Category Archives: scary stuff

Not safe for the feint hearted

I have just not been in the zone this week. Ever since I realised that this blog had turned into an online diary I just haven’t found the motivation to write anything at all. Today I just started feeling guilty so I thought I’d make myself write something. This something is about something I’ve been wanting to write about since I first saw people linking to the article where Stephen Fry come out in the open regarding his suicide attempt last year. It’s such a sensitive subject however, and not something that most people feel comfortable talking about, that I just wasn’t sure how to bring it up). How does one react to someone expressing something like that? How does the depressed person bring up something like that? Below is my experience with it, and to be honest, this is probably one of the hardest things for me to talk about because although I’m very open about my mental state, this is not a subject I bring up with anyone.

For many years I used to have a black book where I could just vent. This was extremely private, and whenever my husband saw me writing in it, he knew something was up, but he never read it (which I truly respect him for). A few weeks back I finally let him read it with the warning that there will be a lot of stuff in there that might make him angry or upset. He sat there on the floor (the position he was in when he found it, as we were unpacking boxes after having just moved in) for what felt like forever. Funny thing is, I was so worried about what he would say about the stuff I had written about him, that I hadn’t considered some of the other stuff that he might react to.

What he ended up reacting to vas vastly different and something that is such a big part of my reality that I hadn’t even considered it.

Here’s a sad little fact; I think about suicide in some forn every week. I keep it to myself, because there’s so much that can set it off, and it usually passes, just like my volatile mood swings. As such, I don’t place that much value into it. Sometimes it gets overwhelming and that’s when I write or hurt myself (hasn’t happened for a while). Another sad little fact: People say that it takes strength to live on. I say (and from what I’ve read in Depression comix) it takes strength to do the deed. So basically, I’m too chicken. I still haven’t figured out a quick and easy way of doing it, so it’s never come to that point. I guess I just haven’t wanted it badly enough, because it always comes down to what the consequences of surviving a suicide attempt would be like.

Don’t know how reliable of a source WIkipedia in on this matter, but a little something about being bipolar type 2: “Studies have identified major differences between bipolar I and bipolar II in regards to their clinical features, comorbidity rates and family histories. According to Baek et al. (2011), during depressive episodes, bipolar II patients tend to show higher rates of psychomotor agitation, guilt, shame, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts” (suicide ideation; check). I believe it. When I had a “regular” depression I was in a dark place constantly. True, I was miserable, but it was nothing compared to the constant swings that I experience last year.

So here’s another sad little fact; I honestly think that if I’d lived in the US, I would be dead by now, thanks to their messed up gun laws (guess what a majority of death by guns are a result of?).

Anyway, yes this is a very depressing post. Heavy for most, most of all to my family that will read this. But it just wouldn’t be right to write about being bipolar, without also bringing up this subject
as well. In my case, yes it’s probably not a good sign that I think about it at some point every week, but honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds, because like I said: it passes, and this blog post isn’t about gathering pity points (expressing pity is the worst thing anyone can do to me I think), or to invoke other feelings of sadness directed towards me (second worst thing anyone can do to me), but simply to inform. It’s nothing that can be cured, I think, but rather a piece of a puzzle that no one will really wants to bring up. In my case, I don’t want to bring anyone down to my level, because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone (especially not people I care about.

So yes, a depressing subject which I’m sorry for. But at least I can promise you that I’m not there right now!

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Truth or dare (or maybe a bit of both?)

Funny thing I’ve read; apparently there’s one thing that the American “extreme left” and the American extreme right have in common, they are both the ones to more often than others to decide to not have a TV, which I thought was pretty funny (I’d be what Americans call extreme left, and what Swedes call center).

None the less, that’s not what I wanted to write about today. I actually found out something else as well you see. I work with caregivers (pretty natural since I think they’re so important), and a part of my job is to help and support people who indirectly work with caregivers so that the working environment can become better, and so caregivers can be more relaxed. This sometimes means being part of personnel trainings, of which I’ve been busy with the past two days. Having worked with the the teacher (the inofficial caregiver expert of Sweden) before, we have gotten to know each other quite well, and when I told her that I wished to write a book about the importance of caregivers and family, and how I, as a highly functional bipolar person has been able to do so well, without having to gone down a downward spiral that often seems to be the case. She got intrigued, and thought it an important thing to write about. She also told me about a group of people who called themselves the 95’ers because they considered themselves 95% healthy.

After having talked her, I again thought that this is a challenge I really need to finish, and talking with her I remembered what my original idea was, and how I should move forward. Most of all though, I realised that I really needed to speak more openly about this, so that I can continue getting more ideas and get advice along the way that could be useful. The book is after all supposed to be a collection of my own experiences, and what I’ve found out through research and I can never properly do that if I keep it as my little secret.

Basically, I need to dare to say openly about the fact that yes, I want to write a book and stand for it, instead of feeling self conscious because I think it might sound silly to others, or because people might think that it’s a manic thing (or worse, that it is a manic thing and I’ve ended up talking about, only to never finish it.)

Honesty

Ok, so a few posts ago I mentioned how I, before finally turning to medication, tried to control my mood swings with a few preventive steps. Granted, in the end these actions by themselves just didn’t cut it anymore, but I’m glad I waited so long before I did, because it gave me the time I needed to get to know myself, and my triggers. That is not to say that I think that everyone should wait before taking their medication, but I do think it’s important to reflect and be honest about what ones personal needs are instead of turning to medical help all too quickly. Partially because ones environment or the people around you can do so much damage that medical just by itself, probably won’t have the “cure” one hopes for. Partially it’s also because if one continues to live according to the norms and preconceptions of how one should live, despite it not correlating to ones own needs, one will constantly be attempting to be live up some kind of standard that isn’t even realistic, or trying to achieve something that just doesn’t coincide with ones own being. All of this is of course applies to everyone, but I think this especially rings true in the case of people like me who are hypomanic, and so very are (often irrationally) affected by our surroundings. Basically, honesty to oneself and honesty to oneself about ones environment.

This, I admit was second nature to me, because I both moved around a lot, to various countries, and had parents coming from two culturally very different countries. The consequence was that I never really grew up with the idea that there was just one correct way of behaving or being. I also had parents that never tried to conform to societal conceptions of what is correct and true. This in turn made it easier for me (with a lot of support from them) to be able to find my own path through the winding roads of being depressed, and at a later stage, becoming bipolar.

Which takes me to the part about being honest that is probably the hardest, because of our innate fear of not being accepted, loved, and/or valued. Maybe it was thanks to all the things mentioned in the former paragraph that this was even a possibility for me. I’ve never been secretive about the fact that I’m bipolar, and I honestly think its because I don’t really make a deal of it, that people don’t really think of it as an issue. I’ve normalised it, so the people around don’t think it’s a big deal. I remember a man I once met telling me later in the evening after we’d been talking for a few hours that he had never mentioned to anyone that he suspected that he himself was bipolar until he mentioned it to me earlier in the evening. He barely realised that he had done it either because, he said, “you told me about you being bipolar as if it was the most natural thing ever, that it just didn’t feel like a strange thing to mention”.

In truth (we are, after all speaking about honesty in this post), I’ve noticed this several times; by mentioning like as if it’s the most natural thing in the world (I mean, everybody has dome quirk or other) people just take it in as any other piece of information. I truly believe that words like bipolar (and in fact most other words) only hold as much power as we give it. I give them this piece of information about myself just like I would anything else, and just like with everything else it’s up to the receiver to receive it in the way that is most natural for them, meaning that we, the giver of that information also can’t have any preconception regarding how that person is supposed to react to the information given.

This has been vital for me, because all that energy it would have taken for me to hold up a facade, is energy that I need for myself. I have never quite heard or read a better description of this situation than the story told by Christine Miserandino’s “Spoon Theory”. Christine may be speaking about a chronic illness of the physical kind, but as being bipolar is a chronic illness of its own kind, it and hit the mark.

Actually, honesty has been so important to me, that I knew when taking the job I have today, that I would at some point have to tell my boss about my situation as well. However, because the position I got was just a temp, and I wanted to show my best sides so that I could get a long term agreement once it was done, I told myself that I would wait with telling him until the d-day came as by then he would know what I went for and hopefully not get scared off by it.

What I thought would be 7-month job however, got extended with another 8, and my emotional roller coaster just kept getting worse. In my attempt to keep trying to give off the perception that I was just like any other happy-go-lucky girl, I in turn of course got even worse. I’d never experienced such tangible proof of how important honesty was for my own mental health, because frankly, it became a downward spiral from hell. At this point my even my manias weren’t enjoyable. I just felt like a crazy person. My weekdays took so much of my energy that I wound myself into a state of mania, and come weekend I would crash, with the consequence that I didn’t have the energy to do anything other than “curate” myself. I didn’t have the energy to make an effort to meet or make friends, or anything else that meant having to deal with other human beings.

Finally I broke down, told my boss while in tears that I was bipolar, what it meant, and how it was effecting my job (remember what I said about normalising it? Breaking down in tears just wasn’t the way I wanted to do it, obviously). It was the scariest thing I’ve done in a while, I think I scared the hell out of my poor boss and it took about 3 months to get back to the care-free relationship that we had before my breakdown. Now that he knows about it though, we can joke about it a little, making it much easier to continue doing my best, without having to also think about keeping up the facade with him, which in turn gives me the possibility to slowly open up to my colleagues without me worrying about my boss finding out.

In short, it’s not a need to tell everyone, it’s a need to be able to be honest about it, instead of hiding in the closet. Now a days I joke about being an out of the closet bipolar.

9-5

I find, that very often people look towards something externally to tell one

  • to do something one already knows if one only listened to ones own needs or
  • to figure out what might work for oneself, instead of having to take the time to reflect inwardly to find out what ones own body and mind actually needs.
  • What both of the above has in common is that neither listens to oneself. This has truly been a vital lesson for me to learn with both my bodily and mental issues.

    For example, to take the easiest one, I have a form of bowel inflammation making me sensitive to lactose and foods rich in fibre. The later is really hard for people to believe as we’ve been fed with the idea that fibres are good for the body. For many, it’s probably true, but does that have to mean that that has to be true for everybody? The same thing applies to my brain. Often we get fed with the concept that to achieve true happiness, the key is to live freely, and to not conform to having a 9-5 job. Again, that may true for many, but I can’t say that it’s true for me. Ok, I admit, it doesn’t have to be a 9-5 job, but it does have to have the routine and the responsibility. Sound boring? Not to me. It does get overwhelming sometimes, but then I have to listen to my body and mind that I need to take a step back. It was, for example, the fact that I finally just listened to my body and mind that I finally did the most difficult thing for me to admit to myself; that I needed medication. I’ve heard and read multiple times that the highs are euphoric, making it hard to step back and slow down. I remember feeling the same way, but honestly, at the end of last year my highs were just making me feel completely crazy and out of control. Lucky for me, medication ended up being the best choice I’ve made (so far) because I do feel calmer (it could also be the oncoming spring and summer).

    A confession: I often used my highs to my advantage. To be honest, I think that many do. When I felt like I had the luxury to be “allowed” to get depressed afterwards (because it does hit me as soon as the high passes), or because I wanted to outshine everybody else at the party (I had this overpowering fear that if I wasn’t the most interesting person at the party, I was nothing) I let myself get swooped up by my mania. In truth, most people bored me, I couldn’t be bothered to care about their petty little issues and their petty and oh-so-very-average lives. I was more than them, and I wanted more from life. B was the only person I felt was good enough. He had (and still has) access to the little bubble that I create(d) for myself.

    Writing it down like this makes it so clear to me how completely ‘off’ this behaviour is. How utterly egomaniacal it is.

    Anyway, knowing that the price of being Cinderella was that I would at the end of the party need to be the cowering little girl with no self-confidence, I often did my best not to let myself become ‘too happy’. Strange concept that. Most people take drugs to get that high, I was doing everything I could to stop myself from enjoying it too much. It all comes down to listening, or at least trying to listen, to what my mind needs. It always has been. It still is.

    Spring time!

    The winter jacket has been replaced the thinnest “jacket” I got, which I end up using only for the morning chill on my way to work. What a difference it makes to my mood that it’s getting warmer again. The mornings don’t feel quite as evil as they have during the dark and arduous winter days… It’s obvious by the way friends seem more open to meeting up and doing things that everyone has more energy (or maybe it’s me that’s takes more initiative?), that I’m not the only one who thinks that the coming days are the best days of the years!

    I did something that I promised myself that I would do last summer, just to challenge myself, and to give myself a goal for the training; I signed up for the one-mile run next month. Maybe not big deal for most runners out there, but considering that I could barely run 100 meters just last summer, and the fact that I can run 7 km now (at least, if my body is in exactly the right mood), tells me that I’ve come quite far. These are the kinds of things I have to remember to give myself some kudo points for, which is also the reason for why I have a category in the top menu called “kudos”. It’s hard to remember these kind of things when I feel like I don’t do anything with myself, and that all of us are pretty awesome for doing what we do, despite the shit that goes on in our heads that can make us feel so alone. At least that’s what I tell myself, when I feel pretty good about life, like I’ve been doing the past few days. Maybe it’s the pills making stabilising me, who knows.

    You know, going through all the blog posts I’ve written I’ve noticed three things.
    1) Since taking the pills I have been hopefully attributing my good days to the pills. Hoping that the pills are the reason for my good moods, and not an oncoming mania.
    2) I was extremely manic last half year, it’s no wonder I finally decided that I needed get medicated.
    3) I seem to have gotten this idea that I somehow am healed, or figured out how to stabilise myself, but reading through the posts, and seeing how I’ve been for the past half year I don’t see how that could be. Was my theory that I would be doing so much worse if I hadn’t used the little tricks that I’ve learnt over the years? It’s hard to believe, seeing as I feel so stable now a days *for whatever reasons), that it seems exhausting to always be swinging back and forth the way I did not so long ago.

    Again, this thing about friends…

    Yesterday I had “fika” with a girl that I’ve gotten to know slightly by way of Björn. Pretty cool chick, and I liked her so much, in fact, I realised that I miss having a so called “best friend”. I’m not saying that this specific person had to become my new BFF, but it was a pretty good feeling to hang out with someone who I felt was so much like myself, who seemed to actually have enough empathy to put herself in my situation, and who I, in turn, actually found interesting enough to actually be interested in what she had to say. I know I sound like a pompous ass, when saying it, but that doesn’t happen very often. At least, it hasn’t happened for a very long time.

    I hope that I can one day be lucky enough to be able to call this woman a friend, but first I think I need to figure out this puzzle called “friendship”! How are they built? How are they formed? How is it that some people just “find” each other, seemingly without effort, when it’s such a curiosity to me? The process of friendship is truly such a mystery, because to me the process of friendship never feels quite to natural. Rather, I liken it to the near overwhelming nervousness some may feel to hanging out with the girl or boy they like. I’ve never quite experienced that, but in regard to making friends, I feel it every single time.

    Writing this I realise that it most probably has to with self-confidence. If I should continue with the comparison of liking a boy, then it’s the persons self-confidence that influences how comfortable one is with asking the person one likes for a date, right? It’s probably the same thing with friendship. It would only be natural for people to get a little ill at ease with me, if I myself am not relaxed. As such, just as people would be more attracted to people who are self-confident and it only stands to reason that people would be more comfortable to hang out with someone who’s comfortable in their own skin and their environment.

    New Adventures

    Damn, I was hoping to write every day, and figured that now that I have bought an iPad and keyboard for the iPad, I wouldn’t have any excuse not to do so. I guess when I’m not in the mood, it’s hard to find he motivation to write anything at all, even if the goal is to write at least a couple of sentences each day. Why? Because writing everyday, no matter the mood, I think would be a good way to keep track of my moods and for my two “sides” to understand one another… which also is the reason for why I started using this app in the first place.

    Anyway, that is not what I was hoping to write about today.

    I mentioned a few days ago that I’ve started quite a few different adventures as of late, and I mentioned one, quite personal one, which is the step to actually deal with, and take care of my mood swings. The second is that I’ve decided to take the bull by its horns and actually go ahead and do the projects that I want to get started with. It started with an old friend from Stockholm telling me that he and a colleague were going to start a new venture and needed someone with my background (social worker) to help them get started, and asked if I’d be interested. He had mentioned it about a year back, but decided to bring me into the project earlier than planned as they weren’t getting anywhere, and I said yes. Having said that I realised I had no reason to just get started with my own projects as well. I mean, these guys realised that this a business they wanted to get into (despite knowing nothing about the nisch) and decided to give it a go. I have never worked with these questions, and therefor don’t know very much, but I have heard from a friend who DOES work with it, and know through here that this specific thing is badly needed, so why not just jump in and try to and “make the world a better place” so to say? Good partnership!

    So, knowing that being willing to “just jump in” and being interested are the only two qualities that one really needs to start something, I decided to also start a project with Björn, creating a website where we gather farms that sell their products from the backyard directly to people. I couldn’t find this when I was looking for it myself, at least not in the form that I was searching for, so why not, right? If Björn and I are looking for it, there must be more of us.

    We’ll see where it all ends up. I’m nervous about all of, but I hope for the best!