Fear, something that affects everyone at some point in their lives. One of our first fears in life is usually the boogie-man in the closet as a child, or the monster under our beds. Some say, “A healthy dose of fear is a good thing.” I’m not sure where I stand on that issue. I mean honestly, what is a “healthy dose” when it comes to something like fear?
As people with Bipolar we tend to take emotions to the extreme, so when we feel fear it can sometimes be overwhelming. And I’m not talking about your average fears either like fear of heights or clowns or “silly things” like that. I’m talking life crushing, life altering fears, fears that lock you up inside your house and keep you from facing the beautiful world around you. Some of these fears may include fear of confrontation, fear of loud noises and one of the most common is fear of crowds, some people just can’t handle the pressure of being around so many people at one time. Some of us develop multiple fears and some of us develop our own fears.
For example, my daughter who is now 11yrs old just recently got out of the hospital where her diagnosis was changed from bipolar to schizoaffective disorder. She had been having hallucinations & suicidal ideations and that’s why she went into the hospital. This went on for about two weeks before she got put into the hospital. The first week she was in school like everything was normal (with a safety plan in place) by the second week I had taken her out of school and she was at home with me. And then of course she ended up in the hospital. When she got out of the hospital she was better, new meds and all but she was still unable to return to school so they put her on homebound school services. This was in January. She decided she wanted to go back to school so on March 1st, she went back. It was a disaster. For the first two days she was fine, but then she started making excuses to stay home and they were legitimate excuses. I took her to doctors. They couldn’t find anything wrong with her. But she started falling apart every morning when it was time to go to school. I mean literally falling apart, like major break down. So I took her to her psychiatrist and he said “She has a fear of school. Its anxiety and depression. You need to make her face her fear.” But I couldn’t send my baby to school in that condition. So with the school Special Ed teachers help and my daughters medical history we got her set up on half days and a safety plan that includes that she can stay in the Special Ed teacher’s office any time she feels the need to even if that is the majority of the day. She doesn’t have to go to P.E. where there will be an excessive amount of student interaction and she doesn’t have to go to recess if she doesn’t want to. My daughter’s main problem with school is the pressure she gets to succeed and fit in. So she has went two days now (half days) and although she still tells me every morning she doesn’t want to go, it isn’t a break down or water works fit when she does, so we are making progress. Just taking it one step at a time and facing her fears gradually on her terms.
Me on the other hand I get nervous in crowds. If there are too many people around, especially if it is people I don’t know I become very uncomfortable very fast and depending on my mood level is how much I will take it. If I am in a fairly good hypomanic to manic mood set then its all good I can overlook it, but if I am already feeling low or even if I am on an even kilter it will push me over the edge. Sometimes I have even left places that I was at with family or friends because I would be feeling fine and then all of a sudden the feeling would get so overwhelming I just couldn’t contain it and I would have to bolt or I felt like I would just start screaming.
How do we control these fears? Well if your one of the brave ones, you venture out from time to time and gradually face them. Build up your courage until hopefully they disappear. But if you’re like most of us you stay in your house a lot and don’t do much. One thing I have tried and it seems to work for me. I had developed this very real fear of being alone after my divorce 6 yrs ago. So now I just have my mom go places with me I need to go when it is convenient, like the grocery store, shopping and church. Its beneficial in two ways, it helps me because I’m not alone (problem solved) and I get to spend quality time with my mom, you only get one and she’s not going to be around forever unfortunately. If you don’t want your mom to go with you places find a girlfriend or guy friend to hang out with for a while. This works for running errands or parties or anything you have to do. If you don’t want to face a crowd alone, think of the one person you would want as your wing man and invite them along. You don’t have to explain to them how much you need them if you don’t want to but sometimes it helps if you let them know how much they are appreciated.
Concurring fear is the hardest thing you will ever have to do but with a little faith and willpower anything is possible.