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)

Bipolar – Does It Make Me Stupid?

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Stupid chicken

Am I stupid? Or am I just depressed?

Over the years I’ve said that I feel like I’m dumber than I was when I was younger. The older I was getting, the stupider I felt. I was honestly concerned that this was a part of the natural aging process and was happening to me early or a part of Bipolar Disorder. Maybe over time Bipolar Disorder destroyed the brain and I was naturally losing my ability to think because that was something that came with the illness.

Felt.

Years later I learned that the way I felt had nothing to do with my intelligence. I have a mood disorder, not an IQ killer.

I wasn’t becoming mentally challenged. It was all about moods. Not intelligence.

Intelligence.

Mood disorder.

Not the same.

The way I thought about it was with violence. I was so angry and frustrated that I couldn’t think things through. I made bad decision after bad decision. I “felt” stupider. That’s key with our Bipolar Disorder. We can feel stupid. (If you don’t ever feel dumber, you can skip this post.) If you have, keep reading because it is important that you understand what’s going on in your brain.

We have what is known as a mood disorder. That is, we have moods that are extreme and can fluctuate wildly compared to a regular person. Instead of being sad, we become extremely depressed. Instead of being angry, we become enraged. Instead of being excited, we become manic.

These mood fluctuations and extremes impact the way we think. They don’t make us stupid, but we can feel that way. The moods interfere with the way we think.

People tell us to think positively, things will be okay. Unfortunately, the weight of depression can prevent us from feeling like we can think at all, much less think positively.

When I first heard of Tony Robbins, success coach and public speaker, I tried out one of his 30-day programs designed to teach me to be successful. All I had to do was follow the directions spelled out on the card that went with each day and listen to the 30-minute tape that went with it.

The program challenged me to change my thinking. That was the basis of the program, change your thinking to be successful. I was depressed. I didn’t feel like I could do it. So, I quit. I felt like I was too stupid to understand the lessons. That had to be what was wrong. It never occurred to me that my illness could be impacting my ability to think clearly and keeping me from focusing on the lessons and understanding what Mr. Robbins was teaching. I’ve gone back to Mr. Robbins teachings recently and discovered that I understand him just fine. I wasn’t depressed this time. I was able to understand what he taught and use some of the principles he presented.

I’m not stupid.

I have a mood disorder.

If you have a mood disorder, please understand that it does not mean you are dumb.

I don’t know how intelligent you are or are not. I do know that Bipolar Disorder does not make you less intelligent.

Bipolar Disorder does not make you dumb.

It is a mood disorder, not a brain eater.

Bipolar and Clear Thinking

(I want to hide in the cupboard until this is all over.)

Success! We’ve found a house we like. The big issue is storage. I realize that all houses this small have very limited storage, but I’ll have to get rid of pretty much all that I own to make this happen even if I have a storage shed to help with the overflow. I’m preparing to have a panic attack. I’m going to schedule it.

I am a book hoarder. I’ve been successful in getting rid of probably 50 boxes of books. It was painful. Next weekend we’re having a big garage sale in the neighborhood that my mom lives in. It’s a huge multiple neighborhood gated community. I’ve sent over two car loads of things to sell including my Ryan Seacrest bobble head (I’m not attached to it, I just want to get more than $10 for it.)

I woke up this morning thinking about the lack of storage the little house has. I waited till about 10 a.m. to call my mom to talk about the storage problem and what we can do about it. I want to go look at it again and do some measuring. We’ve only been to view it one time. A commitment that huge we should look at again, don’t you think? The housing market here is so tight that if you find a house you like you need to put an offer on it the day you find it or someone else will. So, if I decide not to go with this house we go back to all the stress of looking for a house all over again.

I’m a worrier. I’m a bipolar worrier with anxiety issues. I keep having to calm myself down. I look around my 1800 sq. ft. house and realize I’m going to have to get rid of most all of my possessions to make this work. The new house is only 837 sq. ft. So yeah, downsizing. All my kids have moved out and I don’t need this large a house. I can’t afford anything bigger than the house we’ve put an offer in on.

My stress meter is reading high. Very high. It turns out that it really was good that I didn’t go to school this quarter because we found the house during what would be the week before finals and I wouldn’t have had the time to go look at it.

So how to deal with the stress and associated problems that come with it? I need to think clearly and NOT emotionally. I don’t know how much of my fear of no storage is being realistic or if I’m just falling in with my all too familiar states of paralyzing worrying and all the things that come with stress, like the possibility that I may not be able to handle it and have an episode.

I think I need to begin with focusing on tidying up my thinking processes and think accurately rather than emotionally. If I can do that it will help me have a positive attitude about this instead of having the attitude that we’re going to make a huge mistake. What does clear thinking tell me? Does it make sense to move into this house?

One of the problems I have to deal with constantly is making decisions based on commonsense and thoughtfulness rather than on emotion. I don’t want to pass this house up if I’m just having an anxiety attack because of all the worrying I’ve been doing. I need to settle down and think with clarity.

A really good way to start is to have people around me who I can consult with who know my situation and can make judgements based on commonsense and logic. If I’m blinded by panic they can help me see clearly. I’ve chosen to make my mom, and my three kids those people. Granted the kids think any house is good, once we start measuring and they’ve been inside the house they’ll be able to make good recommendations.

Another thing I can do is avoid, eliminate, thinking about the whole thing in such negative terms such as: never, only, nothing, every, no way, can’t and impossible. I must remember that these negative ways of thinking are going to impact my accurate thinking and that I need to hold on to the positive attitude I’ve been working on cultivating within myself.

To think clearly I have to bind it with a positive attitude. I need to remember that I’m in control of my decisions and that I can make good ones not driven by negative emotions.

I need to work hard to take control and direct my thoughts and control my emotions. Of course being bipolar I’m challenged to think clearly and not let my emotions drive my decisions all the time.

My thoughts must control my thinking, not my emotions. This is especially true right now while I’ve got an offer in on a house. I need to be sure and have a convinced positive attitude before signing the papers. I can’t move into a house that I don’t think I can live with the storage challenges forcing me to throw out all the things I’m attached to.

I need facts. I need clear thinking. I need the advice of others that I trust who know me how my emotions impact my thinking. I need to separate “facts” from imagined fictions, and important facts from unimportant ones.

Bipolar Disorder will definitely have a large role in determining whether or not we buy this house. All the small houses we’ve looked at have pretty much been dives and not had any storage. We’ve seen this house and one other that has been fixed up by a flipper (someone who buys a house, fixes it up, and sells it). Both are really great. Neither has storage. Realistically, no houses this size will have storage.

So we’ll see. Will I freak out and convince everyone that the lack of storage is a deal breaker for me? Or will I go do some measuring and creative thinking? The plan is to go next week to view it again and do a lot of measuring.

I’m going to stay on my meds, see my counselor, exercise, get enough sleep, play with my dog and eat better. These things will give me a chance to keep from falling into a bipolar tailspin.

Cranky Bipolar Pants

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Monday my mom and I went to look at a house that we might possibly buy. I made a promise to myself before I even met up with her that I wasn’t going to have my bitch face on. But, as has been happening a lot lately, I was a bitch anyway. I always seem to have to apologize after I spend time with her. She’s not a bad person and certainly not worthy of my cutting attitude. I told her about my struggle with it and it seems to be helping. I tell her I love her at least once a day, because I do and I want her to remember that and not my being disrespectful.

Tuesday I took one of my cats to the vet to learn how to give her steroid injections every other day. It helps keep the swelling down in her intestines which is enabling her to stop throwing up every day. The cat’s name is Siberia. I’m finding it difficult to handle knowing that all three of the kids are depending on me to keep their cat comfortable and alive as long as I can. It’s a lot of pressure. Stress impacts my bipolar to the nth degree.

Yesterday we found out we got a house we put an offer in on here in town. I’m excited but I’m stressing out too. I’ll go from 1800 sq. ft. down to 876. Stress.

I’m not comfortable with change. It takes me out of the safe place I’ve built for myself here. Now I’ll be moving and there are only unknowns. While it will be exciting to have my own place, moving brings stresses I’ve not had to deal with for many years. Accept for a few years I’ve never lived in a neighborhood and close to people. Stress.

So I’m doing the things I’ve learned to do to reduce my stress. Crying is okay. I’m trying to exercise instead of having pie or something. I’m dream shopping online and picking new things to populate my house with. I have a certain amount of money I’ve saved and I’m learning how far it will go by window shopping on line. It won’t go far, but I’ll make it go far enough.

In the meantime I’m going to eat and sleep and exercise and do the other things I’ve found that help my stress stay manageable and hopefully keep me from crashing into the wall that is bipolar. I admit that I’m scared. What if I have to give up things I’m really super attached to? My mind creates all kinds of possible problems. This is where I have to choose to employ having a positive attitude towards the experience. There are steps I can take to help me be positive and I’m going to keep (and start) doing them and learn and practice more.

Here’s to positive attitudes.