Learn more about Empaths- are you intensely sensitive?
Divine Light Meditation– use this meditation to clear and ground your energy.
A 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.
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.
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
Last 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:
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.
Does anyone else have difficulty owning their anger? By this I mean do you find that you get angry with yourself when you feel anger towards another person, if that makes any sense?!
Basically I feel very uncomfortable with my own anger towards others and I’m trying to work through this issue.
Any anger I feel towards a friend or loved one I struggle to deal with. I think it might be due to a fear of abandonment: if I’m angry with those I love- I might push them away, which is always the last thing I want!
Black & White Thinking
My thinking around all this is probably very black & white, which is a well known cognitive distortion in those with psychological issues. If I feel angry I judge this as a “bad” feeling. I often transfer this to thinking that I am a “bad” person for feeling “bad” emotions.
Black & White Thinking & Bipolar Disorder
To me, black & white thinking & beliefs seem to merge very well with the idea of Bipolar Disorder. The word Bipolar means two polar opposites- such as hot and cold, or indeed, black & white.
As we develop through childhood, do we learn to see ourselves as all good or all bad?
Do we reject the bad side of ourselves & embrace only the good?- Hypomania/Mania.
Do we accept only the bad and none of the good?- Depression.
Depression is sometimes thought to be caused by suppressed anger– anger that we consciously push out of our awareness or ignore. In an attempt to process these emotions- which never really leave our whole being- we automatically turn them around to ourselves. We may have been brought up to believe that it is safer to be angry with ourselves than with others. Being angry with others may have caused very difficult circumstances in key relationships. A deep fear of abandonment by caregivers is obviously something a child is very likely to feel as their parents are absolutely essential to their existence as they see it.
If we deal with Bipolar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder, we may have had particularly traumatic rages with others, which we felt were so powerful they overtook us completely. This can be a very scary experience and one that we would do anything to stop from recurring.
If we are also Highly Sensitive (take the test here) we will likely process seemingly smaller behavioural clues as rejection or abandonment: thereby increasing the likelihood of Bipolar Disorder, Depression & Anxiety occurring in later life.
One of the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder is described as “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.”
Any anger we experience towards someone we love may then be construed as a threat to our safety and therefore a potential danger in provoking this abandonment.
Abandonment can also be seen to be a rejection by our peers. We are isolated as different and therefore a target for teasing and abuse. This creates an intense feeling of isolation and loneliness- effectively abandonment by peers.
Abandonment by God
I often think there is a real link between religion and psychological disorders. If we were brought up to believe that we were “bad” for feeling angry towards our “elders”, or that it was in some way unacceptable, we may have grasped hold of the idea that we could possibly go to “hell” for these feelings. We would therefore be rejected by God and cast out.
It all sounds very extreme and is initiated by such prehistoric religious ideas (in my opinion) that are still circulating today.
(My idea of God is now very different- a belief in a loving, forgiving God who would never abandon any one of us. It is only us who can abandon Him.)
Suppressing Anger As A Coping Mechanism
We suppress our anger as we view it to be so dangerous to our wellbeing. It is the way we have learned to cope with our deep-seated fear of rejection.
To move forward we need to address and question this belief. Is it still relevant in our adult lives? Are we capable of taking care of ourselves? Do we love ourselves enough to take on challenges ourselves? Why do we feel we NEED other people so desperately for our basic survival?
We could identify situations we have handled on our own and feel a sense of accomplishment in that. Or challenge ourselves to participating in something just a little scary, but fun, to increase our confidence in ourselves.
Inner Child Visualization.
It is also helpful to travel back through our memories of childhood and identify times where we felt desperately abandoned. What happened? How did it feel?
Imagine your little-self and how you would comfort yourself if you could travel back and be with her/him now to support them. As your little self, imagine that love and support coming to you. If spiritual, you may like to imagine a beautiful guardian angel enfolding you in her/his protective wings.
We are powerful beings, though it may not always feel this way. We have choices in life- choices in how we deal with emotions, situations, challenges, how we perceive things, etc.
By increasing the feelings of confidence in ourselves, we can rely on ourselves more and feel less fear of abandonment. Potentially we will then have no need to suppress our own feelings of anger as we step into our own powerful selves. We will learn to embrace our own anger as an emotion which can teach us about ourselves, and one that we can eventually become comfortable with. It will not cause our loved ones to abandon us. It is safe to feel angry. It may not feel this way yet, but imagine your own confidence growing as you experience and deal effectively with it. We are powerful enough to take charge of such a powerful emotion and use it to initiate healthy change in our relationships.
Resources & Links
It is common in those of us with Bipolar/Borderline Personality/Depression/Anxiety etc. to judge ourselves very harshly.
I may think the house is really messy and needs cleaning up, which may lead me to make negative judgements about myself. But today, I’m going to look at this in terms of how much love is in this fraction of my life?
And, hey presto, we are no longer judging ourselves harshly and have found our inner-love in this beautiful moment! (It works with judgment of others too ;)).
Photo Credit: digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net.
Thank you everyone for your lovely supportive comments yesterday- I can’t believe how quickly my thinking patterns changed to old, habitual, negative ones.
Over the last year, I’ve been working really hard on changing my thoughts to more positive, nurturing ones. So far I think I’ve done really well and have been feeling better as a result.
But it didn’t take much for me to feel overwhelmed by anger and a situation I thought I couldn’t handle. It was easy to slip back into “I can’t cope, I don’t want to be here”. I don’t think it was just this though. Recently some old childhood pain has been stirred up and I think I was releasing a lot yesterday. I know I’m better off without it!!
I was very quick to judge this as failure and that I might as well give up: so all the old self-destructive thoughts quickly moved in on me again. But I guess it’s all part of the process of growing and moving past the old patterns. I may be able to keep the thoughts positive when things are going well for me, but I guess this is practice for helping me to stay positive in tougher situations. And I have come out of this quickly, much quicker than I would have done last year!!
I am learning to love the shadow side of me- not just the good stuff. It’s not easy, but I’m doing better :).
Chris was great and took me to the cinema in the evening to cheer me up. We saw Oz The Great and Powerful in 3D which I absolutely LOVED!! What with you guys all being so supportive and Chris being the lovely guy he is, I couldn’t stay in the quagmire for too long.
It did make me realise how easy it is to slip back though- but that I shouldn’t beat myself up over it either :). I’m very thankful to have come out the other side.
***** TRIGGER WARNING***** (Self-harm).
Today has been the worst day I’ve had in about 10 months.
It’s 7.30pm and I’m finally out of bed and showered.
I slept all day.
I didn’t want to get up.
I thought about self-harming a lot. (But didn’t).
I felt huge surges of aggression towards myself.
I know I’m turning a whole load of anger in on myself.
I got angry at the weekend but didn’t express it- this is what happens when you don’t deal with it when it comes up.
I feel like I’m rejecting this part of myself. I find it so hard to love and accept.
I’m feeling a little better tonight, but my movements and thinking have gone slow again.
I’ll feel better tomorrow.
I’ll feel better tomorrow.
I’ll feel better tomorrow.
Dysfunctional Eating & Body Image
Today in The Sun Lucy Davis– known in the UK for her role in hit comedy The Office- spoke up about her eating disorder and how she has been in its grip for years.
I could really relate to the obsessive thoughts about food and body image she spoke about.
Since a teenager I’ve been absolutely fixated on how much I weigh and how I look. This has stayed with me through periods of mild restrictive eating, to where I am now, in over-eating-ville. Medications like Depakote and Olanzapine haven’t helped as I was totally ravenous on them.
Binge-Eating and Impulsiveness
Binge-eating is a common problem in people with Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and is an addictive pattern I myself have developed over the years.
With Bipolar I always think it’s the impulsiveness that is the problem. Binge-Eating Disorder (click here for a detailed profile of the disorder) is characterised by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, often impulsively. There is an out-of-control quality to the eating which can feel desperate.
It differs from Bulimia in that no purging or reversal behaviours are present. The impulsiveness of Bipolar and BPD make us particularly susceptible to addictions of all kinds. Some of us just choose food!
Interestingly I found a clinical study on Medscape that discovered the behavioural disturbances involving impulsivity in Bipolar patients were present both in manic/hypomanic and depressed periods.So we’re pretty much screwed all the time then!
I really do think it’s about time our government and the NHS would look into treating Binge-Eating and Compulsive Eating seriously. I’ve never been given adequate help, even when I’ve spilled my guts out about how I’ve felt to my GP. The usual line is “eat more fish and vegetables”. Thanks, like I didn’t already know that! Those of us with this kind of problem usually have full awareness of what is healthy and what isn’t. Control is the issue, as well as managing our emotions effectively. Please government- help us with these things!! We have a massive obesity problem in this country and it wont go away until someone important takes eating disorders and their treatment seriously.
Things That Have Helped Me In The Past….
I can’t really impart any words of wisdom on how to overcome such behaviours, as I still grapple with them myself. But these are some things that have been useful to me in reducing binge eating and improving body-confidence in the past:
– massage. Someone else accepting your body for the way it is really helps you accept it.
– Hatha Yoga. The physical relaxation gained can be very therapeutic and helps you feel comfortable in your body. Also the principle of working at your own level, and acceptance of what your body can/can’t do is very helpful. You can get to know your body with Hatha yoga and become friends with it, rather than enemies.
– exercise. I hate to say it, but exercise did help me with feeling good about myself.
– journalling and writing down things we’re feeling can help us become more self-aware and manage our emotions effectively. Seeing as bingeing most often occurs when our emotions are all-over-the-place, this helps to reduce the need to binge.
OK, just need the motivation to get exercising and yoga-ing again!
In the UK help for eating disorders can be acquired from B-EAT, who help all ages and also have specialised help for young people.
Lucy Davis on Bulimia- The Sun (UK)– really worth a read if you have eating issues too.
Pharmacotherapy of Personality Disorders With Impulsivity– Bipolar is included in this.
One of my unhealthy patterns, throughout life thus far, has been to care about what other’s think of me way too much. All the time.
I think many, many people do this: dare I say- particularly women?! But I guess there are those that just worry a little about what everyone will think of their new outfit, and those who care so much about what others think that it affects their life decision-making process, and causes great anxiety (possibly Social Phobia), even shame.
I fall into the latter category.
There are many ways I’ve allowed this anxiety over the opinions of others to affect me, but two really stand out.
I’ve allowed my care for what other people think of me to push me into many unsuitable jobs. Jobs that I got just to prove to others that yes I could work and that I wasn’t just going to “sponge off the government”. This usually led to barely controllable Bipolar symptoms.
(I don’t believe it is sponging off the government now. I know I truly was ill with Bipolar and had a genuine need for that financial support. There are many who genuinely need this support).
Caring so much for the opinions of others led me to a fairly appalling view of my body- I think I thought this kept me slim and healthy. It did for a while, but not anymore. My self esteem was, and still is, massively affected by how I think others perceive my body. I worried about what other people thought about what I ate. In fact I still have issues about eating in front of other people.
Not Knowing or Trusting Myself
With my mind constantly obsessing and analysing myself from the perspective of how others perceived me, I lost that real sense of knowing who I am. I still don’t trust myself to make good decisions (someone once said to me that there is no right or wrong decision- only the effects of that decision to deal with). Lack of Identity is a core feature of Borderline Personality Disorder and I believe present in Bipolar too (see Bipolar/Borderline Sensitivity & Loss of Identity)
What do I want from life? This is such a tough question to answer. I’m so used to thinking I must follow the set path laid out for me by society: school, university, career, marriage, babies. Anything less would be a failure right?
But Bipolar has made me reframe my perspective. It prevented me from progressing further down this pre-determined social path. I had to reassess what I believed success to be.
Does it really matter that I’m not going to be a doctor or teacher? I might never be married or have children. Does this matter? Was this really what I wanted in the first place? I don’t know!!! I don’t know what I want. I’m in the process of finding out.
Self Discovery is a term I really like. It makes the whole process sound more subjective and a bit of an adventure. There is room for expansion and exploration.
Self Discovery also requires that we are mindful of our thoughts and feelings towards things. You can’t discover what you like or don’t like unless you pay attention to your own reactions. This may sound simplistic but, believe me, I’ve been studying everybody else’s reactions for so long it can really be a challenge to listen to myself.
(Mindfulness is a well known tool in managing depression and anxiety, so allowing this process of self discovery can only be a positive thing).
I’m enjoying exploring my innate NEED to write, to learn and to analyse things in a psychological way (sometimes this is a good thing, other times it can lead to rumination on the negative). I have a lot of passion in me- for art, music, causes, people, animals, many things.
Everyone has needs that I never knew existed and are completely different from one person to the next. My partner has a need for physical exertion, for engaging in sports like football and cycling. His method of relaxing is through challenges and using skill, for example he loves playing pool.
I’ve never really viewed these things as NEEDS before, more as indulgence and a luxury. I’m learning they are actually essential to our health as a “whole” being-: physical, mental and at a soul-level. All these facets are important in creating a balance in our lives.
I’m learning that I have many sides to myself that all need equal attention: there’s Rachel the artist, Rachel the writer, Rachel the philosopher, Rachel the musician, Rachel the student, Rachel the child who needs to play, laugh and have fun, Rachel the explorer who needs to be out there trying new things and going to new places.
Managing These Needs
These are all needs that I never really knew I had in me. They all need attention which sometimes feels completely overwhelming.
I think organisation might be the key here, which, when you’re a creative person, feels a bit boring and sensible as there is also that yearning for spontaneous creative flow. But I’m learning that you need to put in the structure, discipline and work before you even get to the creative flow. I have to put in the time playing scales on the piano to allow my fingers to work with skill and efficiency when playing the more desirable pieces of music.
Motivation Through Inspiration
I also need to devote time to inspiration. This comes to me when I’m watching ballet, listening to music or out in nature. I always used to view spending time on these things as selfish. But I now know I NEED them!!
Whilst watching the Olympic Gymnasts I was inspired by their beauty, grace and power, but also by their total commitment and dedication to gruelling training, and hours and hours of hard graft in the gym. It is this discipline and mental strength in overcoming self-doubt and discomfort that I find so admirable. It is lacking from my character and something I would like to develop. They are great role models for me and provide motivation.
I’m learning that I do have control of my life- I don’t just have to let it happen to me. I can take it by the reins and steer it in the direction I want it to go, no matter whether other people approve of this direction or not.
How You See Yourself is What Matters (blog post in relation to the writer’s eating disorder and Complex-PTSD)