Last night I took to writing longhand after experiencing what now seems to have been, basically, an adult temper tantrum (I couldn’t fall back asleep – woke up at 2:00 AM and started to lose it around 4:00AM… Yes, it really does make me flip out) I’ve begun to wonder just how much of bipolar disorder is merely a character flaw just like anything else – something I must continue to work through and recognize as a problem. People would probably disagree with me but sometimes I’m just not sure anymore. It is never something to lean on/manipulate with/or abuse… But I’ve been guilty of all three.
After reading what I wrote, it’s hard to believe any of it came out of me at all. The words are harsh but sad. I remember there were times I stopped my pen and asked myself, “Why are you even writing this?” Which is great — I believe that was conviction of the Holy Spirit. Illness is a drainer. Illness insomniatic. I struggled for hours last night feeling so ashamed for the stress I might have put on my child. To be completely frank, he/she is helping! I hate knowing I’m responsible for two beating hearts – so if when I cry and my heart races, I hate knowing I could be causing internal damage to something so incredibly precious to me. So in a nutshell, all the better motivation/reason to stay under control and just say NO. I never wanted my child to see me cry, but they’re feeling it in the womb.
I hope they don’t fall into this thing of mine. I hope they can look at me and see strength, maturity, patience and love.
As Creed so wonderfully puts it in “With Arms Wide Open”…
You’ve gone and done it! You feel like you’ve got it all figured out and the situation has escalated out of control… oh, but in such a pleasurable way! Your body is on fire — you can literally feel a raging storm of ideas and productivity scratching at your brain. You’re unstoppable, flying high and can accomplish anything. In fact, who needs sleep? Sleep is for suckers! Oh, and let that trash fester, watch the dishes pile and ignore the bills, because there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING that can stop the greatness that is about to happen!
Or is there?
During a manic episode, whether or not the period of mood is extreme elation or irritability, judgment lines get blurry and it can be hard to decipher what behavior is justifiable and what isn’t. Personally, for me, this is the most difficult and painful part of mania: recognizing it is happening and that it needs to stop. And yes, that part feels super duper lame-o.
But just how do you get to that point? Because bipolar disorder really is a physical disease that takes place in the brain, how do you fight something that feels completely natural and right? The chemicals and hormones that are shifting so violently within that head of yours – they’re making everything you’re doing feel normal and totally okay, not crazy and potentially dangerous to your health. Ugh!
In my experience, there are a few ways to slow yourself down. Some of the following suggestions you might have already heard of, others, maybe not so much. I hope they can be enlightening and helpful to you. I’m going to cover how to handle a manic situation at work, and if you think it’s great, then I’ll cover how to handle one at home next time.
If your manic attack is happening at work:
This isn’t going to be easy for me to write and is potentially embarrassing, considering I have not held down a stable job for more than five months at a time in the last few years. However, for me, five months is a considerably long time when taking a look at my illness and the previous severity it’s held. So here we go.
Regardless if you have a sit down job or one that requires you to stay active, feeling manic can make focusing on your tasks challenging. For me, monotonous tasks were the worst and made me consider doing some really nutty stuff when I was having an episode. An example of this could be working as a cashier, doing data entry, or even physical labor in a warehouse. You want to break routine. Everything feels excruciatingly boring, why do you have this stupid job, anyway? You’re better than this. OH! There’ s an idea. It’s totally logical, too, you’ll just walk out the back door and start up the business you always wanted on no income, or maybe you’ll take that trip to Hawaii you’ve been lusting after. Or maybe, you’ll start sleeping with that hot stranger across the street!
Sound familiar? All intrusive and self-directing thoughts, all of which are very damaging and quick to spiral out of your control. So what do you do?
If you CAN manage to feel just the slightest inkling of temptation that feels, well, maybe not so normal – stop everything you are doing immediately and quietly take a break. If you get 10 minute unpaid ones, take one now. If the attack seems like it’s going to stay for the rest of your shift, take your lunch. Don’t give yourself space, it’ll only make things feel simpler and the desire to conquer the world all the more appealing. Stay within the area, but distract yourself by taking a pen and paper and writing down these three questions:
Is what I’m feeling truthful? Is what I’m feeling safe? Is what I’m feeling necessary?
They might sound patronizing, but trust me, they work. The longer you spend explaining to yourself why your manic tendencies might be real AND a poor idea, the better chance you have of avoiding a week long dungfest. Above all else, direct prayer to the Lord is still my number one winner. Cry out to Him! Ask Him for guidance and for a still heart and mind, pray that what you put down for those three questions is legitimate and not manipulated by your illness to try and sneak you a way out of control.
For The Readers:
What has been the easiest approach to controlling your mania, whether at home or at work? How did you come to discover your method? When did it start to really help you Please share it in the comment box, and anything else you might like to discuss or add.