I decided to start writing to help people like me but I didn’t really pursue it seriously until my sister passed away unexpectedly last year. I needed to transfer my grief into something productive (that’s just my personality) and so here I am, writing a blog post every month to help others with a diagnosis succeed. I want to give hope but I also want to share the harsh realities of mental illness and since I have struggled so much this past month, I think it is a good topic to approach and may help others as well.
I think a lot of people think that navigating through this Bipolar life is so easy for me. Well, I wish that were so. Most days it’s a battle. Seriously, a knock down drag out fight with only one winner standing on the other side. I could share example after example but I’ll try to keep it to a few. With a mental illness, there is a lot of things you don’t see. That’s what people don’t get because if you talk to me any day of the week, you’d be surprised (and honestly most people are) that I have a mental illness. Here are some things that are different for me than most people.
1) I need more sleep than most people. People don’t see all the times I go to bed early on a week day (like 8pm) or sleep in late on a weekend (always on a weekend because of work).
2) I need to constantly be aware of my emotions. They don’t see how hard I have to hold back emotion (I’ve gotten really good at hiding it). They don’t see how many times I have to check in with my body and my feelings. I have to be so in tune with my body, it is sometimes ridiculous.
3) I need to constantly distract my mind from obsessive thoughts. Obsessive thoughts for me are constant worries. I have so many worries. Mainly worries that something bad will happen or someone will die. I have to constantly refocus my thinking. I have to continually analyze and talk myself out of obsessive thoughts. I have had to become an expert at distracting my mind from negative thoughts.
4) I need to be vigilant of triggers. This has gotten easier over time. One of my triggers is violence. I don’t do well with violence and steer clear of violent shows and news stories. Sometimes, it’s inevitable. So many shows depict violence. A couple of shows that I watch with my husband have a lot of violence. There are some where I can just look away, squeeze his hand, and he’ll tell me when it’s over. But some shows the violence is never-ending and I just can’t handle watching. These are the shows I no longer watch. One such example of a trigger: My husband and I were watching the TWD mid-season premiere and I couldn’t finish it for the flashbacks it caused; some so bad it took my breath away. I literally couldn’t breathe. If my husband hadn’t been there centering me to the time and place where I actually was, I think I would have passed out.
But you don’t see these things. I show you only what I want to show you. I’m always waiting for the next tragedy, the next shoe to drop.
Unfortunately it did with the death of my older sister at only 39 last year. I would hope people would know a trigger for me to relapse is death but if not, here I am saying it. I don’t do well with death. Honestly, who does? But it brings me back to the times and places before and I feel like I’m losing everyone all over again.
The mistake I made last year when she passed away was to push all emotion to the side and not grieve until the day of the funeral. I had to be the strong one (again), I had to keep it together, I had to communicate, I had to set things up, I had to figure things out, I had to be the peacemaker. This was very dangerous for me because the more I put those feelings aside, the more they built up until my subconscious could no longer handle it. I suffered with nightmares during and after because I had suppressed so many emotions that it was a torrent of pain. These nightmares were so vivid it took me hours to go back to sleep if I could even attempt to sleep at all after. These were again some of my darkest days (sometimes I wonder if I’ve had more dark days than not but I try not to let my thinking stray that far because I do better with positivity more than negativity). These were days where I thought no one really cared about me and if they did, why would they allow me to take on so much responsibility when I was just as fragile as they were. I was about to break because I was doing all of this on my own. If it weren’t for my boyfriend at the time (my husband now), my coworkers, and a couple of family members, I would have just called it quits to life. So thanks to those people in my life who supported me through this dark time, I am able to help and support others with a mental illness diagnosis going through tough things that they think that can’t survive. So I hope by sharing my own struggle, that I have given you hope and strength to get through whatever is plaguing you and fight another day.