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.
You know what I hate? I hate the concept of “having fun.” I hate the pressure to “have fun.” I hate the notion that so much of what we do is to “have fun.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge others their fun. They should have as much of it as they like. But for me, trying to have fun is just a big chore (or a big lie).
So I’m here, in Parma, Italy and I’m supposed to be chill-axing and “having fun.” Italy is a fun place, after all. All you need to do is stumble from gelato stand to pizza bar to have a good time.
But here’s the thing: I don’t have fun.
It’s not that I don’t want it, or that I wouldn’t have it if I could, it’s just that I can’t.
In my life depression is the worst thing in the world. Depression takes away everything from me. It tends to destroy love, life, work, everything.
And while this is due to the symptoms of depression like, “depressed mood,” it’s also due to something not mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, the manual that defines mental illnesses) – apathy. Apathy basically means that you don’t care about anything. And when you do a “care-ectcomy” on a life, it makes it seem not worth living at all.
And one commenter left a comment to the effect of,
. . . surely if you loved and accepted yourself, you wouldn’t want to self-harm.
Yeah, that’s bullshit.
Or, more politely, that’s a myth. Just because I have the desire to self-harm doesn’t mean I don’t like, love or accept myself.