Tag Archives: Bipolar Disorder

How Do You Deal With Unpredictability?

The one thing I dislike most about my mood disorder is the fact it is so darn unpredictable.

If being crazy is described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome,  I am not sure if I am crazy.  Experience tells me my mood is a balancing act and doing the same thing definitely does not give the same outcome!

I can miss a night and nothing changes or miss a night and all sorts of mood shifts happen.  Other times I miss a night to get myself out of depression – and it works,  but it’s not a given. Even though I know it is not the best way to deal with mood shifts,  I think we all at one time or other deal ‘unconventionally’ with it.  Yes?

Sometimes I can drink alcohol and all is fine with the world the next day.  Other times however,  I wake up in a funk that can last a while.  I discovered some months ago that when I have a full belly,  I can tolerate alcohol without any seeming side effects.  Since I love me some dry red wine,  I was ecstatic!  But because I haven’t been drinking it for years,  my memory has made it more delicious than the reality proofs to be.  Such a shame 😦

As I am dealing with a lot of tiredness,  from work,  allergies and diabetes,  I sometimes don’t know if I am plain overtired or depressed.  In both cases I end up doing nothing and not interested in doing things I previously enjoyed doing.  I force myself in going to the gym every Wednesday morning.  It helps it is right around the corner at my physiotherapists office in a small group  (up to 6 people) under the guidance of a physiotherapist.  I really enjoy it.  However,  I don’t enjoy getting up  –  which takes me about an hour.  And after fitness,  most of the time I need a nap to recover!

Of course the biggest unpredictable aspect of a mood disorder is when your mind plays its tricks on you.  When you wake up in a funk or hyper for no reason whatsoever.  Also,  you never are sure about the triggers of a mood swing.  I usually know if my mood is triggered and by what or if it is chemical, my brain ‘misfires’.  It does help to be able to distinguish between the two.

When a trigger is the cause,  I deal with the trigger as best I can, which influences the mood I am in.  Or at least,  it should :-).  If the trigger is a high stake emotional response that I can’t deal with on my own,  I know that (usually) within a week I’ll speak with my counselor and we’ll deal with it together.  Since about a half a year,  through knowledge and experience,  I am able to keep going even when the path is rough.

When the reason is a misfiring of the brain – the only thing I do is accept it and ride it out as best as I can.  The survival technique I turn to is mindfulness – staying in the moment and not allowing my mind to wander off too much.

Acceptance is the key word in both instances.  To accept the fact you are triggered and the trigger itself or to accept the fact that this is the way your brain works at times.  This I find not easy,  at times it is a real struggle.  But when I am able to accept either one,  it helps me enormously in continuing my normal life. Whatever normal means,  of course!

What is most important to me is to be able to function whichever is the cause.  I do not allow my mood disorder to define me – so I want to be the one in charge and not the mood disorder.

What are your ways to deal with the unpredictability?  Please share in the comments and link up to your own posts how you deal with this.  I won’t be the only one who is interested in broadening the tool box!

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Recovery or remission. What is the answer?

Often,  when I read about ‘suffering from a bipolar disorder episode’ it is usually followed by ‘recovering’ from it.  To reach the state of recovery seems to be the answer to all other states of bipolar.

My dictionary-loving mind gets to work immediately. 😉

Recovery is:

  • recuperation
  • healing
  • getting well
  • returning to health

Recuperation is a gradual healing (through rest) after sickness or injury.  Not really applicable to bipolar disorder as such.

Healing?  Sure,  bring it on!  Unfortunately,  this is not very likely when taking the nature of bipolar disorder in to account.

Getting well – what does thát mean?  I am doing pretty well during my hypomania,  me thinks…

In order to return to health,  you must have had health in the first place.  Not sure about that one either.

In remission

Another term I come across in literature is ‘in remission’,  meaning:

  • an abatement in intensity or degree (as in the manifestations of a disease)

The associated meaning to me is the danger or threat of the manifestations to return.  Do you really want to live in fear?

To me,  those are not just words,  but an understanding of bipolar disorder and the goals you have.  If you think it is only possible to reach a state of recovery or remission,  that is as far as you will get.

“The only thing that does not change, is change itself.”

Leo Veness  (source)


As Leo Veness,  you know one thing for sure,  your mood IS going to change,  sooner or later.  So,  being ‘in recovery’ or ‘in remission’ is always,  always going to be temporarily.  Which is good and bad news.  Good,  because you eventually battle or swing your way back to it.  Bad,  because there is the fear of ‘falling back’.

recovery or remission

Re-evaluation

When first being diagnosed I felt I needed to re-evaluate my life.  What are my goals?  What do I want to achieve in life?  Does bipolar disorder change my original view of and goal in life?  And if so,  how do I adapt?

Each of you has to answer these questions in order to become comfortable with who you are.  And who you are happens to include bipolar disorder.  But it certainly is not all.  There is a whole lot more to you.

In my re-evaluation I had to change how to achieve my goals.  Also,  a huge dose of patience has been added to the time frame.  It isn’t always easy to accept my bipolar traits.  At times they stand in the way of living life.  But that does not change what I want out of life,  nor what I am aiming for.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” 

Dr. Seuss  (source)

Each day my goal is to accept who I am.  Including the mood I am in.  It doesn’t matter to me if that state is called ‘in recovery’,  ‘in remission’,  hypomania,  depressed or mixed.

My answer to whatever bipolar disorder state I happen to be in,  is to live my life with all that I am and can be at that moment.

It is not easy.  Acceptance of yourself,  your shortcomings,  even your strong points,  is hard work.  But it makes all the difference in life!

What is your answer?

Picture used with permission from artist Nessa Smith

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Do you know who you really are?

Who am I?

Since my burn-out in 2005 life has never been the same.

I thought I knew myself.  I was driven,  a perfectionist,  an introvert,  opinionated,  inflexible, an  overachiever and extremely responsible.  I could also be easily irritated and  had anger outbursts for no obvious reasons.  Break-downs and depression were part of life.  In my thinking I was weak for not being able to stick things out.  Consequently,  my self-esteem was pretty low,  I felt unlovable.  Also,  I couldn’t really see any positive side of myself.  And if I did,  the positive aspects were soon overthrown by the negative.

When in January 2007  I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (BD),  it was a relief to know that some of those characteristics were inherent to the illness.  Sudden anger outburst?  Irritability?  Inflexible?  Break-downs?  All part and parcel of BD.

As I struggled through the next years a lot of time and energy went into surviving my circumstances.  It felt like passing through an enormous desert with no end in sight.  Only recently I started emerging from there,  leaving the sand behind,  feeling stronger footing underneath.

This whole journey of survival,  moving internationally twice,  being homeless,  jobless,  and having BD has been an extraordinary challenge.

It also left me wondering:  Who am I?

Identity

Dictionary.com describes the word ‘identity’ as follows:

  1. The state of having unique identifying characteristics held by no other person.
  2. The individual characteristics by which a person or thing is recognized.

In other words,  you have distinguishing features that makes you,  well,  you!

Your identity is made up of genetic,  biological,  psychological  and  social attributes.  In fact,  you are very intricately made.  There are so many  factors that makes you,  you.

But my trouble is:  what constitutes the illness and what comprises ‘me’?

Yes,  I have a predisposition for BD,  say the genetic and biological characteristics.  But the psycho-social environment has its own influence,  both in upbringing and today.

The difference for me,  is that during my upbringing others were in control,  while now *I* am in control.  Or at least that is the goal. 😉

Bipolar Disorder 

So,  what part of me is BD and what part is ‘me’?

The last couple of weeks I have been doing really well.  To such an extent that I am checking myself constantly if I am getting hypomanic.  So far,  so good.  I think.

You see,  I still don’t know what my ‘normal’ is.  Since my diagnosis my circumstances have never been stable.  Only recently things have been looking up.

I do know and recognize my bipolar traits really well,  for me,  that is not the issue.  It is the personal side that I am wondering about.

What about you?

Do you know who you are?  Is it important to you to know your identity apart from your illness?

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Home is where I want to be!

Photo credit:  jurvetson

A few weeks ago I had a  totally new experience.

Friends asked me,  last-minute,  if I liked to take care of their house while they were away.  Since you already know I love the beach and it is about ten minutes biking distance from their home,  how could I say no?

So, I took my bunnies under one arm and my suitcase under the other to enjoy their house and the beach.

It took a while for the bunnies to settle.  But strange enough,  it took me a while too!

Not that anything was amiss with the house,  the rain was another story though.  Not much beach time…

Some things didn’t really work out well,  which made me real angry.  That is,  until I received insight in this matter during a session with my counselor (did I tell you he is good? Now I did!).

Now,  since 1994 I have lived in a gazillion different places spread over four countries.  Honestly,  it is impossible to count since I became really nomadic towards the end.  It must be close to 50.  I know,  just thinking about it makes me feel crazy!

I have lived in my apartment exactly a year and two days.  The sixth place to live in since I arrived back in the Netherlands on July 1st,  2009.  At least.  So it’s no surprise that it has taken me a while to get settled.

Apparently,  I have some sort of routine at home – something that makes me feel safe to some extent.  Or at least settled.  It’s not much of a routine,  you might not even recognize it,  but it is there!

In actual fact,  the couple of weeks before I left,  I was really doing well and starting to enjoy myself.  Another new experience.  To suddenly drop to the bottom was nasty.

Of course I know that change for bipolars is hard.  But this time I didn’t just know it,  I totally experienced it.  Since my emotions are coming to life,  life has become totally different.  In the good sense,  enjoyment,  and the less good,  anger,  trapped,  abandoned.  Note:  I don’t say bad.  Cuz even what you could consider ‘bad’ emotions are good,  because they serve a purpose.  But that’s stuff for another post ;).

How did I survive all those changes for all those years?  By being in utter and complete survival mode.  I didn’t know anything else anyway.

Now I know.  Feel.  Experience.  Emote.

When sitting on your legs too long,  they fall asleep.  When you try to stand,  your legs are pretty useless,  they can’t hold you up.  When they are released from ‘entrapment’ and come to life once again,  it stings ferociously.  Quite painful really.  But it is a good sensation,  because it enables you to use your legs again and walk.

Well,  I am still in the ‘quite painful’ state and I am only learning to walk.  I might not have much sense yet of what ‘home’ and ‘safe’ really means,  but I have an inkling and I long for more.

And I know:

One day I will run!

One day I will fly!

One day I will be totally at home and take it with me where ever I go…

Ps Sorry,  no picture of my home since I am in the middle of replanting houseplants and painting part of the corridor and kitchen.  It’s a real mess now everywhere,  but it will be great!

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Are bipolars by definition Highly Sensitive People?

Photo credit:  Renett Stowe

Highly Sensitive People
According to the dictionary,  highly sensitive means:  readily affected by various agents.

Wikipedia says that a highly sensitive person (HSP) is someone having the innate trait of high psychological sensitivity (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Jung originally coined it). According to Elaine N. Aron and colleagues as well as other researchers, highly sensitive people, who comprise about a fifth of the population, may process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems.

While the concept clearly isn’t new,  the interpretation and it’s consequences for daily life have been studied by Eileen Aron Ph.D. since 1991. She has written several books on the subject and continues to do research together with her husband Arthur Aron.  She calls it Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS) as that is the trait’s scientific term.

Some of the characteristics of SPS :

  1. You tend to be easily startled, and often overwhelmed by loud sensory inputs.
  2. You tend to be cautious and highly conscientious.
  3. You are easily shaken up and distressed by changes, and don’t do well in “multitasking” situations.
  4. You are often negatively affected by loud noises, strong scents and smells, or bright lights.
  5. You tend to be “cooperative,” rather than “competitive.”
  6. You get easily rattled in stressful situations.
  7. You are often deeply empathic and frequently “pick up moods” from other people.
  8. Even when extraverted, you tend to be introspective, have a rich inner life, and need a lot of time alone.
  9. You are disproportionately drawn to the arts and music, and tend to be very easily moved to tears by expressions of beauty and intensity, as well as images of horror and violence. (Source)

To find out if you are a HSP you take a self-test which is based on empirical research,  by answering questions related to characteristics such as above.  At a certain score you are considered a HSP.  Congratulations! 😉

Causes
While I have no question that HSPs exist since I know quite a number of people,  (including myself),  being highly sensitive in different ways,  I do wonder what exactly the cause is for experiencing these traits.

  • Are you born that way?  SPS is a ‘biological difference in the nervous system’,  what does that mean?  There is no medical test to prove it…  (and yes,  in some ways I have the same questions about bipolar – but that is for another post.)
  • Have circumstances made you that way?  For example your upbringing,  social position,  education,  job,  etc.  But while I know a friend of mine is a HSP,  his brother is not. So what is the deal with that?
  • What about the consequences of sustained trauma acting as highly sensitive traits?  Such as hyper-vigilance (having to protect yourself from further trauma),  or being sensitive to what others feel (because you have learned to take care of your parents’ needs or else there were consequences).
  • Can SPS be part of an illness?  Of course my first thoughts go to bipolar disorder!  Since I have both,  I really don’t know,  but I do wonder…

So,  help me out please?  Any thoughts,  experiences,  opinions?

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Cure or no cure?!

All right,  even though it has taken much longer than I expected,  let’s get back to the post Can bipolar disorder be cured? and the question I finished with:

Would you allow me to suggest that there is a possibility to get your disorder ‘in order’?

Today I like to begin answering the question with offering the following musings.

There is more
My ‘problem’ is that I am a fighter.  I simply can’t accept a diminished life because somebody else tells me so.  Nor can I accept that I will be on meds the rest of my life because a pdoc says so. Even so I am realistic.  Of course bipolar in its disordered form has cost me much.  And most likely there will be times where it will cost me still.  But I don’t want to dwell there.

Because I believe there is so much more to my and your life.  So.much.more.

Real stability

cure for bipolar disorder

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You see,  to reach real stability is not to be ‘in remission of symptoms’ , or be afraid when the next episode will roar its ugly head.  It is not avoiding any stressor,  trigger,  or situation that might possibly set off an episode.  It is not responding on autopilot to whatever happens.

I want you to look further than these types of statements and challenge your view of yourself and the way you function:

Simply living with this illness is a major achievement, so give yourself credit.

Stress is toxic to anyone with a mood disorder, so every effort needs to be made to reduce stressful situations.

Since bipolar disorder is a brain malfunction,  there is not much you can do about it.

For me,  I much rather put all my energy in living my life,  than trying to avoid stress,  avoid possible triggers or being afraid for the other shoe to drop.  Because be not mistaken:  to avoid all these things takes a lot of energy that can be used differently in a way that builds you up and makes you stronger.

Don’t get me wrong: I do know first hand how debilitating the illness can be.  I do not take it lightly.  I can’t.  It has cost me way too much.  In months and years spent in deep depression.  In being suicidal.  In my hypomania getting out of control.  I totally recognize the seriousness of those times.  But I don’t wanna get stuck there.  I want to move on.

Which requires study.

Become a student
You need to become a student of your own disorder.  You need to know absolutely everything about it.  What are your triggers?  What are the signs of your different types of mood?  How does sleep or lack thereof influence your mood?  How do you respond to stress?  What happens when you have a row with your partner, children,  family,  or friend?  What helps you to deflect depression?  What are the signs your hypomania is getting out of control?  What action do you need to take to come down from hypomania?  Have you build a good working relationship with your mental health professionals?  Are you an active participant in your own treatment?  Do you work hard in your talk-therapy to get the most out of your life?

In time you become an A+ student and your reward is the ability to recognize your condition,  to stand back and have the freedom to choose how you respond based on what you have learned about yourself and your bipolar disorder.  You will no longer be the victim of an illness that you feel you can’t control.  In time you will react differently to the same situation in comparison to the past.

What is the challenge?
Because really,  the challenge is not to ‘survive’ your illness,  but to function no matter what situation you get into,  no matter what stress throws at you or which triggers you encounter.

Flickr credit: katerha/5807967450

That is why I believe that it doesn’t really matter what the cause of bipolar disorder is,  as long as you change the pile of jigsaw pieces into your own beautiful picture of your life lived to the fullest.  Through your studying,  you begin to get the disordered heap sorted out.  Yes,  it is a huge pile.  Yes,  it takes a while.  Yes, frustration is part of it.  But oh,  it is so worthwhile,  especially when you see a glimpse of what is to be!

Cure
That said,  I have nothing against researchers finding the gen responsible for bipolar disorder  and consequently finding a cure.  But I,  for one,  am not going to wait and waste my time for science to catch up with my life.  Are you?

Further reading:

Are you a victim or a survivor?
Bipolar in Order by Tom Wootton, a book review

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11 Difficulties of diagnosing bipolar disorder

Photo credit: Abode of Chaos

It is not uncommon for us,  bipolars,  to receive our correct diagnosis about 10 years after we first go to a doctor.  There are a myriad of reasons why this happens.  Below I have compiled a list of the main difficulties of diagnosing Bipolar Disorder (BD).

  1. BD is a complex illness with a wide range of symptoms that play out differently for each person.
  2. Besides,  BD is in reality a spectrum of different types which are easily misdiagnosed as Anxiety Disorder,  Schizo-Affective Disorder or a Personality Disorder.
  3. In addition,  mixed episodes are really difficult to detect since symptoms of both (hypo)mania and depression coexist.
  4. BD usually starts with one or more (up to 5) episodes of depression before (hypo)mania hits.  Hence,  patients are often misdiagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.
  5. As the medical journey many times starts with the GP it is vitally important that he is able to be aware of the differences in unipolar and bipolar depression.  Sadly this is not the case for the majority of GP’s.
  6. It is an art to be able to ask the right questions in order to find out if someone is also suffering from (hypo)mania.
  7. If the right questions are being asked,  the patient still has to recognize the symptoms in his own life.  This is made even harder since the patient might not be aware of the symptoms,  as it seems to him his normal life.
  8. Also,  because of the stigma of a mental illness (where depression is a far more acceptable diagnosis) it is easy to downplay any possible symptoms that point to BD.
  9. Especially when the patient is (ultra) rapid cycling he doesn’t meet the criteria for BD plus he is even more likely to encounter difficulties in recognising symptoms in his own life.
  10. Family history plays an important part in susceptibility for BD.  However,  the likelihood of (grand)parents being undiagnosed is huge.  Furthermore the family medical history might not be known.
  11. Other complicating factors are certain diseases which mimic some symptoms of BD,  like lupus,  Lyme disease,  thyroid disorder and epilepsy,  amongst others.
For further reading:

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Emotional intelligence & bipolar disorder

A lot is written about emotional intelligence,  I got totally lost in it.  However,  I decided not to bore you with the history of it nor the different opinions about the validity to call it intelligence or how it can (not) be measured scientifically.

What you and I are really interested in,  after all,  is how it applies to bipolar disorder.  Right?
Photo credit:  Child Therapy Toys

What is Emotional Intelligence (EI)
In short,  emotional intelligence is the emotional strength we have,  especially in the face of adversity.  In other words,  it tells us something about how good we are in overcoming the difficulties we face in life.  Thus,  we can also speak of emotional competencies,  which might be more accurate than to rate it as a form of intelligence.

We,  as bipolars (as well as others with a chronic illness),  have the advantage to train ourselves in emotional intelligence as we face more difficulties in life than the average “normal” (or healthy) person.  Aren’t you glad?  Yeah,  me neither.

Daniel Goleman, Ph. D.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s model identifies 4 competencies or skills:

    1. Self-awareness
      *the ability to read one’s emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
    2. Self-management
      *involves controlling one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
    3. Social awareness
      *the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
    4. Relationship management
      *the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.

#1 Self-awareness
The ability to read one’s emotions ~ truth be told,  I have often a difficult time to figure out what exactly I am feeling.  Counseling is helping us with learning to recognize our emotions for what they are.  Also,  not in the least important for bipolars,  it helps us to know what caused that particular emotion. Without that knowledge it is hard to respond in an upbuilding manner towards myself and others.

#2 Self-management
As is well-known,  adapting to change is more difficult for bipolars.  Some of us even suffer from the seemingly necessary evil of Daylight Savings Time (can someone shoot the person who invented this? Oh,  wait,  he is probably already dead).
Even though we have often learned to squash our emotions and impulses as it can bring us a lot of grief,  again through therapy we learn to control and use our emotions to better ourselves and possibly others.

#3 Social awareness
Ha!  To comprehend and sense other people’s emotions is like a second nature,  at least for me.  At last something we are good at :)!  Our reactions,  however,  leave something to be desired at times…  That is exactly why many of us enter counseling,  to learn to deal with the emotional influence of others and ourselves.

#4 Relationship management
I think that by our bipolar nature and the need to overcome many obstacles,  many of us inspire and influence others unknowingly.  Managing conflict?  That seems to me a hard one to acquire,  for anyone.  But again,  in therapy  (and if you are not – I highly recommend it,  unless you already acquired all those skills of course) we learn to work that one out as well.

Why is EI important?
The level of EI distinguishes the star performer from the  average performer.  The fact that we have to work so much harder on acquiring those emotional skills fortunately doesn’t mean we can’t achieve them.  And become very capable in the process! Especially since we are so much more aware of the need to obtain those skills in order to be succesful in our daily lives.

Does that mean that we are at an advantage after all?

For further reading:
Daniel Goleman’s website
Wikipedia – Emotional intelligence
About.com – History of emotional intelligence

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To disclose … or not.

Photo credit:  KoshyK

My ‘policy’ of openness
In general I have taken the stance to be open about my condition of Bipolar Disorder.  I find it nothing to be ashamed of and if anything,  I feel I can use it to educate others about mental illness in general and BD in particular.  Because of the stigma attached to it,  I actually see education as an important part of being open about my condition.

Blog & future employer
When I started this blog I had this thought: ‘What when a potential employer,  who checks the web,  will find my blog?  Would I lose a job opportunity?’  The answer to this question for me was:  ‘It depends on how the potential employer will look at me.’  In my opinion,  my blog shows how I go about my life with mental illness and how I try to use it to my advantage,  instead of letting myself be victimized by it.

Latest job interview
You have to know that I have disclosed my condition with every voluntary job interview I have done so far.  Yet,  when I was applying for a job recently,  I decided not to disclose it.  Since I will be working mostly on my own in a little Documentation Center of a school,  I didn’t see the need to inform the coordinator about my condition.  As far as I can see,  it will not interfere with my duties.

Disclosure to youth group
Not so long ago I disclosed my condition to the youth group I am a team leader of together with other team leaders.  The age group is between 16 and 25 years.  The youth leader as well as I trust our youth to be able to accept it and  ask questions.

I shared with them the facts about Bipolar Disorder – not my emotions.  With keeping it factual and comparing it with another chronic disease (diabetes),  I think I made it easier on them to follow my story.

Possible consequences
One of the consequences of sharing with the youth group is that most likely they talk about it with their parents.  I have to say that at first I sort of shrugged this of.  My initial thoughts were:  ‘So what if they know it,  too?  That is not a problem for me.’

There is one BUT,  though.

It is not all about me…

Meaning that my initial honest and sincere wish to be open might have effects that I did not oversee.  My goal by becoming a youth leader was to serve the youth.  They should be the center,  not me.  Especially not a non-issue about if someone with a mental illness is fit to be a youth leader or not.  Because if this becomes an issue with the parents,  who knows what will happen?  In any case,  it will disrupt the goal I set before me…

Future ‘policy’
Although I can’t change anything because what is done,  is done,  I can review my ‘policy’ of openness.  Would I have done the same thing with this all in mind?

So,  I am very curious:

What if you know or suspect that the ‘recipients’ of the information about your condition are NOT able to deal with it.  Would you keep it confidential for the sake of the recipients?

In other words:  What would you have done / do in my place?

Please,  let me know by writing me a comment below or using the  “Contact Me”  form at the top of this page.  I am looking forward to your response!  Thank you 🙂

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To stress or not to stress…

This post is a follow up from Coping with stress

Photo credit:  purplemattfish

Since stress is a given in life and no one is immune to it,   we better learn to deal with it in a way that builds us up instead of tears us down.

First we need to identify where our stress is coming from.   There are two main factors:
External factors: work;  relationships;  family;  moving house;   getting married;  getting a baby.
Internal factors: nutrition;  emotional well-being;  sleep & rest;   overall health and fitness.

Some questions
We have to ask ourselves some questions where we look at our habits and attitude to life.   For instance:
How are our sleeping and eating habits working for us?
How do we approach life’s events?
Who in our opinion is responsible for dealing with the stress in our life?

Enter Bipolar Disorder
In this respect,   we as bipolars are already dealing with a lot of internal and external stress by default.  Our emotional well-being is not a given,   instead it is the biggest challenge in our lives to achieve.

As far as sleep habits go,  I know for myself that it changes as much as the direction of the wind,  as do my eating habits.   My overall health usually leaves something to be desired and my exercise is mostly lacking.

We,  as well as those around us,  are often dealing with challenges concerning relationships,  including family relationships,  because of our bipolar.   Having a job and keeping it can be a challenge in itself.   We don’t do too well with change.  Even the stupid changes of day-light-savings-time can be a disturbing factor!

What can we (as in:  all of us)  do?

Furthermore, it is important to locate the stressors and to know what we can or can’t do. Where possible, we change the situation by either avoiding or altering the stressor. If we can’t change the situation, we need to change our response by adapting or accepting the stressor.  (Quote)

Avoid the stressor
For instance,  if I am not doing well with big gatherings,  I need to make a choice in attending a family gathering,  party or other social function.   Is it absolutely necessary that I attend or is it acceptable if I don’t?

Recently,   I made the choice not to join the youth to an event where 30.000 youth will be gathered.  As a youth leader,  it is beneficial for me to be there and experience it with the youth together.  Yet,   I don’t handle big crowds very well,  let alone thát big of a crowd!

Thankfully,  there are enough other youth leaders and/or parents who will go,  so I get to stay home.  Thus I am able to avoid the stressor.

Alter a stressor
On another occasion,   our church had organized a long weekend away to spend some quality time together as a church.  I really wanted to go,   but had a lot of stressors to deal with at the time.   This meant I needed a place to be by myself,  have time to rest,  be away from the crowd.

After explaining my situation,  it then was solved by the organizers and I was to share an apartment with a small family, together with a good friend of mine.  Normally those apartments are solely for families.   The normal situation being altered,  made it possible for me to join the get-away.   And as it turned out,  I did use the apartment when I needed it.

Adapt to a stressor
For this year’s church get-away I have considered to adapt and camp instead of being housed.  This would have worked well,   since I would have my own tent.  Together with my earplugs  (a lot of the families like to camp)   it would have had my own little place.

Unfortunately,   there are other circumstances that prevent me from going this year.  We are only going from Friday night till Sunday lunch time. That is a very short time to make so many changes,   especially as I have just started a voluntary job and have to be back at work on Monday at 10 o’clock.

Accept the stressor
When my father passed away last Summer,   I had to learn to accept that nothing was going to change between us anymore.  Up till that point,   I still had hope that some day,   something might change in our relationship (which was unfortunately very dysfunctional and necessarily distant in time and place).  With his passing,  I knew that was not going to happen ever.

Even though it robbed me of my hope,  at the same time it set me free.   I didn’t have to try anymore,  I could let go and simply be.   No more (false) responsibilities to carry about our relationship.   On this side of life it is all over.  I am still doing my grieving, but accepting?  It turned out that it wasn’t so hard.  Surprisingly to me.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  courage to change the things I can,  and wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity Prayer

Good read:

Stress management ~ How to reduce,  prevent,  and cope with stress.

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