After living with bipolar for 8 years, I have noticed some thought patterns that I tend to have around when it comes to thinking about my emotions. Questioning one’s emotions is a useful tool in learning to manage them. As my psychologist and I have discussed, emotions do stem from thoughts – which may or may not be true. Sometimes, admittedly, I get lazy and I just go “Oh I’m very angry because I have bipolar – which is characterised by mood swings and intense emotions, right?”
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I used to think that I could tell easily whether or not I was feeling emotional. But recently, I have realised that it isn’t as easy as I thought. There have been times that I thought I was calm enough when talking to my partner after a disagreement – only to find out that I apparently was not. You can guess what happened in those situations.
Previously I have written about friends asking me what to do if they think that someone they know has bipolar. Recently, I have been thinking of friends who think that they themselves may have the disorder.
They come from different circumstances but one common thing was the fear and anxiety that they felt at the possibility that they may have a mental health condition.
I can understand that no one wants to have a health problem, but the added stigma of mental health issues makes the situation so much worse.
Recently a friend asked me what to do about someone that he suspects has bipolar. It was not someone I knew and as he was back in his home country, I could only give some pointers over Facebook message.
Firstly, I asked him to read up about the condition, especially how to recognise possible symptoms. That’s the easy part. The difficult part comes when deciding if, when and how to approach the topic. Often people can be in denial, or because of stigma, they can react strongly against suggestions that they have a mental health issue.
"It’s not you, but..."
I recently had this said to me by three people that I care about in the context of them asking to have some time by themselves to figure out their issues.
I was able to give space much more easily for two of them compared to the third.
The reason being I was much closer to the other person – he is my partner.
When we are very close to someone and they suddenly decide that they need space because they are going through something that they do not want to say even one word about, I have two words to describe that.
One of the challenges of living with bipolar is not knowing when one is being overly reactive.
I have had to think through this question quite a few times in the past six months with respect to circumstances that affect my sleep.
Previously I mentioned that I decided to have an extended time back home with my family in Singapore because I felt quite destabilised after a few months of poor sleep (due to housing issues mainly).
But within a week of being home, I found that I could not sleep well either and decided to check myself into a hospital.
“YOU DON’T CARE!”
I shouted this at my mother the other day… and it was hurtful on so many levels.
Because when I calmed down and thought about it, she DID care… in many other ways.
In the vein of Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, I want to thank my mum for loving me in these ways:
In my last blog entry I wrote about the art of giving space and the example I gave was more about physical space. Since then I have had a think about a different type of giving space – giving others the space to value things differently. I think it helps me to choose positive perspectives, which in turn aids in managing my mood.
Recently I went to a private ward to be admitted just so I could sleep well for a few days. The irony was that it happened just a week after I had come back to Singapore to be with family – I had done that precisely so that I could have more stability in my housing situation and better sleep.
We have a thing against weakness don’t we… well I for one do.
When I look at negative unhelpful patterns going on in my life, despite the apparent effort that I have put in to change – I feel so weak and whiny. I often hate listening to myself talk to others because I am thinking that they must be thinking, “Here we go again…”
See that was yet another unhelpful pattern – presuming to think that others think the way I do.
Why is change sometimes just so darn hard?