Category Archives: My bipolar world

Is there a downside to creating awareness?

You may or may not know that May is mental health awareness month. Apart from social media, there isn’t really much I can do in the way of busting the stigma. Where I live, it’s still very much a reality. Then I read an article about triggers and it got me thinking about some things that happened in my life and the combination of events that lead to this.

Even as a child, I knew that I was depressed, I just didn’t know that what I felt could be classified as illness. I didn’t know that something could be done about all the terrible feelings going crazy inside my head. And awareness in that case would have been great! But then I thought about the first time I contemplated suicide. I think I was about 14 or 15. Suicide had never even remotely cross my mind, even though I was in a terrible emotional state. One day, one of my mother’s magazines were lying on the coffee table and I was just randomly paging through it when I found this article, addressed to parents, about how to handle your child if he/she is suicidal or has attempted suicide. For the first time, I realised that there was a way out. Luckily the younger, confused me was too scared to actually do anything. I did however have suicidal ideations on and of, well, until now.

Similarly, I never thought of self-harm. Even as a dark and twisty teenager I never considered that hurting myself would make me feel better. Until I met someone when I was already in my mid-twenties, who became a friend, confided in me about her self-harm. And then one day I was feeling awful and getting drunk by myself, and I finally had enough courage to give it a go. And of course the more you do something like that, the more you want to do it.

Am I making sense? Of course people should be made aware of  mental illnesses, the symptoms, the treatment, etc. But I think the point I’m trying to make is that those of us who already have this awareness, who have been around the block, who know the ins and outs of our particular illness have a responsibility to think before we share, especially online. Like giving trigger warnings. We need to use our experiences and the information we have wisely so that we make sure that we do good, and not harm.

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Just add another diagnoses to the pile

I had a very interesting appointment with my psychiatrist last week. I wanted to write it earlier, but I’ve had to think about it a bit.

Before and after I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, Dr Google and I self-diagnosed loads. Generalised anxiety disorder, PTSD, plain ol’ depression, OCD; I’m pretty sure I even diagnosed myself with hypochondria (little joke there). Doctors have diagnosed me with depression (nope), cyclothymia (like what is that anyway?) and eventually with what I knew deep down all along – Bipolar 2. After my suicide attempt 1 therapist and 1 psychiatrist diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder, and then 1 therapist and 1 psychiatrists un-diagnosed me about 6 month later. I can appreciate that psychiatry is not an exact science.

When my psychiatrist suggested that I might suffer from social anxiety, it made perfect sense to me. In fact, I had been thinking about because if something required me making a phone call or meeting new people, I just did do it. The thought paralysed me. To get to the point, last week I’m sitting in the Doc’s office and complaining about a bunch of adult things that I have to do but just don’t because it’s too much effort and I don’t feel like it and now my mother is pressuring me to get my shit in order. So, he gives me this sideways glance and knowing smile and says: “I’ve been thinking, don’t you think you suffer from a degree of ADHD?” Shocked into silence. Like I mentioned, I have diagnosed myself with EVERYTHING; ADHD has never crossed my mind. I ponder, “Maybe the inattentive type, but I am definitely not hyperactive.” (some days I would even describe myself as sloth-like)

What made this interesting, was that just a few days before that, a friend of mine suggested that I talk to the doc about taking a small dose of Ritalin. I was complaining because exams are in a month and I basically haven’t even opened a book. Also I’m sleeping more than 12 hours and it’s just no way to live. I keep telling people that I need a necklace to just hang all my keys around my neck, and that if my head wasn’t attached to my body, I’d probably lose it. So as the doc kept going through behaviours and symptoms, I suddenly saw myself and my life in a totally different light. I believe it’s late onset, because I was a very together and responsible child. A couple of things are confusing, because some of the symptoms do overlap with bipolar symptoms, but I am doing a lot of research and there are some fantastic youtube channels out there. I did get my small dose of Ritalin, so far it’s not like I feel different or anything, but I haven’t lost anything, so I guess it is working. Not so stoked about taking MORE meds though.

I shall keep you appraised about how this works out. I really hope that it does help with focus, as I am going to fail if I don’t start studying quite soon. I also need to get my routine in order so I am not constantly frazzled and behind with everything all the time. Wish me luck and success on my new ADHD inattentive type, Ritalin journey.

Subcontracting responsibilities to survive your bipolar

If you’re bipolar, you know the story when it comes to being semi-catatonically depressed. I’m talking about those days/weeks/months where you feel like you are actually fusing with your bed. Dishes pile up. laundry piles up, the sandbox doesn’t get cleaned. In fact, nothing gets cleaned. Not the floors and not the coffee table and not your bedroom. You spend everyday barely moving through dirt and chaos, wearing the same pants you’ve worn for the last three days. If you have to go to work you get yourself to look semi-presentable, but if anyone scratched even a millimetre below the surface, they’d see how you’re coming undone.

The thing with a situation like this is, the deeper you go, the deeper it gets, the deeper you go. It become an uncontrollable cycle of despair. The more dishes, the more useless and helpless you feel, the more dishes you use, until there are organisms growing on things and you actually just want to throw all your belongings on the sidewalk. By now, you probably also feel like a completely lazy waste of oxygen.

It was on one such occasion that I finally realised things could not go on like that. I needed help and I needed it fast. The first thing I bought the second I saved enough money, was a washing machine. Here in my country, it doesn’t come standard with apartments. So finally my days of slogging to the laundromat, rinsing underwear in sink and wearing my jeans until they fell off, were over. In my country it’s also not frowned upon to have a cleaner at least once a day. It’s something that alleviates poverty somewhat, and creates jobs. I ended up paying my cleaning lady, a wonderful, sweet woman, about triple the minimum wage, because to me she wasn’t just cleaning, she was helping me to keep my sanity.

I recently didn’t have a cleaning lady for over a month. Even though I tried my best to keep my place clean and tidy, it felt like my life was getting completely out of hand. I just don’t have the capacity to work, have a hobby, attempt a social life, sleep enough, walk my dog AND scrub my bloody toilets. I just can’t do it. Not even to mention the dishes. So I finally got a lovely lady to clean for me and it’s going well. I’m actually using my study for the first time since I moved in. What also really changed my life was getting a dishwasher. Yes, I am only one person. I don’t care. Washing pots and pans with pieces of food and soggy mince freaks me the fck out. Seriously. I don’t have OCD, but it still causes too much anxiety that I just don’t need.

So I unashamedly used other people and appliances to literally do my dirty work. Sometimes it gets expensive and I have to cut on other things. I would rather not eat (and I already quit smoking) than not pay my cleaning lady.

When I can’t pay for help, like eg when I’m moving (again) in two months’ time, I have learned to lean on my family. My mother is a master packer, my new brother-in-law has a trailer, my stepdad can round up a bunch of workers and my sister can pretend she’s got way more important things to do (may she never read this). When my washing machine was broken, I took my clothes to my mom’s and did it there. I’m still borrowing her vacuum cleaner once a week.

The point is that, even when we don’t have extra money for extra help, we all have people around us that care about us, even if it doesn’t feel that way. If you have kids, make them help out with chores. My biggest challenge has been making my loved ones understand why I need help, and a dishwasher. Just having my environment feel clean and organised helps my brain to feel a little more clean and organised, and it’s a great feeling. Ask for help, or don’t be ashamed to pay for help if you can if it helps make you feel a bit better, it’s worth it 100%.

When isolating myself is for your own good

Whether you read a list on the internet, in a book, receive the lecture from you doctor, one of the first things they will tell you is that when you feel depressed, don’t isolate. They make it sound so easy, like just inviting someone over for a cup of coffee is not a big deal. Hello? Do you not know that depression usually goes along with crippling anxiety?

I’ve decided to make this work for me. I started singing in an ensemble at the beginning of the year. I like choir singing and it’s great to get my voice ‘back in shape’ to hit those high notes. But it’s in the evenings and often inconvenient. Since we’ll be taking part in a pretty big competition, we are also practising the same pieces over and over and over with a metronome at a very slow pace.

The last two weeks I haven’t been doing so well, including driving my car into a pole this week. I have stress about money and moving, I’m not sleeping without something pharmaceutical. Generally, things are not going as they should and I can feel the person sitting on my chest getting fatter and fatter.

So I’ve been thinking of a thousand excuses not to go to choir practise tonight. I feel kind of bad because I had to miss a couple due to physical illness. But the thought of going to a house with 30 people, where I only really know two, repeating those songs, and worse of all that bloody metronome that feel like it’s knocking against my skull, just wouldn’t have worked. And then you have to be all chirpy and keep the sarcasm in check, which becomes a problem with irritability. I just couldn’t do it.

The idea of having to just talk to people along with my social anxiety just made it impossible for me. So I let the conductor know that I have some chronic health issues that are flaring up and so I can’t be there. And actually saying made me feel so liberated. I wouldn’t have gone two days before I broke my arm or something, so why go when depression is starting to rear its ugly head. No one has to know what is wrong with me, that is my business, but just because I don’t look sick from the outside doesn’t mean I’m not sick

When your so good at hiding your bipolar symptoms, you even hide them from yourself

I was diagnosed in my mid-20s. I’ve at least grown considerably since then. One thing I’ve grown in but have not yet mastered, is self-awareness. Probably every therapist I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many, have told me that I am not self-aware.

I’ve never been a devil-may-care kind of person. I worked incredibly hard to get into university, at university (I played hard too), and during my time climbing the corporate ladder. I’ve been described by various people throughout my life with the following terms: perfectionist, hard working, smart, diligent, trustworthy, friendly, respectful etc. Ie, not someone who says skrewit and does something irresponsible because they want to. I had to be all these things. I had to work my ass off, because I know I had no safety net. I knew I’d have to pave my on way. And I did, at the cost of my own sanity.

Because while I was all of these things, I had a dark side too. Everyone has a dark side, but when you have bipolar disorder it’s even darker. I smoked and started drinking at 15. I think I wrote my first poem about death at 14, because that was the first time I wanted to kill myself. Everywhere I turned I tried to talk to grown-ups about what I was feeling, but I couldn’t, I didn’t know how. No one saw the signs. No one was LISTENING. No one saw me crying myself to sleep every night. Because I learned to put on that smile. I wasn’t even pretending that everything was okay, it WAS okay.

Fast forward to adulthood, diagnoses, and my teenage years finally making sense. I’ve been in psychiatric clinics three times. Twice I did the whole 3 week full programme. Different clinics, different doctors. And here’s the crux:

  • Week 1: Hang around kind of disinterested, attend groups, make intellectual arguments, not sure why I’m even there, tell the doc I’m wasting everyone’s time. Another patient even looked at me and said perplexed “Why are you here, you look so HAPPY?” My answer? A smile.
  • Week 2: Cry. Whether it is at a group session, dining room, with a doctor or getting my meds, I cry. I can’t stop. I cry in the shower and I cry myself to sleep. Whether or not you give me drugs, I cry and I can’t stop crying. I don’t want to see anyone I know either. I don’t want to see anyone, actually. I write letters to my inner child. I feel like I’m physically dying from the pain I feel on the inside.
  • Week 3: The crying lessens and stops. I feel like a load has been lifted. My meds start working. I start sitting outside and talking shit with the smokers. I laugh with everyone about my crying marathon.

And this has twice been my unplanned process. Why? Because I am not self-aware. I do not see my signs, or I think that it’s not THAT bad. I put on my smile and I suppress everything that I know my world can’t handle. Everything I CAN’T feel, because my little card house will then fall apart, again. So I get smashed, self-harm, listen to music I know is actually triggering, and try to drink and cut out my anger. Because I don’t know how to exernalise it.

Here is the point of this whole thing: Why do we internalise, and why do we put on our happy masks every day so that it becomes so natural we can’t take it off? For the ones we love. Because we know they want to understand but they can’t. And they want to be supportive but even those who understand the full impact, don’t really. In my case, when I get criticised like again today I want to yell: “It’s because I’m BIPOLAR, asshole! And you know that.” But I just smile, make a little joke, and walk away.

When you want to self-harm but you can’t

First, if there is anyone who follows this blog, I don’t have the parasite that makes you sleep like my mom thought. So maybe I’m just still tired because 2017 was a pretty fucked up year and I didn’t get much holiday.

Trigger warning obviously – see heading

Here’s the problem it is 23:30 and I am enraged. Seriously explosively ‘like urbanol does anything’ enraged. A few rage-worthy things happened today, but it really ended with a boy. Doesn’t it always? First time in like 2 years I put myself out there, btw, and though he seemed interested for weeks now suddenly he doesn’t and is moving 3 hours away to a shitty remote place anyway.

So I’m raging. And when I rage I cut, because I don’t yell or punch or give another bitch a piece of my mind. No. I take it out on myself. Now the funny part is that I have absolutely NOTHING to cut myself with. No a single blade or proper kitchen knife, not a decent razor or sharp scissors. Fucking NOTHING. Shows you how long ago I raged. At one stage there was this debate by my healthcare professionals about whether I have borderline personality disorder or not. One psychiatrist and one psychologist said I did, one of each said I didn’t. Maybe I do if have the capacity to feel the way I do. I’m also crying because I would tell my very good friend S all of this and she’d listen and not judge, but oh wait, shes’s dead, so can’t do that.

Less than a week ago my psych told me that I’m absolutely glowing. I keep feeling like something is wrong just under the surface. My mother needs to be convinced that I have a physical illness. I want to cut myself for the first time in MONTHS, but can’t. I should take some seroquel but I am working hard from tomorrow, I can’t afford that fuzzy brain. Oh and I am dizzy ALL THE TIME, Venlor or Wellbutrin side-effect?

I found myself beating my chest earlier with a fist. It didn’t hurt but it was a feeling of trying to resuscitate myself. Only we can’t do that, can we?

Am I physically Ill or ‘just’ bipolar

The thing about these mental illnesses, is that one can never really be sure if a symptom is from physical illness, mental illness or side-effects from medication.

I’ve been struggling with fatigue recently. Well, basically I’ve had sleep problems my whole life, but recently I want to sleep every second I get. I don’t think it’s from side-effects, since my doses are lower than before. I did all my lithium tests recently and those are fine. My mother is convinced I have some illness which I went to test for today. Personally, I think it’s ‘just’ a symptom of my bipolar disorder, since fatigue can be a major symptom.

I”m not depressed though, so it’s not the heaviness of not wanting to get out of bed. It like to the bone tired tired. According to this article explains physical and psychological fatigue quite well I think. To be honest, writing this post is a little difficult as I am distracted and my brain feels empty.

On the one hand I kind of hope that there is something physical to my tiredness, because that would make it  ‘real’ to the people around me. Personally, I’m sure it’s just bipolar, but people don’t understand how a mental illness can give you physical symptoms. Especially when you are not exceptionally depressed or anxious. I’m kind of confused by the whole thing. I should get the test results for the other thing before the end of the week.

Can anyone relate to my absolute tiredness seemingly for no reason?

Post-festive season bipolar coping feedback

Feliz Navidad and a happy, shiny new 2018 to all. I hope you survived

As you probably know yourself and have read in every single bipolar article or heard in every support group, the holidays can be a bitch for the mentally unstable. There are of course a number of reasons: breaking routine, the stress of travel and getting kids and spouses ready if you have those. Organising kennels and a hundred other things that make your head want to explode, and then you don’t even feel festive anymore. And of course, there are those who can’t celebrate with family, or don’t have any.

Unfortunately I cannot relate to the latter so I won’t pretend to know what I’m talking about, but I can probably teach everyone about dealing with a 40 person family. Yes, 40 people. We know we are blessed but it becomes terribly overwhelming. So what I realised was that I needed to create some kind of ‘safe space’ for myself. Instead of sleeping in the house like most of the others, I pitched my little single person tent outside. We were so hot it was unbelievable, but every time I felt overwhelmed or offended or anxious, I went to sit in my little sauna until I felt ready for all the people again. I did the same when I went away with my parents, sister and her fiance. I went reasonably well until my sister smacked me with a backhanded sarcastic remark which, since I am overly sensitive, ruined my day. But I had my room, my own room, and I could close my door and create a safe haven for myself with books, blankets, chocolates and drinks. I could just walk away and go decompress.

I know this sounds incredibly simple, but I’m telling you to me, it was a revelation. Probably because I was never in the position to insist my own space, with so many people, but it really made all the difference. So this was the one thing I learned to survive the holidays. The second was to stick to whatever your poison is for anxiety, and even if you don’t feel anxious, take as prescribed. My doctor gave me Urbanol, one in the morning and one at night, and although I would have MUCH preferred Rivotril or Alzam (but family history of addiction, thanks dad), Urbanol seems to just take the edge off a little bit and make me act like a human being. Other obvious things that I should know but still got wrong was don’t get trashed, stay hydrated (Lithium) and  remember to fill your script BEFORE you go on holiday.

I’m clearly such a slow learner when it comes to this and would love to hear what you do/don’t do to cope with the festive season.

Flipping the Bipolar switch

I don’t normally post two days in a row, but I wanted to have a little rant on Facebook and realised it would be so pointless because no one would get the intensity of what I’ve been going through today. And how quickly the switch can be flipped from a ‘slightly depressed’ to ‘crazed rage’. Okay, I didn’t quite reach crazed rage; or I did, but it was not uncontrollable, so it didn’t seem that way.

I am busy with these ridiculous little projects as I think I mentioned, where my deadlines are insane and the pay is crap. I think the employer person hasn’t been able to get anyone else desperate enough to help her, so she hounds me at all hours of the day and night. Last night at about 20:00 she begged me to do a quick thing before 5am the next morning. So, working better at night anyway, I finished around 2am and was laying awake until about 3. Needless to say I snoozed my alarm until about 11, 12, and then had to fly up to start with the other project I have due in about 36 hours. And from the moment I opened my eyes everything just went wrong.

I have 0 cash, but I have money in a Paypal account. However, my country in general and it’s banks are SHIT, and turns out connecting my credit card to Paypal is theoretically easy, if my bank stopped telling me I was entering the wrong card number. Which it’s NOT. So because of this I am trying to feed my cats cheaper food and they are refusing to eat. I’m adding tuna to entice them and now my room, that has no ventilation, smells like fish, which I HATE.  I know this sounds minor, but when you don’t have time or money or energy, it starts grating. Then I realised that my dog’s whole food bowel, as well as the cat bowels, were FULL of ants. And as I look around, I realise that they are EVERYWHERE! And because of the animals I can’t use poison. So I’m drowning ants and fishing soggy pet food covered in ants out of the drain and I am so grossed out I feel like, I don’t know, my hands are going to fall off or something and I don’t know how to get rid of them and I feel like my head is going to explode and I’m going to throw something against the wall and burst into tears and slip into a puddle and cry while stomping on ants and screaming while washing my hands 10 times.

And I think this is kind of the part people don’t understand. Yes, there were a couple of things leading up to it, and someone else might also get mad and drown the ants or whatever. But when I say it feels like my head is going to explode, I literally mean it. The combination or rage and frustration and anxiety and feeling out of control is so intense and overwhelming, that it literally feels like I will spontaneously combust. It’s like my brain is swelling and my whole head is getting bigger and I’m waiting for it to pop open and for brains to splash all over the walls. I was freaking the fuck out, to be honest. I won’t just diagnose myself with a co-morbid something and maybe it’s also a bipolar thing, but I can’t stand my hands and feet getting dirty. So fishing soggy pellets covered in ants out of the sink really almost pushed me too far. As in I felt like fainting too far.

I packed my things and my dog, left everything just the way it was, and went to work at my mom’s house (who’s on vacation). My sister lives there too and she still wanted to give excuses for why I couldn’t come work there, but I had already positioned myself in the spare room. Finally I could focus and get stuff done. I only got back a little while ago and emptied a bottle of baby powder where I suspect the nests are, because apparently that works. I’m feeling calmer now. I still have so much work to do, but I think it’s shower and sleep for me. Nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow. I think this whole thing also taught me the lesson (again) about sticking to my sleep schedule. I think I still got enough hours, but it wasn’t exactly uninterrupted.

It is so difficult to describe to other people what I felt like on the inside today. Had I lost control I might have pulled my hair out or something. And this was AFTER I took Urbanol. It also shows that we don’t necessarily have those textbook episodes of 4 days hypomania/mania, months of depression, or whatever. I’ve had a psychiatrist tell me that rapid cycling isn’t real, but I think I disagree, if one just compares today with yesterday. And of course there were triggers, my switch wasn’t just flipped. I think the big difference comes in that if a non-bipolar person went through the exact same day as I did, they probably wouldn’t have felt like they were losing their minds. Or, maybe just a little bit and not the literal ‘my head is going to explode’ thing.

*Especially if you’re bipolar (but even if you’re not) I’d like to know if/how you agree or disagree with me. And if you’ve gone through these same weird combustion feelings, let me know. Would be great to know that I’m not the only one.*

When bipolar is keeping you just a little down

I try to really look at things objectively when I feel down-ish. It’s the end of the year, I am still dreaming of being on vacation, even if it’s just at home, and I am hating the work I’m currently doing. The deadlines are almost impossible, the pay is ridiculously low, the work feels kind of unethical and the woman I for is extremely temperamental and sometimes blames me for things I didn’t do wrong. But I have to do it because financially I’m a bit screwed.

It’s been a tough year; recovering from suicide attempt, quitting my job, moving back home, not really having a set job, deaths, family conflicts, moving, moving again, and moving again etc. In a nutshell. There have also been many marvellous moments, like my sister getting engaged and me getting to be part of the plans, seeing my friends on this side of the world often. Spending time with my grandparents. Getting a doggy. All magical. All special. Even though I really don’t like Christmas I look forward to the event of the whole family being together.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been feeling just a smidgen under then normal line. I’ve started taking urbanol on a more regular basis. I still try not to take it unless I really need to. Over the weekend, I just stayed in bed, not really doing anything and not really sleeping until 16:00. Twice! I am fine enough to go out and enjoy it but want to go home early. I’m okay enough to hang pictures and throw things out, but not to completely unpack. I’m fine enough to do all these stupid projects, but I’m procrastinating (which I don’t often do with work). I’m fine enough to look forward to the holidays, but the thought of interacting with people is pretty exhausting. I’m generally just really exhausted. And that I blame on all the end of year things. But I can feel it in my throat, I can feel it in my head and I can feel it below my diaphragm; the slight signs of depression. The trying to ignore it, but knowing it’s there.

Some of you must also feel like this sometimes? Like you’re just below the line of normal? And it terrifies you because staying there is crap, but you also don’t know if you are going to go back to that normal line, or just keep going down, down, down….