Bipolar – Hidden Emotions

After months of not really feeling anything accept sever anxiety, my emotions are waking up again. I’m hoping that all the months of counseling have prepared me for my feelings, my moods.

I took a poetry class this last quarter. I had a difficult time writing the poetry because my emotions were packed away in a closet inside my brain. I wrote very clinically, very much cerebral and didn’t feel inspired or moved at all.

I’m enrolled in the disability program at the college and one of the things I get is time and a half for exams. Of course there aren’t exams in poetry, but the first quarter that I had this professor with I’d gone in and went over my disability papers with her and explained about how this was my first year back to college and I that was having a hard time. I took a chance and told her about my having Bipolar. I haven’t really thought it was necessary to tell my other professors what my disability is, but I felt like I was connecting with this professor and I also felt like I would be able to come and her and talk if I needed to.

I talked to her about how my BP was affecting my writing and she suggested I read “Touched with Fire” by Kay Redfield Jamison to see how many artistic people have mental illness (especially Bipolar Disorder). Funny thing was, I have read it. I’ve spent so much time in it that the pages have come off the spine of the book and nearly every page has notes and things underlined in it. It is in such bad shape that I purchased another copy so I could read it again. This is one of those books I bought in paper back and not as an eBook. If I have a book I want to markup I always get it in print. It’s just easier for me to make notes and find things in.

The first thing I encountered in Jamison’s book was a through recounting of all the symptoms having to do with Bipolar Disorder. Having been only anxious and not having mood swings for a few months per se, I was shocked as I remembered all the emotions that are currently hiding behind my medications.

I’m glad that I read what the symptoms are again because of the fact that we’ve lowered my Latuda and I need to be on the watch for symptoms to return. I have to admit, I’m worried now. I forgot how bad it has been for me. I rate on the top of the Bipolar Disorder Type 1, but I’m also high functioning so I’ve been able to hide it from most people. At least I think I have. Who really knows what others think of us when we’re in the midst of an active outburst of violent emotions.

So here I go, with an intentionally lowered mood stabilizer, and me waiting to see if any of my old enemies come sauntering out of the closet. I must remember not to hold my breath.

Bipolar – Dealing with Emotional Pain

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There are any number of examples I could talk about concerning dealing with emotional pain. I’ve been going through a lot the last year and a half. This last week was one of the worst weeks that I hope I have for a long time.

I had to put one of my cats to sleep. She had advanced and wide spread cancer and was voiding all over the basement carpet. I was moving to a new home in a week and it just became necessary to quit avoiding it and stop putting off the issue and take responsibility for what I needed to do.

Her name was Siberia and she was our family pet for about 12 years. That’s a long time to bond with anyone, animal or human.

I was expecting to be sad, to cry, and to be upset. I was all of that. Now it’s been more than a week and I was up late last night crying hysterically and saying to my other cat how sorry I was and that I’d killed his friend. It was horrible. I eventually had to take a chill pill because I couldn’t stop myself.

Anyone who has not had a pet won’t understand the loss of a loved companion, but if you have you know what I’m talking about.

Feelings of guilt, denial, anger and depression have plagued me and I’ve wondered if I’m going over the top and am heading for an episode. The truth is, for me right now, I think I’m experiencing normal emotions. It’s hard to tell the difference though isn’t it?

When are my uncontrollable feelings of depression and anger caused by my Bipolar Disorder and when is it just from normal feelings that come after great loss?

I think that it’s hard to tell. It’s new right now so I’m inclined to think I’m feeling normal feelings, but a little deeper than maybe my children are.

I have just moved a few days ago and the stress from that is immense. I’m making sure to take my meds and using my chill pills when I need them. I haven’t been out walking because I’m kind of scared in my new neighborhood and it’s so very hot. Next week I see my counselor. It will be good to talk to her about what I’ve been feeling.

In the meantime, it’s time to try to go to bed. It’s only 81F in here now. At least I’ve stopped sweating for a little while.

Good night Siberia. I love you. I will honor your memory and play with Maks (the other cat) more than I had been doing. I miss you.

Bipolar – Self-Motivation

“Personal initiative” are two of the least meaningful words to me as a person with Bipolar Disorder that I can think of. Let’s call it “self-motivation” instead. Depression and sometimes anger take up a lot of my emotional energy and emotional intelligence and derail the best of my intensions.

Daily I face stresses which make it harder to manage my bipolar. Right now immediate issues include putting my cat to sleep today (three hours ago) and three days later beginning moving into town. That’s just this week. After that on August 7th I’ll fly to Tampa, FL so I can drive with my eldest daughter from there to here (near Seattle).

I have to remember that I am striving to break the old patterns of behavior that come from years of my illnesses running unchecked and creating all manner of bad habits. One of those habits is being “self” orientated and completely unmotivated.

Often all I can think about is myself and how to make it through the day. Sometimes it takes all my energy to taking one breath after another, eat regular meals, take my meds, and take care of my animals.

Bipolar Disorder is all about sever mood swings. Swinging sometimes swinging slowly, sometimes quickly from the far left to the far right. I live in a state of movement and flux. Some days, I celebrate stability and forge ahead on the path to my future and my successes: chasing my passions.

I’ve had trouble blogging recently. I’m moving and finding the time and energy to do it has been a challenge. Nevertheless, I still think of my goals and am mindful of how everything I do either moves me towards them or away from them. I’ve been letting the television suck my brain out again. There are endless hours’ reruns of home improvement shows on HGTV and DYI. They’re great channels, but come on, watching a rerun for the fourth time of Flip or Flop? Seriously? I need to get my head out of limbo and start being mentally active.

So look, I’m starting moving Friday unless something goes askew. The movers will be here Monday. I could waste all that time I’m not actively moving because it won’t be convenient to write then, but writing is what I’m trying to do. I feel like chaos has taken up residence in my brain and my thinking processes are all mucked up.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to do anything connected with my definite major purpose, my major goal, my passion, without the deliberate intention of doing it better than I have done it before. I need to always reach further than I have ever done. If I can’t do that I might as well not waste my time because that’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be going through empty motions and I don’t have the time or energy for that silliness.

Personal initiative, or self-motivation, is an important part of striving to reach my goals. Using it I learn to act as soon as I can, not later when it is convenient, but now, when it matters. When I use it I will want to get started on my work with eagerness knowing it is bringing me closer to my chief aim in life. It is not just about doing my best working for other people, it’s very valuable in pursuing my own passions.

Dreaming big dreams doesn’t make them happen. Getting off my butt and taking the steps towards completing them does. That’s what “personal initiative” is all about. Getting up and making things happen yourself, on your own, without anyone goading you on and trying to get you to strive to go the extra mile. It’s being self-motivated.

Bipolar – Learning How to Behave

Learning how to behave… I know that title might seem a bit odd or offensive, but hear me out. I grew up manifesting symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. My father may have been an undiagnosed bipolar person. Whatever he was he had the temper and anger of a demon. Between myself and with my father as an example I learned how to behave very badly. Somehow my Mom managed to teach me some good manners and I could put my polite hat on when I needed to, but much of the time I was just angry and depressed and it came out in my behavior and my attitude.

I behaved badly especially at home. In high school I wanted to be included in things but was too scared to. In college I got involved an everything I could. I’m not sure where that came from. I went to a Bible College and I behaved like I belonged there. When I graduated and left, the façade faded away and again I was that violently angry person inside. Unfortunately, I wasn’t polite or respectful especially to my family.

Now that I’m well medicated, am pretty healthy and have been in therapy for years I can look at myself and my current behavior and be more or less objective and honest with myself about my behavior. I’ve learned that I sometimes still struggle with in being courteous, being tactful, using the correct tone of voice, smiling, and having the appropriate facial expressions. Strange list, don’t you think? When I thought about what to write today I realized that these are things that directly impact how my Mom and I get along. She’s coming over today to help me pack my things for my move. I always try to prepare myself and think about how I’m going to act when I’m spending time with family because they are the ones I tend to act the most inappropriately with.

Courtesy – Dictionary.com begins its definitions of courtesy with the following two entries:

  1. excellence of manners or social conduct; polite behavior
  2. a courteous, respectful, or considerate act or expression.

Courtesy is nothing more than controlling my selfishness in all situations. It is respecting other people’s feelings. It is not, as I was prone to do, blurting out what I feel in my bipolar moments. It requires self-control. It is not always easy, especially when I am angry. Courtesy also requires self-awareness. It becomes more possible the more I have a positive attitude and it reflects quality of my goals and passions. The more I devote myself to those the more my behavior moves in line with their essential quality.

Tact – There is a right time for everything and a wrong time for everything. In this case I’m talking about my historical behavior of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Today I will be testing myself on whether or not I’m able to be courteous and speak with tact while spending time with my long-suffering Mom. I have been known to speak out of turn, speak in antagonistic tones, and interrupt her when she is speaking. I have been known to regularly question the soundness of her opinions and comment on any mistake she might make in texting or speaking.

While I am doing well I have no excuse to continue to behave in this manner. I’ve put in a lot of work on myself and this is a simple test for how good I’m doing. Can I keep my mouth shut unless I’m going to say something nice to her today?

Tone of Voice – There is something that we use to express our personality every time we speak and that is our tone of voice. If we say one thing, but our tone of voice says something different, we will be conveying something other than what we might intend to say. When I speak with my mother and I’m behaving badly my tone of voice is the first place it is evident. If I say something to her in a disrespectful tone of voice, but say something I think is respectful you can bet she won’t think I’m being respectful. She’ll probably be hurt that her daughter is speaking to her in such an unloving manner. Bipolar Disorder is not naturally conducive to good behavior.

Smiling – Smiling is much the same as tone of voice. In fact, if you are smiling when you say something it will be heard in what you say. When I’m feeling stressed out and angry it is very difficult to smile. But smiling is something I can control and I can do even when I don’t feel like I can say anything polite. My objective with my Mom today is to smile and be respectful and thankful that she’s taking time to help me. I don’t deserve the help. She’s doing it because she loves me. She still loves me after all the long years of bad behavior on my part.

Facial Expressions – Smiling is obviously one of the facial expressions I’ll want to use if I want to improve my relations with my Mom and other people. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten into fights because of someone’s facial expression and what I perceive as their tone of voice. I react to facial expressions even if words are absent. Worse, I don’t control my own facial expressions.

If I really appreciate my Mom’s help today, my smile should reach to my eyes and be evident in my tone of voice. I should be tactful and not insult her if we don’t understand what the other is saying. I should be polite and respectful.

Sometimes I have to take a step back and examine my behavior to see if it lines up with who I’m trying to make myself to be or if it is more along the lines of the behavior I’ve tried so hard to leave behind.

I have no delusions that I will behave appropriately in all situations. I’m still human and I still have a mood disorder. It can be hard or impossible to smile when you are really on the down side of darkness. It’s okay.

Do the things you need to do to be healthly and stable again. When you cycle back up you will still have this knowledge you have gained about yourself and how to interact with your world. Take your meds as prescribed, go see your counselor when you’re supposed to, see your doctor if you need to, reach out to others who know who you are and you can trust to support you, exercise and eat healthy meals. If it seems like you’re just going through the motions that’s okay. Those motions may just bring you back to a happier place sooner and bring joy to your life.

Today, I will behave.

{Later} It was a good day. I only snarled once.

Bipolar and Adaptation

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From today through about August 18th I need to be able to be my best self. That means I will have to be super vigilant and sensitive towards my Bipolar Disorder symptoms. Theoretically, that’s how I’m supposed to be all the time, but right now it’s really evident that I have to pay attention. The stress of looking for a house has rolled over to moving and that will roll over into flying out to Florida to meet my daughter and driving across the country with her two cats to bring her home.

I must prepare myself physically, mentally for what’s next. I tend to react to situations and my moods swing without my even being aware of what’s happening, that is, until I’m done reacting.

This is going to be a good experience for me to practice adapting myself quickly to changing situations and emergencies without losing my temper like I’ve done in the past. My usual reactions are an abrupt swinging of mood, or panic and then the mood swing.

This skill, the skill of flexibility and adaptability, is an important skill to have while coping with our mental illness. Each new skill I learn builds upon the base of my positive mental attitude, my chief definite aim, or my passion in life. (I tend to think of the three things as different ways of saying the same thing.)

Having a flexible disposition means I must be able to quickly adapt to my environment. When I say “environment” I mean not only the physical situation, but also dealing with the people involved in the situation. It means that I can harmonize with my environment in a flexible way.

I’m not suggesting that I ignore my principles or altering my goals. I’m simply suggesting that I recognize my mental attitude towards the situation and determine if the situation is a disaster or a windfall. If it is a disaster I have the opportunity to change things and make them better. Because I use positive mental attitude, I have an even better opportunity to change the disaster into a boon.

I think that part of being adaptable means that in every situation with every person I try to understand their needs and demands. An example would be my Mother calling me a couple times a day and telling me something else I need to do to prepare to move. Yesterday it was that I should go to the Loews and Home Depot on Meridian to purchase boxes, start packing, have the kids (my son, 21 and youngest daughter, 19) come over and help me go through things, and to get rid of the piano. Being sensitive to her and to protective of myself I suggested that she make a list. We’ll see if she can do it. I eventually did go to those stores and bought boxes, but not the ones on Meridian. I hate driving on that street. It’s too busy and too long and too slow.

My plan includes to getting up at the same time every day, feed the animals and take my meds, eat healthy foods, exercise (I walk down the highway with Bailey), give my brain a break by reading or watching TV or listening to an audio book while walking, planning and making lists, keeping appointments or doing errands, spending time learning about how to be successful, spend time doing reactional activities, and so on. I need to keep things fairly structured. When I just watch TV all day it usually takes me another day or more to get back on track.

I’m going choosing to daily be flexible, adaptable, and let me just add: I’m going to be kind to others. (Ellen DeGeneres)