Bipolar Disorder, My Real Opinion

Don’t Minimize My Feelings

Find out who you are and do it on purpose- Dolly Parton

I started writing this blog post about 5 weeks ago, after a conversation I had with someone who made me feel like my feelings were being minimized. I know it wasn’t that person’s intention and I am not going to “out” that person because he or she is not a bad person, it’s just one of those unfortunate situations where you hope someone understands you (or is trying to) and it turns out that is not the case.

If I decide to open up to someone, I am making myself vulnerable to potential judgement, to a possible argument and the chance that the person actually doesn’t really have the time to speak. The worst thing you can do to me is make me feel like my thoughts are not valid or they are not important. Because my thoughts are very real to me and sometimes are scary as hell. Believe me, I live with them. They keep me hidden at home sometimes.

Vulnerability can be beautiful. I appreciate when people show me their true selves and show me they are vulnerable. I would never hurt those people and I know they would never hurt me. Unfortunately, there are so many people who are afraid to let this part of them be seen (if it exists in them at all).

I realize I am not the easiest person to be friends with, or be related to, or be married to or live with. Although at the same time (and not to pay myself on the back here) though I do struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem, I know at my core I am a good person. I am a strong-willed, fiercely determined, ambitious, loving, generous, patient person with more empathy than I know what to do with. This empathic nature gets me into trouble though, because I am a sopping wet sponge when it comes to absorbing everyone else’s emotions, even from a distance! (Sorry-tangential thinking there)

Okay back to the subject at hand. I may not be the most easygoing person at times, but I am never intentionally difficult. Unless you are trying to get me to open up and I have clammed up, and no matter how much you try to pry me open, I won’t budge. I want to explain why this is and what my thought process is, because I think it is important for people who care about me, or who want to understand me to know and this is the best way I can explain it.

Before I delve into my thought process, I want to talk more about the issue of minimizing thoughts and feelings. We are human. We all have thoughts and feelings. How willing we are to express them is an individual choice. I can be very expressive at times, and it is those times when I hope the person I am talking to recognizes I need to be heard. If I feel like I am wasting someone’s time or this person does not have the time of day for me, it is unbelievably frustrating and painful. Or if the person on the receiving end of my call/texts (or however we are communicating) questions the logic behind my thoughts and feelings, it is a crushing blow. I am aware that what I feel and think may not seem logical or rational to many people (no one said anxious or depressive thoughts were rational), but let me work it out. I like to think out loud sometimes.

Sometimes, I become preoccupied with the idea that I am a burden to my friends. I don’t know when this started or why I think this way, but this belief only strengthens when I am feeling depressed or starting to go on my downwards spiral. I worry that I am a needy friend and that when my friends see messages from me they think “Oh boy, not again” or “She’s so draining” or “She’s so needy”. I hesitate to reach out when I need help.

Instead, I suppress my emotions and I try to keep it to myself. I have written about having great friends, which I do but when I get in one of my “funks” I almost don’t believe that I have friends. What ends up happening is I drive home from work, sad, in pain and tears, wanting to call someone, but I can’t, because if he or she is busy, I will be disturbing them (or so my mind tells me).

My thoughts spiral further and further to the bottom of the pit. I begin to feel like I am a waste of space. I start to doubt my abilities. I wonder why I bother blogging or with mental health advocacy, I think “Am I really making a difference”? and “Who cares about my Instagram account and what I have to say?” and so on.

When I come out of my “funk”, I remember that these thoughts are just thoughts. The same way my anxious thoughts are just thoughts and not necessarily true and not necessarily indicative of things that can and will happen, because anxiety is not a psychic. At least I hope mine doesn’t evolve into one. That would be f*cked up.

When I originally started to write this, I was listening to Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Out”, and the lyric, “It’s always darkest before the dawn” spoke to me. You don’t know light without dark. You don’t know good without bad.

Or, as Albert Einstein once said,

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.

What opportunity you ask? For growth. To develop strength. To learn an important lesson. Let your difficulties teach you something. I know I certainly have. Over the last 6 or so years, I have been challenged more than I deserve, I have experienced profound sadness and absolutely terrifying anxiety, stigma, the loss of friends, more stress than I ever thought I could handle and I am still standing.

Do you want to know what I have learned?

Here it is: No matter what life throws at me, I am still here. Yeah. Take that life! I’m not getting knocked down. I’m not going anywhere. 

 

 

 

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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.

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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/

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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.

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Bipolar Disorder, International Bipolar Foundation, My Real Opinion

30 Things Not To Say To Those With Bipolar Disorder

This post originally appeared on International Bipolar Foundation’s website: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/30-things-not-say-those-bipolar-disorder

things not to say

I always enjoy reading “listicles” about “what not to say” and “what to say” to someone with a mental illness. I read them and nod my head in agreement, as I can relate all too well. There are sayings or comments that may seem helpful, but aren’t in reality because they inadvertently minimize our thoughts and feelings or may make us feel even more anxious. I devised my own list and wanted to share it.

Here is my list, in no particular order:

  1. “Everyone has something.”
  2. “You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.”
  3. “You always look for an excuse.”
  4. “How are you managing?” (And other loaded questions).
  5. “Be nice.”
  6. “Calm down.”
  7. “I’m not very happy with you right now.”
  8. “Why can’t you just be happy?”
  9. “You have every reason to be happy.”
  10. “What happened now?”
  11. “Why?”
  12. “Why can’t you have one day where you feel good?”
  13. “You’ve been like this for so long.”
  14. “Maybe you need to change your medications.”
  15. “Maybe your medications aren’t working anymore.”
  16. “You should discuss this with your doctor.”
  17. “What does your doctor have to say about this?”
  18. “What did your doctor say?”
  19. “You should exercise.”
  20. “I’ll motivate you.”
  21. “Don’t be lazy.”
  22. “Everyone has stress.”
  23. “Stop making excuses.”
  24. “You’re making yourself anxious.”
  25. “Stop anticipating.”
  26. “You’re making yourself nervous.”
  27. “Why can’t you make a decision?”
  28. “So-and-so said it would be nice to see you.”
  29. “Don’t worry about it.”
  30. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

To add some context to some items on the list, being indecisive is as frustrating for me as it is for my family and friends. It’s hard to make a decision because I am sitting there weighing the pros and cons of each choice and get lost in the process.

I don’t want my anxiety to be seen as an excuse to get out of events. Believe me, it’s no joy ride experiencing panic attacks and being afraid to leave your house because you are anxious. If someone cannot attend an event because of how they feel, it shouldn’t matter if it is as a result of a physical illness, physical injury or due to anxiety or depression. We should put mental illness and physical illness on equal planes.

I am not making myself anxious. I can’t predict when I am going to become anxious. I likely won’t believe someone who tells me everything is going to be okay because I am a realist and I will just ask, “How do you know?”, even though I know that anxiety-free periods do exist. I just don’t like trite sayings.

I’ll end on this note: happiness, acceptance and recovery are all journeys. I can’t answer why I am not happy all the time, why I keep having panic attacks or experience depression even though it’s the summer or why all the “why’s.” What I do know is that it’s my journey and I have to own it.

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Content Is Queen

I have a VOICE

(This post first appeared on my blog, Content is Queen Blogger)

Who saw “The King’s Speech”?

I did. In fact, I liked it so much, that I went out and bought the book and devoured it, page by page, because I had to know more about how King George VI overcame his speech impediment (stammer) and I had to know more about Lionel Logue, his unconventional methods and how he was not, after all, a “real doctor”, and yet he was a great success in treating patients who came from all walks of life.

My favourite scene in the movie is when Bertie, in his last hours of Duke of York,   turns around to find Lionel sitting in King Edward’s chair while they are rehearsing for his coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey. He is flustered and trying to convince Lionel to vacate the regal seat. And why should Lionel listen to him?

Because…”I HAVE A VOICE!”.

I honestly think that is the best and most well-played scene in the film.

Yes, your voice is how you assert your power and authority. And it is  most interesting that when Bertie became angry, his stammer would disappear. When he was upset, or frustrated it would come out.

Many of us have experienced a fear of public speaking: ‘What if I am boring?’ ‘What if I pronounce a word wrong?’ etc.

They key is: ABC- Always Be Confident. Yes, you can! If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you too.

Confidence applies to writing to. Assert a confident tone when you are writing. How else can you convince your readers that you are authentic and “the real deal?”.

If you want to be a salesperson, a marketer, remember that line from Glengarry Glen Ross? Always Be Selling!

Find your voice and write, sell, speak, do what you have to do to make yourself known and establish your path.

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