The Vicious Cycle

For those that try to deny the influence of bipolar disorder in their lives, they curse the day they learned they had it, which I now find funny because being told you have a disorder does not magically give you the disorder at that moment. However, I somewhat felt the same way about my first psychotic episode until I decided to stop running from my bipolar disorder and face it head on.

When I was diagnosed in 1999, I was so happy to learn I could come out of a psychotic episode and be “normal” again. However, I felt like all I needed was medicine to keep those demons at bay and I was determined not to let them interfere with me graduating from college. I even taught for three years without too many problems, but now I realize that all through my life I never took the time to define my disorder so it did rule and dictate many of my actions and decisions for years. Bipolar disorder is a contributing factor, but I cannot blame it for any of those actions or decisions I made in my life.

Nowadays, I like to try to separate myself from my disorder, not ignore its existence. I visualize it to be like another person, a dual persona if you will. Dual may like to think she’s in charge at times, but I always have some type of control. However, when I am suffering from extreme psychotic mania, the lines become blurred, but that’s another story.

Dual is always present. Sometimes she’s the friend I rely on to give me a backbone. Other times, she’s the party pooper telling me to give up. She influences my moods and energy levels, but I still gauge and allow how much pull she has on my reigns. So, can I blame Dual (bipolar disorder) on my actions? No, I need to take responsibility for myself. Being diagnosed, accepting treatment, and becoming aware of bipolar disorder is so important in having a less difficult life.

Here’s a life scenario of someone I know who has bipolar disorder.

Imagine a little girl about seven years old who watches as her parents go through a very nasty divorce with violence and police at every turn. Her mother is with a strange man, who scares your older sister, but you are too young to understand why yet, but you learn quickly. Your father, at first fights for custody, but after your mother is awarded custody, you never see him. Alcohol, violence, and your mother’s mood swings continue in your new house or apartment or wherever you happen to be living at the time.

You grow up angry and you constantly disobey anyone with authority. You no longer trust anyone. You learn from your mother and siblings how to manipulate to get what you want. You’re told and shown that books are not the means to get ahead in life, besides you never really learned how to read or write well anyway. School was a joke, you were always moved around even in school, and your anger kept you from settling down to even try to concentrate.

At twelve, your parents are now fighting for who wants you not wanting to be the one this time. You lack love and attention from parents and siblings because they have their own problems. Drugs become present from multiple sources. The drugs allow you to lose the anger enough to relax and not care. They even help keep your demons at bay.

At thirteen, sex helps alleviate the pain of being alone for short brief periods because the guys love you right? Still during all this time, you are tossed between mother and father.

At fifteen, your mother and you are diagnosed as bipolar. Now your behavior disorder at school has a name and the medicine allows you to pick up a book, but why bother now? You’re still in the behavioral disruptive courses that never go anywhere.

At eighteen, you’re homeless and your mother passes away because of liver failure. You refuse to go to your father because you know he and his girlfriend don’t want you. You can’t afford medicine and you don’t care because they never seemed to work well when you were on them.

Then someone you think is your knight and shining armor gets you off the streets, but after a while he starts to beat you when you’re pregnant. You love him, but his drinking makes him that way and he’s your baby’s father. He’s not working because of the economy, and you can’t work because you have no education or practical skills. You’ve never had a job because your mother taught you to live in the parameters of the welfare system as you were growing up.  You again have no choice to rely on the system because no one will help you and you’re soon to have two babies to depend on you.

If this really was your life, who or what would you blame? However, that is the problem. There is so much blame in her life and inability to trust those that do help that she is still left with an abusive boyfriend and two little children. I wish I could help her more than I have already tried to these many years, but she bites the hand that feeds. I wish she can get better help because she and her children will just start the vicious cycle all over again.

Personality Check

While spending my day at work waiting for the printer to spit out copies, I kept thinking about other qualities I have. My therapist also floored me when she said I had a Type “A” personality.

 What? I’ve always thought I was a type “B.” Did my last manic episode change me that much? I can’t be “A” because I let people boss me around and I’m messy because I loathe cleaning. How does that make me type “A”?

 Then I looked deeper into my “normal” lifestyle and looked up type “A” personality again to refresh my memory.

            1. I can’t stand not having something to do.

            2. I like to organize, which is why it takes me about 3 days to clean my house when I do. Hmm.

            3. I love working on projects.

            4. I work until I’m finished or at a good stopping point.

            5. It literally drives me crazy not know what time it is.

            6. I like to schedule out my day to prevent being bored.

            7. Can’t stand watching TV without crocheting or tired enough to nap.

            8. I’m impatient. I detest waiting for some things.

            9. “Short fuse”…um okay. That’s totally me and it is worse without my lithium.

            10. “Overly sensitive”…wait. That’s type “A”? I thought I was that way because of being bipolar.

 Hmmm. You learn something new every day. So, where does my personality stop, and where does my mania begin?

 Now that is a nightly question for me when I fill out my mood chart. Because of my personality, I can mask mania easily until it becomes so severe I am already at the point of psychosis. Sometimes, I’m able to feel the build up because of my strong intuition, but I didn’t follow through with my mood chart for a whole year before my last break. Now, I stave off mania and depression by paying close attention to my moods and personality.

 Anyone with a mood disorder should fill out some sort of mood chart. It may save your life.

I’m Not Just About That

Something my therapist continually tells me was proven for me today….I’m a perfectionist. I never believed her until I literally saw it with my own eyes.

Today, I started my very first art class. I decided to try my hand at drawing, something I never do because I believe that I am terrible at it. Come to think of it, I hate doing things I believe I am bad at. Hmmm….

As the class progressed, there I was trying to sketch an assortment of flowers in a vase with two stone birds arranged beside it. I thought I was doing a terrible job, but those in the class thought it was good. The instructor commented that I was a detailer. I was surprised by the complements and then it dawned on me. What I saw in the drawing was not the same as what others saw.

When I changed my perspective to looking at a drawing from a beginner, I was impressed by how “almost” realistic it was. Of course, there were some problems with it, but that just means I have room to grow.

Now, I’m so excited about the class. I want to run to the store and get the supplies I need and knowing me more than just that.

So, I’ve realized I need to work on not expecting perfection, but I will always work towards it.

Lately, I’ve been busy working, spending time with friends and family, and just relaxing with a good book. I haven’t been writing for this blog (sorry), working on my nonfiction book, or organizing a workbook idea I have. I keep thinking I just don’t have the inspiration, but that is not true. I’ve forgotten that this blog is for writing for writing’s sake. I need to free write more and not always wrap this blog around with bipolar disorder or that is all you will define me as. This blog’s purpose might be centered on making people more aware about bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t have to be just about that. I’m not just about that and this should be more about me. So this post is about perfection and the fact that I don’t always have to be perfect.

Revealing Secrets

tellingsecretsRevealing a secret you’ve held from most people for most of your life is not easy. I thought that I needed to make it my mission to tell those around me I am bipolar because I really want to do my part in lifting this overwhelming stigma, but am I going about it the right way?

In my previous blog “One Step at a Time,” I told you how I planned to finally divulge my secret to the Lion’s Club. Well, days before I started having nightmares about turning into an alien, a monster, and even a serial killer, which left me feeling uneasy and apprehensive when it finally came down to the day. I almost called it off or just opted not to tell, but when only five other ladies arrived instead of the twelve I was expecting, I relaxed a little.

I presented the BringChange2Mind.org website to the ladies and then told them that I was bipolar. Unfortunately, I became nervous and had to stop to take a deep breath. The ladies took it all in stride and we all started talking about the commercial and mood disorders in general. We all agreed that the stigma is a major problem which might be alleviated if we talked about it more. I introduced NAMI to the ladies and then told them all about the treatment center for children and adolescents with mental illness.

We piled into a van and headed to the center, where we went on a tour of the facilities. The ladies were surprised with all the services available to the public. Even most if not all of them were outraged to learn that obviously needed programs were being cut because the government was pulling its funding. We talked a lot about mental health programs and the various levels of funding that is needed to operate such a wonderful center.

When we returned to our original meeting place, the ladies were thankful that we did and learned something different for a change. They even bragged to their husbands about having a good time.

The nightmares stopped afterwards when I realized that I was afraid and nervous that whole time before it was my first revelation. I was worried that I was going to be alienated from the rest of them, which wasn’t the case at all. I hope it won’t be awkward when I see them again.

I guess only time will tell if this will have a positive or negative effect on my life and/or the stigma in general.

Are there any instances in your life that telling people about your mood disorder has made a positive or negative impact on your life?