And oh, how I’ve missed it. Writing every day was so much part of my routine, and it’s been way too long that I’ve been out of that groove. I can make all kinds of excuses: work has been crazy, I’ve been focused on my relationship, I have three new grandsons I love to spend time with. And they’re all true! But the real truth is, I just haven’t made the time. I’ve been doing really well for quite some time now. I really feel that I’ve got my illness under control, so how can I write about being bipolar? Well, I may not be dealing with all the craziness, but that doesn’t mean I stopped being bipolar, does it? It’s just different.
There are still issues and adjustments.
For me, being bipolar means a couple of different things. One is the obvious; all the crazy ups and downs and the consequences that go along with it. I’ve found and lost all kinds of employment. Relationships have come and gone. There has been self harm and hospitalizations.
It is my own special insanity.
But there’s another side too. All the influences of the disease that I’ve experienced more or less my whole life have left personality traits, perceptions, and behaviors that affect everyday life have to be relearned and redeveloped. It’s not as bad as dealing directly with the disease, but trust me, it isn’t easy either.
Obsessive compulsive disorder frequently goes along with bipolar personality disorder, and I’m no exception. Mine is more obsessive than compulsive though. I don’t have the rituals or repetitive behaviors that are typically related. Obsession though? You bet! Obsessive thinking is a predominate part of my illness. In either the manic or depressed states I’ll get a thought in my head that completely takes over rational thinking. I’ll have a sentence or even a phrase on replay over and over that blocks out the ability to process anything else. In fact, that type of obsessive thinking is a sign that I’m getting out of control. I’ve learned to listen to my thoughts, and make adjustments accordingly.
And, so far at least, it’s helped me maintain normality.
There are other types of obsessions that can be disruptive to daily living though. I take neatness to a whole new level. Everything has a place and it damned well better be there! Nothing sets me off quicker than going to get something and it not being where it’s supposed to be. I’ve lived by myself for some time now, so that really hasn’t been a problem. I know where things go, and if I need something, it will be there.
But I don’t live alone anymore.
So, I have this lady friend now… Lady friend, girlfriend, significant other, partner; whatever you want to call it. (Girlfriend sounds a little juvenile for someone my age though…). And after almost 3 years of dating, we decided to move in together the first of this year. And it’s wonderful to have that kind of relationship again.
And it’s driving me crazy.
I’m not saying she’s a slob, because she’s far from it. But she is easily distracted, and things we use frequently end up in different places then they are supposed to be. (Listen carefully and you can hear me start to hyperventilate…..) Every single day there’s a scavenger hunt to try and find something I use all the time. The spoons go in the fork slot; scissors are left where she last used them instead of going into the utensil jar on the counter; my tools seem to just disappear…
But she’s hyper sensitive to anything she perceives to be criticism. She’s come from a 30 year relationship where her husband emotionally abused her and completely robbed her of any self esteem. She’s working on that, and getting a lot better. But if she feels that she’s being accused of anything negative, she is extremely hurt and upset. My tendency is to get very upset when my organization is disturbed; she gets very upset when I get upset.
It’s a real quandary.
So who’s right and who’s wrong? Who needs to change their core behaviors? Well, there is no right or wrong, and I have to be responsible for my actions whether she is or not. (She is working on it though). So I’m learning to deal with the obsession. When that tool is missing or dishes are put in a different cabinet I stop. My eyes close, I breathe deep and count to 10… or 20… or 30… however long it takes for that knee jerk reaction that’s always been there. And I’m finding that the longer I do this and impose self control the easier it becomes. It’s still there, and probably always will be. But it doesn’t instantly tear me out of my frame now.
My therapist says that the best relationships are those that challenge our weaknesses. If truly invested it provides motivation to focus on improvement. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, so I am learning to do better on my negative behavior.
Because I want to, not because I have to.
Behaviors that we try to change just because others think we should are very difficult to overcome. I know that eating jellybeans at night watching TV isn’t good. But they are soooo good and a big part of my nightly routine. My head tells me ‘don’t do it!’, but everything else says ‘screw it’. This can be changed, but it’s oh so hard.
Frankly, I’m still eating my jellybeans; and loving every single one of them.
But hurting my lady’s feelings? No, I don’t want to do that. I don’t enjoy that. I can’t dismiss that or blame it on being sick. She’s someone I love, and if you truly love someone you just don’t treat them that way. So I learn a new way to be. I work through things with my therapist; I develop skills; I focus on the positives.
And I feel pretty darned good about myself when I succeed.
Living with bipolar disorder can be an absolute nightmare. Dealing with all the mood swings and crazy behavior can be absolutely miserable. It can be and frequently is life threatening. As I’m learning however it can be controlled and life lived in a more acceptable, stable way.
But there’s so much more.
Over the years the focus of my rambling writings has been how to survive this debilitating disease. It’s been very therapeutic, and a big part of the catharsis that has brought me to the good place I’ve created. Now it’s time for phase two. I’ve learned the hard lessons and fought the worst demons and come out on top. Is that the end? Absolutely not. It’s going to take ongoing vigilance and continued adjustments to keep me where I am. Now I need to learn new lessons. I have scars to heal. I have a lifetime of experiences and the resulting personality to reshape and transform. Can I change the core being that I am? Of course I can’t. Can I change how I feel? Absolutely! Can reactions be modified? You bet!
Can I do this? You’d better believe I can!
So I have a new focus. There is a new challenge. And I know I’m not alone, that there are others who are at the same place in their lives as I am in mine. That means lessons to share, failures to analyze, and successes to celebrate.
That means I have a reason to write.