Friday, May 6, 2011

Some Bipolar Ruminations

I keep putting myself out in the public with this bipolar thing, hoping that I will help somehow in a little way to destigmatize the illness.  I also have been doing what I saw called on the WEGO health site as "blogging as therapy."  Although I would never downplay the necessity of therapy for people with mental illness, writing about it is somehow a part of the therapeutic process and really does help me to cope with whatever I am going through on a daily basis.

There is so much going on in my mind at any given moment, that it is sometimes hard to think straight.  My mind is often a cluttered and noisy place.  And you have to wonder why, if I am so scattered mentally, so disorganized in thought, and so crowded in my own head, I would ever feel in any way lonely.  But here is an entry I recently put up on the new health site in their mental illness forum:

I was wondering if anyone else experiences extreme loneliness related to their mental health issues.  I have bipolar disorder and just cannot seem to make and keep friends.  I seem to give a great first impression, but then come off as too needy and find people backing away from me.  I've done it over and over and so I know it has to be me, even though my husband tells me I seem to attract people who have their own issues.

It gets to the point where I am suicidal with loneliness and find myself wondering how long it would take anyone to actually come looking for me if I did try to kill myself.  No worries, I have three kids and a husband I could not do that to, but the thoughts are there.  I've lived in this hellish existence since I was a teenager and have found ways to deal with it, but never a way to make it all okay.

I envy people with large groups of friends who go out and do things together and wish I could be part of a group like that.  But then, if a social situation presents itself, I shy away from it and find reasons not to go.  I don't understand myself.

I tend towards the mixed states with major depression and hypomania, being bipolar II.  I was just wondering if anyone else with mental health issues goes through this problem with relationships.

Mental illness is a crappy existence, believe me.  And I have in a way created my own cocoon, because I know the behaviors that drive people away and yet cannot seem to stop doing them.  I know that there is something just a bit "off" about the way I relate and yet it does not seem to be something I can really control or change and so I have started to harden, bit by bit, and withdraw.  If my mind was a pleasant and peaceful place to live, it wouldn't be a bad thing.  But since my mind is so wrapped up in obsessions and tends to never shut up, I wear myself out.  I guess it's not a hard to thing to see why most people can only stand me in small doses.

Not meaning to sound self-pitying here.  I'm just trying to get a handle on why I am the way I am and what makes the way I act so different than the way "normal" people act in social situations.  What enables people to create lasting friendships and close bonds?  And why have I been able to create such a wonderful marriage with Justin when it is so hard for me to maintain friendships?

I was reflecting yesterday as I spent time with my oldest son that I was indeed quite the talkative one and my son is much more quiet and reflective.  He knows his mind and is comfortable not only with it, but with himself as a total person.  I think that is the key to happiness.  If you are comfortable and happy with who you are, won't it enable other people to be as well?  And if you make yourself uncomfortable, then others are bound to be uncomfortable around you.

The larger question for me is how do I change what is inherent in my behavior so that not only is everyone else comfortable around me, but I am comfortable with myself?  There has long been the tenet in our society that you cannot love someone else unless you love yourself.  And that might just be the key to what I am trying to express here.

If I am my own worst enemy, then how can I expect anyone else to be my friend?  And how pathetic does that sound anyway?  I'm at the point where I am learning to live in my own head, because I just can't lose another friend.  Working at becoming a writer is a very private, personal, alone method of living and I have chosen it.  I think now I have chosen it for a reason - to protect myself from any further loss.  It gets to a point that you figure you'd better be happy with yourself and your own company and I think I've finally decided that I am okay with that.

The thing about mental illness is that you cannot just make a decision to become a mentally healthy person.  It's not a matter of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and getting over yourself.  People who do not have mental illness do not understand that our behaviors are governed by the illness and not by choice.  Free will goes out the window when you have bipolar disorder.  If I could make people understand this one thing, I think a good bit of the stigma would disappear.  It's easy to say oh yeah, mental illness is just like high blood pressure or diabetes or kidney disease.  It's just a problem with the brain instead of another organ.  But when it affects behavior, it is much harder to accept that it is an illness and not a choice.

My therapist tells me I am handling things in a much better way now than when I first started coming to see her and I think that speaks to both my ability to cope and skills that I have learned from her.  But I have also learned in some way to protect myself and to be wary and I think that it is sad that I have had to do that. 

My dad always told me that life isn't fair and he was right about that.  Nobody asks for a mental illness and living with one is a major pain not only for everyone around me.  The person that is most affected by my bipolar disorder is me.

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