Receiving a Diagnosis

ID-10021637A Positive Psychiatrist Consultation

As I’ve recently moved to a new area I have just seen a psychiatrist here for the first time. I couldn’t believe it when he spent a whole hour and 40 minutes with me- way more time than I’ve ever spent with a mental healthcare professional before.

He was an extremely good listener and would ask my opinion about things regularly during the session, which was so refreshing. I felt like a human-being! It’s hard to believe I’ve not felt this way before with other psychiatrists. He pretty much re-diagnosed me and confirmed Bipolar II, but also threw Borderline Personality Disorder traits into the mix, which I’ve suspected for years.

For more on Borderline Personality Disorder click here.

Borderline Personality Disorder

The Borderline Personality trait aspect of the diagnosis has had a mixed effect on me. I feel a huge sense of relief in that there is a reason I struggle all the time with various aspects of life, not just during bipolar episodes. It explains so much and has helped my understanding of my behaviour and intense emotions.ID-10035460

On the other hand, Borderline Personality  Disorder (BPD) has a stigma attached. My psychiatrist assured me that this is much more true of the past, and that views and opinions are changing. My own reading on the disorder has instilled in me a view that BPD patients are difficult to treat, manipulative, prone to attention seeking, rage and aggression. All sounds lovely! But like I said, the psychiatrist was quick to dispute this.

The parts of the Disorder which apply to me are (unfortunately) episodes of rage (a few in my lifetime), difficulty maintaining friendships (not so much with romantic relationships), emotional reactivity and hypersensitivity, dissociation, impulsivity, binge eating and compulsive spending to a smaller degree, and a difficult childhood.

You can read more about my experiences with binge eating here, anger/rage here, and hypersensitivity here.

Even when I don’t appear to be having a bipolar episode, I am prone to quicker changes in mood that only last an hour or two, maybe a day. For the psychiatrist to have picked up on this made me relieved. At last an explanation for why I just can’t hold down a job, and why I struggle being around people and with friendships in general.

The Positive Side of High Sensitivity

Monarch ButterflyLast night I came upon a website- Eggshell Therapy– which painted a picture of emotional intensity and giftedness, and that when not handled well in early years by parents, or when the child is experiences trauma, can develop into BPD/Bipolar in later years.

It was refreshing to see that actually the problems I’ve been experiencing have a more positive side and that emotional intensity can be a gift. The website author points out many aspects of giftedness including high creativity, high intuition, high empathy, as well as a high capacity for spiritual experience and rapture- music, art, beauty can have a “profound emotional impact on you”. Also inter- and intra-personal giftedness: an ability to understand the emotions and motivations of the self and others.

I would highly recommend reading the website. It really gave me a lift to think that even though I find my high intensity challenging, it also has many gifts with it. All the articles on the site were very helpful and the following pages particularly so:

Emotional Intensity

The Gifts of Being Intense

Sensitivity and Childhood Trauma

Emotionally Unstable (Borderline) Personality Disorder

This is the best way I’ve found of receiving a diagnosis: it’s great to have acknowledgment that there is a genuine cause for difficulties experienced, but also to acknowledge anything positive that may come from being so sensitive.

Related Posts

Highly Intuitive People

Bipolar Disorder as Spiritual Awakening

High Sensitivity

 

 

I Am Angry and It’s Okay.

I may have written about this before as it is an issue that pops up frequently for me.

How can I be angry when I’ve been programmed to believe my anger is wrong and shameful and should be hidden? I feel so guilty for my anger, I feel utterly responsible. Overly responsible.

2409245063_043e6e9cb2_mExperiencing Anger as a Child and Teen.

My parents couldn’t cope with my sister and I being angry when we were kids. It was a surefire way of getting shouted at and potentially sent to our rooms, or left in whatever outdoor place we were currently visiting. Fear of abandonment definitely is a block to me expressing my anger healthily and experiencing it as a normal human emotion that it is safe to feel.

We were brought up in a strict Christian environment, both at home and school, and anger was seen as ingratitude and unholy. So this is what became programmed into my trusting childhood psyche. As a child you don’t question, you believe whatever is fed to your mind by adults.

We were never supported or shown how to deal with such a strong emotion, and my own adult experience of anger has been that of a raging toddler in a few isolated incidents. My anger can be intensely fire-y and scares me.

We were always made to apologize even if we had been justified in our anger. This was a pattern that occurred all through childhood and my teenage years.

I wasn’t an angry teenager at all, but I think that’s because I learnt to hide it, and generally expressed it by going to my room and silently balling my eyes out. I felt so ashamed and worthless and the anger became directed at myself and developed into a deep hatred of myself and my (perceived) lack of control over my emotions.

My Present Anger & Binge Eating Recovery

Right this second I feel anger for something the sweetest, gentlest, most kind and caring person has done. It would seem a somewhat small thing to others, but to me it is a big deal and I have to remember to support myself in that.

I’m scared of hurting this person’s feelings and of being abandoned by them.

I have a right to be angry.

It is safe to own my anger and really feel it.

There is nothing wrong or sinister about my anger, it is safe and I am in control of it.

Learning to allow myself to feel unpleasant feelings is something I’m working on and has been a key aspect of my counselling for binge eating.

Instead of stuffing these emotions down with food, I’m writing about them.

In fact my mind hasn’t even turned to food this morning in order to stuff the emotions down, which is a huge improvement for me.

I feel a small sense of achievement for that.

Doreen Virtue: Emotional Expression Through Creativity

9781781805589Doreen Virtue is an author and spiritual teacher/healer who I truly admire and believe in. She writes about God, but more specifically about angels who she teaches are God’s messengers and helpers. They accept and love us unconditionally and are very much wish to help us, but can only do so if we ask.

She is somebody who has really helped to change my view of God as an all powerful, fearful judge of right and wrong, to one of an unconditionally loving God, who showers us with blessings and wants us to be happy and fulfilled.

She talks in her The Courage to Be Creative of how experience of our emotions and their expression is natural and healthy. In fact she dedicates a whole chapter to The Courage to Feel Your Feelings. She talks about how suppressing these feelings can cause us to be creatively blocked and how creativity “offers us a healthy and lasting outlet for understanding, expressing, and healing emotional pain.”

So here I am doing just that.

For somebody I admire as a spiritual teacher to talk about feeling and expressing emotion, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is quite freeing for me. Taught the opposite at an early age, I’m starting to believe that I am completely loved and loveable for the person I am, as a human being, anger included. We all are.

Related Posts

Keeping the Peace

Suppressed Anger and Fears of Abandonment

Bipolar Disorder: Repressed Anger.

 

 

Highly Intuitive People

Highly Intuitive People- CoverMy mind feels almost as slow as my body today, but I still managed to get some interesting reading done: Highly Intuitive People by Heidi Sawyer, which I feel I really relate to.

I think those of us who are highly intuitive-sensitive types are probably more prone to bipolar disorder symptoms. (Please see my guest post for Mental Health Talk: Bipolar Disorder and High Sensitivity for more on this topic).

Jiva

The chapter “Cope With Others and Their Power Struggles” has some interesting thoughts about how we use our energy.

Sawyer talks about us having an aura, the energetic carrier of all that we are as a human soul- our Jiva (sanskrit word for the immortal essence of a living thing).

As our true essence, Jiva can be weak or strong depending on how much we are in connection to our true selves/our own identity. It builds confidence and self-esteem.

Building Jiva increases our emotional strength and healing capacity- surely a strong tool in coping with bipolar disorder or mental dis-ease of any kind.

We can strengthen Jiva by releasing negativity and anything else that drains us energetically. We can do the things we truly love, which light us up and connect us with who we truly are.

By strengthening our Jiva, we have a stronger sense of self, of our own identity, and need less the approval of others. We are less likely to take on others’ cares and worries on an energetic level to please them or make them ‘feel better’. We are also less likely to be rocked by criticism and disapproval in general. We approve of ourselves and that’s all we need.

59267cezgcextwlThe Need to Please Others- Narcissistic Families

Many of us may feel we have to please others (see People-Pleasing), and pressure ourselves into adjusting our behaviour to feel we are approved of by whoever we are with.

This is how we’ve been taught to behave throughout our childhood, often within a narcissistic family. We learn to walk on eggshells and keep the peace- this became our identity, a strong part of which was to ignore and neglect our own needs. Survival of the family- which is inherently damaged through various traumas- becomes priority, even over being true to ourselves and our own identity.

Our Jiva has become weak through our developmental stages. We let people walk all over us, give too much energy to others, make others more important than ourselves- this is how we have learnt to survive. It is not our fault.

ID-10046699Creating a Happy Life

But we can change things. We can have a happier life where we feel in control of what is happening to us, of how our life pans out. We’ve been taught that we aren’t worthy of a happy life. But we are!

We can create our own life! We don’t need the approval of others’, it is safe for us now to be our true selves.

We lived in a family system where the only means of survival was to submit our identities to become what our parents’ wanted us to be. We could not have emotions or needs- because they were too inconvenient to our parents, or caused significant anxiety. We could be emotional caretakers and counsellors, best friends, even to some extent surrogate spouses. We gave up our energy, our true selves. We did it to survive. (Because as a small child, it really is about survival- who will take care of your needs if you are abandoned by your family?)

We don’t need to do this anymore.

MoonThe Terror of Being Our True Selves

You’d think it would be easy to overcome this- once we realise it is safe to live the life we want to create. But I’ve found many challenges already- mainly fears of stepping away from the safety of the identity I was given.

To me it feels terrifying to identify and take care of my needs- it goes against everything I was taught, everything that is my current identity, everything that has helped me to survive a narcissistic family system. It sounds silly, but I still feel extremely anxious if I sit down and draw- “I’m being too selfish”, “I should be spending my time helping other people”, “it’s a childish pastime”.

Releasing these beliefs that have kept me alive within my family is terrifying! We still have that belief deeply ingrained that we must be that which we’ve been moulded into, in order to survive.

But it’s worth it!

When we can do the things in life that light us up- for me drawing, writing, painting, walking in nature, taking care of myself nutritionally, being with my loved ones and my dog- we strengthen our jiva. We are doing things that make us happy!

Strong Jiva will keep us energised. We will not feel the need to give others our time and energy. We will not be manipulated by others. We can identify our own needs and put ourselves first. Our health will improve.

ID-10095922In relation to bipolar disorder.

So part of me wonders if my current downward swing into very low energy is because I’ve been giving too much energy to others, denying myself who I truly am, and denying my emotions. I haven’t been taking care of my needs. I think this is very likely the case and perhaps is the pattern of bipolar disorder as a set of symptoms?

We find our creativity, our true self, become highly energised by this- perhaps to a hypomanic/manic state. We enter a frenzy of creativity/spirituality/ideas, but deny anything that may be anxiety-provoking. We keep busy-busy-busy to push any fears that arise as far away as possible. The upward spiral continues. But this is exhausting and the inevitable energy slump hits hard. We then experience all the emotions we were denying- guilt, shame, fear, and become deeply depressed. We have betrayed our ‘false self’ which kept us alive. This feels devastating at a soul level.

It’s just a theory- but it makes some sense to me at the moment, and I think it could be a part of helping me to understand how I can improve things for myself.

 

Related Articles

People- Pleasing 

Bipolar Disorder and Highly Sensitive People– Guest post on Mental Health Talk.

Bipolar Disorder as Spiritual Awakening

Absorbing Others’ Energy

The Narcissistic Family

Was Part of Your Childhood Deprived by Emotional Incest?

Confessions of an Ex-Narcissist

Book: Highly Intuitive People by Heidi Sawyer

 

 

Depression: Return of the Psychiatric Shuffle

190901zab77uqg3I’m totally writing this for the cathartic experience, but I offer no apologies if it’s all a bit morbid and depressing. Guess what? Depression is depressing.

I spend a lot of my time when I’m depressed trying not to feel sorry for myself and trying to be grateful for the good things I have in my life.

All the personal development courses I’ve been on, and the books I’ve read, talk about positive thinking in improving our lives and wellbeing. Challenging times and events in our lives are viewed as times of growth, which I do agree with, even though I’m kicking and screaming through each one!!

But sometimes it doesn’t work.

I think there are times in life when you can’t look at things through rose-tinted spectacles. Sometimes you need to see things for what they really are and to accept the downright shittiness of them.

Like now- I’m back to a depressive episode. I can only walk exceptionally slowly and probably not further than about 100m due to psychomotor retardation. And, do you know what? I’m not gonna suck up my pissed-off feelings behind a forced smile anymore.

Without really feeling those shitty feelings, without really experiencing them deeply, there is no authenticity in the experience. There is no real grounding in the depression.

I do feel sorry for myself. I was taught not to. I was taught to always be grateful. But I really want to feel sorry for myself. I don’t want to compare my experience to anyone else’s anymore. I know there are Syrian refugees going through enormous hardship out there, but trying to suppress my authentic feelings about my depression isn’t going to help them, or me, one little bit.

I think half my issues are wrapped up in the fact that I don’t let myself really feel my feelings. I was taught from a ridiculously young age not to feel, unless it was gratitude or empathy or some kind of joy that others could benefit from.

But right now I feel angry. I feel angry that I have to go through this experience yet again. Why? I’m getting nowhere fast in life. I don’t think I particularly deserve to wake up in the night with violent visions and impulses to self-harm. I don’t think I particularly deserve to feel so damn scared all the time. All the time. Of life in general. I’m so exhausted from going through this whole process.

The last couple of months have been really good. My walking speed has been back to normal. In fact I’ve felt fitter and walked with so much more energy!! To feel well was such a blessing! Now I’m back to the psychiatric-shuffle.

The Psychiatric-Shuffle (my term, not psychiatry’s)

This basically involves walking, but 20 times more slowly than everyone else. Commonly seen in psychiatric inpatients. A symptom of depression referred to as psychomotor retardation– thanks psychiatry for another fabulously empowering term.

It might sound very simple, but actually it feels like your brain and your body are working exceptionally hard to put your left foot forward then your right foot forward. Your legs are protesting every step.

It’s also highly embarrassing. Yes, people do notice. Today a child kept staring at me as she walked past holding her mum’s hand. She kept looking back at me. Bloody hell, do I really look that awful? It’s so embarrassing. And exhausting.

Back to the post……

ID-10091517So many great things have happened in the last couple of months- I’ve enjoyed them so much. Then a couple of weeks ago my good energy switched to bad energy and the surging prickliness and agitation coursed through me in an all too familiar way. When out in the street or on the bus I’d feel intensely annoyed with people I wasn’t even interacting with, my voice in my head became louder. I wanted to shout at people. Then it switched to anxiety about a week later, my heart was pounding, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Then last Thursday the exhaustion kicked in.

Before the ‘bad energy’ I hadn’t really considered that I was a bit hypomanic, but looking back, I had been getting more obsessed with ‘collecting’ things (this has happened a few times in the past) and had spent quite a bit of money I couldn’t really afford. I was feeling much more in touch with my spiritual life. I probably only had about a week where I was sleeping much less and still feeling really great.

Bipolar is exhausting.

Not just the symptoms of exhaustion.

I mean the endless cycle of it all.

I still feel like it’s my fault.

I’m so tired of it.

I’m so bored of it.

What is the point?!!!!

But all the years have given me the experience to get through it, to really know that it gets better. In my early depressions I felt that I was literally going to die, that I would never ever feel joy, love, peace, or anything positive ever again. But even though I’m depressed now, I know from experience that I will get better.

 

 

The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive

Stephen Fry has made another deeply insightful documentary about manic-depression/bipolar disorder- The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. It is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer here. (Warning- it can be triggering).

In it he talks about his own experiences of the disorder and re-visits the lives of those he interviewed in his previous documentary- The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive- which aired 10 years ago.

I must admit I found this new documentary difficult to watch, particularly when hearing about Mr Fry’s suicide attempt in 2012. The whole incident felt very close to experiences I’ve had and I felt suppressed memories bubbling to the surface- things I didn’t really want to look at.

The first documentary has 2 parts and is available to watch here (warning- can be triggering):

 

The second part can be watched here:

 

All the documentaries are so refreshing in their courageous look at what it is really like to have Bipolar Disorder- the interviews really get to the nitty-gritty of mental illness. Stephen Fry adds so much heart and depth with his own experiences, he is so endearing and  so strong in his open-ness. I kind of love him for it!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens….Inside us?

Moon*SPOILER ALERT*

Watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time yesterday, I felt a profound connection to the idea of the dark and light side of the Force, and how something seemingly fictional, relates so well to us as human beings, particularly going through the extremes of Bipolar Disorder or spiritual awakening symptoms. (Bipolar Disorder as Spiritual Awakening)

The opposing symptoms of depression and mania could be likened to the dark and light sides of the Force. But also, as humans beings in general, I believe we all have the capacity for light and darkness.

The inner struggle of Kylo Ren between these light and dark side of himself is evident in his scene with his father, Han Solo, on the bridge. He wrestles with his own will and decision to embrace the dark side, and his inner light which he is reminded of by his father, and perhaps his own need for love.

Storm CloudsPersonal Experience *Trigger Warning*

I sometimes feel that my own spiritual journey (which has indeed been a journey with symptoms labelled collectively as Bipolar Disorder) has led me to experience a similar inner battle.

I have flown to the heights of euphoria, felt completely at one with the world, believed I could achieve anything, felt surrounded by God’s love, angels and the most beautiful Divine creatures and beings.

The devastation caused by my dark side can only be described as the most destructive tidal wave imaginable surging through my life.

I’ve felt surrounded by demons, by beings preying on my soul, manipulating and terrifying me for their own amusement. Psychosis one might question? It felt very very real to me and my own belief is that I should trust my experiences, feelings and intuition- this was real.

Self-destruction felt inevitable. Implosion of my soul, annihilation felt like the only possible outcome. To wrestle with the desire to take your own life is no mean feat. You are at the depths of human darkness with seemingly no way out, ready to commit murder of the self. To describe the devastation, the terror, the utter hopelessness is nigh on impossible to those who have not experienced it.

I called out for help amidst the soul-chaos and I was calling to the Light. I chose the Light and the Divine answered my call. I am so blessed. We are all so blessed. All we have to do is choose, and call out for help. Help finds us when we open our hearts to the Light.

I believe some humans are born into this life to experience extremes of emotion for their own spiritual growth and for that of the planet. I believe that all the good we create, the love we experience here is present in heaven. I believe any darkness created here in our lifetime is cancelled out by the supreme unconditional love of the Divine.

RainbowThe Force Everyday

I also believe a battle between our light and dark sides exists in the everyday, in the mundane.

When we choose to believe a negative statement that automatically runs through our minds, we are choosing to believe in the dark side for example.

Upbringing may have left us believing that we are not good enough. The statement “I’m not good enough” may automatically play through our minds over and over. The darkness takes hold when we choose to believe this. We end up constantly playing out “I’m not good enough” in our lives, as some small failure or other, because our ego needs to know it is correct- it feels safer.

But we can turn to the light by recognizing when we are thinking or playing out “I’m not good enough” and choosing more self-supporting and loving thoughts about ourselves. We can create “I am good enough” and play this out in our lives to create a more joyful and fulfilling life.

Personal Challenges

In the case of my own particular challenge, binge-eating, I could give into the darkness to prove that I am correct when I tell myself “I have no self-control”, and give into the cravings to binge eat and ignore my emotional needs.

Or…..

I could reassure myself that I am an incredibly strong person, as demonstrated in my own fight against self-destruction. I could acknowledge my emotional needs and meet them, not with food, but with my own love and light. I could tell myself that I have the capacity for self-control and that I have the power to make a more self-loving decision. I can accept any pain that is bubbling up inside me and have compassion for myself by doing something self-nurturing, possibly comforting to my inner child, like colouring, watching Harry Potter, or singing. These are just my own personal coping mechanisms. (For more ideas see 10 Ideas to Distract Depression: Don’t Feed the Monster.)

ID-10023748Everyday in life we can choose between the light and the dark- whether it be through an epic battle as seen in spiritual awakening experienced as Bipolar Disorder symptoms or otherwise, or through more subtle interactions.

May the Force be with you (the light side obviously).

 

Related Posts

Bipolar Disorder as Spiritual Awakening

10 Ideas to Distract Depression

Self-sabotage: Going Over to the Dark Side

Face Fear: Making Peace with your Shadow

You Are Amazing!

Binge Eating: Empty Inside

ID-10035460Whilst in one of my counselling sessions, I was trying to describe to my counsellor how I feel about my own identity. It dawned on me that I feel completely empty- as if everything outside of me is important and much more concrete, but inside me is completely unimportant and empty. I visualised it as an invisible human form, with the whole of life happening around them.

Mirroring

My counsellor said this is due to a lack of mirroring in childhood. Mirroring is when a parent reflects back to you the things you like, how you’re feeling, what your preferences are.

Sometimes parents project their own identity onto you, which means that we learn to be what others expect us to be. We learn to take our cue from the world around us, for other people to decide. We don’t learn of our innate power to create a life of our own- one that feels true and right to each of us individually.

Healthy mirroring might look something like this:

A child spends lots of time drawing and creating art work. Their mother makes enthusiastic comments: “how wonderful that you enjoy spending so much time making these beautiful pictures. You seem to like drawing butterflies very much”. This reflects back to the child what they are doing, what they are expressing as part of their identity and who they truly are.

3261685752_a0a4e4a961_mIdentity Malfunction

A childhood full of healthy mirroring and guidance down the path the child chooses for themselves, gives the grown child a strong sense of who they are and the direction they wish to take in life.

Discussing this further with my counsellor we talked about how a childhood without mirroring can cause the grown child to feel very little sense of connection to who they really are.

In my case I had my parent’s tell me how I was feeling, what I preferred, etc. I wasn’t allowed my own opinion. If I made my own decision I would be criticised and warned about the consequences. If I was angry I was very bad indeed and on occasion was locked in my bedroom- anger was not an option. It was as if I didn’t exist when I was angry.

To survive in my childhood home I learnt to anticipate my parent’s reactions and to act in a way that kept them happy. I spent so much time and energy trying to avoid criticism and any anger on their part that I put little energy into finding out who I was- I was constantly scanning my environment.

Keeping my parent’s happy was so important to me as they both had traumatic pasts and suffered from depression. My paternal grandfather had ended his life due to mental health issues. I learnt this at the age of 11, and was terrified at the prospect of losing my parents, so I resolved to do everything I possibly could to prevent this from happening. So I became as “good” as I possibly could and tried my absolute hardest to make them happy.

ID-10039145Bring on the Food!

I’ve been putting this into the context of my binge eating and it makes so much sense! This strong sense of emptiness is filled with food. Food temporarily gives a feeling of fullness. It also gives a certain identity in that we have a relationship with food, the disorder itself becomes part of who we are!

So part of the recovery process from binge eating, for me, is going to involve getting to know myself and what my needs are.