Three Things People With Bipolar Don’t Want You to Know

Just when I thought I was in a solid remission…

Things have been rather tense in my world recently, so naturally I’m stressed out and anxious. Usually anxiety is a feature of depression for me, but I’m not depressed at all. Just…antsy. Like something’s coming down the pike that I know I’m not going to like, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Which got me to thinking. There are some matters we bipolar folks don’t particularly like to discuss with others, and while we know it’s not good to keep the lid on so tightly, it’s instinctive. For example:

Our “recoveryis only as good as the circumstances surrounding us. As I’ve said in the past, I prefer the term ‘wremission’ over ‘recovery’, but whatever word you use, the fact is none of us is immune to triggers, and they have a lot of say in whether we maintain our mental health or succumb to a mood episode. I have a HUGE insecure streak and it doesn’t take much to rattle me in certain situations, even though I know on an intellectual level that what I’m afraid of is not likely to come to pass. I also have some wariness of people and institutions that I’m supposed to trust, and when I’m anxious I tend to become somewhat paranoid about their intentions. This does not contribute to mood stability, to say the least.

Sometimes our symptoms embarrass us. Whether it’s hypersexuality, excessive flamboyance, or even stripping down to the skin and waltzing down Main Street, our behaviors can easily end in humiliation. We don’t like to talk about it because we know we are being judged harshly. “Normal” people don’t go around their workplace singing loudly and galloping up and down the halls. They don’t harangue others on a singular topic for over an hour on the bus. Nor do they spend money on stupid stuff like a neon-yellow tank top with a giant neon toucan splashed all over the front of it. (Dr. Awesomesauce never did let me live that one down. I wonder if he still thinks about it now and again.) I don’t even think “normal” people freak out at what freaks me out: the idea of being homeless. It’s by far my worst fear. I came within a whisker of it back in 2014, and it’s like I have some weird kind of PTSD from that experience. And lately, since I’ve been dealing with anxiety, that fear has come back to haunt me even though there is little reason to be afraid. It’s my default whenever I feel insecure in life, and it embarrasses the shit out of me. Besides, how the hell am I supposed to make someone else understand it when I don’t even understand it?

And, some of us run on what seems like a primitive part of our brain, and any deviation from our routine can throw off our whole day…or our whole life. I’m not totally rigid about it, but I have to have most of the little details lined up so I can do them in a predictable fashion. Like my morning regimen: I get up, clean my glasses and check Facebook for a few minutes before going to the bathroom and immediately taking my meds with a full glass of water. I use the facilities, wash my hands, brush my teeth, and last I brush my hair. I do these tasks in the same order every single day; if I try to change things up, it throws me off and I feel like I’m missing something. The rest of the day isn’t so tightly structured, although I like to surf the Net for awhile before (and after) doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. I also shower some days. The rest of the day is spent however I choose, unless somebody in the household wants to go out to dinner and/or a movie or shopping. I can adjust to changing situations with some ability to roll with the punches, but that I owe to meds (and aging). Bottom line: if I don’t have to think about it too much, I can carry out my activities of daily living without getting stressed for the most part.

Trouble is, this isn’t a winning strategy for success in life, and one of the reasons I can’t hold a job (which is another thing that makes me self-conscious) is that I can’t manage competing priorities. It was what killed my nursing career. Whatever part of the brain that makes that aspect of life work is lost to me, perhaps forever. But that’s a story for another post; in the meantime, I’ll just fight the anxiety and keep on keeping on. Which is something that I AM good at.

Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

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