The day that I dreaded mothers day

This semester has been a bit of a write off really. I’ve been up, been down, been psychotic. It all has been really really hard.

Now my personal philosophy for when the going gets tough is to tell myself to keep calm and carry on, convince myself I am fine, and generally  beat myself up for being anything less than perfect.

Now this approach is all very well, except when it isn’t very well. For example last year when I attempted to ‘keep calm and carry on’ for seven months becoming progressively worse before I sought and accepted the help I needed.

But back to this semester. It’s been bloody hard. Ask anyone who has completed assignments and sat mid terms whilst psychotic (see…I’m admitting it now…!Revelation!) But as usual I have struggled on and struggled on.

Until the day I dreaded mothers day.  Why? You ask? Mothers day should be lovely. A nice spot of family time plus the potential to be pampered. What’s not to love? I suddenly realised that I was dreading mothers day because it meant one less day to work to achieve my goals. Suddenly, I stopped. I mentally slapped myself for being so ridiculous. And I booked an appointment with my doctor to get an extension.

Today I got to see Dr. Longname. As well as a medical certificate and a new medication script (which by the way are wafers, not pills. I ask for a different medication that doesn’t make me feel like chowing down the entire pantry, and they give me wafers?! Mind. Boggling.) I had a little heart to heart with old Longname about stigma.

You see, given my extensive experience with the mental health system I am undoubtedly against stigma towards those with mental illness. Well, at least that is what I thought. Longname told me I was self stigmatizing. That if I had a physical illness I wouldn’t hesitate in asking for support. I suppose he is right. Because what I endure is mental. Because it doesn’t leave any physical trace. Because it is indeed, so stigmatized. I tend to try not to think about it. I just want to be normal, and be treated as normal.

But doesn’t anyone? Those with obvious disability generally want to be treated as any other person.

Of course, Longname agreed. But if the disability were to hamper the individuals ability to study and achieve her best, the university would have no hesitation in giving out extensions for work and other supports.

I suppose he is right. His last words to me were “Ask for help when you need it, Rachael. Don’t struggle in silence.” And that’s the core of it really. That’s MY issue. Too many times I have not wanted to worry people, or bother people. Too many times I have denied myself the help I require, and deserve.

But not this time 🙂 
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I kid…I kid! 😉

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More than just a mood

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Bipolar disorder is part of a cluster of disorders classified as ‘mood disorders’. Most people associate high and low mood changes with bipolar disorder. For me (and probably many other people too) bipolar is so much more than just a mood change.

Drive and Energy 
When I am depressed I have NO energy. Seriously. Nothing. Every little thing becomes such a drama. Sometimes I feel I can’t even move. I don’t even have the energy to cry, I just kind of sit there. Waiting for time to pass by.

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On the other hand, at the other pole I am like a kid on a sugar high. I need very little sleep, I can’t sit still, I’m impatient with people who can’t keep up with me. I talk and talk and talk and talk. My whole body is fueled with energy…which can be quite annoying sometimes. I have so many projects and ideas. When I’m hypomanic this can be quite useful, I recently completed 10 days of thesis work in under two. But once I cross the threshold to true mania it becomes counterproductive. I have so many ideas that I can’t keep track of them all, I start a project then become bored and leave it. I become extremely annoying. My husband will testify to that 😉

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Self esteem:
When I’m depressed I hate myself. I’m ugly, I’m fat, why does anyone bother with me, I’m a waste of space. I dress in tracksuits or anything to hide under. I avoid social activities. On the other hand when I’m hypomanic/manic I feel confident and self possessed and this generally manifests anywhere on the scale between “Damn, I’m good looking!” to “Holy crap! I’m superhuman!”

ImageMystical experiences:
There is this other aspect that individuals with bipolar, particularly bipolar 1 tend to have…and it is often referred to as mystical experiences. Now I personally think that is just a nicer way of saying ‘psychosis’ myself. I mean how much cooler does mystical experiences sound?! Harry Potter anyone?

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Anyway I read somewhere that believing yourself to be completely normal is a positive sign for stability. When I was severely depressed I slipped into psychosis and started having paranoid delusions where the police were after me for being a bad mother. When I was manic I thought I was superhuman (because I didn’t need to sleep) and that my dreams predicted future events. I believed myself to be special, have special powers, and people were to pay special attention to me. Egocentric much?! 😉

So there you have it. To me bipolar is so much more than just a mood change. It’s almost a personality change. From self loathing to self loving. Failure to fabulous. Miserable to majestic.

And somewhere in between there is the normal, average, non-wizarding me too.

What are your experiences of bipolar disorder? Do you feel like a different person during episodes? I’d love to hear! 🙂