Tag Archives: bi-polar

Like Attracts Like


So in my life I have discovered that the people whom I get along with the best, tend to also be crazy. I believe this is because that those of us who have mental health disorders tend to understand others with mental health disorders. We don’t expect these people to always act “normal” and we don’t need to find the root cause for their actions. We just accept it. You’re crazy and so am I, any questions?
These friends which I have, all know their diagnoses, and many of us who have gone through the process of getting a diagnoses understand the meanings of most of the common disorders. We know, or learn which kinds of crazy mesh with our own. Two people with anxiety disorders can be easy friends, because they understand what it means to be anxious and have no clue why you are. Other disorders that are easy for those with anxiety to understand, in my experience, tend to be depression and obsessive compulsion.
Often people have multiple problems, like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, these tend to go together and can be easily understood by those with anxiety or PTSD. While all these disorders present differently in each person, there is a common understanding for those who have experienced one or more of the mental health disorders. Of course this is not true for everyone, in my experience like truly attracts like.
I have had several roommates with mental health problems from bi-polar disorders to anxiety and depression, and those of us with a similar disorder tend to have an easier time getting along. It isn’t always perfect, sometimes one person’s anxiety will set off another’s, but in the end there is a mutual understanding. Just because I act crazy, doesn’t mean that’s who I am all the time, and I cannot always control it. People who don’t have anxiety, and never have, don’t understand it.
For my best example of how like truly attracts like I will use my friendship of 12 years to illustrate this idea. When I first met this friend she and I had never been officially been diagnosed. I was 19 and thought that I was just angry and depressed. By the time I was 21, I started to understand that I was having anxiety and became medicated for the first time. While my friend has only been medicated and officially diagnosed for about 2 years, we both shared this experience. Like me she had always had anxiety problems she did not know what symptoms were actually part of the disorder.
My official diagnoses came about 3 years ago. I was given a diagnoses of Axis I Anxiety Disorder, with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Traits. My friend has a diagnoses of Situational Anxiety. We have the same medication, although at different doses, and we never have to explain the fact that I’m freaking out right now because of my crazy. We rant at each other when we are having issues. And through all the ups and downs I have experienced with my mental health problems over the years, we understand each other, and apologies for acting “crazy” are never accepted. If an apology is given, it is brushed aside as if one of us had just said the sky was blue. She knows that when I have my freak out moments, I don’t expect her to find a solution to the problem, she just listens. This is the best thing for me, and I expect many people with my particular disorder feel the same.
While it may seem difficult at times to find someone who truly understands our particular crazy, they are out there. You find them everywhere, at the gas station, the library, college, high school, or at a bar. We are out there among you, and if you look you will find us. Learning who shares your kind of crazy is important, because without the support of those who truly understand what it feels like to go through the day to day of living with these problems, we all get worse. Imagine it being like someone who loves only opera dating someone who only listens to hip-hop, the relationship would be hard to make work. When we share our crazy, beautiful friendships and support systems come from it.
So embrace your crazy. Embrace that sometimes there are people who will not get it and never will, but remember there is someone out there who understands. Even if this is the only place you find that at the moment, it’s a start. All journeys have to start somewhere, and living with crazy brains is one journey we should not have to travel alone.

How the Crazy Hurts Everyone


It is difficult enough to know that every day of your life you have to live with an illness which people don’t understand.  There isn’t exactly a support group for those with mental illness, and everyone has a different experience with it.  What is most difficult when living this way is not just that you hurt personally and emotionally, but that you unintentionally hurt everyone around you.  People are pushed out of your life because you snap at a child when you are trying not to have an anxiety attack.  Worse still is when you lash out at you family from impulse aggression which is caused from feeling trapped inside your own skin.  You want to hurt yourself because you hurt everyone around you.  Then at some point, everyone seemingly gives up hope that you will ever get any better.  At this point, you get even worse.  Anxiety so bad you can’t get out of bed, or leave you house to do something as simple as getting a drink, or going to buy a pack of cigarettes.  Putting air in the tires on your car becomes a terrifying event.  The thought of seeing your family causes so much tension before you get there that everyone is on edge and they are all just waiting for you to snap again.  Then if you manage to try to control yourself, and someone else yells at you or insults you you are stuck with the dilemma of responding or walking away, both reactions are taken as insulting to the person you are trying to not fight with.

Living this way is a constant battle.  One which a person cannot hope to face alone.  One which family and friends need to learn how to understand, so that they can help you take the steps forward in your life which you long to take.  It is hard enough when you are terrified of everything to get out of bed in the morning.  However, knowing that you have hurt almost every person in your life because of your disease makes it that much harder.  There is no cure, but with support we can overcome and live normal lives.

So to those whom I have hurt, my best friend, mother, sisters, brother, grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-mother, father, and my son I am sorry.  I try everyday to become a better version of myself, but I am still lost inside this disease.  I don’t know which direction will take me out of it, and that is why I have felt the need to write about it.  I hope as you and others read these essays and posts, that you might gain some understanding of what it is like to live in my skin, to walk my path, and how difficult it is to know what I have done and that nothing I say can repair what i myself have broken.

To the readers who don’t know me in person:  I hope that you can gain insight into your own lives through my struggles.  I hope that if you are reading this because you have a family member or a friend with a mental illness that you will gain insight into them.

The key is support.  Crazy or sane we all need support.  We all need our friends and family to be there to listen when we are in pain.  It is more difficult to do this when someone is always in pain, I know, but please remember that even if you are not seeing the person you love when they have an anxiety attack, a manic episode, or a bout of depression, that person is still in there.  They are trying to figure out how to come back, and they just need a strong hand to hold until they can make it through.

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“Hey Baby, What’s Your Diagnosis?”


 

 

            At one time it was common to hear: “So baby, what’s your sign?” as a pickup line.  As we move into a future where more and more of us in Western culture are in or have been in some sort of treatment for mental health, that line will soon be a thing of the past, replaced with “What’s your diagnosis?”

            Gone are the days where being a Libra, Taurus, Cancer, or Pisces has much meaning anymore, if they ever truly did.  Made more difficult by the fact that whoever is in charge of such things changed the dates of the Zodiac signs so that nobody knows what their sign actually is anymore.  We are moving toward a future where we pick our mate not by their star sign, but instead by a compatible diagnosis.

            The American Psychological Association has a category for almost any quirk of the personality these days.  So since we are all crazy, we need to find the crazy in others which complements our own.

            For example I am diagnosed with an Axis I Anxiety Disorder with Obsessive Compulsive Personality traits.  So what disorders complement my own?  This is much more difficult than learning that as a Libra I should avoid dating an Aries, Cancer, or Leo.  While astrology can be fun and the Birthday and Relationship books are frighteningly accurate, they haven’t helped me find my soul mate, only confirmed after the fact that who I was with was a bad match according to the stars.

            My diagnosis in some ways also makes dating hard, as I turn into a mutated version of myself, amplified in all the wrong ways.  It’s like being the Hulk except it’s not incredible.  It is actually rather mundane in explanation, although I have been told it can be frightening to witness.  And while I do not grow to incredible size, my voice does, and instead of my skin turning into a bright green only my eyes shift into a brighter green.  All of this is because one of my anxiety symptoms is impulse aggression.

            So when I get attached to someone I often turn into a nightmare, and while someone might wish to date the Hulk, I do not like the idea of losing control and becoming HulKatie.  At this time, I have found it better for everyone that I don’t date.  You never know when the green will spread to my skin and I will grow from my 5 foot self into a massive and destructive form bent on smashing everything.

            So how do we date in our overly diagnosed, overly medicated, and overly stimulated society?

            Well there is online dating.  This gives us a chance to get to know someone in the absence of actually having to see them in person and open our mouths in order to have a conversation.  I have tried this method of dating, much to my own failure and quit almost as quickly as I began.  The reason being that while it is easy to type a message about yourself and what you like, to me it lacked substance.  And while I actually met two people in person, it was glaringly obvious to me that our online personalities and our in-person-alities don’t often match-up exactly how we think they do.

            Nice, smart, caring, giving, and intelligent online and groaning, grunting, incomprehensible animal in person.  This isn’t true for everyone, but it is hard to show all of your personality on the internet.  It’s hard enough the traditional way.

            So after failing Online Dating 101, I went back to the bars and coffee shops.  However, much like the online world people act differently when they are single than they do when they are dating.  I think this may actually come from our lack of asking that basic question: “So what is your diagnosis?”  I’m not saying to run screaming into the night when someone says anxiety, depression, PTSD, or bi-polar, but this will at least be a better ice breaker than “What’s your sign?”

            This question gives us the chance to break down walls which could otherwise take months or years to knock down or climb over.  You then get to start with an open and friendly conversation, without being afraid to speak candidly.  Tell the cute guy at the bar that in the event of your dating you might turn Hulk if he smiles at you the wrong way when you have a paper do for school, or that you might smash a beer bottle on the floor if he calls you crazy.  We already know that not everyone we find attractive is right for us, why not cut the bullshit and be honest from the start.  Ask questions like “Do you identify more with Jekyll or Hyde?” or, “If you were a serial killer would you be more like Dexter, or Ted Bundy?” 

            Then after starting the conversation, we can arm ourselves with information to make informed choices rather than those fueled entirely by bar banter and physical attraction.  This way if you Hulk out on someone, they were warned.

            Now go forth and change the way we date, and let me know if your personal crazy has ever had an effect on your romantic relationships, either positive or negative.

 

 

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Understanding Anxiety and Panic Attacks


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            Of all of the common mental health disorders that exist, the anxiety disorder can be one of the more difficult to pin down.  Most people who have panic attacks or anxiety attacks don’t understand what is happening, or they don’t even realize that what they are experiencing is a symptom of this disorder.  This stems from the fact that there are over 100 different symptoms of anxiety.  Also, the range of an actual anxiety/panic attack is also extensive.  While I cannot go into every detail of every symptom, I will go through some of the ones which people are less familiar with as symptoms of anxiety.

            Since there are so many symptoms for this disorder it is easily misdiagnosed as depression, bi-polar, PMS, irritable bowel syndrome, hypochondria, borderline personality disorder, ADD, ADHD, alcohol withdrawal, and the list goes on.  This is because an anxiety disorder will often share many of the symptoms of these other disorders.

            Simple anxiety is easy to diagnose, there is a feeling of dread, underlying anxiety, or pounding heart.  While the first two are easy to recognize as anxiety the heart aspect has a wide range of manifestations.  Not only could your heart pound, but your chest can feel tight, and/or your heart might race.  In someone who has never experienced anxiety before, this is often mistaken for a heart attack.  We have seen this type of anxiety/panic attack appearing more often on film in the past decade.

            Beyond the heart and chest symptoms there are emotional symptoms which make this disorder difficult to diagnose.  There can be increased fear of almost everything for no reason.  I myself have had this symptom often.  I will be sitting on my couch watching television and suddenly be terrified and I don’t know why or of what.  For me this tends to trigger the heart and chest symptoms.  It becomes so difficult for me to breathe that I once had a boyfriend who thought that I really had asthma and not anxiety.

            There are also the more disturbing emotional aspects which include mood swings, irritability and even impulse aggression.  Since these are symptoms of both depression and bi-polar disorder many people are misdiagnosed with these disorders instead of anxiety.  And the emotional/brain symptoms don’t stop there.  There is giddiness, numbness, tingling, stabbing pains, disassociation, difficulty concentrating, depersonalization, short-term memory loss, brain fog, feeling ‘spaced out’, and even Déjà vu.  With this many odd symptoms no wonder it is difficult to tell what is really going on.  It is no fun to be anxious and giddy and then forget what just happened.  In fact it is down right scary.

            In addition there is dizziness, nausea, metallic taste in your mouth, insomnia, feelings trapped in your mind, obsessive thoughts, and hearing problems.  With all these symptoms how do we tell if it is something we need to get checked out or medicated for or what to do at all. 

            There are many causes for many of these symptoms.  However, if you have experienced more than one of these you may have a mild anxiety disorder.  If it is rare, then just being aware of the cause can help you move past it.  Deep breaths help in some cases, doing a few jumping jacks or some sort of simple cardio can also help.  There are a ton of simple easy ways to deal with a mild anxiety disorder.  However, if you experience these symptoms often, you might want to seek a professional to talk more in depth about what you are experiencing. 

            I have the unfortunate luck to experience all of these symptoms, and many which I have not mentioned.  I know the difficulty of dealing with these feelings on an everyday basis, and not being able to understand or explain what is happening.  My advice is to find your triggers.  What causes you stress?  It can be something trivial, and in this case it is often the most difficult to deal with.  Trying to explain why attempting a simple task can sometimes become more impossible than climbing Mount Everest.  I promise in this you are not alone.  When this happens, stop. Explain that you are anxious, and that while it doesn’t make sense to those around you, you need help with this simple task.  It can be as easy as plugging the DVD player into the TV or getting the newest version of windows to open a document. 

            While those around you may not understand at first, if you explain the situation, hopefully they will come around, if they don’t tell them to read this.  I also encourage you to do your own research into this subject on your own.  If you feel like you might have an anxiety disorder, but I did not list any of your particular symptoms there are several great websites out there which list more of these symptoms.  I am including links to these pages to make your search easier. 

Good Luck, and remember you are not alone.  In fact anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, and over 40 million adults in the United States suffer from it.

Statistics:   http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Symptoms:  http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms.shtml

Types of Anxiety:  http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/types

Misdiagnosis:  http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/a/anxiety_disorders/misdiag.htm#diseases_misdiagnosed

Medical Reference:  http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/medical-reference-index

 

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