What to Do About Bipolar Disorder and Stress

ache-19005_960_720
Bipolar and Stress

We all have stress. Can’t avoid it. Can’t get rid of it. Might as well learn how to deal with it. Right? Wrong. Let’s make a list of our stressors. Pretty long list, eh? I bet we can avoid or get rid of at least a few of them if we really wanted to. It may take some finagling, help from others and a lot of courage, but I bet we can do it.

The problem is we may be too worried about what other people think or hurting someone’s feelings or feeling too guilty to make the changes necessary to reduce our stress. We may be too proud to ask others for help or too embarrassed to let others see how we really are, so we put on our masks and act like everything is fine, thereby increasing our stress.

For those of us with bipolar disorder, this is especially dangerous because stress can trigger mood episodes. According to an article on PsychCentral, “people with bipolar disorder are more prone to stress than the average population.”

Along with the danger of triggering mood episodes, chronic stress can over-produce stress hormones resulting in “chemical imbalances and physical changes in parts of the brain already vulnerable due to bipolar disorder. The prefrontal cortex shrinks, leading to emotional instability, self-regulation problems, and mood changes.”

So, you can see how important it is to reduce the amount of stress in your life! My doctor told me just that and my response was: “Yeah, right! I’ll just get rid of my kids then.”

There are some stressors we obviously cannot eliminate. However, I have made changes to reduce my stress, even with my kids like making them do more for themselves and not saying yes to every activity they want to do.

I go to support group meetings for people in recovery from drugs and alcohol. In one meeting, there is this one lady in particular who causes me a lot of anxiety whenever I see her. So, I now avoid that meeting even though I like the other people who go there. The stress is not worth it to me. There are too many other meetings I can go to where I don’t feel stressed.

I say “no” to seventy-five percent of the parties I am invited to because of my social anxiety. I know I offend some people because I say no so much, but I don’t care. I used to force myself to go and then get panic attacks while there and sick with anxiety and migraines for days afterwards. I have to eliminate the stress that I can from my life in order to stay balanced and healthy.

Let’s not forget about positive stressors, too. A recent weekend trip to see friends, while fun, left me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. I came home and crashed for two days straight just to mentally and physically recuperate from lack of sleep and over-stimulation. Fortunately, my husband helped around the house so I could do this.

Before I understood how bipolar works, I would have continued trying to do everything for and with the kids until I crashed into yet another severe depression. I also would have returned from that weekend trip and went on with my week like any “normal” person would have. Only unlike a “normal person,” by week’s end, I would have been in full manic irritability and dissociation. This would have lasted for a week or two followed by a depressive episode lasting for who knows how long. Now, I know good self-care is the key to managing my stress.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to play shrinky-dink with my brain, so

My basic plan when dealing with stress is this:

  • Identify my stressors
  • Get rid of them when possible (e.g., say, “No.”)
  • Avoid them when possible (e.g., remove self from situation)
  • Ask for help
  • Practice good self-care (eat well, sleep well, take meds, have routine)
  • This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – when I am stressed I write.  (Guess you know how I am feeling right now.)😉

What helps you deal with the stress in your life?

Bipolar and Perseverance

board-928392_960_720Perseverance is defined as “steady persistence in a course of action…especially in spite of difficulties (or) obstacles.” The fluctuating moods of bipolar disorder often hinder one’s ability to persevere through various tasks in life.

Take this blog, for example. I haven’t posted in over four months for various reasons, but one has to do with lack of perseverance. There have been great difficulties in my life and other obstacles that have kept me from steadily posting, and I don’t particularly appreciate that. I like posting. I miss posting. Bipolar gets in the way sometimes.

The medications I take for my bipolar disorder slow down my thinking processes. This makes it difficult for me to write blog posts. This is one of the reasons I took to reporting on research articles more than writing essays. It is one of my strategies for persevering in spite of my bipolar disorder.

There are many other areas in my life where perseverance is an issue due to my bipolar disorder. I have half finished projects all around my house: Artwork started and then forgotten; shelves that I am in the process of repainting that should take a few days to do, might get finished in a month if I am lucky; exercise routines initiated and within a week abandoned; writing projects started and left to collect dust, and the list goes on and on.

There is a lot of research on impulsivity and distractibility in bipolar disorder. I think these play a role in the lack of perseverance some with bipolar might notice in their life. Starting projects on a whim then not being able to stay focused, both of which are common occurrences during hypomania and mania, would definitely lead people to abandon their goals. Starting projects while stable then becoming depressed would yield the same results.

So, you can see that lack of perseverance in people with bipolar disorder is not necessarily a character flaw or laziness. It is often times merely a symptom of their disorder.

Calling for Submissions on Homelessness and Mental Illness

Hello! I have been super busy living life!

11140359_892931594101460_3732932980259452221_n

Living life on life’s terms, that is. My children are not well, one physically, the other emotionally. My husband isn’t well physically either. As a result, I have had to take on a lot more responsibilities than I am used to around the house and a lot more outside of the house as well with doctor and therapy appointments. Fortunately, my medications and coping skills are working to keep my bipolar symptoms to a minimum.

It really is possible to live in a “recovery state.” Not that I will ever be cured of bipolar, but I can function for an indiscriminate amount of time without symptoms interfering with my daily living. It is possible for you, too!!!

By the end of the month, I hope to have a new issue of the Turtle Way Journal published. I have received a few poems on mental illness and homelessness already, so I am going to make that this issue’s Special Interest Section. If you have any poems, articles, or essays you would like to submit, please do so as soon as possible by emailing them to me at writeintothelight [at] live [dot] com

Thanks for your support! Please spread the word.

Are You Addicted to Chaos?

argument-238529_640

Today’s post is by Laura Wills. She writes about addiction, which I have stated before is a form of mental illness. After one is no longer using his drug of choice and life is not as chaotic, he may feel uncomfortable with this calmness. I felt this way after I stopped drinking a long time ago. I sometimes feel this way when my bipolar symptoms are at bay. While I am glad that my symptoms subside, life can become a bit boring without them. “Chaos Addiction” may be the reason for this, which Laura explains below.

Falling Out of Comfort and Into Chaos..?

Recovering from addiction isn’t a case of “just” weaning yourself free from substances, alcohol, smoking – or even gambling or shopping. It’s a multi-layered and complex approach that in itself can reveal more about the hidden problems and associations lying underneath.

Very often, people who are in recovery report that as their lives settle down and they begin to take stock, they don’t like the feeling that everything in their world feels as though it is going well, or too smoothly. Many say that they find it difficult to let go of the chaos and dysfunction that surrounds their addiction and therefore seek to try and find it in other areas of their life – such as possibly creating rows with their spouse or partner or keeping troublesome or worrisome situations in their working lives going instead of actively trying to resolve them. This kind of activity has a name – Chaos Addiction and it is something that psychologists are becoming increasingly interested in, in terms of addressing addiction issues.

Many people who find themselves falling into such a problem can usually find at some point in their lives they have been victims of it themselves, perhaps through dysfunctional parenting, constant arguments or even being exposed to addictive behaviors in the home. When they reach maturity they may find themselves adopting the same patterns – especially if they fall into an addiction (however, it does not necessarily mean they will fall into addiction, merely carry on the dysfunctional behaviors they have known all their lives.) For more information on this fascinating subject, you can read on here.

Are you addicted to chaos? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

Call for Submissions

Turtle Way Logo

I am calling for submissions to Write into the Light’s literary-art emagazine, Turtle Way. A new issue will come out in April, so send in your work (i.e., poetry, photos, art, essays, opinion pieces, meditations, quotes, jokes, prose, and stories) asap. Click here for submission guidelines.

Meditation: A Cure for Depression and Anxiety?

Neuroscientists now have evidence proving what meditators have been saying for years: Meditation can improve people’s physical and emotional health.

image

Imaging studies show that meditation increases certain areas of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. “Also the parts of the brain that respond the most to stress gets smaller with meditation. This means that anxiety and depression naturally fade with a meditation practice,” according to researchers.

I’ve been doing mindfulness and guided meditations using an app called “Insight Timer” on and off now for about a year, and I definitely notice a difference in my anxiety levels on the days that I meditate versus the days I don’t.  Although on many of the days I meditate, my anxiety level is already low because I tend to have trouble focusing long enough to meditate when my anxiety is high. Go figure!

I do believe the effects of meditation last me a few days and are somewhat cumulative in that sense. So, even when I meditate on a low anxiety day, it could be helping me avoid a super high anxiety day the next day or the day after that.

Meditation hasn’t had an effect on my bipolar depression levels, but maybe it would if I practiced it more consistently since one of my depression triggers is anxiety.  It’s probably worth a try, but to be honest, I have my doubts.

What about you?  Do you meditate?  What benefits has it brought to your health?  Or in light of this recent research, would you consider trying meditation?  Why or why not?

Book Review of An Unquiet Mind

an unquiet mind

I recently read An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison. It is an older book, published in 1995. In it, Jamison details her life events beginning in childhood through adulthood with Bipolar I disorder.

She focuses mainly on the mania part of her disorder and on the love relationships of her adult life, as well as on her experiences with lithium, the drug used to treat her bipolar disorder. Much detail is given to her academia life as a psychologist, and to her world travels as woman who never had children, making this memoir a bit inaccessible to me as a homemaker and stay-at-home mom.

Moreover, I have bipolar type II, have never been on lithium, nor have I experienced the extreme manic highs of Bipolar type I disorder, so I couldn’t identify with much of her story, making this book a bit of a disappointment to me and a waste of money for me.

However, if you have Bipolar I and long-term treatment with lithium, you will be able to identify with a lot of what Jamison writes.

Poetry and Risperidone

image

These pills are like duct tape across
my mouth, silencing screams
clawing to get out.

Thoughts muted; rainbows
fade to greyscale;
playground ball deflated.

Pen suspended mid-air,
stutters at best.  Spittle
on an anorexic page.

And already…
The End
like premature ejaculation.
I’m so sorry.

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Afraid To Fail

20140606-212721.jpg

We are afraid to fail so instead we don’t try. How many things do you not try because you are afraid of failing?

Right now I am trying to stop smoking, and while a part of me feels like it is a lost cause because I have tried to quit several times in the past unsuccessfully, another part of me thinks, “But what if this is the time it works?”

Write about something you have tried and failed at, and then write about something you have tried and succeeded at, realizing that in life there are both failures and successes. The important thing is that we always try.

Make sure to link back to this post or comment below to share your response with others.

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Fathers

20140606-212721.jpg

In honor of Father’s Day, the writing prompt this weekend is none other than – fathers! Write about your father or grandfather or someone who was or is like a father to you. How did he shape you into the person you are today? In what ways, both positive and/or negative, does he affect your mental health? What is a good memory you have of him? What else would you like to write about him?

Link your response back to this post so others can find it or feel free to comment below. And Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there!