absolutely terrified of the nausea and panicked. I was just panicked. I still am. I wasn’t having panic attack and I was okay when I left the house, but as I got closer to work I felt worse. It’s odd because I was in a great mood for a couple of days before that and wasn’t anxious. Why does anxiety come back when I need to be productive and go to work?!?

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I have emetophobia which makes me terrified of nausea for a very valid reason. I can’t get into it, because it will make me more anxious.

Even when I got home, I still didn’t feel better and I feel like I am getting worked up again. I am already worrying about tomorrow (thank you anxiety). I think I am thinking about “This time last year, this happened….and then that happened…” and recalling bad/upsetting things that have happened the past couple of years and having trouble dealing with it. I am not sure why the feelings are resurfacing now, but I am so f*cking frustrated with this brain of mine right now.

A couple weeks ago I went more than a week without Clonazepam (which is a big deal) and I was all proud of myself for meditating twice a day and feeling like it was making a difference and for feeling more “centred”. And then this happened. It doesn’t take much for anxiety to undo all your hard work, does it?

On my way home, I heard one of the songs on my “Feel Better Play List”, which made me tear up. It’s not even a sad song. I just always loved that song and usually it makes me smile, but today it made me want to cry. A couple hours ago I thought I really was going to bawl my eyes out. I don’t know what triggered the sadness, I guess the same thing that triggered the anxiety. Maybe compartmentalizing everything that has happened is backfiring on me and the dam I built is finally breaking.

I don’t think anxiety/panic attacks are cathartic, but I know having a good cry can be. Can this be subdued with a good cry? Maybe, maybe not. Do I need to take another Clonazepam later? Most likely. Is that a sign of weakness? No. Sometimes we all need a little help, and it can come in various forms.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, My Real Opinion

Where Does Time Go?

I ask this question all the time. Where did time go? How does the time pass so fast?

Just a heads up, I am in a mixed state, and this blog post may reflect the spectrum of emotions I am currently feeling, so you are going to see some sad, anxious, irritated/angry thoughts. I am NOT looking for pity of any sort, and I am actually okay, just venting. I also have been hyper and not sleeping very well hence the irritability and agitation. I would say this blog is impulsively written, but it is not. If you know me, you know I am honest, to a fault and I do not sugar coat things and just tell it like it is. Even if whatever “it” is isn’t very nice.

Sometimes I think out loud. Sometimes I have no “filter” (thank you hypomania) and sometimes people just need to know the truth (I’m just blunt). The same way I tell people not to give me fluffy responses to my comments or my rants and tell me “Don’t worry, everything will be okay” when they have absolutely no way of knowing that and neither do I. All I know is things will happen the way they are meant to happen.

I don’t know what prompted me to do this today, but I decided to delete some old text messages off my iPad. You know, the ones that are alerts from the bank or the phone company and whatnot. In doing so, I came across so many messages to and from people I haven’t spoken to in months (or even over a year or more at this point in time), or who seem to have disappeared from my life.

I felt a rush of sadness. Like I felt I couldn’t breathe for a minute, I felt a rush of emotion.  Has it really been that long? Is it me? Did I do something wrong? Why do I not speak with these people anymore? Or why do some of my messages go unanswered? Did people forget about me? Are people that busy? Am I a difficult friend? Am I a burden?

Yeah, I get it people are busy. It’s easy enough to forget to answer a message, maybe for a few days or so, or a week, but come on, this generation is pretty attached to their phones.    And quite a few of these people are supposedly “good friends” or “close friends”, so what gives? I get the people who are going through or who have gone through difficult  times but we have had the “I’m there for you” conversation and I actually take the time to send “Just checking up on you” messages periodically when they go MIA.

I try really hard to stay in touch with the people I care about. I even started to reach out to friends I felt I was “neglecting” when I was in my bad state/funk for the last couple of years. I will say, that no matter how “bad” I am feeling, I am still here for my friends. I will warn them that I may not be that responsive or what state I am in so they know why I am “quiet” or being a hermit. I may not be fun or able to go out all the time, but I always (or almost always) welcome my friends in my home. Even when I feel shitty.

And I really want to say thank you to the close friends who do the “check-in” for me and know my patterns. They know me so well that they tell me when they will be unavailable to answer their phones/texts. Another friend who is going through a hard time is also always reminding me she is there for me too. These people are definitely special to me.

When you live with bipolar disorder, it is important to surround yourself with the right kind of people. I know who my friends are. I know who the “imposters” are. I know who is worth my time and who isn’t. As my Mom and I always say to each other, “you only have so many spoons”. And I want to save my spoons for those who count. Or if you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, you know you only have so many fucks to give. If you haven’t read that book, you should, because it is life-changing. It puts things into perspective.

I have said before that I am not into the “power of positive thinking” and I am not necessarily an optimist or pessimist, I refer to myself as a realist. I am a practical-minded person. I see through people’s bullshit. My husband tells me “you don’t trust anyone”, which is true in a sense. To me, the most reliable person is myself. Which is funny because anxiety and depression make me see myself as “unreliable”.

What I mean is that I don’t trust people to do things the way I like them done or I don’t trust that people will follow through with certain things. I am a “believe it when I see it” person. That’s not to say that I don’t believe people are good, are kind, are thoughtful or generous. Because I do see people that are and I have experienced acts of kindness, generosity and I am grateful for that. I just have a certain distrust because it’s my way of avoiding disappointment.

I fear disappointment because it makes me feel awful. Who wants to feel disappointed? No one. Maybe I am just a really sensitive person? Actually, yes, I am a really sensitive person. I am strong, I am stubborn, but I think people sometimes forget I am sensitive or how sensitive I am. I can easily misread a text message as being rude or curt.

I am getting better with that though. I am learning to remind myself that Facebook messenger/texts/WhatsApp messages are not always the best way to convey important information and that it’s really hard to discern a person’s tone of voice through those methods of communication. So if a message seems “suspect” to me, I have to learn to let it go. Otherwise, I am just fuelling an unnecessary fire. Or as David Bowie sang, “Putting out fire with gasoline”.

I want to share a story about giving too many fucks and what happens when you stop giving too many. I used to care what people at work thought of me and was concerned I was being judged. I felt like no one liked me and felt very isolated. The one person I was friends with left to work for another company. I was so upset and then our articling student, who I was close with, finished his term and was gone too. My two “people” who knew what I had been going through (it had been a terrible summer in 2017) were gone.

So, I decided I would adopt a new attitude. I would focus on my work and act like the little things didn’t bother me. And then something strange happened…All of the other staff started to talk to me, and ask “Are you coming for lunch?” and I now have developed friendships with a few of them. I am comfortable enough to have lunch with these people even when I have a bad day and feel anxious. I have even been able to tell two of them about my journey with bipolar disorder and my experiences with mental illness. I chose to save my energy for what mattered at work.

To quote Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,

Essentially, we become more selective about the fucks we’re willing to give. This is something called maturity. It’s nice; you should try it sometime. Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what’s truly fuckworthy. As Bunk Moreland said to his partner Detective McNulty in The Wire…”That’s what you get for giving a fuck when it wasn’t your turn to give a fuck.”

Bottom line? Choose your fucks wisely.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, My Real Opinion

Honesty Is The Best Policy- I think

If I told you I didn’t answer your call because I was at a doctor’s appointment, what would your first reaction be? Would you think I was seeing my family physician for a specific reason or for an annual check up? Would you be worried that I was feeling unwell for some reason? Would it ever cross your mind that I was seeing my psychiatrist for our regularly scheduled appointments?

I have to leave work early to go to my appointments, so when I say goodbye and I am leaving for the day, if anyone asks, I just say I have a doctor’s appointment. I sometimes am met with a look of concern, and am asked “Are you okay? Is everything okay?”. No one thinks I am going to see my psychiatrist. Only those at work who really know me know where I am actually going.

Why am I thinking about this now? Well, yesterday, during my appointment I missed a call, and then received a text message asking how I am etc. I apologized for missing the call via text and said I had been in a doctor’s appointment. The response I got back was hope I am okay. I made a decision that I was not going to sugar coat and say “Don’t worry, I’m fine, it’s nothing”. Nope, not how I want to do things. I responded that I was at my psychiatrist’s office. I am pretty sure this made the recipient uncomfortable because the next message ended the conversation and I felt like I was being brushed off.

So, it got me thinking. We have mental health and we have physical health. We need to take care of both. We go to various specialists or to our family doctor when something is physically wrong. A psychiatrist’s specialty is to treat mental illness and to help you maintain your mental health. I take care of my mental health. I am tending to my mental health. What is wrong with me being open to anyone and saying where I was?

I will tell you – NOTHING. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me expressing myself and feeling comfortable enough to say that. Did I feel slighted and like this person did not want to hear anymore or know more about it? Yes. But I want to know what makes people so uncomfortable? Particularly if they already know I have bipolar disorder.

I think I know what it is. Some people forget I have bipolar disorder. Not that I am trying to pat myself on the shoulder, but I have adapted very well and I have good insight into my illness and how to manage it as best as I can. These past 8 years have been one heck of a journey and there have been numerous stressors/crises that I have no idea how I got through, but I did.

Why do people “forget”? I am high functioning. I am not sure how I became this way, but I push myself every fricken’ day to get out of bed and go to work. Yes, there are days when the anxiety wins and I stay home, but those are rare compared to before. I function at work. People at work don’t notice my symptoms because I am so good at hiding them or “controlling” them. I mean, worst case scenario, I can just say I am PMSing right? Or really busy/stressed.

I am open about my experiences with bipolar disorder. There are a few people at work who know about my journey, but there are also definitely people there who would not know what to do with this information and it’s easier for me if they don’t know. It’s not worthy my energy. You never know how someone will react when you tell them, but sometimes you do get a sense of who may understand you.

Recently, I reconnected with two friends who had both played important roles in my life. One actually facilitated the introduction between myself and my husband and has always had a big heart and is a kind person. The other, is someone who I had a relationship with and who actually was with me when I developed anxiety and first had panic attacks. He is a kind soul and I was lucky to be with someone patient and understanding, considering I also had agoraphobia. I don’t know what made me want to reconnect, but when I did, I was really forward and shared my diagnosis. I was met with supportive responses.

I wasn’t surprised. These are people that were in my life when I started to have anxiety and first started an anti-depressant. These are definitely two people who are non-judgmental and I am happy I decided to reconnect with them. I don’t think these friends realize the impact they have had, so I hope that they read this and now know.

I have to add that when I met my husband, he had the opportunity to witness a panic attack during our second date. And it didn’t scare him away. He couldn’t do enough to help me. He is still like that.

Bottom line – some people do not have the capacity to understand, some people don’t care to understand, and those who do understand- cherish them. As my mom keeps saying, “Every day is a gift”. So tell people how you really feel!

Tell them how you feel, even if it makes them uncomfortable. If someone you care about isn’t supportive of you, tell them. Or if they make you feel uncomfortable for being you, say something. Life is short, so you should enjoy the people in your life and get rid of the people who no longer bring you joy. I told my doctor yesterday I know who my tried and true friends are (and they know who they are) and that I don’t need to have 100 friends. I just need people in my life that are genuine.

I am not the easiest person to be around at times. I am irritable and agitated and sarcastic and excessively chatty and perhaps annoying when I am hypomanic. Or I am bordering on being a hermit when I am in a depressed state. I am either too willing to share, or not willing to share at all. Or I am angry at the world and think no one understands or cares, but that is so far from the truth.

It is not difficult for us to believe the lies depression and anxiety tells us. I mean, when you’re in that state, it’s easy to feel like you deserve to be alone, and nobody cares, or you are a burden etc. My mind tells me “Keep it to yourself. NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT. YOU ARE. BURDEN”. But keeping it all in, that is not a good idea either. When you reach that breaking point, and you just can’t stop crying because you’ve held it all in, then depression tells you “Do you even have anything to be this sad about? There are people who have it worse than you”. And then you cry even harder. Or at least that is what happens to me.

Sometimes I feel guilty for sharing my thoughts because I am convinced the person on the other end of the conversation is thinking “Okay, what is she so worried about/complaining about? It’s not so bad. It will pass or get better. Other people have it way worse”. Yup – that is my thought process. I am afraid of being a burden or people wondering what is so bad in my life that I am “always anxious” or never happy.

I realize this blog post has gone off on a bit of a tangent here, I apologize. I think being able to share your thoughts without fear of judgment is important and it is great when you can share how you feel with someone who doesn’t minimize your feelings. I had an incident the other day at work on lunch where someone minimized my feelings and it made me feel pretty sh*tty, especially because she knows I have bipolar disorder and anxiety. Like I said before, some people forget I do.

Is honesty the best policy? Maybe. I think is if you want to know who your real friends are and you want to be your real self.

 

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, My Real Opinion

How Am I?

 

Ahhh… the question that I think most people with mental illness hate answering. How are you (or how have you been)?

The first thought that pops into my mind is “Does this person really want to know or are they just asking for the sake of asking?”. You know, some people just follow social conventions and follow protocol when conversing or when they haven’t seen you in a while (or spoken to you in a while). And there’s the problem. If you haven’t seen/heard from me in a while, and you are my friend, shouldn’t that give you some indication of how I am doing?

Yes, friendship is a two-way street, BUT, a mood disorder makes it really hard to reach out and say, “Hi! Let’s get together!” or “Let’s chat tomorrow” or make plans and actually keep them. Or even pick up a phone just because, or sometimes just sending a text message or email is hard. You don’t want to expose your true thoughts and feelings and feel like you are under a microscope. You probably aren’t under a microscope, but your anxiety and depression tell you otherwise.

Our minds tell us nobody understands and nobody cares. We begin to believe it. It’s funny, because I look back to how many people were at my engagement party and wedding, and how few of them I have actually seen since my wedding! Is it my fault?  Is it their fault? Does it matter? Do I care?

The people I really care about and that I thought cared about me should know better. Sorry to be frank, but they really should.

Do I have friends? Yes. Do most of them know I have bipolar disorder? I would say many of them do. Do they know I withdraw and “hibernate” when I am not doing well? Yes. Do they reach out and try to help or do anything? Well…few do.

No one is psychic and knows how I am feeling, but if a friend knows my patterns, all I ask is to check in once in a while. I hate “how are you”, but maybe “I’ve been thinking about you, just wanted to say hi”, would get me less irritated. Or just tell me “you’ve been on my mind, I wanted to check in”. I don’t care if you tell me “you’ve been quiet lately”, because then I know that you actually noticed. And I will appreciate that perceptiveness more than you know.

I get that people are busy and have their own lives to live. But I shouldn’t have to rationalize to myself why people aren’t there for me when I am always there for them. I am emotionally and mentally drained. I had a very difficult 2017. Well… I have had a very hard time for the past 5 years let’s say. Getting back to my earlier point, if you are a friend, act like a friend. No, it doesn’t have to be tit for tat by any means. Just be real and sincere.

Have I become bitter and cynical? Am I now a pessimist? I hope not. I am just frustrated and angry about things that have happened to me and my family. Family is everything to me – and we have a small family, so it makes it that much harder to deal with.

Anyone who works full time knows it is tiring. You have limited free time. You only have the weekends. Anyone who has a mental illness AND works full time knows it is even more exhausting because you spend 5 days a week trying to regulate your moods at work and (hopefully) not explode at someone or cry at your desk and trying to keep your anxiety at bay (which is not easy to do). Nothing about anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder is easy.

Am I happy? Not yet. But it’s not out of the question. Some day, I am sure I will be happy again. I just don’t know what will make me happy, and it’s not going to be something material, it has to come from within. They say happiness is a journey and not a destination, so maybe this is a very very long journey.

Standard
Bipolar Disorder, International Bipolar Foundation, My Real Opinion

The Holidays Aren’t Happy For Everyone, And That’s Okay

This post originally appeared on International Bipolar Foundation’s website: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/holidays-aren%E2%80%99t-happy-everyone-and-that%E2%80%99s-okay

It’s that time of year again. December. The holidays are approaching. Time off school for students, perhaps time off work for those whose offices close (or who take time off), time to travel for some, staycations for others. A chance to spend time with family and friends and enjoy yourself- that is, if you want to and are able to.

You may be wondering what I mean by that pessimistic sounding last line. I am just being realistic for those of us who experience bipolar disorder (or any type of mental illness).

To clarify, when I talk about holidays, I am referring to whatever holidays happen in December, including New Year’s Eve. Okay, especially New Year’s Eve.

There is pressure to make plans, to be social, to “party” (depending on your age) and to have a good time.

I find the lead up to the end of the year brings anxiety and feelings of sadness, guilt and disappointment.

However, this year I noticed somewhat of a mixed state where I became hypomanic and wanted to shop and buy random things off of Amazon (because Amazon Prime is dangerous when you have a credit card). I am tempted to hide my credit cards from myself or have my husband hide them from me.

Why anxiety, sadness, disappointment?

Anxiety hits me hard because I feel a rush of thoughts surging through my brain about everything I didn’t do and should have done and still have to do. And of course, the thought “how will I get everything done” shows up. Anxiety makes you live in the future. You are future-focused. It probably doesn’t help that resolutions are associated with New Year’s and people always ask if you have any resolutions and if so, what they are. Or if you have had a bad year, “Next year will be better”. Then you doubt this is possible because anxiety tells you not to believe anything anyone says.

Depression makes you live in the past.  I feel like I accomplished nothing. I am saddened by this. So, then I feel guilty and like I disappointed people, because I set ridiculously high standards for myself. I start to remember how productive and efficient I used to be a 4 or 5 years ago, before this awful mental fatigue that interferes with everything existed.

The usual thoughts are that “I didn’t do x, y or z” and then I start thinking about how I would have if I had more time and I should have more time and can I make more time and then I panic about how time goes by so fast and then I just feel old. Then my husband tells me “age is just a number”.

For me, this time of year is difficult as it brings back some very difficult and painful memories (I know, I know, it’s bad to dwell on the past but this is what happens when you experience depression) and I associate this time of year with one awful New Year’s Eve I had four years ago where I felt so low and alone. But I made it into the next year, and the year after, and the year after that and I will keep on going…

So, how do you survive the holidays and New Year’s Eve with bipolar disorder? Here are a few tips:

1)Take care of yourself. Take some time to decompress and practice self-care whatever form it may come in. For some of us self-care can be as small as taking micro-breaks from a task we are doing, getting take out instead of cooking, getting our nails done, having a bubble bath- you get the idea. It can be doing an activity you enjoy. Really, it is about carving out time for yourself, so that you take care of yourself, especially your mind.

2)Forget about making New Year’s Resolutions. This can just create added stress and expectations that you don’t need in your life. Or, if you are determined to make a change, aim for something small and achievable, so you don’t have to deal with the feeling that you’ve let yourself down, and so that you do get to experience feeling proud of yourself for making that change.

3)Make plans that you will actually enjoy and will be comfortable with and more importantly with people you are comfortable with!

4)Don’t overextend yourself. If you are going to a party, or an event and are asked to do something or bring something, keep it simple and don’t offer to do more than you are asked to. It’s okay to bring something store bought to a potluck or a party. When you are around people who know the real you, they are not judging!

5)If you feel like doing nothing, do nothing. Just go with the flow, whatever it is. Don’t fight it. If you don’t want to socialize, it’s not a crime to stay home. There are many of us who are content with takeout/snacks and Netflix and there is nothing wrong with that.

However you decide to spend your holidays, may your mind give you a break from anxiety, depression and anything else it throws at you and let your mind be quiet enough to let you enjoy what you are doing and who you are with! We all deserve that, right?

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