Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Living with Bipolar Disorder: Ways to Cope


The memory of mania has always felt fuzzy to me. The only ways I’ve learned to cope with mania is by using preventative measures. Taking my medications, and getting enough sleep at night. Staying away from caffeine and sugar.

This is what it feels like:

They tell me mania feels like being high. I’ve never been high, but if this is what feeling high feels like, I can understand why someone would want to feel this way.

This free feeling. Of wanting to dance, to sing, to paint, and most of all to write. They don’t understand the beauty, because they can’t see it. They can’t feel the words flowing through my mind. I pity them, even as I try to explain, because I must explain it to them. It’s my purpose.

It’s almost as though I’m on my own secret adventure or quest. I’ve become the most important person in the story of my life and only I know the way, only I can solve the puzzle.

The problem is when the thoughts start spinning out of control. I become lost and confused. Things suddenly don’t make sense anymore which makes me angry and irritated. The anger escalates quickly until I’m just a raging ball of fury that crumbles into sobbing depression.


Writing has kept me sane. Even when I was in the deepest of depressions, one way I made myself come out of it was by writing down everything I needed to try to do that day.

I remember keeping a small notebook on a pillow next to my bed. I’d write out the date and then a list of things to do: Get up, Shower, Get Dressed, Eat, Take a Walk, Read, Go to Therapy. Small things that I knew I could do. I didn’t expect myself to do all of them. Sometimes I didn’t do any of them besides eat. It was almost like the list was a simple reminder or suggestions of things I should try and do that day.

Setting these small goals helped. Everyday I’d wake up, roll over, and see the list next to me and I’d choose what to do. As I became stronger, I’d be able to cross off more and more off the list. I’d even start adding more things to list as I became happier, because doing the simple things became easier, so easy that I didn’t even need to write them down. I’d still write things down though so that I would wake up every morning and feel like I had a purpose.

That was the thing about my depression. The phrase that would spin around in my head was: “What’s the point?” When your life loses meaning or you lose the point of getting up out of bed, it’s really hard to find it again. It’s almost like the list became the reasons for me to get out of bed in the morning or even two in afternoon. It would remind me that there was a reason to live, that the night before I felt there were things to do the next day.

Crossing off those small things made me feel better. Even if I only managed to cross off: Get up, Eat, and Shower. Taking a shower can feel like one of the hardest things in the world when you no longer see the point to anything.

Eventually though you start to see the point again, and doing things become easier and even enjoyable again. I know when you’re in a deep depression it seems like that long dark tunnel is never ending, but slowly putting one foot in front of the other you’ll find the light again.

I know that everyone copes differently.

These are the things that have worked for me.

Friday, July 15, 2016

You’re Not Sick Enough: Sick Days and Mental Illness

I may look absolutely fine.

But inside I have a knot in my stomach. My mind is racing with a million different thoughts. Most of them are about how to get to a safe place. I can’t breathe, and the panic is slowly building. I have to get out. I have to get out now.

Calm down, the voice of reason inside my head tells me. You’re okay, you’re just trying to have a panic attack. Now, breathe.

Breathe? That’s something that’s not possible right now. Oh, and did I mention that I’m driving? Yeah, I can’t have a panic attack right now.

I start to try and slow my breathing, telling myself that I need to calm down long enough to pull over. I’m half way to work. The closer I get, the harder it is to breathe. I’m not going to make it there today.

I glance at the clock: 8:20am.

Ten minutes until my shift starts. I shouldn’t be this nervous, my job is simple. I’m a cashier at a resale shop, and half the time I’m just hanging up clothes. So why am I freaking out?

That’s the thing about anxiety. It doesn’t always make sense.

Maybe it was the comment my supervisor made the other day. He probably didn’t even mean for it to sound critical. But I took it to heart, and now I no longer feel comfortable at work.

There it is. The root of my anxiety. Logically, I know I need to go in and go to work. But mentally and physically I can’t. At least, not today.

I’ve pulled over into a parking lot. Trying to breathe. My face is wet with tears, my hands are shaking. I don’t have any tissues (I never seem to have tissues when I need them), but I’m beginning to calm down. I’m letting myself not be okay. I’m letting myself not have to pretend I’m okay and go into work with a smile on my face. I’m giving myself a break.

Now how do I explain that to someone who doesn’t have severe anxiety? How do I explain to my boss that I need to take a sick day because I physically couldn’t come into work today?

I’ve tried. I’ve tried to tell the truth when this happens. Then I get the “talk.” I need to be more reliable, consistent, dependable. They can’t depend on me because I can’t predict that my anxiety won’t show up.

So I lie. I text that I woke up with a cold. A stomach virus. Something physical that they can understand. And when I go into work tomorrow, I’ll explain that it must have been a 24 hour bug.

In reality? This anxiety is something I’m going to have to continue fighting for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New Job!

Pretty much all last week I was applying to jobs online, mainly through Indeed's search engine.

It's been a little hard putting myself back out there again, but I figure it's better to not stay off of the horse too long.

I've gotten a job as a caregiver. It'll be something different, less hours, and hopefully less stress. I'm hoping to pick up more hours, but for now I think that this will be good for me. I'm pretty excited about it so that's good.

I've also been writing more poems lately which I've been publishing over on Medium.

Other than that just getting myself ready for working again!