Tag Archives: Counselor

Scared… Am I losing it?

Some days it feels as if a big block of cement is sitting inside my chest. Even worse,  it feels like it can explode at any moment in thousands of pieces,  leaving a big black ball of rage,  irritation,  anxiety,  fear and doubt.

I am anxiously trying not to bump into anything to set it off – I am scared to death to come face-to-face with that big black ball of fire.  I want to keep it there,  hidden,  well away from my consciousness.

This was how I woke up today – I’ve tried to ignore it,  tried to listen to music, tried to read to get my mind on other things,  tried to go to sleep – but I am way too anxious,  so in the end I decided to blog about it – trying to give words to what I feel.  That way,  I hope to get some measure of control over what is happening.  Feeling out of control is frightening,  as we all know…

As much as I want to keep functioning no matter which mood I am in,  there are some moods that are very,  very hard to deal with.  This is clearly one of them.  I am agitated, anxious, afraid.  I want control over my life,  over my mood,  but I know that control can be a oxymoron:  we sometimes are deluded into thinking we have a measure of control,  when in reality we don’t.

That I don’t have control of my moods is at times a hard enough pill to swallow.   In the last several years I have learned ways to cope with my moods and be in more control of how I respond to the unexpected shifts and mood swings.  Feeling like I don’t have control over how to respond to my mood is down right scary.

Last week has been a tough one – I had several appointments outside of the house.  Some tough things to deal with emotionally.  And most of all:  I have been bone tired…  Of course,  having had the flu the week before hasn’t helped either.

I so much want to be able to pick up life outside of my home – getting into a voluntary job for several hours a week,  growing into more and more hours in a pace that suits my needs.

Right now I am scared that the way I feel is due to the past hectic week.  It depresses me to even think that I might not be ready for being busier,  or ready to tackle a voluntary job…

I need to slow some things down – look back and prioritize the things I am involved in.  Taking a step back might feel like defeat – but in actual fact is pure wisdom to not go crazy.  As my counselor said:  “Think about what you want to do,  instead of what you or others say you should be doing,  and do it.”

Photo credit: Strange Cosmos

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My bio: A personal history of my Bipolar Disorder – part 2

This is a continuation from part 1  

I had lived abroad since Summer 1994 being involved in two different social projects.  For most of that time I was hypomanic and consequently achieved very much.  Looking back I also see the down right mean side of that period,  hurting people in the process.  I had sudden anger outbursts that I didn’t understand.  I could make mean and hurtful comments,  not knowing myself why I was acting that way.

Many times I asked for forgiveness and just as many times I received it.  I am very blessed with the fact that during this period I did not lose any relationships,  opposite to my time in college when I did alienate and hurt friends and lost their friendship.

Even during those years I hit an all time low and was depressed for a good year.  Since I had also become seriously ill,  I used the illness as a cover up so people didn’t know I was depressed.  After a year I was able to return to the same project and pick up my work.

The last project involved working with youth in schools and girls on the street.  I was doing way too many things all at the same time.  Suddenly,  on top of that,  I received a letter from my parents in June 2005.  This was such a shock to my system that I literally fell ill.  I had tried several times to bridge the gap between us,  but every time it was made very clear that no contact was desired.  So this was like a bomb shell.


Together with some other circumstances it caused a severe burn-out.  A stay in America for 3 months in 2006 turned into more than three years.  I am very blessed,  however,  with my counselor who has been so willing to support me over all those years,  before and after my diagnosis.  Even now,  since my sudden return to my home country the Netherlands in Summer 2009,  we continue our sessions over Skype. 

Those years between 2005 and 2010 have been excruciatingly difficult and painful.  I have lived through many difficulties (including a nomadic lifestyle) during those years,  together with working through past trauma’s and trying to find ways to deal with my bipolar traits. 

I had been very suicidal for one and a half years,  even before my trip to the States.  I had concrete and detailed plans where I would not be found alive.  It was not so much that I wanted to die,  it was simply that I could not continue to live in such pain and despair. 

The only reason I am still alive and kicking today is because the Lord saved me from committing suicide.  I can not tell you how He did it,  because I don’t know,  just that He did.  And to tell you the truth,  I wasn’t even grateful in the first few years!!!

At some stage I started to understand that  ‘being suicidal’  is part and parcel of BD.  It is not part of  ‘me’  as such.  In the process I came to realise that I have a choice in how to respond and at some point  I decided not to entertain thoughts of suicide as a way out any longer.  This doesn’t mean that thoughts of suicide don’t pop up at times,  of course they do.  But I am able to handle it,  it doesn’t endanger me anymore. 

I am glad to say that by now I am overall glad to be alive.  For the first time in many years I am looking forward to the future.  I have plans and dreams and there is a live waiting for me to live.  I am committed to live that life,  with bipolar traits and all,  to the best of my ability!

Picture courtesy of StrangeCosmos

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Bipolar Disorder: Peeps that are important

P-doc (BD talk for psychiatrist)

(S)He is important.  I wouldn’t go with any other type of mental health doctor or whatever names they happen to carry.  If possible of course.  I am aware that in the States the health care system and health insurance work differently than here.  My insurance allows me to choose my p-doc,  lucky me.

I even switched p-docs because I found the one I had not capable of dealing with my assertiveness.  And p-doc’s expertise – hm – not too experienced with mood disorders.  Now I have an excellent p-doc,  easy enough because I selected him on his expertise and willingness to work with me on my terms.  (Which is a co-operation in case you were wondering.)

Counselor

To me,  my counselor is vitally important as well.  In my humble opinion, meds are never enough when dealing with psychiatric illnesses.

The reason being,  that counseling or talk-therapy teaches you:

  • what our symptoms look like;
  • how to recognize our symptoms when they arise;
  • to deal with our symptoms to the best of our ability;
  • to learn about the things that can trigger our episodes;
  • to deal with any emotional luggage we are carrying around that     hinders our well-being;
  • to deal with trauma’s we might have;
  • to lead a healthier life.

It provides us with the opportunity to:

  • share our highs and lows;
  • be totally upfront about our functioning or lack of it;
  •  receive support from a professional who will never condemn or judge us;
  • have somebody who is always ‘on our side’ as (s)he has our best interests at heart.

It took me a long time to learn to trust my counselor,  but,  boy,  what a blessing once I could!  Many times he has been a rock in my ever-changing world.  This was especially true since I moved around a lot as I didn’t have my own place.  My weekly appointments with him have given me a steadiness I desperately needed.

Also,  what I like very much about my counselor is his approach of BD and our emotions in general.  BD is not something we are a victim of.  Meaning that we don’t have to sit around and wait for the next episode and survive it the best we can.  There is more to it,  thankfully.  As we learn to recognize our symptoms and triggers,  we can also learn how to better deal with them.  This way,  we can influence what happens once we face a trigger or we feel an episode lurking / starting.

I am aware that emotions do trump and sometimes we  just have to ride out the storm.  Sometimes what happens can be way too much for us to handle.  But that is when we turn to our p-doc and counselor.  And to our support network.

Support network
We need more than our p-doc and counselor.  People around us who are close to us and recognize our mood swings are so important to have.  There are three good friends that know exactly what mood I am in when they talk to me.  Even over the phone.  We have the kind of friendship that allows them to be up front with me,  question and challenge me.

They will ask questions like:  ‘do you think that is wise?’,  ‘should you really do this?’,  ‘I think you are doing too much (or too little)’,  ‘isn’t it time to think about coming down from your hypomanic?’,  ‘how is your sleeping going?’,  ‘you can come and stay with us any time,  you know that,  don’t you?’.

Depending on the situation,  I do or do not like those questions.  It is down right irritating at times.  But at the same time I am so grateful that those friends are in my life!!  Because there will be times when they recognize an episode earlier than I do.  At times they will keep tabs on me,  when life is not going well for me.  At times they are very practical.  Like coming over when I am severely depressed and getting my house in order.  Or letting me come and stay at their house and taking care of me.  Precious,  folks,  precious!!

So I would advise you to have people like that around you.  To allow them to ask questions, challenge you,  take care of you.  It’s not an easy task,  for them or for you.  But it will allow you to live your life to the fullest,  knowing there is a safety net when you fall.  Even more than that:  it is designed to prevent you from making the fall.  Actually,  even more than that:  to keep functioning to the best of your ability.

Other interesting posts:

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Symptoms

Medical treatment

Why mood charting?

Mood charting revisited

How to help people with a mental illness

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