Tag Archives: bipolar diagnosis

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%.

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‘The Diagnosis’ and other people

*Trigger alert: This post is not about, but refers to suicide*

Last week, a friend of my mom’s showed up at her house, distraught. The friend’s one child, who had been ‘going through something’ had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  And thanks to me not shutting up about being bipolar, these lovely, normal people now have other lovely, normal people to talk to. So I made myself available for wine and chats, but will now wait for an invitation. It is an overwhelming business, after all.

It has made me think of what I went through with my own diagnosis and what I would tell this young(er) person should they ask me ‘what the hell now?!’, apart from ‘Seroquel will make you fat’. I realised that what stung the most when I was diagnosed, was how other people reacted. I didn’t have much support because I was far away from home, and my family didn’t really understand. Before my first mental hospital stay, I somehow got myself into the ER with nothing but a few cut-marks, cigarette burns and mild benzo-intoxication, because I was desperate and thought I was literally going BONKERS. I knew depression by then, but nothing of this whirlwind of constant, irrational thoughts, hyper-sexuality, people screaming in my head, inability to sleep, ants crawling under my skin, severe irritability and aggression situation that I was experiencing at that moment. I even have some memory loss. For the life of me I cannot remember ANYTHING about that day apart from getting home in the evening and going on a ‘semi-psychotic’ bender situation.

What I’m saying is that there was a lead-up to my eventual diagnosis and hospitalisation. There always is. You don’t just wake up one morning feeling like the Mad Hatter. So you would imagine that people who know you relatively well, would realise that there is a change in you, and that something is wrong, and that they would lovingly guide you to get help, whether or not you have a diagnosis. Because the bitch about having a mood disorder is that because it makes your mood go weird, it changes your behaviour too. Every single bipolar blog you read will at some point tell you the same thing: If you are bipolar you WILL lose friends and alienate people, more so than stable people. And this is what I will tell this young person first: You will wake up one day, feeling good and ready to go out there and grab the day by the balls and you will realise that you have barely any friends left. This is not me feeling sorry for myself, or being dramatic or negative. It is the simple truth and every bipolar person knows this. It is a lonely road.

People bail for various reasons. I’ll put them in nice bullets:

  • ‘I just can’t deal with this drama’
  • ‘It’s always about you, this is an unequal friendship/relationship’
  • ‘Your CRAZY! I’m out’
  • ‘Sometimes you get really mean’
  • ‘Our friendship was fun, but now it’s too intense and I can’t deal’
  • ‘I can’t be associated with you’
  • ‘You’re just too demanding and clingy’
  • ‘You are so selfish and such a drama queen’

Of course, most people won’t actually give you the courtesy of telling you that they are walking away or why, but the above is why THEY think they do. Here’s why they really do:

  • They don’t want to have to deal with anything that disrupts their uncomplicated, perfect little lives.
  • You make things feel out of control, or out of their control, and they can’t deal with uncertainty.
  • You scare them. They see things in you that they see in themselves, but where you now have to embrace it, they still prefer to live in denial.
  • They can walk away and blame all their shortcomings on you, because YOU’RE the crazy one.
  • Your Crazy.
  • Sometimes you really are mean and intense and irrational and demanding and clingy.

The last one is the hardest, because while those reasons are legitimate, it’s not something you can always help. Maybe my next post will be on how to take some pressure off your relationships.

Me? I’ve hurt lots of people because there comes a time where I can’t stop myself from saying something mean, or inappropriate, or doing something stupid. After my suicide attempt my sister was furious at me, because how DARE I put the family through this trauma. My brother asked me what the hell I was thinking when I wrote my suicide letter, because it didn’t sound like me at all (which is kind of the point of the ‘why’). They didn’t get that I was pretty pissed myself seeing as how I was suppose to be dead but then wasn’t. At least they said it to my face. After each of my hospitalisations I found things out that people I cared about said behind my back that hurt a lot: I’m manipulative, looking for attention, lazy, mean, self-involved, I cannot be trusted etc. Every time people quietly withdraw or suddenly disappear. And it hurts like a bitch every time. Because I don’t understand how they can’t understand how that person, is not me. But they don’t. And they never will. Mostly not because they don’t want to, but because they just can’t.

But have heart little one. If you have a family who loves you, you already have more than most. You probably still have wonderful friends that WILL stick around no matter what, so treat them nicely. And if you feel like you have nothing and no-one, there is a whole virtual bipolar community out there who sometimes feels the same way.

*What reasons have you gotten for why people walked out of your life?*