Category Archives: Bipolar Employment

Face Fear: Making Peace With Your Shadow

ID-10033305I’ve recently made a big life decision which involves me facing up to some pretty intense fears, by going back to work. Throughout my life, starting at school, I’ve had fears of being trapped and not being able to get away from a situation if I need to. The underlying fear is of being consumed by some intense emotion and reacting in an uncontrollable way. It is a very child-born fear and, as with many anxiety states, is something which is extremely difficult to rationalise myself out of! Placing myself in a working environment, this fear is precipitated by the need to be in a certain situation/role/building for a fixed amount of time, during which I feel I must “hold it together”. By this I mean be able to show only those aspects of myself that are adult, professional and self-controlled.

The Shadow Side In my spiritual development classes, we talk about the shadow side of ourselves. The shadow is made up of those aspects of ourselves which we prefer not to look at- mainly our fears and past behaviours which we have judged ourselves negatively for. This fear of not being able to “escape” is part of my shadow. I unconsciously judge myself for this fear- that it is silly, childish, irrational. These judgements make me feel ashamed of it, of myself. This is part of me I prefer not to look at. This is only one aspect of my own shadow side.

Accepting Our Shadow. Making peace with these shadow aspects of ourselves frees us from the shame we ultimately condemn ourselves to from harsh self- judgements. We’re aiming towards accepting that this fear exists by feeling the fear (physical sensations, emotions, thoughts), acknowledging it from a perspective of non-judgement and compassion, and then gently encouraging ourselves into situations which may trigger the fear- if this is something which needs to be done: I need to be able to make a living and fulfil some kind of useful purpose in my life, therefore I am choosing to face this fear in order to grow and become stronger as a human being. (Of course, being terrified of snakes is probably a fear we can live with- it affects us on a very small scale, unless you happen to work in a reptile house: pretty unlikely, given the fear!)

Compassion for Ourselves Accepting and making peace with this particular aspect of my shadow can look like a conversation between the Shadow Self (which in this case is the frightened, traumatised child) and the Adult self, who is rational, experienced, capable, strong, comforting and soothing:

Shadow Self: “What if I cry or react in some other uncontrollable way at work? I’m terrified I won’t be able to escape or leave when I need to!”

Adult Self (rational, comforting soothing- coming from our higher selves): “Why do you think that might happen?”

Shadow Self: “Because it’s happened before with really bad consequences”. “I don’t feel safe with people in authority, particularly men”.

Adult Self: “This is completely understandable given the experiences you have lived through during childhood and as an adult. You are doing whatever you can to protect yourself. This is a normal reaction to past events. It comes from that part of you which is still a frightened child and that is ok! I, the adult, am here now, and I can take care of you. I am capable and strong and will not leave you in danger. You are safe. It is absolutely ok to feel scared, but know that you are safe now.”

Shadow Side: “But what if it does happen? I will feel so ashamed.”

Adult Side: “What is so shameful about letting out emotion and expressing our truth?”

Shadow Side: “It’s embarrassing and not accepted socially. I’ll be ridiculed and isolated socially”.

Adult Side: “What if I told you that other people’s reactions have nothing to do with you?! They are as important as the speck of dust on your windowsill. The way other people react is their karma and nothing for you to worry about. You are not responsible for any reaction on their part. How they feel about you need not be a significant part of your life. Free yourself from the belief that it is up to you to keep everything and everyone happy and stable. Is isn’t! If you need to express emotion- then that is what is most appropriate for your healing at that moment. It is safe for you to express yourself”.

43397jx6aupqgejBy this point my Shadow Side (or fearful inner child in this case) is feeling soothed, comforted, accepted for who she is, and supported in moving forwards in facing these fears. Once the judgement has been removed from the fear of crying uncontrollably with no escape, space has opened up for me to do it again if I need to- I’ve given myself permission to express myself. I am safe. If I ban myself from doing such a “terrible” thing, I automatically tense up and restrict my true self- I squash myself into a rigid box, compounding the feeling of being trapped. I feel suffocated.

The freedom I have given myself may be completely invisible to other people, but to me it is a precious gift.

Working through these thoughts as I have done above, forms a script, and one that will need to be repeated on numerous occasions until I have trained my mind to be loving and kind to myself! This is a much better platform from which to go out int othe world and face my fear!

Arrrghhhhh!! Mental Torture! Intrusive Thoughts & OCD.

My brain won’t stop talking at me!

My thoughts are just going round and round and jibber-jabbering away. I feel like there’s some kind-of convention going on in my head that I have to involuntarily chair- except all the members are like kids and wont shut-up talking at once, then they start screaming at each other and having arguments!!! Before I know it the whole thing has runaway with me and I’m totally out of control! Arrrrghhhhh!!!!! It really is excruciating mental torture!

Last night I got 4 hours broken sleep. My head aches and all my muscles are so tense. Relaxing has been near-on impossible.

Getting back to sleep last night was greatly helped by Bach Flower Remedy-White Chestnut (great for repetitive thoughts- it works surprisingly quickly) and some Lavender oil on my pillow. If not I’d have been on the sofa all night watching endless episodes of Friends and The Big Bang Theory- the only TV shows my brain can cope with at the moment.

When these kind of thoughts prey on me I find it difficult to concentrate. I can’t decide what to do first: get dressed, brush my teeth, shower, have breakfast? Then if I decide to have breakfast I spend ages deciding what to have. Then it takes conscious effort to get out a saucepan or milk. Then I get distracted because there’s junk mail sitting on the kitchen counter and I start sorting that out. Arrrrghhhh!!

My usual method of coping with these predatory thoughts is to up on out of the house and get into the city where the shops and general bustle distract me. Either that or binge eating. I’m trying to quit on both right now as neither is healthy. The city idea may not sound too bad, but it really tires me out and bus fair there and back is £4.00. Not too bad for one random day, but it’s not a good long-term solution and I get dependent on these little coping mechanisms pretty quickly.

Thought Quality

At the moment the thoughts don’t seem too dark which is a blessing in itself. They’re more just mindless chatter. But they are getting louder.

Under more stress they can turn really nastily into the realms of self-harm and death, which I definitely don’t want to happen this time.

I’m in a fortunate position not to be working at the moment. If I were the extra stress would tip me over the edge, and I’ll end up sitting at my desk, staring at a spreadsheet and trying to suppress really disturbing images and impulses. By the time I’d get home I’d be a total wreck.

“How are you today Rachel?” they’ll ask.

“Fine” I’ll reply. You really, really don’t want to know what’s going on in my head!!

Intrusive Thoughts

What I believe I’ve been experiencing are intrusive thoughts, which according to Wikipedia are:

“…unwelcome involuntary thoughts, images, or unpleasant ideas that may become obsessions, are upsetting or distressing, and can be difficult to manage or eliminate. “

They appear to be associated mainly with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which I’m only just beginning to realise I think I may have.

(I know it’s not a good idea to self-diagnose, but I think this it is one of my compulsions and a way in which I get the constant mind chatter out of my head. I don’t recommend it though. I also think that I know myself way better than any doctor who spends about 10 minutes every few months with me. If I can get to the bottom of the issue I can look for CBT help online).

For more info please see:

Intrusive Thoughts Caused by Anxiety

Intrusive Thoughts

OCD

I always thought of OCD mainly in terms of the classic compulsions you hear about in the media, like excessive hand-washing or checking behaviours. But what I didn’t know about was Pure ‘O’, which I’ve recently discovered on the internet.

Pure ‘O’ is OCD with mainly obsessions and no visible compulsions. However it does appear that sufferers usually do have hidden compulsions like mental rituals that “cancel out” any obtrusive thoughts.

For more info here are a few links:

What is Pure O?

Various Subtypes of Pure O OCD

Bipolar and OCD 

Bipolar Disorder and OCD often seem to team up together too- estimates are between 10-35% of those with Bipolar Disorder also have OCD (About.com). For more info:

OCD and Bipolar Disorder

Blog: That Bipolar OCD Geek

Getting Through Today

Anyway, to get through today- without resorting to a city-trip or binge-eating- I’m gonna try the following:

– blogging to you lovely people (check).

– more lavender oil and White Chestnut Bach Flower Remedy.

– playing the piano and a bit of singing.

– maybe a bit of healthy cooking?

– I might look for some OCD CBT techniques online too.

– dog walk.

If anyone else has any tips I’d be only too glad to hear them!
I need to get out of my head!!!!

Related Posts on My Bipolar Life: Hypomanic Obsessions and OCD; Bipolar Disorder & Obsessive Research.

Photo Credits: freedigitalphotos.net

Moody Rachel Returns

I’ve hit a mini brick wall of mood symptoms again: tearfulness, irritability, low motivation, fatigue and general “can’t be bothered-ness”. I’m so tired and keep falling asleep and am getting ratty with my Chris (boyfriend). I hate being like that, I feel really guilty. I think I might be putting too much pressure on myself with regards to this blog and trying to make it brilliant. Right now I can’t do brilliant. Only average. That’ll have to do for now.

I’m feeling undeserving. I think this is just depressive negativity taking over. Undeserving of the good things in my life. I guess I’m starting to feel really guilty about my lack of contribution to the household finances in the last few months, so maybe it’s time to start thinking about earning money again.

But I just can’t think about working in a regular job again. I’ve had 14 years of being in and out of jobs that have just increased my Bipolar symptoms drastically or resulted in severe anxiety and panic attacks. I have never ended a job on a positive note- ever! I’ve always ended jobs due to health issues. I don’t want to just go back to this pattern. I want to earn money doing something I love. I just want to be happy and fulfilled whilst earning money. Is that too much to ask universe??!!!

Onto the more positive:

Going out for Italian tomorrow with Chris, then onto the IMAX cinema for The Dark Knight Rises. Chris has been going on about this film for the last year!!! Yes, a year!!! We’re both film geeks, but Chris just take sit to a whole other level when it comes to films that he loves. He booked the tickets 6 weeks ago. Chris at his geekiest.

It will be really great to go out on a date again. It’s been a long time and I’m gonna get dressed up and everything! (This doesn’t happen very often folks!) Chris has been on a bit of a downer recently (might be affecting my mood or vice verser) so I think we both need a bit of fun.

I really want to go on holiday to Center Parcs again. Center Parcs is my haven and I’ve been dreaming about lazing around the gorgeous spa, and stupidly-early morning walks around the forest to find deer. I honestly never feel so well as when I am at Center Parcs, it’s like the best medicine ever, but funner (yes, it’s a word in my Rachel dictionary)! It’s basically a whole holiday centre built into a massive forest. The accommodation is dotted around the forest in the most peaceful settings you can imagine. You wake up in the morning to find ducks, rabbits and squirrels on your patio. It’s like real-life Disney World!

Cars are not allowed on site except for loading/unloading which really helps create the magic. They have an amazing swimming pool with slides, rapids and wave machine which makes me feel like a kid again- not that difficult really!

There is just so much to do there, you could never be bored. I think I’ve done most of their activities now: horse-riding, archery, falconry, biking, nature walks, abseiling, shooting, canoeing, badminton, tennis, pool, snooker etc, etc. The spa is amazing too.

OK, well thinking about a holiday is making me feel a bit better so maybe I’ll go and do some more research.

Photo Credit: Toa55 via freedigitalphotos.net.

Time to Go

Why do we stay in situations that we know are unhealthy?
Maybe because it’s the easiest option for us? We’re scared to change? Fear of the unknown?

Work

Quitting my job has freed me from a toxic workplace that I had no idea was eating away at my soul. I hated going in. Most of my co-workers were stressed-out and obviously unhappy in their jobs, and life in general. It was so easy to become one of them. I felt I had friends and could fit in if I became one of them, I felt less alone.

This was all unconsciously done of course. But now I’m out of the situation, I look back and can’t believe how abusive I was to myself by forcing myself to go every day. And of course those co-workers were not really friends at all, just co-workers. My soul was screaming at me stop, stop, STOP- I can’t take anymore! My moods were swinging, I was hyper, aggressive, irritable, and very anxious (though I don’t think I would have admitted it at the time).

Why did I stay for two years?

I told myself that by working in this job I was contributing to society, that it was expected of everyone, that if I didn’t work I’d curl up in a lonely ball of depression and never come out from under the duvet. If I didn’t work, other people would reject me, criticize me, disapprove.

Well, so far, I’ve been nowhere near depression and have felt so well and healthy. I feel myself again. It’s amazing! Yes, people don’t necessarily approve of me for quitting. But I know I’m giving myself exactly what I need at the moment- which is a lot of R & R and me-time. I’m not forcing myself to do things anymore.

A New Challenge

Having let go of the reins on my job, I know I have to deal with bigger demons now.

Eating, food, sugar, addictive and emotional eating, stuffing down my emotions. I need to feel the pain inside me, not stuff it down.

I think this unhealthy situation I am in with my eating habits is far scarier for me to let go of.

Yeah I want to be healthy and full of energy and fit. I want to wear whatever I like and look good in everything! I want to enjoy the summer, not spend the entire time trying to cool down and avoiding doing things that will heat me up even more!

So why do I keep eating addictively????!!!

It’s easy to keep doing. It makes me feel good temporarily. It feels safe and comforting. I cling to it for security. When I was suicidal it would distract me from destructive thoughts and give some pleasure to my day, some small thing to look forward to, to keep me plodding through life. If I stop, will the pain come back? What’s underneath all the food and fat? Do I want to see? What if it’s too terrifying to imagine?

Am I ready to say goodbye yet? It doesn’t matter. I have to, for my health, and to recover love and compassion for myself through self-care.

Do You Really Want to be Here?

The things that are hurting us have such a forceful hold. Often we are blind to how destructive a situation or relationship is until we realise we can’t continue to live in this way. I felt like I was dying inside when I was working at my last job. I had to let it go.

The best way to tell if you need to let something go is to honestly answer the question:

Do you still want to be in this situation in a year’s time?

No? Well, that’s a salad for me then please…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

Photo Credits: Woman with Staple Gun Free Digital Photos; Salad Free Digital Photos

Letting Go- I’m Free!

Two weeks ago I quit my job- I was being bullied and hadn’t even realised. I’d put up with being belittled and harassed and it wasn’t until I spoke up to a few trusted colleagues, who helped me to see what was really going on, that it dawned on me- “why the hell am I putting up with this?”

I’d been miserable and suicidal over the whole period of time it had gone on, I just wanted to hang onto my job because it was a safety net and my way of showing the world I could function as a “normal”member of society. I wasn’t being myself. I was counting the minutes until I could leave. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life like this. I still don’t.

I wasn’t coping or functioning!

So I quit.

A weight lifted. I’m bloody terrified now, but over the last two weeks, little by little, I’m feeling remnants of the old me coming back. Hopefully within a few months I’ll be devoting myself to my passions again, the mask will completely lift and I’ll be able to be myself again. Thank you God!

I’m still terrified though! I have no money! I have enough to pay bills, buy food etc, which I am very grateful for, but nothing “spare”.

This is really making me stay at home which is actually a good thing. Usually I flit about in the city- spending money on silly things- basically wasting my cash. Buying “things” filled the void of emptiness. It was a coping mechanism to deal with depression. I could deny my feelings all I wanted if I raced around keeping busy.

Now I can’t shop or buy extra food to binge on.

Arrrrghhhh!! So scared! I’m having to feel things again. I know it’s gonna be a really good thing and help me to heal from past traumas. I know it’ll make me work on my passions again. But with all this comes emotional pain. I think I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end, but I think that’s the only way I’m ever going to change and get over my food and shopping addictions.

I’m ready.

Scared, but ready. Bring it on! ….er.. slowly….and in manageable chunks. Thanks.

Photo Credits: Free Girl by Andy Newson, Free Man by Graur Nazvan Ionut

Bipolar Disorder: Repressed Anger

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.

Repressed Anger

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.

Bipolar Disorder- Self-Acceptance

 

A life with Bipolar Disorder is always met with guilt at some stage, usually during depression. But the guilt I am feeling at the moment is less to do with a current episode and more to do with the lifestyle I lead.

 

Society would like us to be successful in the following areas:

– Work full-time

– Work to the highest level of our potential.

– To be financially independent.

 

As one of the Bipolar population, I most certainly don’t fit these criteria. Instead I:

– Work part time

– 16 hours a week.

– Receive benefits/welfare.

– Have no career.

– Am financially dependent on my partner for most things.

 

Today I realised how little I accept these aspects of my life and essentially feel guilty about living life this way, maybe even ashamed that I can’t reach my full career potential. According to society this would be classed as underachievement. In truth I think I’ve been thinking that due to my societal “failure” to fulfil these criteria, I am a failure and not as worthwhile or acceptable as individuals who function at a higher level of autonomy. I think to myself “I will be happy when I’m working full time in a job I love”, I never let myself be happy and accept myself NOW! So I am going to learn the following:

 

I am acceptable and worthwhile now!

 

By looking at my life from a more spiritual point of view, it is clear that our purpose on Earth is not necessarily to achieve top level management in the banking industry or become a top lawyer. In some ways we can be seen to be spreading kindness to others or love, caring and nurturing to our children, family and friends. These little acts of love can make a big difference to others. It is in these ways that we can shine our light in the world, with or without Bipolar.

I also believe that we have a lifelong course to complete in learning to love ourselves. I guess having Bipolar makes this job all the more difficult as we see so much of ourselves as flawed when we are irritable, angry and hopelessly depressed. But perhaps in this way, by overcoming more obstacles in this area, we are moving forward at a more advanced level on the evolutionary scale?

 

Perhaps our purpose is to help evolve in the realm of unconditional love for ourselves and therefore others?

 

So today I will look more at my positive attributes that may help to spread my light in the world, and the things that I can love about myself:

– Chatty/bubbly personality.

– Always smiling.

– Great sense of humour and charisma.

– Loving, king, warm-hearted, affectionate.

– Love meeting people and genuinely interested in others.

– Empathic and compassionate.

– Great conversation.

– Playful & lively & enthusiastic.

 

I am loveable now!!