Real life with bipolar disorder isn’t quite like you see in the movies and on TV. It can, but mostly not. For those of us who are medication compliant, those wild mood swings are tampered down making it easier for everyone around us, but most importantly us!
I’ve always been affected by the change of the seasons quite dramatically. The hardest for me are always spring and fall. So, naturally, the days grow longer and warmer and I’m zipping around full of life and energy. It’s all fun, til it’s not.
What does that look like, you ask? I can only tell you about my personal experience, as I know it best, despite years of helping others deal with their symptomology.
At first, my mood is just good! Wake up full of energy and happy. Nothing can affect my mood. I wanna go, do things, be active. And…TALK! I don’t always have someone to talk to, so I learned early on that penpals and writing are excellent outlets for all that chatter building up inside me.
Next I start having a little bit of trouble sleeping. My pattern gets thrown out of whack. I never don’t sleep at all unless I’m off my meds entirely. Contrary to popular beliefs, lack of sleep can actually create bit of hyperactivity in and of itself. Gets hard to tell if the hyper mood is from the mood swing or just the sheer exhaustion of a few days without enough sleep.
Then the irritability begins to set in ever so slightly. I get whiny and tired. All of my good self care habits kind of fall to the wayside. I have learned to catch myself before I hit this stage. After years of living with the condition, I’ve learned lots of queues to my moods and behaviors. Like everyone, I’m human and don’t always succeed. I will typically crash hard for a day or so sleeping lots.
Occasionally, I will find that I begin to have some paranoid thinking begin to set in. Nothing so severe that I can’t talk myself out of it and remember that it’s not true. NO! I don’t have those insane thoughts like the aliens are coming for me or that I’m a secret member of the CIA and have people after me. It’s always even harder things like feeling that I’m not liked by everyone around me or my husband is cheating. I’ve never gotten so deep into these thoughts that I haven’t been able to reality test myself out of them.
Reality testing is just what it sounds like. Compare my thoughts to what is actually going on around me or asking someone to confirm that what I’m experiencing isn’t real. This is a common therapeutic treatment method for people suffering from schizophrenia and feeling really afraid.
This all sounds horrible and frightening. To a degree it is. None of these are happening all of the time and they have never occurred all at the same time for me. Being medication compliant helps tremendously!!! It changes my life to a point I can successfully navigate the world on a daily basis and have friends and relationships! I must also follow a pretty structured life so that I stay in balance. This was much harder in my younger days. Now that I’m older, it’s easier to follow a routine bedtime schedule, eat on a regular schedule and make sure I get all of my self care things into my days. It took some time to learn the importance of doing this for myself, plus learning how to implement it. The combination of these things make my mood swings much less severe and honestly, significantly less frequent.
On the rare occasions that things do get to a point I can’t control them and my behavior is out of whack, it’s not pretty or fun. Unchecked mania ALWAYS results in me lashing out in anger at the person closest to me or one I’m irritated with about stuff on a regular basis anyway. There will be a big emotional explosion where feelings are hurt on both sides. I don’t want to be doing it, but I’m unable to control my actions at that point.
Within minutes I’ll be sobbing and able to identify that my mood got out of control. It doesn’t help the situation. In fact it makes it worse because there is a ton of guilt and shame that I can’t always control my moods and behavior. I can also tell the person I lashed out how to help me stop before this screaming hurtful fight ends in sobbing and us mending things.
This is fresh once again. It happened just the other day. Daddy and I fought based on me having repeatedly checking these insidious, sneaky feelings and thoughts which weren’t true.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that aside from these occasional mood swings that get ahead of me you’d never know I have a major mental illness. I’m calm, happy, have good and bad days like everyone else. I have friends and people who look up to me on many levels. I’m viewed by many as the goal for living with a mental illness.
When these issues come up they remind me all over again how important it is to stay on top of my coping skills and being rigorously honest with myself about what is going on. Ask for help. Talk about it. I am also reminded that they are painful, yet they don’t destroy my life or relationships. I am also reminded every single time that I am kitten, I am NOT my mental illness. I have so much to offer which doesn’t have anything at all to do with the fact I have bipolar disorder.
Like anyone else…. some days are good and others bad. I get to choose how bad when I use the skills I’ve learned. I get to love myself for my flaws. Having a mental illness doesn’t make me unloveable… even when I feel like it.♥