PS I'm Bipolar

Expect The Unexpected


(This post first appeared on my blog, PS I’m Bipolar)

When you have bipolar disorder or you are bipolar, or you are living with bipolar disorder, (depending on how you prefer to refer to yourself, because I once saw this very clever posting on Facebook that said “Label jars, not people”) initiating and maintaining friendships is no easy feat.

The easiest way for me to express what I want to say is to put friendships into different categories – and break it down into “before” and “after” the diagnosis. As much as I, or most of us don’t want to admit it, there is a before and after. When you receive your diagnosis of bipolar disorder, your life challenges, whether you acknowledge,, accept or realize iit- the same way it would with a physical illness. Why? I think it is because we have to alter our lifestyle. Maybe it is a small alteration, maybe it is a larger one. For example, sleep hygiene, diet, how often you see your doctor, how much medication you take etc.

What are the categories of friendships?

1. Friends from before that you know will understand mental illness or you know won’t judge you, and are likely to accept your diagnosis. You can exhibit all of your symptoms without fear of judgement.
2. Friends from before that you are not sure will understand your diagnosis, but you trust for other matters, and trust enough to tell them something about mental illness i.e. I have anxiety and sometimes it’s hard for me to be in large crowds. You want to tell them, but never find that opportunity or “appropriate” moment.
3. Friends you meet after your diagnosis who your intuition tells you are “safe” to trust, as in #1.
4. Friends you meet after your diagnosis that you will trust as in #2.
5. Friends you meet after your diagnosis that you know will not understand anything and therefore you mask your symptoms. I suppose these people are not really friends, but maybe this applies to the significant others of your friends, co-workers you like, or acquaintances that are part of your social circle that you see often at social gatherings. You know enough about them to get a sense of personality, but not enough to want to disclose private information.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can explain the meaning of my post’s title. They say that during a crisis, you learn who your true friends are. I have had enough challenges over the past year to understand who I can trust and who I want in my life. I also learned that someone did not want me in her life- but I will get to that soon.

I am not going to delve into what the challenges/situations were because it doesn’t matter what or why, just that they happened, there were 4 major “events” that caused emotional turmoil, and I am still dealing with one of them as it is an ongoing situation.

I reached out to a friend, who was 100% in category #1 during the time of one of these situations and the response I received was not comforting. This friend did not give me the time of day, and knew I was in a bad way. He knows I have bipolar disorder. When he did contact me a month later, and asked “can you talk”, I thought it was something serious, but no, it was to tell me about something an ex-business partner did, and was being charged for. Totally unnecessary information for me and it seemed that he had forgotten about the situation. We lost touch for almost a year and I called him and left a message saying we should catch up. Instead of receiving a call back or text message, I receive a Facebook message back stating “Sorry I was working late. Early morning. Talk Soon”. That was in August. A few days ago I decided to send a text message and said essentially that our friendship was important and i was surprised that he had responded to my call with a Facebook message. It didn’t prompt him to call, just more cryptic messages about what was going on in his life and asking about mine. He apparently has been very busy, so I will give it some time and see what happens. It just made me sad because he was my “go to” person for so long whenever I was having a panic attack or feeling blue. One time he even came to my office on lunch because I was so distraught and having a bad day, and sat with me and calmed me down. I am not ready to let that friendship go- unless he wants to.

Another friend who was in the #1 category, had also been quiet and acting out of character. She is older than me and lives with her elderly parents, who are not well, and is their primary caregiver. She puts her family’s needs before her own. She is the good daughter. She is a very quiet person who does not like to talk much about her situation – I don’t know if it is because she does not like to burden others or because like me, she just doesn’t want to talk about situations that aren’t going to change or get better (when I encounter those situations). We had been very close for 6 years. Over the past year, we saw each other less and less. We last saw each other in February. She did not attend my engagement party because it was on Father’s Day and she said she wanted to be with her family that day (it was an afternoon party). She also used to suffer from anxiety and was a great person to contact if I was anxious or to talk about triggers to. She knew about my diagnosis and was very accepting- or so I thought.

I want to say that when something bothers me, the first person I talk about it to is most likely my doctor, whether at an appointment, or by telephone. I am very lucky that she responds to my urgent messages. There is not much that phases me anymore, so something really has to get me rattled- and when it does, I need my doctor’s advice. The next best person is my Dad, because he is so rational and can make me see things clearly. Of course my fiance is there too but I never wanted to drag him down or make him worry- so I tell him things when I am in a calmer state. I also would go to my Mom, but we have such an emotionally intertwined relationship that if one of us is in a bad way, the other will feel it too. We have to try to limit what we say to each other so we don’t upset each other that way. And if I really don’t want to talk, I journal. I keep a notebook in my purse or work bag- and now I have this blogsite.

So getting back to this friend, knowing what I did about her situation, I was very consistent at calling or checking in by text message to let her know that I was thinking of her, was there for her, would listen etc. Her response would be that she would call when she wanted to talk, and then she would call when she knew I was unavailable and would leave a message saying she would call the next time she felt like talking. Okay. Fine. I thought maybe she was feeling low and didn’t want to explain herself to anyone. With respect to getting together, we didn’t and the one time she offered to was the night before the engagement party, when I had an out-of-towners’ dinner, knowing I would not be available. She also told me she could not be a bridesmaid anymore because of her situation.

I didn’t see her all summer. I left well enough alone, figuring she wanted space and to be alone. I would see pictures of her at social gatherings on Facebook but I know that just because you post a picture, it does not mean you are happy or in a good place. I tried not to be insulted.

I decided to send a text message a few days ago which said I was concerned as I had not heard from her and did not see her all summer and wanted to make sure everything was okay. She responded that everything was okay and that she would respond to me later that night. The next night I received an email which was so unexpected and uncalled for.

In the email, she essentially said that it was interesting that I refer to her as someone who “gets” me and listens because she finds that I do not “get” her and basically our interactions consisted of me talking and her listening for the past little while (whenever that started) and she therefore took a step back from our friendship. She said she didn’t want to bring it up because she knew I had been going through a very difficult time with my diagnosis and she didn’t know how much if any of the issues were attributed to it (her words). I read that and my chest became tight. I had to read it a couple of times. I have been nothing but generous and kind to this friend, going out of my way, always trying to be there etc. And this is what she has to say? And she wants to attribute “issues” to my diagnosis???? First of all, I was diagnosed more than 4 years ago and I am very high functioning and I have had relapses but I am resilient. I fight every day to get up and to be (you know, to “be”). Secondly, WTF!!!!! What exactly are you trying to pin on me being bipolar or me having bipolar disorder? My not listening? My being selfish and talking too much? I am guilty of neither. I am a patient and quiet person and I put everyone else before me. I refuse to talk sometimes and my Mom and fiance worry because I bottle things up. Thirdly, NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE ever ever ever ever ever has the right to blame anything on my bipolar disorder, attribute (what they perceive to be) a character flaw or accuse me of being a certain way because I am bipolar. If I acted a certain way because “my bipolar is acting up” – I would tell you/the person. And I am not one of those people who goes around and throws phrases like that into conversations. This is MY diagnosis and I will deal with it how I please and I am me because that is how G-D made me and my illness does not define me and instead, it gives me a unique perception of the world, an amazing ability to be creative and it forces me to be strong and as mentioned before, resilient.

To me, this is the worst offence you can commit as a friend. I won’t get past it, not out of stubbornness, but because she clearly stated she was pushing me out and now she has given me reason to stop caring. I feel stupid and guilty and frustrated because I have wasted so much time being concerned about someone who really did not care about me/wanted me out. How do I know she wanted me out? Later in that email, she discussed how I didn’t understand her in more detail, accused me of making a comment which was a comment that was so out of character for me to say and I know I would never have said- even if I was on a high, and said that comment was offensive and it confirmed I don’t fully understand what she goes through. She noted that she had to pull back from a few friendships and she can’t spend time with people who don’t fully support her, therefore she can’t spend time with me and she does not know how things will be going forward. I did not respond to the email. I spent a few hours thinking of “comebacks” and things I would like to say in a response but I knew I was angry and did not want to start a hostile email exchange.

What I needed was to know, not that I was innocent of these charges, but I needed to have someone tell me I was not selfish or did not spend too much time telling people my problems. My mom spent time on the phone with me while I was in tears telling me I was a good person and giving etc. I think I was in tears because I felt blind-sighted by what happened, that a good friendship was over and that she tried to blame something on my diagnosis. It was proof-positive that she was clearly the one who did not get me and that to me was upsetting. Both my parents, who of course made me feel better, were disgusted by it, as they had been very giving to her to, as was my fiance. No one expected this to happen.

I can honestly say that even those you think understand mental illness don’t. People who have not witnessed mental illness first hand have no idea as to the toll it takes on a person. When your spouse, parent, sibling suffers from mental illness, you are affected too – and I love my support network of my parents and fiance. No one will ever understand “what it’s like” unless it is experienced first hand. I do not have any friends who have bipolar disorder. I have had friends with anxiety disorders and we can relate to each other with respect to coping with anxiety.

If someone asked me what it’s like to be bipolar/live with bipolar/have bipolar – I would say it’s hard to understand. How do you explain the profound swinging emotions that fluctuate and can torment you, alter your thought patterns, change your perceptions, make you feel lost, alone, lose your sense of self, lose your confidence, feel like you want to crawl into a ditch and hide and then other times you feel on top of the world, energetic, fantastic, hyper, giddy, extra-confident, bold or irritable, frustrated, edgy, restless? What is is like to rapid cycle and have multiple cycles in a week? In a day? Trust me, only someone who goes through it understands.

All I know is that the latest lesson I have learned is stigma is everywhere, and some people will never understand.

PS I'm Bipolar

My Head Hurts

(This post first appeared on my blog, PS I’m Bipolar)

My head hurts (and not just because I’ve had a migraine for 4 days).

It’s this build up of anger and irritability and thoughts.

So many thoughts – I don’t know what to do with them. There are so many at once, I can’t make sense of all of them, or write them down in time so that I won’t forget them- once they are forgotten about, they won’t come back.

I subscribe to BP Magazine (Bipolar Magazine) – and the Summer 2014 issue had an article about irritability and how it might predict mood swings/mood changes. I realize that sometimes my main symptom of depression is irritability (aside from very very very low motivation) but the irritability also precedes hypomania. I can have these very short bursts of hypomania (compared to how long the depression lasts). I am lucky in that the depression is not “paralyzing” in that I can still go to work, and leave my condo and do what I have to do, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. I just don’t present as overtly “sad” or “depressed”- or what “normal” people think depressed looks like…Because in the media, in the movies, on TV, depressed looks sad, despondent etc.

People assume persons with bipolar have marked symptoms and marked cycles. Because I have learned the art of suppression, it is harder for others to tell when the changes happen. I know when they are happening and shrug them off as best I can.

And I do think it is possible to be hypomanic (hyper) and sad at the same time. Just like you can be surrounded by people and still feel alone.

A few weeks ago I was out for a friend’s 30th birthday and after the dinner portion, which went on for 3+ hours, we went to a lounge/club and I just wasn’t feeling up for it and I could not bring myself to enjoy one minute of it. I just felt tired and exhausted and completely out of my element. That used to be my scene. I used to be able to go to these places and party and be carefree. USED to. Before the bipolar diagnosis in summer 2010. Before my anxiety returned in early 2008.

Isn’t it funny how a diagnosis changes everything? When I first met my psychiatrist, and we discussed family history, she put it out there that it was possible, that I could be bipolar, or it could happen. I have been seeing her since December 2002. I had developed anxiety in the Spring of 2003 – generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and agoraphobia briefly (thankfully- since it was the end of 1st year university and I had 3 more years to go). In January 2008, after the anxiety returned on New Year’s Eve of all days, we spoke of the possibility of bipolar again. And sure enough, in July 2010, diagnosis confirmed after a week of pure hypomania and sheer anxiety (thank you high dose of Celexa).

My prescriptions cost over $6,000 a year. Unfortunately, my work insurance plan only covers a maximum of $2,000 in prescriptions per year. But, as mentioned in a previous post, it is a better environment.

So, at the back of my mind, for years, I knew of the possibility of developing bipolar. But I didn’t understand what bipolar was, or what it could do. I just knew that I had a grandfather who passed away 5 years before I was born that had bipolar and an uncle I’ve never met who is bipolar. And other relatives who suffer with depression.

I have no friends with bipolar disorder. I have friends who have had struggles with anxiety disorders and overcome them. i managed to do very well off of antidepressants for a few years in between 2005-2008. That was my only reprieve.

I think the hardest part is accepting the diagnosis. And receiving the diagnosis of bipolar, or any mental illness, is just as hard as receiving a diagnosis of a serious physical condition or illness. There is a before and an after. There is no going back.

Maybe I am irritable because I wish I could go back, and warn myself to enjoy life before this happens…But everything happens for a reason, and I want to be a writer, that is what I always pictured myself doing. So, maybe this bipolar diagnosis gives me my purpose, and will help me to achieve my ultimate goal- writing a book.

The question is, do I write it in my own name, or a pseudonym. I could only imagine how my future in-laws would react if I wrote it in my own name!

I read two really amazing books written by successful people with bipolar, A Bipolar Life by Steve Millard and Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac by Bruce Goldstein. And they were brave enough to write in their own names.

I am irritable because I can’t do things as fast as I used to, be as productive as I used to, enjoy things the way I used to, sleep as well, exercise, control my emotions, be happy when I want to, get rid of the anger, be nice on command….

I am a high functioning bipolar person, yes, but I am used to more from myself. I know I am smart, I know I am capable, but I have seen myself do better and I want it back. Part of the problem is I am too aware of what is happening to me, but I am not able to stop it. It is frustrating, it is like watching a movie or a TV show and yelling at the characters, trying to tell them not to do something, but they just can’t hear you.

If someone asked me, what would make me happy, I would have to say honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things right now, which makes me angry.

I have immense difficulties making decisions, and I have perfectionist tendencies- not that that is a bad thing when it comes to work, because the quality of my work is great and appreciated in my workplace, but it means that until I am satisfied with what I write, I have to agonize over every little punctuation mark, re-word things etc.

Even writing this blog post is a project – I sit here hoping that the writing sounds great and smart!

I was composing an email to my bridesmaids and it took me half an hour because I was thinking “Oh I hope this sounds good, does this sound right? Will the future sister-in-laws feel they are being acknowledged properly?” etc. I know I shouldn’t be stressing about petty things like that…but if you meet them, you would understand.

We all say “I don’t care what other people think” or “I don’t give a sh** what other people think of me” but the truth is we do. We want to be liked, we want to be appreciated, we don’t like confrontation. Except for when we are irritable, then we seek out confrontation.

Being irritable all the time is dangerous- I have been irritable for months- it is very very hard to keep it together and not blow up at everyone over stupid things. And to not be petty. The best remedy is laughter- find something funny to watch, laughter helps. My grandfather always said laughter is the best medicine. He passed away unexpectedly in January, which was a huge blow to my family and I still can’t process that he is gone, he was a mentor to me, and was the best history professor. He was one of a kind. He never complained about his lot in life. We should all learn to be like him.

And then when I think of that, I get mad at myself for my pity party. Do you do that too? Feel guilty for being irritable, depressed, down, manic, whatever your state is? Minimize what you are feeling? That’s what we think we are supposed to do…but we are doing nothing wrong by having actual feelings. Humans feel, humans think. We are only human, we are allowed to make mistakes, to have emotions, to be emotional and have several emotions, even if they contradict each other.

So I have to learn to 1. Love myself 2. Not be angry at myself 3. Accept my diagnosis 4. Let it out 5. Tell my family to accept whatever mood I am in.

These are all hard to do, for different reasons. It is very hard to love yourself. You have to forgive yourself for all the “stupid mistakes” and “regrets” and understand it is part of your journey and there will be more, but in the end, you get to where you are supposed to be.

#2 is part of #1. Once I forgive myself, maybe I will stop being angry at myself. I have to stop expecting perfection out of myself. I don’t have to cook a perfect meal. I don’t have to write the most grammatically correct sentence, with the most complex, intellectual words in every paragraph I write. My home office does not have to be perfect. I have to stop stressing so I will stop losing my hair, and stop developing acne, and then stop touching my face, so I will stop having scars from the acne! Vicious cycle. Maybe once all of this happens, I will want to take better care of myself.

#3- Acceptance- well, the diagnosis is here to stay. What I am supposed to do with that? I am not going to stand on the top of a rooftop somewhere with a megaphone and shout out, “Hi everyone, I just wanted you to know I have bipolar II”. There are people who will say “good for you for doing that” and others who will look at me like I have leprosy. Some people just won’t understand.  I have to accept it before others do, and it’s my diagnosis to accept first, and my acceptance is what counts, not the acceptance of others. I also read in my BP Magazine, regarding irritability and triggers that people have different triggers, and of course we know that no 2 people have the exact same experience being bipolar, depressed, or whatever mental illness they have. Everyone is different.

#4. I don’t know how to let it out with out exploding or I just end up suppressing what I am feeling. I will just let it pass, or end up having a tearful episode. I need to find an outlet- like what I am doing now, which is writing. The last time I felt I had to let it out, I wrote a blog post. Maybe I am learning. I think my perception of letting it out is narrow, and I interpret to mean, share with someone else. I prefer to write it down, or talk to my doctor.

#5 My family has to accept what bipolar looks like, whether they want to or not. I am not saying this includes future in-laws, because I do not have that level of comfort. They are aware of its existence but have not seen it in action. This of course is why certain comments have been made “i.e. I don’t understand how you are able to work” or “why are you bothering to have an engagement party, or a wedding if you have such bad anxiety”. Just because I don’t have overt symptoms in front of them, or all the time, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If I want to be tearful, sad, angry, mad, happy, hyper, giddy, LET ME. My parents and fiance should be happy that I am comfortable enough to take of the mask/facade. I am myself in front of the friends that know. I test the waters and if they are not frightened by me being hyper one week and quiet the next, then I know they are not afraid. I am not saying I am a dangerous person, I am just a variety of moods so some people may not understand how or why. The only person I am ever a danger to is myself, because I may not want to eat or sleep. I would never do anything worse than that. There is no situation that can’t be handled or fixed.

I hope other people read this and nod their heads and say, “yeah I know what she means”. I am sure other people have relatives or in-laws or significant others who forget what the mood shifts look like, and don’t understand at times, just how frustrating it is to be bipolar. Or people who still have trouble digesting the diagnosis because of the stigma society attaches to mental illnesses and therefore fear telling others. And people who have trouble with self-esteem and self-love and are afraid to be their true selves.

If you want to be irritable, or whatever mood you’re in, embrace the mood and let it out.

PS I'm Bipolar

Take A Hint

(This post first appeared on my blog, PS I’m Bipolar)

My fiance, for all his sweet qualities, is not very good at taking hints. I am one of those people that “doesn’t like to burden others” with my “issues”. When I feel down, or frustrated or a certain way, I am not the type to whine and complain about it – until it gets really bad. I know I should have an outlet- i.e. gym, walking, something to get the bad energy out, but when I am in a rut, I am really in a rut. This rut has been going on for 2 years (the cause will be explained in a later post).

There is this annoying lack of motivation that prevents me from doing the smallest tasks, exercising, cooking, even writing- hence the long gap between this post and the previous post….and the fact that I am having serious brain fog!! What is it??? Is it me, is it the bipolar, is it the medication?

This cocktail of medication, sometimes looking at all my pills, as I sort them into my bi-weekly pill sorter (so that I know I take them), I wonder what all of them do to me- but I know that in the end, they must be stabilizing me, because despite being in a rut and despite the ridiculous situations and downs I have been through, I am extremely high functioning and if you didn’t know me, you would never know I suffer from bipolar II, probably OCD and various forms of anxiety. And germaphobia and other phobias. But the medication story will be another post too. Along with the brain fog ….If I can remember to post about them!

Okay, now that I have digressed to 3 other topics…I find it really hard to express myself when I am in my “states”, or maybe in general, expressing feelings is hard, because what you think in your head, and what you put into sentences to say to someone, doesn’t always mesh. Or make sense. Unless the person is psychic or actually KNOWS WHAT YOU MEAN (and isn’t just saying it, or thinks they know because they read some articles on bipolar or looked up the definition of it). I bought this book, Loving Someone with Bipolar or something to that extent, in the hopes that my fiance would read it….or maybe it would be something we could read together. Never happened. I read more of it than he did. He also reads 6-7 books at once (by reads I mean “reads” ….20 pages of this one and that one…).

So when it comes to my feelings, it’s hard for him to recognize what is going on, even though come January 1, 2015 we will have been together for 8 years. He understands me for the most part, and that there are moods and that I am irritable, high, sad, etc. He has stood by me since my diagnosis 4 years ago. But he still has difficulties noticing the subtleties, noticing when the moods are changing. when the states are changing, and how easily I slide from one state to another.

Maybe it’s because I am a really good actress. I work full time at a law firm, as a law clerk, in a role essentially created for me by the kindest boss, who is aware that I am bipolar because I told him this when we discussed me joining his firm. I also have a part time blogging business, and he was my first client, so he knew me beforehand, and that I am reliable, and do quality work.

Because I work full time and interact with various people, I have learned strategies to keep my emotions in check. I attend conferences, I recently spoke at a large conference to a large group of law clerks, and I was 100% okay! I have learned to stay “even”, well, appear even throughout the work day and I try really hard to do the same in social situations and not blow up, get high or cry.

When I know I am extremely sad and can’t face people, because if someone asks me “How are you?”, I will break down and cry, I know I have to stay home, or lay low. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that…(certain family members to be) and on this past New Year’s Eve, I was so low, that I had to miss a wedding that I had RSVP’d yes to, and my fiance went without me, not realizing how dangerously low I was. I managed to have dinner with a close friend and we took her young son to see Frozen (and how appropriate is that I heard the song Let It Go?), and then I went home, alone, and just bawled my eyes out for close to 2 hours. I actually managed not to binge it. Then I googled suicide hotlines and crisis lines and pondered calling one, but I didn’t know if I could, because I was crying so hard, I couldn’t speak. No one could have known how awful I was feeling (in my circle of friends etc.) – no one realized it until I literally said, I was so depressed, I wanted to call a suicide hotline because I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to go into the kitchen because of the knives. I don’t think I would have done anything, but I had to stay away and quarantined myself to the bedroom. I also pretended to be sleeping when my fiance came home because I was so angry with him. Despite my tearful state for 3 days prior, he did not understand my state of mind, how I was a wreck and how badly I needed him to be with me. I told him, you can tell your relatives I am sick, because it’s the truth. I later learned that one of his aunts told him that she hopes he can be happy with “someone like me”. And at our engagement party recently, she asked me, “how are you doing, are you okay”…Right… because you know so much about my state of mind?

I told my fiance, a mental illness is no different than a physical illness and you need to see it that way, and explain that to your family. If I am not well, you can explain it the same way as if it were a physical illness. You wouldn’t question someone staying home with a migraine, or low blood sugar, or high blood pressure or fainting spells, right?

So, he can’t read me properly…but I forget to mention that I am a rapid cycle-r…as in… I go through more than 10 cycles in a month… I can go through daily cycles, and it can switch throughout the week and every day is a different mood. And, because I have to suppress things as I work with so many other people (who would not understand bipolar), I am exhausted at the end of the week. So excuse me for not being the life of the party on the weekend. Excuse me for finding a way to cope and exist.

Back to the lack of motivation comment – it took me more than 3 months to unpack the books in my home office…Because I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and because I have to have them organized by category (fiction, biography, history, psychology, self-help and the fiction is organized by geographical region), because that’s what makes the OCD happy. I now have piles on my office floor because other boxes were emptied out and those items were taking up shelf space until I decided the books should be unpacked. I find decision making so difficult- I had to decide how to configure the shelves etc.

Even deciding what to eat, where to eat is a battle because I have to weigh the pros and cons of this place or that or eating this or that….

I keep digressing, but that’s how it is, I think we all understand it…my mind is flitting around.

I barely managed to enjoy the engagement party because of all the people talking to me and not letting me sit down and relax. I didn’t get to talk much with my friends, or enjoy the food as much as I wanted to, and it was at my favourite restaurant. I wonder how I will be able to manage talking to all these people at the wedding! It could be 250+ people! But there are other reasons (reasons for the rut and my sadness that lead to me being upset that day- it wasn’t the bipolar acting up).

I actually had a relative to be comment, that if I can’t handle social situations, why am I bothering to have an engagement party or a wedding… The nerve some people have.

My family notices when the states are different, and when it’s quiet to hyper. But not the subtleties that precede the changes. That’s what I want them to see, but maybe only an expert can see it. I would hope by now that someone will notice when I am about to go up, or go down and try to help me balance.

I realized when I was driving home from work the other day, that when I am sad, or panicked, I really don’t know who to call that would best understand me (friends-wise). I used to have someone that was great when I had very bad anxiety 11 years ago. Somehow, since my diagnosis our friendship changed and he’s been out of my life for the past year. He wasn’t there when I needed him last fall during a family crisis. That hurt.

And there have been friends that have missed out on cues that I needed help, or something was wrong, friends who know my behaviour patterns (he was one of them), and that if there is radio silence, something is wrong, and they should reach out. These people know about my diagnosis.

There are some friends who don’t know about the diagnosis and I don’t expect them to be there in the same way. There isn’t the same level of comfort- so I can’t be too disappointed.

I guess what I am trying to express, is that I am in a rut, it’s been a long time, I am frustrated with my lack of motivation (because it affects my ability to do work and focus), I hate brain fog, I am frustrated with people missing cues and I am tired of people not understanding the effects of mental illness. Oh, and I don’t take well to disappointment.

I really try not to get excited over events, or things, or anything, because then I can’t get disappointed. Doesn’t always work when I am on a high, because everything is awesome at that point. Works better when you are mad at the world, or sad and couldn’t care less.

On that note…my brain hurts from all this thinking!

My Real Opinion, PS I'm Bipolar

Some People Will Never Understand

(This post first appeared on one of my blog sites, “PS I’m Bipolar”, where I decided to write under a pseudonym.)

No matter how well you explain yourself, there are certain people who just won’t understand what mental illness is. Bipolar is not an easy illness to understand and there will be people in your life who just won’t see reason when it comes to trying to understand you.

It is very frustrating the way people see mental illnesses as being so distinct from physical illnesses- an illness is an illness, plain and simple.

I am so tired of trying to explain why I am the way I am and I really think that I should be able to just be me.

I have been told that “mental illness is not an excuse”, well no one said it was, but I am allowed to stay home, or avoid situations if I feel I will be set off. There are toxic people who can be triggers too and seeing them as little as possible would be ideal.

It is so insulting that certain people look at me and don’t understand how I can work, and live away from my parents and “function” and be engaged and starting to plan a wedding, but not be able to attend certain social events. The amount of energy it takes for me to get through the work week is all of the energy I have- the reserve is empty by the weekend. No one knows my brain/body better than me and there is nothing worse than knowing you will have an anxiety attack, having anxiety about having anxiety, and then going somewhere and having an anxiety attack.

I have to come to terms that people won’t understand me. I do not want everyone to necessarily know what it feels like, just to understand what it means when I can’t attend an event and need to stay home, or feel safe. Maybe it is coddling myself, maybe it is my way of coping, but it is my choice.

I just want to wake up one day and to be able to openly talk about bipolar disorder when I want to, where I want to and not worry about someone looking at me as if I have leprosy. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. I am fortunate that certain people do understand me and I can let my guard down and get rid of the facade.

I am not a phony person, I like being genuine and to be anything other than that is hard. I don’t pretend to be someone else in public, it’s just a toned down version, and I suppress the mood swings and the highs and lows.

“If you judge someone, you have no time to love them” – Mother Teresa

I first read this quote when I was in grade 8 (1998) and it is stuck with me ever since. Most likely because I have encountered bullies in elementary school, high school, luckily not in university, but unfortunately in my post-grad program in college and in the workplace. There will always be bullies and I have found a safe work environment now and only have the friends I want to have in my life.

Unfortunately, there are some people you just can’t avoid (like future in-laws) who have no rhyme or reason for acting a certain way towards you and make you feel like having a mental illness, means you can never have a bad day, be anxious, or miss an event. Because missing an event makes you a bad person and means you are disinterested and pick and choose what you want to go to.

As I said, some people will just never understand…hence the reason for using a pseudonym instead of my real name, because certain people might not appreciate my opinions!