In the world of chronic illness there is a concept of “caregiver fatigue.” This is where caregivers of people with chronic illness get burned out because they just spend so much time and effort caring for another person. This is a real thing and a real problem.
I would suggest there is also such as thing as “bipolar treatment fatigue.” Bipolar treatment fatigue is when a patient with bipolar disorder becomes burned out because of all the time and effort it takes to fight the bipolar disorder. I think this is a real thing and a real problem.
Recently a received a message from someone who was very distressed because her family wouldn’t accept her because of her mental illness. Her family hadn’t cut her out of their lives, necessarily, but they didn’t understand bipolar disorder and just waved her off telling her to “take her meds.” They made no effort to support her dealing with her mental illness.
And to this woman, family was everything. She didn’t think she could live without the support of her family.
And while I know that family is critically important to some people, I’m here to tell you: you can live with a mental illness, with bipolar disorder, without the support of your family.
I was describing the physical pain of bipolar disorder to a friend of mine and she acted surprised. She said, with great shock, “It physically hurts?”
Yes, bipolar disorder is about physical pain as much as it is about mental anguish.
A few years ago a good friend of mind got married. She was a beautiful bride. I thought she looked like she just walked out of a bridal magazine. And she was an extremely happy bride too. I think it couldn’t have been a better day and situation for her.
I was one of her bridesmaids. This was extremely hard on me as, at the time, I was in a major depression and I couldn’t feel happiness. I was anhedonic. I couldn’t feel positive emotions of any sort. And to see my radiant friend be deliriously happy and get married to a wonderful man was just too much for me. It made my depression so much worse. I just couldn’t feel happy for her because I couldn’t feel happy at all. All I felt was incredibly upset for me.
I get this question from quite a few people who read this bipolar blog: How do I start blogging about bipolar disorder?
It’s pretty simple, actually. If you really want to get right down to being a bipolar blogger, it’s only about one thing: write about bipolar and do it a lot.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
I’ve heard this statement my whole life, I think. I’ve always been driven. I was driven at school when I was young, I was driven at university and I’ve been driven in the work force. I have never been “easy” on myself. I’ve been mostly perfectionistic. No matter how unachievable perfection is, it always seems to be what drives me, regardless.
But, what I’ve found, is that being hard on myself is required in bipolar disorder in order to succeed. Hugging my inner child and being gentle isn’t the kind of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning when all I want to do is hide under the covers. No; ripping the covers from my body and kicking myself is the only thing that does. I have to be hard on myself or I would just never stand up straight and function.
I was having a very annoyed/angry day. This was annoying me and then that was pissing me off. And I realized this was a thread through my day and thought to myself, “Yup, I have days like that. It’s a bipolar thing.” And then I wondered, “Do normal people have days where they’re mad at everything?”
And then I realized I had no idea. I have no idea if normal people have irrationally angry days. I’ve forgotten what it is to be normal.
[And before someone has a hissy fit because I’m saying that people with bipolar disorder aren’t normal, please read the linked article.]
Last year, I wrote an article on psychomotor agitation at HealthyPlace. Psychomotor agitation (or retardation) is a symptom of bipolar (and unipolar) depression as well as hypomania/mania and very little information about it is available (in spite of the fact that it is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-5)).
Most definitions for psychomotor agitation include the words, “inner restlessness.” I don’t know about you, but “inner restlessness” reminds me of a 22-year-old who can’t find himself and so is backpacking across the country. It really doesn’t sound like a mental illness symptom – let alone like a serious one.
Last time I wrote about missing the signs of improving bipolar disorder but today’s question is, if your bipolar is improving, how do you know what you’re doing right that’s driving that improvement? In my case, the answer to that question was easy – it was a bipolar medication change. But things are not always so simple.
It’s easy to tell when your bipolar is getting worse. At least, it sure the heck is for me. I spend my nights crying and trying desperately not to kill myself. It’s a notable thing that you really wouldn’t miss.
But how do you know if your bipolar is improving? Is it actually possible that you might miss the signs of your bipolar getting better?
I was having breakfast with a friend of mine the other day and the topic of her suicide attempt came up. She attempted suicide years ago at a very low point in her bipolar disorder. And what she said was, she found herself very upset about it presently, even though it was years ago. She said she never dealt with her suicide attempt and now that was hurting her.
I understand. I think many of us don’t deal with the realities of a suicide attempt. I think many of us what to put our suicide attempts behind us so badly, that we just push them away without ever considering how deeply something like that scars us.
For my own part, I know what I’ve done with my suicide attempt. I’ve rationalized it. I’ve intellectualized my suicide attempt as “passive” and “not a real attempt” (since my chances of truly dying were low) and this has allowed me to, well, pretty much ignore it. But will that technique come to haunt me one day?
Today my anxiety really flared up. I suddenly found I had less time to get to a bus that took me to a train that took me to another bus that took me to a hotel. And if I missed that last bus in the chain, there wasn’t another for five hours. And I still had to pack and get dressed and eat cake and just, in general, get ready.
And this freaked me out – or, put another way, this created some instantaneous, nasty stress and anxiety. My mother tried to help with the anxiety. It didn’t work.