I tried to put this meme in my last post, but couldn’t; I think I have problems posting from my phone sometimes because the screen is cracked.
I’ve been on a list to take a Dialetical Behavior Therapy course taught by my therapist and got the call today that there is an opening. Part of me is like “I’ve been doing this for five years and have my self-help DBT workbooks, do I really need the course?” And the type A me is exited to relearn these skills which are helpful for managing not just my bipolar symptoms, but maintaing my sobriety. Because I am a dual-diagnosis dame in long-term recovery. I’m coming up on three years of recovery, from both of these illnesses, and I don’t want to go backwards. So forward I go with DBT & ME!
This is my small act today to move out of my dip. There are some general misconceptions about bipolar that unfortunately I, one who has the illness, buy into when depressed. The best course of action for myself is awareness and education.
Self-Awarness: This is the key to managing symptoms. Although during a depressive episode it’s a key which often opens a pandora box of self-doubt. So let’s bust some doubt-causing misconceptions with the facts:
I do not spend weeks awake, spend loads of money, or go “postal” on people. Some symptoms of bipolar I mania are decreased need for sleep, reckless behavior, and heightened mood. Truth: Studies found that people with bipolar spend far more time in depressive states than elevated. Depression to mania ratio in bipolar I is 3:1. Meaning, 3 more depressive episodes to every one manic episode.
“But Violet,” I tell myself, “You only have bipolar II so this is less serious.” False: Instead of mania I suffer from hypomania,“a milder form of mania.” Even by definition it sounds like hypomania is far more preferable than mania.
And in many ways it is, but it’s what I call my “Wonder Woman” period, but I am entirely unaware that I’m acting superhuman. Observers often (as I’ve personally have been told by friends) admire the qualities I show during hypomanic periods. I’m highly capable of multitasking and taking on many projects. I convey a general sense of happiness; even if there are external difficulties the glass is always “half full.” I’m able to work, be social, engage in life to the fullest.
How is that any different than being a “go getter American”?
Because the hypomania period is usually just a week or two,and by the end my mental activity is off the charts. I want more work responsibility but can’t concentrate on a single task. My speech, thoughts and ideas race around in a million different directions. This type of mania deceives me because I’m on medications, sleep well, get things done. It feels pretty awesome and I feel totally in control until perhaps the last day of this “up cycle.”
“That sounds wonderful, Violet, sign me up for hypomania!”
In bipolar II the ratio of time spent in a depressive state to hypo manic is 40:1. That means for every 40 dips I get ONE Wonder Woman cycle.
Presently I am in a major depressive episode. This generally happens to me after a hypomanic state. Good news: I only get this chemically down after a hypomanic state, and hypomanic states do not happen very often.
“Just get off the couch and turn those lemons into lemonade.”
That’s the worst misconception of all. Because, you see, there are no lemons. Everything in my life is great. This is what frustrates me the most, but also brings out the truth of my disease. I have a chemical imbalance, a disease that is separate from my reality. I am having a depressive episode, and am aware that I need to practice self-care.
I have to have the awareness to practice “good enough.” I don’t have to go all “just do it” in regards to moving out of this depressive state. For example, I didn’t have the energy to shower yesterday but knew I needed to go see my therapist. A few years ago that would have been enough of a stressor to cancel the appointment.
But I took a wet wash cloth & cleaned myself up. I even brushed my teeth and concealed my greasy hair with a hat! Winning! As long as I take these”good enough” steps and stay out of guilt and judgement. As long as I am aware that I am in a chemical state of depression and remember I can be happy, the small acts will move me out of this bipolar depression.
Today I feel physically ill as well as mentally off. A bit of a chicken vs egg dilemma. Did I go from high to low because I am getting a cold or did I get this cold because I have psychologically dipped into the depths of my disease.
I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow morning. I worked an hour and a half from home today but do not know if I can do much more. At least not today.
The thought of faking mental wellness around others is as tiring as the act itself, which is why I don’t want to physically go to work.
This disease is conniving. Last week I felt invincible- getting all my tasks done at super human speed. Asking for additional assignments. But at the same time finding it impossible to concentrate for more than four hours on work.
This week I feel a failure. Unable to concentrate at all. Barley able to return emails, and unable to fake professionalism on the phone.
Bi-polar for me is going from Wonder Woman to a Dickens’s wretched street urchin in a day.
As my readers realize, I have not spent a lot of time on WordPress the past several months. As my freelance promotional and journalistic paid writing has increased, my personal writing has decreased, and WordPress reading halted completely. Today I returned to WordPress as a reader, perusing Freshly Pressed, Community Pool, and blogs in my Reader. Following are a few reads I enjoyed, in no particular order.
- A Writer’s Path, “10 Quote Tuesday” : This week Ryan comprised inspiring quotes by writers about writing.
- Stumbling for Balance, “We’ve Never Interlaced Our Fingers”: A poignant poem – go read it now!
- Ischemgeek, #HighFunctioningMeans : This struck a strong chord with me, as one with an invisible disability. If you want to know what I really think, read the post then my comment.
Blog on! Read on!
I can’t lie. Some days suck. I’d like to say every day sober is wonderful. That my bi-polar is amazingly managed through meds, therapy and meditation. But life is life, and some days bite your ass like a rabid badly-trained pitbull. This past 24 hours has absolutely sucked.
My son lives with his father an hour and a half away. It sucks. I usually can look on the bright side but he is miserable in his current school. I spoke with him on the phone yesterday after which I wanted to swoop in on my invisible jet and Wonder Woman whisk him away. But I can’t.
Instead I started bawling on the phone and had to cut our conversation short. See, my pharmacy majorly fucked up and I was without three of my medications from Wednesday until today. My emotional fuse is very, very short. I bawled for hours last night feeling entirely powerless in solving my fifteen-year-old’s problems.
And then there was today. I go to my place of mental health care, to see my social worker, then therapist, and yell at the pharmacy peeps, and I walk in to see my ex. This is the troll I lived with for three years, until he hawked my flat-screen T.V., Iphone, my beloved purple Kitchen-Aide Mixer, and every thing else I had of value while I was in treatment. Somehow I kept my fuse from igniting.
I now have all my meds, and a new 24 hours begins. Some days suck. I breathe deep, breath out, and remember I’m blessed to be alive. And if that doesn’t work I imagine myself seeing the ex, then Wonder Woman scissor kicking him simultaneously in the face and balls with those big red boots. That image usually makes me feel better as well.
There are a great many advantages to having treated bi-polar II, or if you’re in my same mental health camp let’s call it bi-polar as well. The foremost being that I no longer suffer from suicidal thoughts. I know this is huge and would not be where I am today without medications, self-care, self-love, “the rooms” and therapy.
An over-haul of my thoughts and perceptions was needed, because in addition to being an alcoholic I am a workaholic. Accepting that I was a workaholic was much harder than the alcoholism, or even my mental health status. I had very high expectations for myself, which although I could never meet due to the depression that comes after the mania, I really did not want to give up my Wonder Woman status. I basked in the accolades I received for doing too much. Raise a son as a single mom without accepting help, work full-time and go to graduate school? Yes, I did that. And when someone would revel in my success, ask “How do you do it all?”, I would smile and say “I am a Wonder Woman.”
So in 2013 when I was told by my medical team that I could not work for a year, and saw an occupational therapist because I was forced to learn to schedule self-care, I was devastated. Even though a week prior I did not want to live at all because I could not keep up the Wonder Woman facade.
Being a mere mortal is hard. I have to put my big girl panties on one leg at a time, like everybody else. But I would not trade where I am today for that 200 pound WW on my chest. I had it right that Halloween when I was four. We all are Wonder Women, despite what we do or what we have achieved.