The Baby Step Tango

A few steps forward, then a few steps back. That’s how it seems to go for me lately. My most recent psychiatrist visit was good and we agreed to more time between appointments provided I continued to feel good and then the anxiety set in. It’s not crippling anxiety but it’s bothersome for sure. I believe the anxiety is stemming from not being able to differentiate between myself and my mental illness. I was an undiagnosed, untreated bipolar sufferer for 30+ years. I honestly don’t know what “normal” is. From obsessive and self defeating thoughts to uncontrolled rage and spending, I’m not exactly a role model of normalcy.

In medicine we talk about a “baseline” for a person, or how they behave when they’re feeling ok. I’ve been spending the last several months on medicines that regulate my mixed up brain chemicals, trying to figure out my own baseline. I’ve been messed up for so long, I’m not sure I would know what “normal” would be if it hit me right between the eyes. But I keep hoping I’ll at least start to feel better for an extended period of time. My mother often points out to me when I’m feeling especially jacked up that no one is really normal, it’s just an idea.

I also find I am hung up on the diagnosis and my personality traits. As in, is procrastinating just something I do or do I do it because of the bipolar? I know “normal” people procrastinate all the time but I’ve got an entire room of unfinished projects not to mention half finished drafts for the blog. There’s darker parts that I worry about too, like my anger and dangerous behaviors I have engaged in. I’ve noticed since I started my medicines it’s a lot better and I know that anger is something everyone is supposed to feel (Let me add on if you are as angry/behaving  as I was before medicines or engaging in destructive/angry behaviors like I was you need to look at that more closely. It could be a sign of something deeper than just anger). I’m happy to say with my medicines and self care, my dangerous/risky behaviors are cut down substantially- no more speeding or reckless driving, no more drinking while on medications, no more looking for a fight because I don’t know what to do with my restlessness or feelings of inadequacy, no more self harm.

In a sense, being treated for a mental illness that was unchecked for so long is like learning how to do everything and how to be all over again. It’s daunting and tiring but the hope of a more peaceful, satisfying life keeps me going. I’ve made some improvement and have also had some backsliding, but I keep getting up every time I fall. I also realize that in learning to live my life all over again, I also get to dictate how it will be, for the most part. It’s especially empowering to know that I am not a victim of my mental illness, that I can live successfully even with bipolar.

I’d like to wrap up this post by saying that if you are feeling down or noticing symptoms like unreasonable anger, destructive behaviors or depression, please seek professional help. This is a list of symptoms associated with mental illnesses, but I must emphasize: Do NOT check out WebMd or Google and try to self diagnose! Contact a licensed professional if you are concerned!! NAMI.org is a great resource with links to care providers in your area.  Also check with your employer regarding no-cost therapy sessions that may be available to you. There is no shame in admitting you need help!

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