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.

 

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International Bipolar Foundation

A Thank You Letter To A Very Special Husband

This post was originally posted on International Bipolar Foundation’s website: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/thank-you-letter-very-special-husband

audrey hepburn

Dear Husband,  

We made it through the first year of marriage (not that I had any doubts, don’t worry)! We’ve been through more than our fair share of difficult times, loss and trying times together. But, through thick and thin, we’ve stayed together and can’t live life without each other. 

I never thought I would find someone who would accept me for who I am and who would accept my irrational fears of stomach flus, germs, change and sometimes other people. I once told you that I really believed “Hell Is Other People”, a line from the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. I am pretty sure I told you this in one of my depressed states. I think I said it out of frustration because I was struggling and I felt like no one understood me, and in relation to how stigma can make a person feel.  

When we met, unbeknownst to either of us, I was in a hypomanic state, and I was fun, spontaneous, hypersexual (compared to what I became in years to come), and I was thin and I was feeling great. I didn’t need to eat much and I didn’t need to sleep much. Of course you wanted to be with me, I was easy going and flirty and I was great to be around (minus the many late nights where you wanted to get more sleep of course). And then I “crashed” that summer and became depressed and I don’t know if I ever recovered. By the winter, I was severely anxious and required an antidepressant that ended up causing a tremendous amount of weight gain which to this day, I still struggle with and has shattered my self-esteem. But, you never stopped calling me beautiful and you never saw me in a different light. 

A few years after we met, we found out why I was having these drastic “ups” and “downs” and severe anxiety. It seems my genetic predisposition to something called Bipolar Disorder came into play, and it was my turn to receive the dreaded diagnosis. I know my existential rants in the middle of the night were probably frightening and my questioning the purpose of my existence, or if I “was really here” probably made little sense to you, but you still held me and made me feel safe. You tried your best to make me feel like nothing had changed and that life was worth living and that my life was not over. 

Because of you, I have managed to keep working, to keep friendships, to learn more about myself and to learn how to better interact with people. You are an extrovert and I have always been an introvert (except for when hypomanic and I overextend myself and think I can handle seeing EVERYONE- when I can’t). You tried to, and have succeeded in bringing me out of my self-inflicted protective shell for the most part, and you have helped me to blossom, even after a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. That’s not hard to do- especially when I wanted to stay in bed on the weekend and forget about the world. You would never let me do that. 

I know you want to fight the stigma toward mental illness with me. You have been trying, and you showed me from very early on in our relationship that the fact that I had an anxiety disorder did not bother you. You understood I had limitations with socializing at times. Regardless of comments from other people, you stayed with me. Even when I had to miss events because of my depression or anxiety, you defended me. You pay little regard to ignorant comments about your desire to be in a relationship “with someone like me” and you are finally learning that as your wife, I am a priority in your life and my mental health is important and if you have to miss an event because I am having a bad day and not well, so be it. I know that was hard for you to accept because you are so sweet and you want to please everyone, especially your family, but I am proud of you for learning to stand up for me and for wanting to be here for me. 

You will always remind me of who I am and why I am here. So, on our first wedding anniversary, I want to thank you for making me want to live life. I may not be able to live in the present moment most of the time, but you are teaching me not to dwell in the past. You are teaching me it’s okay to cry, to let go, to be myself and to feel emotions (because there are days when I describe myself as numb). Having a mental illness does not come with an instruction manual. Imagine how great it would be if it did? We could pick up the manuals for Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Depression and learn together. 

We do have our share of arguments like any married couple, which I think means we are doing okay. We have dealt with every struggle that has come our way. We have some things to work on, like any married couple does, but no marriage is perfect. What I do know is that we are perfect for each other and that’s all that matters. 

Love,

Your very appreciative wife.

 

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International Bipolar Foundation

What Happened When I Asked A Few People To Get Loud For Mental Health

This was originally posted on International Bipolar Foundation’s website for Mental Health Month/Mental Health Awareness Week: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/what-happened-when-i-asked-few-people-getloud-mental-health

those who mind don't matter

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) first introduced Mental Health Week in 1951, and it has since become a yearly tradition. The official hashtag for Mental Health Week is #GETLOUD. CMHA and the Mental Health Commission of Canada asked that everyone speak up and get loud for mental health during the week of May 2-8, 2016. And of course, as you know, May is Mental Health Month in the U.S.

I asked some friends and loved ones to #GETLOUD and share their views on stigma, supporting me (as a person living with multiple mental illnesses) and to share what they have learned from reading my blogs.

I didn’t do this so I could receive praise or accolades. I wanted to write this blog to 1) show people that you can function well despite and in spite of your diagnosis (es) and that people do recognize it 2) people understand you better than you think and3) you may not realize that you make a difference in other people’s lives. My ultimate goal in life is to write and share my story so I can help other people know they are not alone and to bring understanding and awareness to anxiety disorders, depression and bipolar disorder.

Here are the views of my support system:

Let’s start with my Father. My Dad is a lawyer/mediator and has had clients who have had mental health issues and mediates many cases where the plaintiff has been through trauma and has a mental illness and is unable to work (because of a car accident, or perhaps was on long-term disability). This is what he had to say:

“Understanding the effects of mental health issues on an individual from reading about it is certainly not the same as seeing its impact on one’s child. My daughter Melanie bravely announced that she is bipolar and suffers from an anxiety disorder. She is an example of someone who can function at a high level and multitask galore. She struggles from time to time and has to put up the brave front. She has perfected her acting skills when she has those darker moments. We are proud of her accomplishments, particularly in light of her daily challenges. She is a shining example that despite suffering from a mental illness, one can succeed. When I mediate cases involving individuals who suffer from mental health afflictions following trauma I make sure to use Melanie as an example that one can overcome challenges and move forward.”

On World Bipolar Day, we used the hashtag, #MoreThanADiagnosis because we wanted people to know that we are more than that, and that we can have a real life and not be confined by our illness. Yes, I do have to “act” at work, but the important thing is that I CAN work. I think it is important to show others that there are accepting employers out there.

The next response is from my husband, Daniel, talking about how to support a significant other.

“Things change after a diagnosis, but they don’t have to change for the worst. Being in a long-term relationship with someone who has a mental illness is no different than being in any relationship as all relationships involve hard work and dedication. I have learned that the best way to support a person living with a mental illness (or multiple mental illnesses) is to be kind, patient, caring and to throw some humour in the mix, because as my wife’s Grandfather would always say, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’”.

I will say that humour and laughter is important. Especially when you have anxiety, because something that I find really helps anxiety is distraction, and what better way to distract yourself from your anxiety than laughter?

Nicole, someone I worked with and became close friends with had this to say about friendship and being there for your friends:

“True friends know when their best friend is having a bad day, or is feeling off. They don’t walk away, they stand by and remind them they are loved and you are here to listen anytime. True friends don’t let anyone they love and care about go through this alone. Bipolar doesn’t change a true friendship.”

Nicole never changed how she treated me after I told her about my diagnosis. On my wedding day, as it was nearing the ceremony and I was becoming a little big anxious, she knew what to do to calm me down. She can tell when I am “off” and will check in on me. That is something important for a friend to do, because people who suffer from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder often tend to withdraw and try to isolate themselves.

Gabriel, a close friend but also someone I work with for my part-time business, talks about a misconception and strength:

“If a diagnosis like bipolar disorder is supposed to slow you down and make you vulnerable then someone needs to tell Melanie because clearly she never got the memo. Melanie is an incredibly hard worker as well as a loyal and compassionate friend. If anyone is dealing with a new bipolar diagnosis they should look to this strong, intelligent young lady for guidance and inspiration.”

I will say that I am a perfectionist and work harder than I should, to my own detriment where I don’t take care of myself, but that’s a story for another time. The point here is that someone else recognizes that fact and the fact that just because you have a mental illness, it doesn’t take away your ability to work or be a good friend.

Mike, a long-time and trusted friend since my early high school days and one person who knows how to handle my anxiety best and be honest with me (even if it’s something I don’t want to hear) said:

“I support my friend because I need them to know that whatever stigma may unfortunately exist out there, does not exist to those who mean so much to me.”

He also said that,

“I guess it is also about trying to separate you from the “illness”. Sometimes I get hurt by some things and can admittedly get mad or whatever. And I need to take a step back and remember it isn’t “you” doing it. I can’t hold anger towards you for it. But sometimes my feelings were hurt and I got a bit upset. I have learned not to let those things hurt me as much. Understand it isn’t “you” and wanting to be understanding an empathetic towards you and make it less about my “feelings”.

This brings up a good point. We all have our good days and bad days. Sometimes my response to people in text messages can seem rude or curt, when I don’t mean them to be, or I am being impulsive because of the state I am in. I never mean to hurt my friends or family and I am trying to be better with my agitation and irritability and to warn people when those symptoms are rearing their ugly heads so they won’t take my comments personally.

Another long-time high-school friend who plays a large role in my life, Elana discusses anxiety and what she’s learned about mental illness over the past few years:

“When Mel had her first panic attack I didn’t realize what it really meant aside from having anxiety and I couldn’t appreciate how difficult the experience was for her. I know people say a condition doesn’t change a person but for Mel, I think that it made her more aware of herself and gave her determination to not let it get the best of her. So no, it didn’t change her but it motivates her.  Reading her blogs and the different articles she’s forwarded to me over the last six years, has made me more aware and understanding of the struggle people with mental illness experience. It’s important that people accept that a mental illness can be just as debilitating as a physical ailment. Yes, the symptoms are different, but they are very real! I learned that just because a person appears happy, doesn’t mean they are.  Since her diagnosis I have become more aware of mental illness and it even has made me more sensitive to my uncle who suffers anxiety as a result of his mental illness. Mel’s determined to stop the stigma and she does her best to encourage and educate her family and loved ones about her condition and mental health in general. Just this year I supported her in World Bipolar Day, something I wasn’t truly aware of, it wasn’t for Mel. So thank you Mel!”

A few things to take away from this:

1) Sharing information really does make a difference and can help your support system to better understand you.

2) Mental illness should be treated the same way as physical illness.

3) A mental illness can change you for the better- I always say that being diagnosed with bipolar disorder made me a better person because it gave me the chance to get to know myself better and I learned to be more compassionate. I admit I still struggle with self-esteem issues and there are bad days, but I don’t regret receiving my diagnosis and finally receiving an answer as to what was “going on” with me.

Elana’s brother, Jordan, has also become a good friend and wanted to say a few words:

“I never really understood Mel’s day to day challenges. She hides things very well. That is one of the reasons I love reading her blog. It allows me to have a better understanding of how she feels and what she struggles with and that allows me to be a better friend. Her blog also helps me with my anxiety issues. There always seems to be something in every post that helps, like an anchor in choppy water. She has the ability to change my perspective (when thinking about mental illness) and routinely shares great stress reducing exercises I can practice at work or home. Mel continues to dismantle mental illness stigma through her work and gives all of us (who struggle or know people who struggle) tremendous hope.”

I do hide things very well, sometimes too well. Sometimes I just don’t feel like sharing, but it is important that people recognize my pattern of doing this and that they read my blog posts and find out how I am feeling. I do find I can express myself better in writing. I highly recommend it – journaling helps too – think of it as getting those negative thoughts out of your head!

This quote also goes back to my earlier point about how you can make a difference by sharing your story. You really never know who you are helping, whether it’s a stranger or a friend.

I hope that anyone reading this can find some comfort, learn something new or if you have bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression (or any mental illness or are just a mental health advocate), you can show this to someone who supports you, a family member, friend, or someone you want to understand you better so they can get a sense of what we go through and how important it is to have a real, honest support system.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

love don't judge

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International Bipolar Foundation

Laughter Is The Best Medicine and Is How I Found My Soulmate

This post was first posted on International Bipolar Foundation’s website: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/laughter-best-medicine-and-how-i-know-i-found-my-soulmate

married bipolar disorder

Melanie’s husband, Daniel, wrote an accompanying blog post for our Couples Series. We recommend reading the two posts together. 

My sister messaged me on Whatsapp the other day and said she liked my profile picture, and that I looked genuinely happy in it. Having the terrible memory that I do, I forgot what it it was, and had to check. It is a picture from my wedding album (above), of my husband, Daniel and I. My sister was right, I do look happy, and my smile was genuine. I told her that Daniel must have made me laugh right before the photo was taken. I don’t think I would have been able to get through my wedding day this past May without his silly/bad jokes!

I would not get through life and the hard times without him making me laugh, and always knowing how to cheer me up.

Next January, we will have known each other for 10 years. It is hard to believe that 10 years ago, I met this wonderful man, who accepted me for me from the get go. I should probably explain that at the time we met, I was in a hypomanic state (unbeknownst to either of us), and was very different from who I am today. I was not well, I didn’t know it, he didn’t know it, but I was fun so who cared? Well, I was reckless in some ways i.e. shopping addiction, not sleeping, not eating properly, and eventually this culminated into a panic attack on our first New Year’s Eve together and always being medicated since then. This meant chronic battles with weight and self-esteem. Oh, and of course, a debt consolidation loan, because I maxed out 4 credit cards and a line of credit, and yet he didn’t judge me or criticize me for this, because he is not like that.

Daniel, being supportive, has come with me to my psychiatrist’s appointments, without being afraid to voice his opinion or ask questions. I encourage him to read about bipolar disorder, to learn about mental illness, and to ask questions of me. I know he won’t be able to understand what I go through, but so long as he can recognize when my moods are shifting, it helps because he may sometimes catch it before I do, and he can try to keep me calm when I seem hyper, whether it’s at home or in public.

Daniel has been nothing but patient and kind to me throughout the years. He has stood by me when I wanted to give up and hide in bed. I will never forget having a panic attack in front of him the day after we met, and he couldn’t do enough to try and help me. I was just stunned that he wasn’t afraid of me and actually wanted to see me again.

I always say laughter is the best medicine, because it distracts you. In order for me to calm down from a panic attack (aside from taking one of my “emergency” pills), I will often just ask Daniel to tell me something funny. Distraction works.

I also knew Daniel was special when he connected with my Grandfather right away. I always wanted a marriage like my grandparents, because my Grandpa always referred to my Grandma as his princess and he tried to treat her like one. He adored her, he made her handmade cards, and it was true love and I am happy Daniel had a chance to meet both of them.

Grandpa’s motto was actually, “Laughter is the best medicine” and he adored Daniel (I should mention that everyone who meets him does because he is very charming and patient). My Grandpa made the best of every situation, and Daniel tries to do that too. He always tries to see the best in people and he always tries to keep positive energy in the room (even though sometimes I tell him “stop it!” when he says, “Positive energy Mel! Positive energy!” when I am in a bad mood).

It was difficult for Daniel to see me grapple with my diagnosis in July 2010. It took a long time for me to accept this was my “new reality.” Even though the bipolar disorder had been there my entire life, it wasn’t until that point in time that it really hit me in the face. The weekend before my doctor’s appointment where she confirmed the diagnosis, I was in an extremely hyper, terrified state and I know it was not easy for him to see me like that. It’s never easy to see a loved one go through a difficult time, especially when you don’t know how you can help. It took a while for me to know what made me feel better when I was in my different states, and to be able to actually communicate that. I have trouble asking for help and admitting that I want someone to listen to me and to verbalize what is going through my mind. I am a great actress and am very adept at hiding my feelings because I have to do that at work, so no one asks questions, but sometimes I forget to take the mask off at home. This is where it helps to have a partner who knows you well.

Let’s face it, a “normal” relationship is hard to maintain. A relationship with someone with longstanding anxiety, depression, bipolar II with rapid cycling, who has low self-esteem and doubts herself most days is not easy. I tell Daniel that I know how lucky I am to have him. But you know what, he’s lucky to have me too. Why, because I am unique and special. No matter what, I pull through every challenge life has given me (as has he), and that’s why we work. Because we are strong, passionate people who respect each other and have a deep caring for each other. He always tells me that he wouldn’t be where he is today in his life without me, or who he is without me. Our lives would be very different without each other.

What makes us work?

  • Being honest about who we are from the beginning of the relationship- I told him on our first date that I had an anxiety disorder;
  • Not being influenced by the opinions of others- Yes, there have been relatives/people who may have questioned his choice to be with “someone like me,” but he never let that bother him or change his mind;
  • Listening to each other and valuing each other’s opinions;
  • Him understanding my need for “space” a.k.a. breathing room when I feel overwhelmed;
  • Being patient with things like how long it takes to put away laundry, dishes, or if I don’t feel like cooking, he will bring home dinner;
  • Learning to work as a team;
  • A willingness to compromise – If I don’t want to/can’t go to an event, but he still wants to and I am okay with it, he can go without me and I don’t mind;
  • He is willing to stand up for me and vice versa.

When I was in dating mode before I met Daniel, what I thought I wanted was very different from who I ended up with. I have no regrets. I don’t need to be married to a millionaire, be a doctor or professor’s wife – I just need to be with someone who lets me be me, and who is authentic. From day one, Daniel has been authentic, original, and has never changed. Whenever I fill out a card for him, I always say something along the lines of “Thank you for always being you, never change”. I don’t think he will change, and I’m proud of that and proud he is my husband.

As Shakespeare said, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”

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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!

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