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Photo Credit: pmecologic
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Photo Credit: pmecologic
The Red Button
I am notoriously bad at asking for help when I need it, particularly in the face of the mental torture of Bipolar. I guess even after all these years with it I still feel ashamed, as if it’s all my fault. So asking for help comes with swallowing my pride and risking feeling vulnerable and exposed
Over the last couple of weeks my depression symptoms have been increasing in severity – mainly relentless despairing thoughts, fatigue and I’ve also been having panic attacks again.
Two days ago I was at work, sitting at my desk in the office thinking that I couldn’t handle this job anymore: a reaction to a few snide comments from a colleague.
This person is someone who pushes my buttons. Not just a few; all of them. Including the big fat red one that says “do not press under any circumstances”. Pushing the red button is my trigger into panic, anger and despair. It is the doorway to all my past pain and trauma. It is what I fear the very most, and I know anyone getting near it will trigger my emotions to spiral out of control. I do whatever it takes in life to prevent anyone from getting even close to this button. But this colleague somehow manages to slip and slide her way around all my control mechanisms and with a sly, gleeful grin on her face, jumps up and down on my past pain anguish and trauma.
Suicidal and Resigned
So there I sat at my desk thinking that there was no way I could handle working with her anymore. I was exhausted, tearful, verging on suicidal. My body had almost given up. I wanted out of my life. I could easily have just curled up in a ball and refused to move or speak. Let someone else take care of me if they want me in their life so much. I clock-watched for the rest of the morning. Each five-minute period more painfully slowly. I told myself to wait it out til the end.
I managed to get myself home at the end of my shift. I couldn’t go on like this.
Back in October I experienced a severe depression. Over the last few days I could feel the same symptoms coming on again. I knew that the previous episode had been triggered by an argument with this colleague. I had thought I was over all the depression. But seeing it come back in identical form made me realise that drugs and CBT weren’t going to help me anymore. I’d seen the psychiatric nurse recently and I’m on a huge dose of anti-depressants. I needed something different. I was beginning to think the key to my healing was in this relationship with this person and the buttons she was pressing. I was in so much confusion and turmoil that I knew I couldn’t make sense of all this on my own. I knew I needed to talk to someone, and I knew exactly who to ring.
Asking for Help- Ripping off the Band-Aid
My spiritual development teacher, Dawn Chrystal, patiently listened to my panicky sobs on the other end of the phone, helping me through the hysteria. She’s a wonderfully calm person and I regained composure fairly quickly. I think I panicked because I was so scared to reach out to someone I don’t see very often at all, especially about feelings that are so despairing and private and excruciatingly painful. Also talking about the emotions to her made them seem all the more real and raw.
Dawn reassured me and told me that she has worked with many people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. She sees any illness in terms of the soul and said that in her professional opinion she believes there is a huge link between the Bipolar mood swings and repressed anger. It made a lot of sense to me, as I know I was extremely angry with my colleague last August during our arguments, but hadn’t expressed it in any way.
I’ve always held my anger in. I was brought up in a strong Christian household and was taught that to be angry was wrong. If I was angry I would go to hell. So I’ve always pushed and pushed it down, sucked it up and tried to see everyone in a more loving light. I tried to understand my boss and perhaps took on all the blame for our argument, accepting all her criticisms of me. If it was all my fault, then I didn’t have to be angry with her. I never expressed my anger, as nobody seemed to understand and the usual comments of me being too sensitive spilled from friends’ mouths. This only made me more angry.
But it all goes much deeper than the argument with my colleague. My terrible bouts of rage that have cropped up in the past, also triggered by this person in this situation, have their roots in my childhood and anger towards my parents. The colleague pushed the big red button, the doorway to my past traumas with them, exposing the red-raw nerve and unexpressed, repressed anger.
Dawn helped me to see that my relationship with this colleague is actually a gift. She is allowing me to re-experience the raw, un-expressed anger from my past and by doing this I can express it and let it go, a little bit at a time.
I had been denying my anger and pushing it down over endless cycles- each raging experience often proceeded by a period of depression. My depression has been getting worse and worse and she said this is because I’m denying all the pain and emotion, each time fighting against feeling it, as to me this would be unacceptable, to feel so many negative emotions- I think I’ve essentially- at a very basic, unconscious level- really believed I’ll go to hell if I do. The depression is all the self-blame and judging for being so “bad” for having this dark core inside me. I’d rejected myself again, as an unacceptable human being.
Hope & Healing
Dawn provided no end of comfort to me in showing me that overcoming the repressed past and integrating the”dark” side of me as part of my “whole”, is all part of my spiritual journey, and part of learning and growing. She helped me to see that in ringing her and reaching out, I’d let some of the pain out and have shown that I am ready to deal with the pain, to learn and move on.
I’ve learnt that there are people out there who really do understand and can help. Just by realising that there was a cause for my depression and that it can be healed, has really eased the self-hatred I felt. She has shown me that it is OK and safe and essential that I release the pain and anger I feel. I think God’s gonna let me do this a little bit at a time. By staying at my job with this person I will be allowing little rumbles with her to ease out the past, allowing me to express it in manageable chucks. It may hurt, but at least I know I have support there when I need it.
Support- Bach Flower Remedies & Exercises.
Dawn prescribed me some Bach Flower Remedies to help with the depression and anxiety. I will keep you informed of my progress with them. She also gave me a few visualizations to do:
1. To comfort my traumatized inner child: imagine I am in a big comfy arm-chair cuddling myself as a child. As a child I feel extremely frightened, alone and angry. As an adult I can reassure her, hold her and send her love.
2. Surround my colleague in bright pink loving light, within a bubble.Hand the bubble over to God. This is to make sure that I allow her to deal with all her issues herself, as I do tend to take on other people’s problems.
3. This is a very important exercise- Grounding. Imagine beautiful, white light from heaven arriving at the top of your head as a beam of light. Slowly it travels down your body to your feet. Here it continues into the ground, forming roots that reach deeper and deeper into the Earth, until they reach the centre. This exercise gives you a heavy, relaxed feeling in your body- a feeling of stability that should help you to feel supported. It should be performed with your feet flat on the ground.
4. Draw a picture of my colleague- a funny one. I drew her as a little baby sitting on a throne with a crown on her head, screeching and screaming and throwing her toys! It really helped me to see her more lightly and less as intimidating.
To Dawn- I am so very, very grateful.
To you- I hope you have, or will find, your Dawn. Give her a call!
For more information on Dawn Crystal, please visit her website.
Song of the Day: Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson
Over the years of mood swings I have completely lost confidence in my decision making as I no longer trust my emotions to guide me.
For example: hypomanic ideas and overconfidence have led me to apply for full time jobs that I was in no way ready for, so ended up quitting after plunging into depression. The high of the hypomania just makes you feel you can accomplish anything and become a billionaire in a month! When I’ve ended one of these jobs, my confidence is usually completely shattered.
The question is- how do you know which feelings are authentic, therefore can be trusted to make sensible decisions, and which are distorted with Bipolar and can cause trouble?
I really don’t know anymore and am finding it difficult to accept intense emotions which occur from everyday experiences. If I am excessively angry about something, I know invariably this is part of Bipolar (by excessively angry I guess I mean overreacting with rage to tiny little things). As part of Bipolar I know the emotions can be intensified dramatically, so subconsciously I think I must discount them as not quite real, therefore not to be trusted- like a delusion. And so I deny them. In my head I’m thinking:
“I shouldn’t feel so angry about this, I’m totally overreacting. It’s not REAL anger because it’s Bipolar. It is bad that I feel so angry. Everyone will hate me if I am angry. So I will try as hard as I possibly can NOT to feel angry”.
Having written that down I can now see how crazy my thinking is!! Just because I may overreact with rage does not mean that my anger is invalid. It is still MY anger, it is part me, therefore deserves to exist! By denying the anger, am I therefore denying a part of myself?
OK all this self-analysis is giving me brain-ache, so I’m off for a Diet Coke.
Song of the Day: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.
I haven’t written for ages because I’m in denial about stuff that’s going on at work and trying to ignore it in the hope it’ll go away. Writing will make me face up to it all!
Over the last couple of months I’ve been experiencing mixed symptoms- high energy, excessive flirting, needing to be at way more social events, crying easily, angry and irritable, needing to be centre of attention, obsessive thoughts. Could be the switch from hypomania to dysphoric hypomania?? Who knows!
Anyway, during this time my boss left for a new job- she has always been really great about my mood swings and very supportive. However, our new manager is not. I don’t want to elaborate at this time. My anger is fizzing and bubbling below the service and ready to errupt and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to hang on to civilised behaviour. I feel like a pitbull forced to be on a lead all my life and am now being confronted with a pack of snarling opponents. I’m ready to strike!!
Having mulled it over for the last month I’ve decided the best thing to do is to find another job. This is a huge risk to me, as changing jobs in the past has usually led to panic attacks and worsening Bipolar symptoms. As far as hours, convenience and job role go, my current position is ideal. However, the relationship with this person is extremely stressful and kind of cancels out all these other factors.
At work I’ve had increased interpersonal sensitivity and emotional reactivity, but at home I’ve really struggled to process the intensity of the feelings that are rapidly surfacing. I’m so stressed! I’m really angry with the other person, but also with myself for reacting so badly and giving her what she ultimately wants; I feel exceptionally guilty for being angry (I was brought up to believe being angry is the root of all evil); I feel angry that this has happened when everything seemed to be going so well; I’m so worried about changing jobs; I’m scared and intimidated about going in to work now- I dread it. It’s all really getting on top of me and I don’t really know how to process all these feelings. I think there’s a link back to my first few school years when I was bullied, so a bit of trauma is thrown in the mix too.
My main coping mechanism has been eating- stuffing the feelings down with sugar, getting that lovely numbed-out feeling when overloaded. I look forward to the next packet of biscuits or chocolate bar- the pleasure makes me forget about the pain of the unprocessed emotions. But this can’t go on. I’ve put on another half stone which I can in no way afford to do. The eating has to stop and the painful emotions dealt with. I just have absolutely no clue how to go about dealing with them.
On the plus side, had a great long weekend last week and went to see Rihanna at the O2 with Chris- fantastic and VERY raunchy!!
Song of the Day: Winter Light by Tim Finn
My anger management course place has finally come through the post after a year of waiting. I think most people I know would be shocked to learn that I’m doing it. I think I do come across as cheery and bubbly and friendly, and I hardly ever show my temper, but for those that have seen me when I do, they know I lose it big time.
I think most of the problem with my current way of dealing with anger is that I bury it as much as possible. I don’t think I ever really learnt to express it. I was brought up by parents who have both been traumatised by various events throughout their life. They hated us to be angry and we learnt to hide it to keep the peace. I also went to a strict Catholic school until I was 10 and was carted off to church every Sunday. The messages I received there were that anger is bad, only bad people are angry. We should be loving and kind and gentle and peaceful, anger was most definitely something to be ashamed of- particularly anger at your parents. I still get angry with Mum and Dad a fair bit, but even at the age of 31 I am absolutely terrified of ever standing up to Mum and Dad. How pathetic does that sound! If you met my Mum and Dad you’d think they were the most lovely people ever! (Which most of the time they are). But my general experience of being angry with Mum is that she bursts into tears and becomes extremely distressed; and Dad starts the old defensive victim strategy by getting angry and sarcastic. Either parent in this state, even to me as an adult, is quite a difficult thing to deal with. So I guess it’s only natural that those of us who have been taught to bury our anger, in order to avoid a potentially more traumatic experience, will have issues with expressing the emotion in a healthy way.
With me, little things build up and build up until one more little thing can make me fuming with rage. The energy of it is intense, like a burning feeling surging forcefully throughout my body. When this happens I will usually snap, but if I’m in the middle of a bipolar episode it can go as far as me screaming obscenities at someone or even trying to hit them. This has only happened about three times in the last 10 years, but my shame and guilt as a result have been extremely painful to deal with. I think this can often make my depressions really despairing. It’s not a nice thing to read about how despairing a person can get, but I know there are loads of others out there who have, or are, feeling like this. For me I was always so shocked at the intense emotional pain, I literally would feel like I was being sucked into a big black hole. But I think I’ll talk more about this in another post, as it’s such a big issue.
Anger has definitely led me down some dark paths, but I’m here on the other side and I am grateful for my lamotrigine 🙂
Song of the Day: Teenagers by My Chemical Romance.
I can’t believe how irritable and angry I can get about the stupidest things.
I’m in the bar at Esporta. I arrived in the hope of having my usual quiet drink and read. However, a massive party of “quiz and chips” folk have descended upon the formally tranquil area- probably about 50 of them, complete with screaming kids. I am sooooo pissed off! I feel as if I own the damn bar and they are invading my own personal space. Arrrrrghhhhhh!!
It’s got me thinking though; obviously the bar isn’t mine and I have no control over the space around where I’m sitting, so why do I feel my rights have been violated? Expectation has a lot to answer for I think- the expectation of peace and quiet and relaxation. That is why I come here- that is the norm. But what right do I have to feel so angry?
Anger is something often spoken about in popular spiritual books- that it is something detrimental to our health and to others, therefore should be avoided, that only unpleasant things can come from it. In my experience this is true- I’ve yet to experience much pleasure from anger. However maybe this is because I’ve been conditioned to think of it as something negative. Maybe when I get angry I’m thinking-
“Oh no, I’m feeling angry, it’s bad to feel angry.”
The judgement of it being “bad” will surely only wind me up even more, making me feel anger at myself for feeling it (judging it to be a character failure) as well as anger to the offending party. I therefore have double the anger and am more likely to explode!! I have thus concluded my anger is a good thing and the parties involved are totally deserving of my wrath- watch out everyone!