As you might have realized, it’s two days until Christmas. Because of that, I’m up against deadlines and and trying to get oodles done before I take a couple of days off.
Long story short, I don’t have time to write an original article this week. But, don’t worry, all is not lost. I have written quite a bit about bipolar and the holidays over the years and I thought I’d pull it all together for you here:
What I Want for Christmas
I hate you.
Or, perhaps, it might be more accurate to say my bipolar hates you. Or my bipolar makes me hate you. Or something.
I feel this pervasive negative, black, dark, inky hatred spread atop my “Natashaness” that seems to affect how I feel about everything. Theoretically, philosophically, intellectually, I know that I don’t hate everything. In fact, I know that I don’t really hate anything. But I sure feel as if I hate everything.
I have mentioned several times that bipolar depression isn’t just mental, depression involves physical pain too. And when I talk about the physical pain of depression, I mean idiopathic pain (pain that appears “without reason” (with the reason, of course, being bipolar depression)). But there’s another part of pain that is a part of depression and that’s real, physical pain that has been exaggerated by the depression.
Yesterday I got the news that I’m losing one of my best friends of 16 years. He’s someone I’ve known pretty much since birth. He’s giving and loving and very furry. He’s my cat.
And while I can understand that not everyone will fully comprehend the bond between a human and animal, you will just have to take my word for it that the news put me into shock and I am now grieving what will very soon become a physical loss.
And, of course, a trauma like this (yes, it is a trauma) will make my bipolar disorder blow up. Bipolar makes grief worse and grief makes bipolar disorder worse.
The Bipolar Burble is extremely honoured to introduce today’s guest author: Ross Szabo. Ross and I met when he introduced me when I won the Erasing the Stigma Leadership award earlier this year. Ross is a past recipient and an inspiring mental health speaker and, well, human being. Read below how he has learned to calm his bipolar depression by recognizing anxiety.
I was an anxious person before my diagnosis of bipolar disorder with anger control problems and psychotic features. Needless to say after my diagnosis, my anxiety did not improve. It took a lot of years of extreme alcohol abuse, broken knuckles, sleeplessness, hallucination-filled nights and dangerous behaviors until I was able to find ways to balance my disorder.
Anxiety seems to be at the root, or heavily tied to, every mood I have with bipolar disorder. One of the most dangerous cycles I have gone through is when anxiety swings in to contribute to constant thoughts of death and suicide. Overwhelming anxiety or crippling depression are hard enough to face separately. When they combine the results can be tragic. Working with a professional to locate your anxiety/depression cycle is a great way to enhance your treatment.
Yes, Psychiatric Medications Do Help
We all know (or all should know) that psychiatric medications can’t fix a broken life. Psychiatric medications are designed to treat the symptoms of a specific disorder, such as bipolar disorder. That means that psych meds can treat things like depression. This is a huge win for anyone suffering from depression and is miracle enough, trust me. And although some symptoms of the disorder, like bipolar or depression, may remain, (ideally they won’t, but most of us don’t live in an ideal situation) there are still many positive things that psych meds can do for you and one thing that psychiatric medications can do for your is increase your resilience to things like life stressors.
Garden variety bipolar disorder consists of moods that typically last weeks to months if not treated. People with bipolar experience a mood and settle in for a long ride. However, people with rapid cycling bipolar disorder experience moods that typically only last weeks. People with ultra-rapid cycling bipolar disorder have moods that only last days to weeks and people who have ultradian bipolar disorder may have moods that last from hours to days.
[It worth noting that when severe moods last only for a few hours this may be considered a mixed mood episode rather than a cycler, per se.]
So, if your mood cycles quickly and spontaneously, how do you live with it?
Today is the day I did not go to my friend’s bachelorette party. Today is the day I cried uncontrollably about not going to my friend’s bachelorette party.
Do you know what hell is to me? One version of hell is being at a party with a bunch of beautiful people that I don’t know having to make inane conversation and pretend to be thrilled to be there. Anhedonia isn’t thrilled to be anywhere.
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.
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.
“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.