Thinking about a singular experience I have had as a large part of my life for so long, but as time passes it is merely a chapter. Then it becomes a paragraph, then a sentence, then a word and finally a full stop!
I get stuff and can’t let go; I’m a hoarder. But not possessions, I collect memories and emotional baggage.
I have mean comments still floating in my head from primary school, in a loop.
Scars from the horrid things bullies would say and do in high school.
I still feel the pain of everyone that has walked away from me because of my illness.
My heart aches when I think about friends who have left without a word, not even a goodbye because I was ‘too crazy’, ‘too much’, ‘too attached’ or for some other dark reason I make up in my head because they never told me why they left.
Years later I still carry that baggage with me and I still hoard the emotions.
People may physically leave me, but emotionally they are in my BiPolar brain along with all the mean comments ever said to me….. psychological warfare.
How hard is it to say goodbye?
It’s a struggle having BiPolar (or any mental illness) and knowing when to tell someone is tricky.
On one hand we have nothing to be ashamed of and on the other hand it is our right to not disclose.
And if we had a third hand; let’s be honest, most people would freak out (about BiPolar) or their eyes glaze over or they say they are fine but secretly they are remembering all those reports on the news about that kid with BiPolar that went nuts and stabbed 20 people and how in nearly every cop show the killer has BiPolar.
So when do we tell people?
Starting a new job – Do we tell the boss, even if we are medicated and stable?
Meeting a new friend – do we tell them straight away or wait to see if they are the type to be ok with it?
Dating a new person – do we want them to run before we finish our first date or do we keep it in until they fall in love with us and it’s too hard to just walk away?
When is the right time to tell someone you have BiPolar Disorder? Why is it ok to say “I have diabetes” or “I have epilepsy” but BiPolar and mental illness is still so taboo?
Oh sorry did you think there were answers here?
No I’m putting the question out there because I have no idea…
When do you tell?
My father was a holocaust survivor. His PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) was very understandable. His family lost their house to the Nazis. He never wanted to leave his house in Sydney and never allowed any tradesmen to enter his house for fear of being evicted. During WWII he was incarcerated in Labour camps, hid in kind people’s places. His father died in the ghetto at age 54, having starved to death. When my father turned 54, he was convinced that he will also die in that year. My father’s mum was shot by the Germans in a hospital so my dad would never go to hospital. If we ever took him to hospital, eg. after he fractured his hip, when we went back to visit, he had already discharged himself.
When the Germans were rounding up Jews from the Krakow Ghetto, his brother was selected. He asked my father to go and get him a cardigan. When my dad came back, the group was gone. His brother knew what was about to happen and spared my father the goodbyes. His whole, large extended family were murdered in the concentration camps, gased or burnt. So my father lost his whole family.
Later when I was a girl, my father was totally frantic if he didn’t know where any member of our family was; my sister and myself. He was very unpredictable and would come home very angry. Once he came home and threw my cat down from the first floor. Once I was late coming home after a walk with an older neighbour. My father hit me in the street, beating me over and over.
Was it the war, so scared to lose everyone? One day he came home and broke all the furniture. Not sure why. My poor mum, always trying to have everything done before he came home, homework finished, piano exercised but he would still get upset and irrational.
During the war for 5½ long years, there was no food. My dad was totally obsessed with food and lots of It. He bought tens of margarine containers, so he had to buy another fridge. He bought anything on special. In Poland you couldn’t find a lot of food, even after queueing for hours, before you got to the front of the queue there was nothing left to buy.
PTSD affected his whole life.
Some common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Re-living a traumatic event – like the war; starving, losing family.
- Being overly alert or wound up – This was my dad to a ‘T’.
- Avoiding reminders of the event – not wanting to go to hospitals.
- Feeling emotionally numb – I don’t know if he felt this because he rarely verbally expressed emotion.
- People can have physical responses if reminded of the trauma – lash out anger like breaking the furniture or hurting us.
- Negative beliefs, blame, insecurity, guilt and shame – only by my father’s actions can I see that these must have affected him.
- Difficulty sleeping – my father would need to go on his exercise bike for hours before being able to sleep and then only slept for 2-3 hours.
There are other symptoms that can be warning signs, for more information go to beyondblue.org.au (where the above points were sourced) or seek professional help.
What are your PTSD symptoms or triggers?
In the event of danger we have a survival instinct kick in; either Fight, Flight or Freeze.
People often leave out the last one but it is really the most common in a scary situation.
We feel we are in danger so we prepare to fight back or we flee the scene as fast as possible. More common for those of us with anxiety is to freeze; to stay perfectly still until the danger has passed.
I think it is natural for people to freeze even without anxiety as it is a form of shock and gives us time to evaluate the circumstances and decide our next move.
Fighting is rarely a good option and can lead to physical injury.
Running isn’t always a good idea either, it can lead to emotional and psychological scarring.
I choose freeze, and not just because I love the snow.
What is your survival instinct?
I didn’t realise I had a fear of failure until my later years. It comes from a vulnerable place, a negative weakness and perhaps a touch of perfectionism.
I never thought too much about my studies in my youth and teens. During my Tafe courses: Childcare and Youth Work, I would stress but not fear as the work to me was understandable and easy and I got my first distinction and passed both courses with flying colours 🙂
I never felt good enough and trying new things is hard for me. I am often ashamed by my poor intellect (according to me and only me). I was always worried about not being as smart as everyone else and not understanding big words 🙁
So far these are mostly negative automatic thoughts and some PTSD from being bullied and called stupid so many times I believed it.
But I have developed a true blue fear of failure. I must succeed at every task that I begin, I must pass every subject and must never fail. I am so scared of failing my current module that I stress and rush through my assessment so I won’t fail, only to get a ‘Not Yet Competent’ result and feel so stupid and down. It is gut wrenching to fail something you have worked so hard on and been so afraid you would fail. ‘Not Yet Competent’ doesn’t mean fail, it just means I misread the word count for a few questions, needed to expand theories or correct a few minor errors then resubmit. It’s not a fail, but it hurts like it is.
On the resubmit the fear returns, what if I fail again? What if I can’t meet my deadline? What if I’m not smart enough to do this course?
So I Googled Fear of Failure and came across some interesting things:
“Many of us are afraid of failing, at least some of the time. But fear of failure (also called ‘atychiphobia’) is when we allow that fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.
You might experience some of these symptoms if you have a fear of failure:
- A reluctance to try new things or get involved in challenging projects.
- Self-sabotage for example, procrastination, excessive anxiety or a failure to follow through with goals.
- Low self-esteem or self-confidence -Commonly using negative statements such as “I’ll never be good enough to get that promotion,” or “I’m not smart enough to get on that team.”
- Perfectionism – A willingness to try only those things that you know you’ll finish perfectly and successfully.“
(Quoted from Mindtools https://www.mindtools.com/
Interestingly, I have all of these symptoms.
There are techniques to help control one’s fear of failure but if I told you what I know; my counselling days would be over before they begin. Book in for an appointment late 2018 🙂
As a kid I didn’t care for control. I was wild and carefree.
I think my breakdowns caused a change in my mind set and demanded control. I didn’t like losing control when I was manic and hated the lack of control when I was depressed. Then my physical health problems took the last of my control and that was it, I became a control freak.
I say I hate organising things but this is a lie. I love arranging events or get togethers but the disappointment when someone bails or changes things have lead me to hate organising. It’s a set up for failure. If one thing falls through I can’t stand it. I need to be in total control of every situation so as not to get let down or hurt.
If I don’t have the control I freak out. I never want to lose control ever again and I can’t afford to go back to who I was and risk losing everything I have.
Not even for a little weed 🙂
There is a difference.
People have called me schizo and asked if I have different personalities and doctors have diagnosed me with ADHD. I have BiPolar Disorder 1.
But I thought I should share some symptoms of each to show our commonalities and differences. Along with my cycle of mania and depression I share some traits with my fellow mentally ill (see italics for my symptoms). I’m sure I had more commonalities when I was younger but I was unmedicated.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, formally known as multiple personality disorder)
– 2 or more personalities with their own unique traits, name and characteristics.
– Behavioural – impulsivity, self-destructive behaviour, self harm
– Mood – anxiety, feeling detached from self, mood swings
– Psychological – Altered consciousness, depression, flashbacks
– Also common is amnesia or black outs.
– hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there ) and delusions (beliefs in things that aren’t true)
– Social isolation
– Lack of feelings
– Bizarre behaviour
– Too much or too little sleep
- violent outbursts
- Hypersensitivity to touch, smell, taste and sounds.
- Over activity
- Physical restlessness
What do you have? What do people think you have?
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Yul Brynner from ‘ The King and I‘ once said “whatever you do, just don’t smoke”. For 20 years dad quoted Brynner. For 20 years I ignored him.
Smoking was my security blanket. I didn’t care about the cost or health risks, I just felt I needed to smoke to stay calm, to help me socialise, to clear my head, to dissipate my anxieties. I rationalised it.
I had tried quitting a few times but would end up in hysterics and run straight back to hide under that safety blanket of smoke. I was not a quitter.
For my studies I have to go down to dreaded Sydney for seminars, some 2 day seminars. So I needed to stay overnight in a hotel or at my sisters. It was always a hassle to find somewhere to smoke.
After booking two 2 day seminars coming up in June, I realised I was spending more time worrying about smoking than transport, money, food or even TV.
On April Fools Day 2017 I decided it was time to stop being a slave. I gave all my ciggies, ashtrays and lighters away and started a QuitBuddy app to help me. I got some nicotine gum and even did some research on quitting. This was it.
A week in, I was doing so well I got a haircut. Then after months of being happily single I decided that as a distraction from the ciggies I would go back online to find a mate. And now I could open my search to non smokers. Within a few days I was talking to a few men, mostly repulsive sex addicts looking to score, but one shone through.
Pea seemed great. He was an ex-smoker so he was really supportive and gave great advice on avoiding triggers. He was so sweet to me and we talked every day and night for hours about anything and everything. He made it clear he wasn’t after a one night stand.
He turned out to have BiPolar too so on top of heaps of commonalities there was a total understanding of our shared mental illness.
The past few years of online dating I have shut off emotions and not let myself get attached or plan ahead, knowing it was always unlikely things would go well. But I started to build hope and trust and a bit of a crush on this Sweet Pea. We would always say how similar we were and say we were ‘two peas in a pod’. We were adorable. But we still had to meet to make sure there was a spark.
So after 3 weeks of intense ‘getting to know you’ and my month free from smoking – which was easier than I thought and I had started to run, well jog, with my dog several times a week, we finally met. I drove down to his ‘hood and we went to a big playground park thing in Mt Druitt and walked and talked and laughed, we held hands and even had a little kiss. We talked about our next date for 2 days later; he would come up to my place and we would go for a walk and eat dinner, he asked about times and trains and seemed really excited.
Then it was time to say goodbye with another kiss and that was it, the perfect date. I was buzzing. Halfway home my phone beeped, I smiled like a little school girl thinking he already missed me. I pulled over to read it. Yeah, so men are shit!
Pea: “before this gets more involved i just want to let you know that i just want to be friends, thats all. I am not ready for a relationship sorry but i will always be your friend”
WHAT THE FUCK ???
Me: “i dont get it I thought we got along really well and wanted the same things”
Pea: “I just feel like it wont work and dont want to take it further yeah your amazing but i just want to be friends”
I was in shock. I felt the sting of tears and I started the car and drove to the nearest petrol station, bought a packet of cigarettes and a lighter and went round the side and lit up. Without even thinking about it. Without debating should I, shouldn’t I. It was instinct. I would never have made it home without it.
I wasn’t upset about not being with the boy; there were things that wouldn’t have worked, but why lead me on? Why kiss me? Why hold my hand? Why make plans? None of it made sense. But smoking did.
So 33 days I lasted as a non smoker. Longest in 20 years. But sadly I went back to my crutch, my security blanket, the second I couldn’t handle something.
That night my best friend, Bookmark came over to check in and we chain smoked til she left. The following day another close friend, Goldilocks came over and we doubley chain smoked.
I felt so good. This felt so natural. I didn’t know if I would give up again or just go back to smoking.
Then a few interesting things happened.
Whilst I had quit, apart from being able to run, I didn’t notice much Health improvement and didn’t know if it was worth losing my ‘calm’
Now, when I had 2 days of smoking things were coming back.
I have had diarrhoea for as long as I remember, we tried all different diets and some pills but nothing. A week into quitting I was shitting like a ‘normal’ person. 2 days of smoking and the toilet is my second home again.
The second day of smoking again I got a ripping headache. I get migraines and headaches all the time. But it just hit me that I didn’t during the time I wasn’t smoking.
Both headaches and diarrhoea can be caused by dehydration. The cigarettes have been sponging fluid from my body and drying it out.
So quitting didn’t show me as much I am now learning by smoking again. And now I have more ammo, more reasons to quit and stay quitted.
The warning labels on the smoking packets show a black lung or a brain bleed, those things will happen but not right now. Mention how many trips to the toilet a cigarette can cause or the mind numbing headaches they create. Those are happening right now. Those can go away within a week of quitting. My lungs are already fucked, I have most likely lost ten years of my life but that doesn’t make me wanna quit. I have spent around $5k a year, for 20 years smoking (thats a house deposit literally up in smoke) and somehow that doesn’t make me want to quit. But knowing now that I won’t be on the loo all the time and my head won’t pound like a drum everyday. Yes thanks I think I will ditch the smokes.
So the boy helped me stay a non smoker for a month, messed me around, caused me to go back to smoking; which led me to learn these new things that will help me quit again. See everything happens for a reason.
Thanks Pea, you Peas of shit.