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.
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?
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?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is related to depression. It is thought that those with depression are lacking in serotonin. Some antidepressant medications block the reuptake of serotonin leaving more available for use by the brain, thereby decreasing depression symptoms or so the theory goes.
Besides medication, which has been proven in clinical trials to have a significant effect on depression symptoms, there are anecdotal treatments some people say increase serotonin in the brain. These “treatments” aren’t always backed by scientific studies and should be discussed with your doctor before being tried especially if they involve any sort of supplement or exercise, but most appear relatively harmless and may even be helpful in relieving some depression symptoms in some people. These serotonin-producing ideas include the following:
- Get more tryptophans from foods like lean meats, eggs, and dairy.
- Get a massage.
- Boost your vitamin B.
- Soak up the sunshine or use a light therapy box.
- Add more magnesium to your diet with dark, leafy veges, fish, bananas, and beans.
- Be more positive, practice gratitude.
- Reduce sugar intake.
- Increase exercise.
- Increase vitamin C.
- Practice self care to reduce stress.
- Keep a journal or practice some form a regular writing.
Don’t try to make all the changes at once, if it seems overwhelming. Tackle one or two items a month. Eventually you will get to feeling better and better and before you know it all of these things will become second nature, if you tackle them like a marathon not a sprint.
Play the long game. These changes are lifetime goals. You have all the time in the world to reach them, but start making them one or two at a time. You can do it and will be glad you did as you begin to feel better and better little by little until it adds up to be quite a lot!
It took me over ten years to get to some real solid stability in my bipolar depression. I did it by addimg a lot of coping skills and healthy habits to my life year after year. Trauma work in therapy and constant medication management was a huge part of it, too, but the anecdotal cures were essential and still are. They may be for you, too.
As always, comments are open for any questions you may have for me and for any shares you have regarding your experiences. Thanks for reading.
Bipolar disorder usually consists of moods alternating between extreme highs, or semi-highs in the case of hypomania, and extreme lows, with stabilized moods in between. The highs can include symptoms such as:
- Having lots of energy
- Feeling high or wired
- Having racing thoughts
- Talking fast
- Taking more risks
- Needing less sleep than usual to feel rested
- Having more distractions than usual
- Having intense senses, such as smell and touch (Source: WebMD)
The lows can include symptoms such as:
- Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
- Trouble with concentration, memory, or making decisions
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Appetite changes
- Gaining or losing weight
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Thoughts of suicide or death (Source: WebMD)
A person experiencing a mixed episode is having symptoms from the highs and the lows at the same time or in rapid succession with no break in between. This is a very disturbing type of episode to have and can cause much confusion and anxiety for the person. The person can, for example, feel depressed and tired most of the day with no motivation or hope, but still feel compelled to act out impulsively with regards to sex or spending money at times. They can be crying uncontrollably one minute and extremely happy the next. This can go on for days, weeks, or months.
Treatment usually includes some form of medication. Treatment by a doctor is definitely required as this is something that will not go away on its own and if left untreated carries an extremely high risk of ending in self-harm or suicide. Mixed episodes in particular are even more at risk of suicide than straight bipolar mania or depressive episodes alone.
The good news is with medication management by a qualified doctor these episodes can be arrested and a safe, healthy, happy life can be attained even with a life-time diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I am living proof of that.
Comments are always open for questions regarding my experience with bipolar disorder and how I’ve learned to manage and live positively with it after being diagnosed almost 15 years ago.
How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.
The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.
According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:
- “Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
- Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
- Restlessness or feeling slowed down
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)
If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.
Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!
Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.
Unprecedented times can sky-rocket anxiety that is already high for those of us with mental illness. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves if we are feeling particularly out of sorts during this craziness. Let’s remind ourselves that it will not last forever and that life will go back to the way it use to be relatively soon. In the mean time, let’s make a plan of ways we can cope with our anxiety and get through each day, moment by moment, knowing that there is no shame in merely doing the best we can no matter what that may look like.
Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy. Get exercise. All the usually advice. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. A hobby or special interest. Watch relaxing or funny videos or movies or shows. Read uplifting or positive material. Create a soothing environment in your home with soft lighting, pleasant aromas, de-cluttered rooms, and quiet or calming sounds.
When you are in the midst of an anxiety attack, try the following coping statements, suggested by http://www.healthyplace.com:
- I’m going to be all right. My feeling are not always rational.
- Anxiety is not dangerous. It’s just uncomfortable.
- Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I will be fine.
- That picture or image in my head is not a healthy or rational picture.
- I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now.
- It’s not the first time I feel anxiety. I am going to take some deep breaths and keep on going.
Finally, remember this: “You have survived everything you’ve gone through up to this point. The best day of your life is still yet to come. There are still people you haven’t met and things you haven’t experienced. YOU CAN DO THIS.” (Source unknown)
With the holidays bearing down on us I thought this would be a good time to talk about things we could do to lower our stress levels. Here are just several ideas.
- Breathe deeply
- Go for a walk
- Smell pleasant aromas
- Close your eyes and think of a happy moment
- Rub fingers together to take attention away from a negative thought
- Be in nature
- Call a drama-free person
- Drink chamomile tea
- Be grateful for life
What are some more ways you use to lower your stress?
Resource: no longer available
Depression can present itself in many different ways. Some common signs of depression include the following.
- sadness, loneliness, or emptiness
- loss of interest in things normally enjoyed
- tiredness and chronic low energy
- difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, making decisions or remembering
- feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- irritability, frustration or anger
- restlessness and agitation
- sleep disturbances
- change of appetite
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
There is also something called hidden depression or “functional depression” where the individual with depression may not experience the common signs of depression, but the depression manifests itself it other, less obvious, ways, such as the following.
- perfectionism with a constant, critical inner voice
- heightened or excessive sense of responsibility
- difficulty with accepting and expressing painful emotions
- worry or need for control over self and environment
- intense focus on tasks, using accomplishments as a way to feel valuable
- active concern about the well-being of others, while not allowing anyone into his inner world
- discounts or dismisses hurt or abuse from the past, or the present
- accompanying mental health issues involving control or escape from anxiety
- a strong belief in “counting your blessings” as the foundation of well-being
- intimate relationships may be difficult, but are accompanied by professional success.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself lasting more than a few weeks, please talk to your doctor about them. Depression is a real illness and is not something we can wish away or control by will power alone. Get the help you need so you can live the life you were meant to have.