What Bipolar Disorder Has Given to and Taken Away From Me

In honor of World Bipolar Disorder Day I am going to discuss numerous things bipolar disorder has given to and taken away from me. I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar type 2 disorder 15 years ago. I knew nothing about the disorder or how it would affect my life for the next 15 years. While there are positives that have come about due to having bipolar, the negatives far outweigh them.

What Bipolar Disorder Has Taken From Me

The ability to work a paying job

Since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I have tried various ways of staying gainfully employed. I have worked full-time outside of the home and part time from home for a healthcare employer, as well as part time outside of the home and from home for myself. In each situation my bipolar symptoms, especially anxiety (social, general and panic), anger/irritability, and depression, have left me unable to cope with the demands.

I even started a photography business since photography is my favorite hobby, but the business side of it and dealing with people was more than I could handle and bipolar symptoms were triggered. So, I had to quit or continue to suffer the negative health consequences.

My ideal body weight

Bipolar medications have caused me to gain at least 20 pounds over the last 10 years. Couple that with the fact that my previous career involved a lot of exercise that I no longer get and the weight keeps piling on. My rapid cycling moods make sticking to an at-home exercise routine or diet regimen nearly impossible.

The ability to be a stable parent

Unfortunately, my bipolar disorder has negatively affected my children. There have been times where, because of anxiety and depression, I have been unable to get out of bed to be there for them or to attend their activities, and even worse, times where I have been hurtful with my words to them due to hypomanic irritability. I worry that they have picked up their own anxieties from growing up in a household filled with mine.

The ability to socialize and be in public places without extra medication

Bipolar anxiety has left me with an extremely sensitive nervous system that becomes overstimulated with what is typical input for most people. For me, the noises are always too loud, lights too bright, smells too strong, and people too close. I have to take one or two additional medications to cope with all of these stimuli.

Spontaneous changes in my routine

Maintaining mood stability requires that I adhere to fairly strict schedules with my sleep, medications, food intake, and social calendar. I go to bed at the same time each night. A rare late night out can wreak havoc on my mood for days afterwards.

I take my medications on a strict schedule. Forgetting a dose can cause troubling side effects such as light-headedness and nausea.

I eat three meals a day because going too long without eating can affect my moods greatly.

Finally, I have to plan ahead for social events. Any last minute plans or changes to plans can send me into a tailspin.

Parts of my creativity

Before going on certain bipolar medications, I was prolific at writing, especially poetry and mental health blogs. I also painted a lot. I believe antipsychotics dried up those creative wells for me. I just don’t have the same drive and imagination for it anymore.

The ability to stick with something long term

I will often enthusiastically start projects such as writing a book, starting a new blog, beginning an exercise program, creating a house cleaning schedule, starting a new diet, reading a book, or learning a new skill, but after a few weeks my mood will shift and I will abandon whatever it is I began. It’s a pattern I’ve had for nearly my whole life, starting long before I even knew I had bipolar disorder.

Outdoor summer fun

Some of the bipolar medications I take make it difficult for my body to regulate its temperature. Therefore, I’ve had to give up many once enjoyed outdoor activities when the weather is too hot, such as spending the day on the lake with friends, watching the kids’ baseball games, lounging for hours at the pool, going for walks, and doing yard work.

Friends

The irritability that comes along with bipolar mood fluctuations has caused me to do or say things that most people might think but never act on and this has caused rifts in some of my friendships.

I also think that because of bipolar disorder my inhibitions can be lower at times in a way that makes it feel like I can’t control what comes out of my mouth and I find myself blurting out comments or answers that are inappropriate.

Paranoia has also caused me to embarrassingly ask friends if they are mad at me or don’t like me anymore which is just awkward for everyone.

Peace of mind

With bipolar disorder’s mood changes and the secondary emotions that can come with it, such as anger, irritability, and anxiety, I am always on edge and wondering what is coming next. Everything internally feels so unpredictable that I can barely ever relax and feel secure about my health. Even when things are going well I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Lasting peace of mind seems to forever elude me.

What Bipolar Disorder Has Given to Me

An opportunity to stay home full time and work on my physical, mental, and spiritual health

Because I am home most days by myself, I am able to spend a lot of time learning, reading, writing, reflecting on things, and participating in hobbies, support groups, spiritual groups, and going to as many doctors’ appointments as I need to to reach towards my fullest potential in all areas of my health. If I did not have bipolar disorder, I would be working full time and not have the time to do all of these things.

The ability to truly help my children, who also suffer from mental illnesses

My kids have had multiple physical and mental issues over the years that have required many daytime doctor and therapy visits that I would have not been able to do if I was working a full-time job. Bipolar disorder has forced me out of the work place thereby allowing me to be home for them during some of the most critical and crucial times of their lives.

The ability to support others with mental health issues in real life and online with greater compassion and open-mindedness

Sometimes you can’t imagine what others are going through unless you’ve been through it yourself. I have been through a lot of trauma and heartache including hospitalizations due to suicidal behavior thanks to bipolar disorder. You just can’t help others in the same way when you haven’t experienced these depths of despair as you can when you have. I have something valuable to offer others because of my trials.

What About You and Bipolar Disorder?

What are some things bipolar disorder has taken from you and/or given to you? Share your experiences in the comments.

Why I Took a Mental Health Hiatus

It has been nine months since I posted here because I needed to take a break from thinking and talking and writing about mental health and mental illness.

I went through a big change around the time I quit blogging and I suppose that has something to do with the long break as well. This change altered some of my core values and helped me grow as a person in ways I never would have imagined. My love and tolerance for all people has blossomed exponentially.

I dare say I went about a psychic change that brought me through a depression and grieving process to a place of total acceptance. I am a better person for it today.

However, even with the positive impact this event had on my character, I still have all of my mental illnesses (bipolar type 2, anxiety and panic disorders, social anxiety disorder, ADHD, seasonal affective disorder, complex PTSD, recovered alcoholism, borderline personality traits).

The most prevalent illness currently causing problems for me is anxiety. The social and generalized anxieties are the main triggers for my chronic migraine. The ways in which I limit my activities outside of the house in order to decrease my migraine frequency has made my world very small.

Is your life limited because of your symptoms? How so? Tell me in the comments and follow me for more mental health updates.

Looking Back at Ten Years of Blogging at Write into the Light

Ten years ago today I posted my first blog here at Write into the Light. Ten years!  I feel like that is such a long time.  

I started off writing daily meditations because I couldn’t find any meditation books specifically written for people with mental illness or mental health issues. Over the years my writing has evolved from those meditations to journal-type entries and poems, to essays and opinion pieces, and finally, reports on mental health research articles. 

Regardless of the type of writing I post, all of it helps me process and cope with my own mental health symptoms and I hope helps others with the same. Writing has been one of my biggest coping skills when it comes to my mental illnesses, hence the name of this site. 

There were many months I was inactive and even full years where I only wrote a few blogs at most depending on my health status. Several times I almost closed the site down but I never did because even though I would go periods without writing, the stats showed that people were still viewing my posts on a daily basis.  And I thought, if the blog was helping someone by just being there then it was worth leaving up even if I wasn’t adding anything new to it at the time. 

Over the last 10 years I’ve written over 360 posts and have had over 44,000 visitors and 65,000 views. I have close to 900 readers on WordPress, a tad over 300 Twitter followers, 1200 and something Facebook fans, and 25 email subscribers. Definitely not a big outfit by any stretch of the imagination, but a small little part of the mental health community that I hope is contributing enough in a way that is making a difference in someone’s morning, afternoon, or evening every once in a while. 

I wonder who is out there who has been blogging for ten years or more. I am in contact with no one from my early days of blogging because their blogs have been dead for years and I miss some of them so much.  

I am happy to have found new bloggers throughout the years, however, and thank every one of you for taking the time to follow, read, like and comment on my posts. I appreciate you and always enjoy connecting with you. 

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Election Stress

What a long exhausting week it has been. I’ve been sleeping like crazy and been generally unmotivated to do anything. I hate the feeling of being in limbo with no where to go.

I feel like a balloon that is a few days old, lost most of it’s helium and is just kind of suspended a few feet off the ground, barely floating around, pathetically living out the last few days of its existence.

I need a big wind to come along and boost me high in the air, twirling me up and around, giving me life and energy. I think most of my malaise has to do with the general state of the country due to the election and that I will feel much better and more grounded after it is decided. How about you?

In the meantime, I have downloaded a goal tracker app and have created some simple daily tasks for me to do so that I keep myself moving and feeling accomplished, while still allowing myself downtime to nap and indulge in my unmotivated moods.

What do you do when you’re feeling unmotivated and stressed out?

Grateful for Some Normalcy, I Think

The kids get to go back to school full-time in my county and play sports, and we get to watched them play, too, with some restrictions like social distancing and wearing masks. I feel so thankful for being able to do these things especially when some counties only a few miles away from us are not able to.

However, like every fall, due to the change in schedule from basically no schedule during the summer to now carpools and sporting events and small talk with other parents and loud gyms and small group social events, my anxiety is very high.

I take a lot of breaks at home, try not to schedule too many things on the same day, know that the high school sporting season only lasts a short time, although then club season begins! Take my antianxiety medicine when needed, get plenty of sleep – I need 11-12 hours a night to feel good mentally. Physically I don’t need that much sleep but mentally I do. I feel like that is weird. Drink plenty of water. I don’t exercise no matter how much people advise it it just isn’t part of who I am. I will go for walks in the evenings if it’s nice out several times a month but nothing on a regular basis. I also have a few hobbies I like to do that distract me from my anxiety.

How is life in the year of covid-19 going for you right now? How do you cope with your anxiety?

When Mental Illness Takes Away Your People Skills

Part of combating a mental illness is making sure that you have meaningful activity to participate in on a regular basis. Even those without mental health conditions need to have meaningful, purposeful tasks in their life to make life worthwhile.

There are very few tasks that don’t involve interacting with other people. Even something as solitary as writing a book eventually involves submitting it to editors and publishers and dealing with them, as well as critics and readers.

As a result of my bipolar disorder, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and severe social anxiety disorder, I have the most difficult time interacting with people. This limits my range of productive activities that I can do outside of the home. I cannot hold any job that involves interacting with others for any length of time outside of my immediate family. I do short stints of volunteer work, an hour here and there, and that is it.

It makes me sad to think my life will be void of being of sustained service to other people for the rest of my life due to my mental health conditions. However, I can do nothing else but accept this reality and move on.

I do take satisfaction in the fact that I can at least blog here and write about my experiences and provide information and encouragement to those who may be in the same situation as myself.

Having ADHD and No Motivation

My ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is making it hard for me to even begin to write this article. I feel overwhelmed and unorganized. In general, I want to write regular blog posts, however, the sustained effort it takes to do so is something that is hard to come by due to my ADHD.

There are other tasks around the house I need to do that are repetitive and boring, such as chores, that I struggle with immensely due to ADHD. The best way I found to do these is to do one or two a day in small bursts of time. Unfortunately, the whole house may never be clean all at the same time, but at least each part is getting cleaned on a regular basis.

Other projects sit untouched, such as hobbies and crafts. I try to do them when I get a surge of motivation, but when I don’t for a long while I just make sure I am using positive self talk, telling myself it is no big deal if these things do not get done.

Exercising is another task I have problems sticking with because it bores the heck out of me. Again, I just try not to talk negatively to myself about slacking in this area of my life, telling myself that I am doing the best I can within the limitations I have due the the mental illnesses (I also have bipolar disorder) I deal with.

How do you cope with lack of motivation to do the things you want to?

Current Event’s Effect on an Empath’s Mental Health

I am what you call a highly sensitive person or an empath. These types of people are highly attuned to the emotions of others, have a hard time blocking out the emotions of others, and often are adversely affected by the negative moods of other people. Being in a large crowd of people is exhausting for me especially if it’s in a type of setting where emotions run high like a large church gathering or a wedding reception or a funeral. Even something as simple as a medium-sized family gathering is too overwhelming for me at times because the social dynamics are often too tension-filled for my empathic tendencies to handle.

Unfortunately, I don’t even have to be face to face with people in order to be affected by their emotions. Reading comments on social media, watching news stories on the television, or hearing people talk about current events on the radio or podcasts, all affect my emotions and mood.

As you can imagine, the past couple months with the pandemic and all of its complications and discussions and controversies over whether people should wear a mask or not or whether people should still be staying home or not or whether businesses should be opening or not have had a negative effect on my emotional stability.

But now, even more so, with racial tensions running high due to the death of George Floyd, my mental health stability has been pushed beyond its breaking point and I find myself feeling anxious and depressed and worried and upset and at times filled with despair about a situation in which there seems to be no viable solution.

I am not black, so I do not wish to take away from anything the black population is going through right now. I am a person with severe mental illness who is going through something, not the same as what they’re going through, but something negative due to the racism and hate currently brewing in the United States.

I don’t know what to do with these horrible emotions that come about from witnessing the hate and racism and conflict going on between the citizens of this country except to block it out from time to time by signing out of my social media accounts and turning off the television so as to not listen to the news reports. It seems to be the only way to protect myself from all the negativity, because I can’t seem processes it in a healthy manner if I let any of it in otherwise.

Does anyone else out there have this issue as a highly sensitive person? How do you deal with it? What coping skills do you use to manage the emotions that come up from witnessing the hatred and violence that are going on in our nation right now without becoming filled with anxiety and despair?

Fighting Bipolar Depression and Chronic Pain: When to Just Stay in Bed

I spend a large part of my day in bed. I’ll admit it right now, I do. I sleep at night and most of the morning and get up for the afternoon and early evening time to do some self care and house chores and back to to bed again I go.

Many of the morning hours are spent sleeping away migraine, of which I have chronically. Depression plays a role in my perpetual inertia as well.

It seems the more that is demanded of me, the more migraines I get and the more depressed I become. Therefore, it has become this catch twenty two of not doing because of the fear of becoming sick and being sick, so not doing.

It sounds like a fairly pathetic life if you’ve read how I’ve written it out thus far, but there are so many things I do on a fairly regular basis when I am out of bed. For example, I cook and clean and write and create art and raise children! I take pictures and participate in social groups and keep up with a multitude of doctors appointments. I am a dutiful wife, a generous friend, and a eager volunteer.

So many things I am capable of, but I’m only able to do them for short spurts of time with much rest in between activities. That I’m able to do them at all I so am grateful!

Mental illness and chronic pain have taken a typical life from me, but I still have a life and this is what it looks like.

Is your life with mental illness typical or atypical? Do you have trouble getting out of bed?

Mental Health Blogging is Cool

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I have been blogging here for eight years now. I have written a lot of posts I am proud of and some that are so-so like the medical research ones.  I say the are so-so because they are kind of fillers for the times I was taking a break from writing anything of personal substance because I became super paranoid that people in my real life were reading my blog and I didn’t feel like I could be as candid as a result.

My two most popular posts year after year are How to Deal With Complex PTSD Triggers and Are People with Bipolar Disorder Lazy?

My highest traffic years brought over 11,000 views and 9,200 unique visitors, which I know many people see in a month’s time, but for me this was good.

My subscriber count is just shy of 800 people. I have super slacked off on reaching out to other bloggers over the last few years and I took a year off from Facebook which hurt my page engagement, of course.

I’ve been back on Facebook for about six months now and things are finally starting to pick back up. It’s nice to finally know my messages of encouragement and hope are reaching more people again.

I’m fairly active on Twitter where people are really encouraging and friendly. I always enjoy sharing there.

I hope you find my blog useful and share its posts on social media and say, hi, and follow me on social media, too. I love to connect with other people and share ideas and thoughts.