Category Archives: Working Relationships

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: Workplace Challenges Part 1

Song of the Day- Guilty by Nero.

(Photo Credit: stewickie available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License.)

Taking a look at the challenges that present themselves for those with Bipolar Disorder whilst at work, I’ve split my ideas into two posts: part one, below, looks at challenges involving relationships and social functioning. Part two will be posted in the near future and will cover more skill-based challenges.

Part 1: Working Relationships

Working in the “real world” with Bipolar has to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Luckily things have become easier over the last ten years- I’ve learnt so much about living with the disorder, when to push myself and when to accept my limitations. One of the hardest things, I’ve always found, is getting along with others at work when symptomatic.

Interpersonal sensitivity and irritability, both present in Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, can be a nightmare when trying to maintain healthy working relationships. When irritable it is so easy to snap at colleagues or end up arguing. Obviously combined with the sensitivity- when it is very easy to take offense and tend towards paranoia- the more likely you are to cause friction with those who are around you everyday. I’m open with my colleagues about my condition and luckily they are fine with it, so if I’m having a bad day I’ll tell them and maybe have a bit of a chat about it. That way they know why I’m a bit off my game, and don’t take it personally if I’m grumpy with them (well hopefully)! If I know I’ve been more sensitive and moody lately, then I will usually withdraw a bit socially anyway- this isn’t always a good thing in everyday life, but at work I think it really helps if depressed or irritable.

Dealing with authority figures I find either very intimidating when depressed or, when hypomanic, I tend to think I know better than them and have ended up arguing- one argument leading to a job loss. Never underestimate the power of even mild hypomania to get you into trouble! Because I’m fairly well-educated and bright, and work beneath my capability level, I always feel I can do things so much more quickly and efficiently than them! That sounds so conceited and up-myself, but it’s the truth! Hypomania has a nasty habit of distorting perception of the self in a positive light, just as depression does in a negative light! I don’t feel so great about myself at all when my mood is “normal”, I’m much more laid back and certainly don’t think myself better than others. When I’m depressed, others seem way better than me! Anyway, I’m starting anger management classes in September- so hopefully that’ll sort out my lack of temper control!

Other people’s bad moods affect me enormously too, so when a colleague is stressed I stay out of their way as much as possible. I think this is a sensitivity thing- where I seem to soak up other peoples’ moods and take on their feelings as if they were my own. This is when some of that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) comes in handy: if “Phyllis’ has blanked me in  the corridor I have to remember to tell myself that “she’s probably having a bad day” not that “she must hate me”! When colleagues are stressed it’s very difficult to not take moody comments personally- I always feel so personally responsible for everybody else’s happiness! There you go- another CBT fixer-upper: “I am responsible for my own wellbeing only”. Gotta love that CBT!

I’m sure there’s loads more to cover on this topic, but I think I’m done for today- just bought an iMac so we’re going to go and have a play- woohoo! Look out for Part 2 which will include ideas on basic skill issues, such as concentration problems.