Coping with BPD: Skewed perceptions

I’m drinking tea from a measuring cup this morning because frankly, I haven’t had time to unpack everything yet! Nevertheless, I feel more settled now. I’m not dissociating even though this is a new neighborhood for me, so that is a relief.

There are two questions I’m getting used to asking when I get up in the morning.

  1. What state am I in? (manic, hypomanic, depressed)
  2. Am I functional enough to do things? If so, what can I manage and what can’t I manage?

The first one is important for someone with bipolar because that changes one’s perception of everything- interactions with others, self regard, view of the future and the past. If hypomanic perceptions are like rose colored glasses, depression is a very dark set of shades, and neither of them are proper representations of the truth; or if you’d like, realities most “normal” people see if they were in your shoes. If I know how skewed my vision is, I can manually correct my thinking one way or the other, with practice and if it’s not too severe. Less pink, or more light is needed. I’m being too optimistic or I’m catastrophizing.

It’s true that sometimes when we wear these colored glasses for too long, we forget that we are wearing them, and start to believe what we see behind the glasses. This is dangerous. For example, for me, when the suicidal thoughts get too loud, it’s all I hear, and that becomes my reality. I gets difficult to assess if these thoughts are “true”, because that is all that you hear. At this time, you need to hear someone else’s point of view to be able to course correct your thoughts, whether if that may be a family member, a friend or a suicide prevention hotline. It’s much easier to get hold of which tint you are looking through if they change frequently. Depression is easy to spot when you were hypomanic just yesterday, but not so easy if you’ve been down in the slumps for a whole month.

The second question is something that I ask throughout the day, but most importantly, at the beginning. Because I live in the city, once I decide to leave, take the subway out to another neighborhood, I usually have to commit to being out and about for the whole day. Even with breaks in coffee shops and quiet bookstores, it gets rowdy and anxiety provoking out there. I need to decide based on my assessment of my condition in the morning, whether if I’m fit to take the subway out a couple of stops into Manhattan, or if I should hang out and do chores in Brooklyn, or even, just stay at home and do laundry and feel like I’m well enough to fetch the mail from downstairs.

I think things would look different if I were more stable if my meds somehow eliminated the more extreme states, but with fluctuating mood and energy levels, I’m at a point where I need to be vigilantly self perceptive. I’m not yet an expert at figuring out how my day is going to go based on the few hours in the morning, of course. It can turn upside down because of when or what I ate before leaving the house, or if I run into something unexpected or unpleasant and get triggered (you will not believe what you see on the NYC subways, but that’s a story for another time). My body and mind are super sensitive to external events, which are totally out of my control. I strive to respond to them best as I can, but when I’m in my danger zones (severely depressed or hypomanic), I can’t get myself out of the deep end without the help from others- I mean, they don’t call this an illness for nothing.

At this point in my journey (and with this mood), I think that it’s possible to live with bipolar. But it’s definitely harder than is to live without the challenges. It’s like constantly being in an incubator all the time. I think that you need a lot of practice in order to see yourself clearly, and you also need to be humble. You need to be okay with being “wrong” about your perceptions and be more flexible with your thinking- which is so difficult when you are severely manic or severely depressed.

How do you cope with your daily schedule while riding the bipolar roller coaster?

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Buying furniture when you don’t feel like it

“You will be too much

for some people-

Those are not your people.”

-Source unknown

It’s (American) Thanksgiving today. I spent most of my functional portion of my day packing and begrudgingly buying furniture for my room online. I love furniture shopping on most days, but my mood was all over the place today. The really crappy thing about interior decorating when you’re in a mixed state (or if you’re just really indecisive) is you love one style (for me was modern industrial) and the next moment you’re drawn to something completely different (boho chic), so none of the furniture actually go together in a cohesive way. Maybe it’s better this way- it represents how I am, a paradox. A collection of things that coexist that probably shouldn’t.

So thanksgiving: I avoided thinking about today all day, because it’s a strong reminder of the friends who are no longer in my life, post-diagnosis. Friends basically used to be my family because I have very limited connection to the rest of my real family as the only child of an expat household. Good friends are like pillars for me, and a few of those came crumbling down after I my symptoms got worse and I was hospitalized. Partly it was my own doing because I hid my disorder from my coworkers out of shame, who were also part of group of friends. Thankfully not all of those pillars crumbled, and I found myself still standing. I realized that you need a different kind of person in your life with bipolar, if you can help it. You need someone who will be more hopeful for you when you can’t fathom still existing tomorrow. You need someone who will be there and believe your every word even it may in incomprehensible for them. You need kindness, patience and inner strength. I find that those are rare qualities we don’t often see in others because nowadays we as a society value competitiveness, efficiency and extravagance more than anything. Personally, I do still have a few friends who are these rare mythical creatures standing by me, and I couldn’t be luckier.

 

 

Unsettled

Really struggling today.

I get anxious about everything outside of the house. I’m the least anxious under the covers. I escape reality by oversleeping.

Usually drawing or writing grounds me, but it’s not working.

I’ve lost a lot of weight because we don’t have snacks around the house and mostly

because I don’t have an appetite.

Sleeping is difficult because I wake up every two hours. I started taking a higher dose my doctor prescribed PRN.

I’m trying to stay grounded, and trying to stay present. Trying to distract myself from bad thoughts and see thoughts and thoughts and nothing more. Meditating helps a little bit, but I feel so flat it’s hard to get in touch with myself. So I continue to distract, hoping that I’m not avoiding by doing so. My family has intervened, and started taking me out to mandatory walks in the park to get exercise. Like a frightened puppy. I close my eyes when we drive there because the roads here are so narrow and the drivers honk at every chance they get. Then I see myself slowly caving in, getting further from myself and others into a black hole where I can’t feel anything and I’m not aware of my surroundings.

I know I can get better. I’ve been better. I’ve been optimistic, and happy about who I was. I smiled when I walked down the street and I was confident. I’ve felt good and good about myself and I know it will come with time.

Somehow it all came together

Well, I almost lost my cat at the airport.

The frightened little thing un-harnessed herself by backing out and tried to make a run for it when I took her out of her carrier during the security check. I caught her hind legs and didn’t dare let her go because I think it might have become news if she got lost at O’hare international.

To start, we woke up in the morning and brought the rental truck to load our stuff. The movers and driver came and they were on their way to New York. We got on the plane, all three of us, including the cat. This sounds really spoiled but we flew first class because I wanted more leg room for my cat. My cat ended up doing pretty well during the trip- I didn’t give her sedatives but she ended up dozing off. The whole time she meowed only once! The flight attendant was another cat lover so we chatted about that. She said doesn’t see so many cats flying on board so she was surprised.

We got home and after feeding Olivia, getting the litter box out, we crashed.

This morning, the movers who drove our truck was on their way to storage. And our car battery had died as my mother had been in Chicago for months, so we had to get some help from roadside assistance so we could get to the storage place. But since the ETA for the Chicago movers was unclear, the movers on the New York side didn’t know what to do when it came time for them to help because my truck wasn’t their yet! 90 bucks an hour for two people, wasted… but it did get there. So we were able to finish up. During all this chaos, one of us were working on a contract with the storage unit (after seeing twenty different sizes), and the other, telling the movers on both sides what to do. And the car battery died again, so I was again in the phone with roadside services.

I’m about to return the truck now, which had to be refueled before returning. I need sleep.

Reflections: second last day in Chicago

Boxes, boxes everywhere. I’ve moved a lot in my life. Overseas, across the country, within the same city, within the same continent, you name it, I’ve done it. Yet it’s always a struggle. It’s more of a struggle for me this time than any of those times because my bipolar depression wasn’t in full bloom back then. I’m doing a lot better this month than I have since college, or forever really. When my psychiatrist asked in my last appointment when I last felt like myself, I had to pause and scratch my head a bit. Feeling like myself… huh… Did I ever feel that? Do I feel “normal” now? You learn to forget. How you feel becomes a new normal, then another new normal until you hit rock bottom. You can’t see the forest from the trees, and you can’t compare the gradual changes your brain goes through, as others can. Just like aging over time.

Chicago living has been pleasant, (sans bad experiences that could have happened anywhere else). The people are, as Midwesterners are known, nice. Places are more spacious for a lot cheaper, and people don’t give too much of a hoot about how they look (Not in a fashionable Parisian way, but in a utilitarian, it’s warm-it’s comfortable-and-I’m-going-to-wear-it way). It’s less cut throat. At least compared to the East Coast. The best words I can come up with are that I have grown here, but I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed my life here. There are still painful things that come up, like when someone I dated for a year broke my heart by breaking up with me at 2 am out of the blue, or the time my new boss told me that I was not learning quickly enough (during our first one-on-one), the time someone whom I considered as one of my best friends stopped talking to me during my worst time with my depression, the time I got hospitalized the first time, and the second time, and the time someone who meant a lot to me didn’t believe that my depression was very serious, or that I was trying to get better.

At the same time, there were small surprises here and there that made it all bearable. I found a group of friends that I really clicked with (read: found a book club with) from work who were kind, and saw my potential as a coworker/person. I adopted the most beautiful cat, who is my Emotional Support Animal. I have been in love and out of love, then in love again. I found the missing link to my life- the ultimate question, the truth about myself, “why was I so sad/guilty/depressed/down all the time?” (answer: I have an illness, and had it probably for awhile and it went untreated), complete strangers who wanted me to feel better while I was hospitalized/in treatment, the friends who visited me at the hospital, and most importantly, my parents who supported me through my struggles and stayed by my side.

Life is funny. When I got this job offer based in Chicago out of college two years ago, I had rejected the other ones closer to home, thinking that it was a good idea to move somewhere I’ve never been. Turns out, I didn’t know myself very well, or what I wanted. I wasn’t sure where home was, but I found myself telling my friends at my farewell brunch that “I’m going home.” So I guess, New York is home, then.

Trying our best

I used to be one of those ignorant people before I got (clinically) depressed, so I know where they are coming from. But Andrew Tate’s twitter comment about depression not being real? Ignorance is so real.

Those of us with invisible mental illnesses…To society, we might look like failures. But in reality, we’ve worked as hard or harder than anyone else, just to survive another day. Recovery is more than a full time job, and an accomplishment in itself- getting my diagnosis of bipolar II and the depressive episodes related to it were definitely the hardest things that I’ve had to face in my twenty-something years.

We might not look like we’re trying our best on the outside from your perspective, but trust us, we are. Not everyone functions the same way. We don’t have the same f(x) = y, certain input of energy and determination does not equal certain amount of result.

It’s my personal belief that everyone is doing their best in their given situation. It may not seem like it if you put yourself in our shoes, but that just means that you don’t have all the information. How someone grew up with certain values, hopes and dreams. Traumas they hid from you. Chronic pain. Mental Condition. Physical ailments. External environment. Relationships. The list goes on. We’re complicated. If you did know everything, you would understand why we are doing certain things a certain way, and that we’re brave enough to have gone through it all.

So don’t tell us to just “suck it up,” or berate us for being depressed. While there is tremendous amount of effort needed to recover and manage our illness, “sucking it up” doesn’t cure us, since our illness is not something we cannot control, but a constant battle to be fought.