Mania and Relationships

By Mel

My journey through bipolar disorder, focusing on manic stages, has had a lasting effect on all of my functioning relationships and became one of the biggest struggles of my life. Mania has the ability to create some of the saddest moments of the illness.

 

Why would mania be a struggle, it’s the “happy” part of bipolar disorder right? Essentially, yes.  Words akin to mania are passion and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, so are lunacy and craziness.

 

Deep in the throws of mania, I’m an emotional “yes man”.  My inhibitions are lowered and I’m craving socialization, so nothing sounds like a bad idea.  I am incapable of checking myself.

 

Mania creates hardships for your support system because it burns people out.  When obsessing, I’m needy and pour myself into others, thinking they are as needy as I, and will enjoy the attention.  Usually they do not. It pushes people away.

 

Along with relationship danger, a major symptom of mine is overspending. Slithery snake. I start buying new, more expensive groceries. It’s food, right?  I move up to household items like decor. Then purchases for the kids and I.  At the beginning of these personal purchases, I buy useful things.  Bedding, books and outerwear. Magazine subscriptions, tattoos, photo albums and other useless things follow. When this spending isn’t enough, I start gifting to people; to just about anyone that smiled at me.

 

In a pub years ago during one of my highest points ever, a man said he was MIA from the US Army. He’s in Canada & wants his family to be here with him.  His wife couldn’t collect benefits because the government cut them off when he ran. Living here and sending money back home!? Tssk, terrible story!  I wrote him a $100 check, it cleared, and I never saw him again. It’s deathly embarrassing to me to this day. Overspending has been hard on my family and my mental health, almost debilitatingly so.  Sometimes felt for months, even years afterward.

 

The spending my kids witness is painful to think about.  They receive a warped image from me about the proper handling of money.  When I’m well, I budget and comparison shop.  In the frenzy of mania, they observe so much reckless spending.  I detest the thought of encouraging these behaviours.

 

The most important person in my life is my husband.  All of my symptoms and their repercussions are his as much as mine. He’s my support system, my best friend, and our home’s breadwinner. When things like a maxed out credit card happen, he’s stuck with the fallout through no fault of his own.

 

I’ve known the luxury of being a stay at home Mom for years. It’s helped me heal when needed, but also causes massive guilt.  I’m not contributing financially, yet get us into dire financial situations.

 

We’d develop a parent/child relationship rather than a husband/wife relationship regarding money.  The frustration my husband feels is completely valid.  While manic, I’m offended if he puts limits on my spending.  We’ve changed my access to bank accounts, I’ve lived on cash only, and he’s had to stand firm with those decisions. When well, I realize the importance of the limitations.  With our years together, he recognizes my signs well and questions me if he sees them.

 

A difficult side effect of my medications is that my libido is non-existent. There are fights in every marriage about sex, but when a “sex-deprived” head and a manic head argue about it, it’s amplified X 10.  There is a symptom of bipolar disorder that takes away all sexual inhibitions and usually leads to sexual partners outside of the marriage.  Thankfully this has never been a symptom of mine, but the opposite end of the spectrum wasn’t helpful either.

 

He has patience when I’m in the midst of a false relationship and still waits around for the inevitable blowouts. It’s a process to explain my illness and symptoms to my husband. He tries, is supportive and is still here! Even when he hasn’t fully understood what was happening to me or why. He is the best partner and I really do understand how fortunate that makes me.

 

Friendships have suffered so much through the years that I can count the real, true ones I have left on one hand. No romanticized images, they’re the real thing.

 

I have 2 family members in my support system.  I wish that number were higher.  One might believe that family would be quicker to love, support and forgive.  One could be wrong.

 

One friendship I had in mania was realistically over before it even began.  I drank.  A lot. Again, a new questionable friend.  I knew who she was and what she was capable of, but didn’t care then. It’s judging and gossiping about her, right?! She’s fun and always game for drinking! The end with this cretin was when she cheated her way into a mutual good friend’s marriage.  I sunk hard and deep afterward.

 

I realize it seems I am putting the blame on other people. The reality is,  I was so “high”, I wasn’t capable of noticing how their toxicity would affect my life.

 

There’s only one piece of sunshine in my friendship story.  My best friend has seen years of my ebbs and flows.  She helps my self-doubt. But when I’m closing in on a depression I start to lose faith in relationships.  Even my best ones.  Would my best friend ever talk to me again? Does she even know the real me? I wonder, if she lived geographically closer to me through the years, would I have driven her away? She somehow always makes me understand that, no way, that would never happen.  She’s an amazing soul like that.

 

My friendship tribe is also growing within groups in the mental health community.  I gain knowledge, strength and support from the groups.

 

My saddest act during mania is being stable and healthy but still having to take seconds every morning to check that it’s only happiness. It’s a daunting task. Because of my experience with the illness and it’s fallout, I’ll sadly start to hold back my true emotions. For fear of becoming too giddy, too happy, or too involved.  It’s sad. I am an intelligent woman, yet that means less and less when mania starts to take over.  Our support systems or doctors will hopefully notice indicators.  That’s the only way, with help, we can begin to heal.

 

In a manic phase, you can have a high and mighty, “God complex” of sorts.  Do not step off of the high pedestal that is mania.  A slip into depression with bipolar disorder can be hard, fast, and for some time, you may feel it will never end.

 

Medications, therapists and support groups are to be used with zero guilt.  It might sound like a cocktail, but if my 8 pills a day (plus talk therapy) can keep me stable, happy, and healthy, it’s beyond worth it.  My life and all of its branches only function peacefully when l am well.

 

If you’re doubting yourself or scared, ask someone you love if they think you’re in mania. If they say yes, you and your support group have learned to handle it to the best of your abilities.  But if the answer is no, go and bask in that sunshine, because it IS true, pure happiness you’re feeling and it is the only thing we should ever settle for.

I Have A Massive Heart

By Mel

• Qualities of an empathetic personality that can be beneficial to our lives, like not being prone to being manipulated, can be drowned out a little sometimes. When we’re dealing with the size of our hearts, the need for/to love, the state of our mental health and the current level of our confidence, certain situations (like my example of being manipulated) are more common. Therefore not all of us empaths are exactly the same and may have different qualities and paths in life, depending on those factors. This is my version of the way that I have been loved, treated, and responded to. It’s also about how I eventually began to understand the best qualities about myself.

• Some of you may think that if you’re an empath with a massive heart, as I am, that you are AKA a:

Overly-Sensitive Person

Thin-Skinned Person

Weak Person

Incapable Person

Etc, etc.

Have you ever been called these names? People that don’t understand our personality type can view our (wonderful!) qualities as reasons that we will ultimately fail or be incapable of accomplishing most things in our lives. This, understandably, results in us feeling less than or with us being taken advantage of.

 

• The qualities that we have make us who we are. Beautifully loving people!

We can all love with our whole hearts. We know how to be extremely loyal friends.  We can sense when someone needs a pick me up and we do what we can to help.  We can look at anyone and assume, and/or, find the best things about them.  Our hearts AND brains are full of caring and affection!

 

• A cynical person may believe that those exact qualities definitely won’t do anyone any favours in the long run! They make you vulnerable & they make you weak! Even if they don’t feel that strongly, their opinions usually aren’t of a positive nature.

Cynics have said that loving wholeheartedly will just end with us getting knocked down because we NEED the same love back from others. And if it isn’t reciprocated, we’re just faced with the disappointment… I’m here to tell you that I am capable of sharing love, whether I get it back or not, because that’s not the reason why I begin a process of love.  It’s to send my best version of my heart and positivity out, not how much will be sent back.  Don’t get me wrong, shout-outs and support are always great, but I don’t EXPECT it.

They’ll state the same negative things about our empathizing loyalty.  That we can be such loyal friends and loyal in our other relationships. That we can dedicate ourselves to someone else with the chance that we won’t get it back in return.  I have been in relationships/friendships like this before.  And I have always been able to eventually end them.  It takes a while to get through this half-shell of mine and I need to have proof that I can trust you. But once that’s in place, I am seriously your ride or die.  Proof of my own trust and loyalty is that my husband of 14 years is my very best friend, and I met my oldest, dearest (and one of very few) friends almost 20 years ago. That’s how loyal and dedicated I am capable of being.

• It can still surprise me how our instinct to be helpful is so belittled. All of the following things have been insinuated to me by ultimate cynics:

“We can’t help ourselves most of the time, how are we going to be able to help someone else?”

“We’re not capable of doing a lot to help other people, so really, why bother trying for people that won’t rush to help us when we need it??”

Why?

Because there have been people there to help me when I’ve needed it.  And even if there weren’t people there, with time, I learned to radiate love, help, and spread positivity. It doesn’t hurt anybody and doesn’t take much effort. So when I am well, which has been quite consistently of late, I share the abilities that I do have.

 

• Our tendency to see the best in others can also be ridiculed.  What kind of situation would make someone want to diminish that quality, you may ask?

If I see a stranger on the street and they say hello, I like to smile and say hello back. Others with me will sometimes respond with the following opinions.

“Welp, look out now because they probably want money and will beg!”

“I had better keep my hand on my wallet cause they’re scoping it out!”

“They all must be ‘crazy’!”

All of these reactions just because of me wanting to spread a little joy?!

If cynics proclaim to feel any different than this, then why are people so cold and show such refusal to share a smile and kind word?  These small situations are the easiest ways to spread love, kindness, and the possibility to change someone’s bad day or negative mindset!

•• They just don’t understand how we have such an unlimited amount of love and affection.

•• They can be shrouded by their own negativity and their cynicism has jaded them to the point of forgetting how it feels to have their heart warmed.

 

• Speaking as an empath, but mostly as a human with feelings, unfortunately these are some of the people and situations that I have been faced with in my life.

People have been known to say that I have ‘thin skin.” I talked about this same subject on a recent IG post. I’ve always been shit on because of some cynics’ opinions of my thin skin.

Only now, at almost 37 years old, am I coming to terms with it myself.

One of the biggest things that I have learned is that my skin will not get thicker.”

I used to think that that was something that was possible.  I’ve got to get comfortable living in the skin I’m in, whether the cynics like it or not.

 

• I’ve always felt less than so many people surrounding me.  That’s partially due to my personality and partially due to my mental health.  I know all about having huge insecurities and the need to be liked by everyone. My eagerness to help and efforts of love, have at times, not been reciprocated and have been received with impatience, eyerolls and ignorance.  A lot of the time, people won’t take me seriously and have been known to treat me like a child.  Again partially because of my empath qualities and partially because of my mental health status.

 

When you have a massive heart, it is a lot easier to be taken advantage of. Some folks are so cruel and rude, they know that most of us don’t like to say “No” when it comes to favours and pleasing people, so they will intentionally get us to do dirty work for them.  (So many stories about this…another blog, another day!)

• Cynics also find it easier sometimes to exclude us rather than deal with a “softie”.  When they don’t tell us about or include us in the same responsibilities that “normal” people are accomplishing, it can make us look like we are behind, late, or irresponsible.

 

• All of these cynical acts towards empaths…

Some pretty awful things…

The many, many disadvantages…

AND YET…

 

“I’ll take being an empath over being a cynic anyday.  I really enjoy that my skin is rather thin, soft and inviting. I don’t want thick skin.  It’s too hard and blocks out amazing acts of love from going in or out.”

 

I’d rather have an overabundance of love in my heart than to have the skill of making fun of and laughing at somebody that feels the ways I do.

I’d rather give favours and other advantages to the cynic than to be selfish and NEVER think of anyone before myself.

I’d rather be a loyal friend to a small group of my loves and maybe end up getting burned once in awhile, than to be a fair-weather friend to a group of 100 “friends”.

 

•• Bottom line…

I have a huge heart.  Good and bad things have come from that my whole life.  

But this massive heart filled with love is mine, and I’m getting better and better at protecting it!!

I Won’t Lie, I’m Hurting

By Mel

“The seasons have quickly turned into winter holidays, and I won’t lie…I’m hurting.”

The current pain of mine stems from the amount of loss and change in my life these past couple of years. The changes have been swift, and the losses have been numerous.

The loss of actual lives. The loss of relationships. The loss of good health for myself and many loved ones. Last, but definitely not least, the loss of a lot of confidence. All of which come with their own sets of trials and tribulations.

“My perception of the holidays is strongly based on tradition.”

Traditions become so commonplace, that they could be better known as rituals. And rituals are always performed the same way, so change doesn’t really mesh well with them. This year has been filled with tons of change, considering all my loss, and changes.

This year, holiday traditions seem a little exciting and a little daunting all at once. They both have to be accepted though, because change is always inevitable. I’m excited because new traditions are always a good thing!  It takes you out of any holiday ruts you may be in and gives the rest of your family the chance to try something new as well.  This year we get to host a supper at our house before Christmas and my sister will be hosting Christmas Day. This will be my second year cooking a big holiday meal, and I‘ve surprised myself by really enjoying it. Christmas Day at my sister’s will be so new and neat because we aren’t cooking a meal!  It will be less pressure on everyone to serve leftover turkey and ham on her homemade buns along with appetizers all day.  It sounds relaxing, and I’m really looking forward to it.

The daunting part can come when big changes in your traditions happen. Life is hard enough around the holidays, so we don’t need added negatives such as guilt, shame, or distrust. But this year, I still got knocked back a few steps with all of the changes. The fear of the unknown is the most daunting. I don’t know what to expect except for our pre-made plans, and whatever time that we have free, could unfortunately, but very possibly be filled with these negatives.

 •

“I am still grieving the loss of actual lives as we near the end of the year.”

I have had too many friends and family members die in the last two years. 4 of those loves died of suicide.  It is always intense for me to try to deal with/understand suicides.  What was it that pushed them off of that ledge? I think it’s especially hard to deal with when you have mental health issues as well, and you have heard those voices or met those demons yourself.  This is so painful for me.  It’s not that natural or accidental deaths are any less significant, it’s just that they are a lot easier for me to understand and come to terms with.

“It’s hard to deal with the loss of relationships at any time of the year, and during the holidays, it’s not just hard, it’s painful.”

When you have family members and friends that would have normally participated in your holidays, and now are gone…and it’s not easy to deal with.

Years full of long stories made short, I had to remove the people who were toxic in my life, whether they were friend, family or foe. The pain in that itself is pretty self-explanatory, but I’m choosing not to elaborate much more on it.

“I am as honest as I can be in my writing and on my blog, but I also refuse to taint either one by turning them into spaces to name-drop, to release angry banter or to fill with negativity.”

The loss of friendships came into play when I started to take care of myself mentally. When I started to love myself more, it really made me take a look at who loved me less. Most that I have distanced myself from are people who had proved themselves to consider me a throwaway friend. I learned that there is a lot of pain in realizing how long it had been that I was treated that way and either didn’t notice, didn’t care, or didn’t think I was worth anything more.

The loss of good health for myself and my loved ones has been very prevalent lately and I’m pretty confident that I am not dealing with it properly, or perhaps not dealing with it at all. I have 2 loved ones that are now terminally ill. I have yet to visit either one since they’ve been this far into their illnesses, even though I love them beyond words and the availability is there. This is an area in my head and my heart that I know I will be working on with my therapist soon. It needs to be dealt with, as it has almost become a fear of mine to go to an ill person’s home, hospitals or nursing homes.

My personal health is stable at the moment, which I am very grateful for, but I get so damn sick of pills, blood work, side effects, so on, and so forth. When you have 3 chronic illnesses (diabetes, bipolar disorder, & fibromyalgia) as I do, your daily cocktail takes a long time to establish, so you really don’t wanna mess with anything. The most massive side effect I have had with my medications (that still affects my everyday life) was having to take so many meds, that it made my teeth literally rot. Now I deal with having a full set of dentures. It’s not fun, nor is it inexpensive.

 •

“I am completely aware that this sounds like a pity party.”

What’s with the negativity Mrs. Happy Pants? Well guys, the reality is that this is honesty.  This is my life.  And sometimes we are allowed to hurt.

Loss, pain, change… these are grand factors in all of our lives.

When these times come for me (especially times like the winter holidays) and they happen all at once, you know what I do? I write.

So here it is.  My writing about life, loss and pain is to help myself heal. I know that this pain is just for right now.

There is always tomorrow and the sun will always shine sooner rather than later!”

Count

By Mel

 

Count your fingers.

 

Got those digits?

Rest of the body working?

You walking?

Alright, keep counting.

 

Count your meds.

 

Right amount of pills?

They helping you to heal?

Are you happy?

Good stuff, keep counting.

 

Count your thanks.

 

Got light and love?

Considered writing it down?

Is a grateful heart worth it?

Agreed, keep counting.

 

Count yourself lucky.

 

Have the best loved ones you could imagine?

Do they know it?

Like to be told how amazing and loved you are?

You’re so amazing and oh so loved!

 

Count yourself.

 

Count yourself in.

Count yourself first .

Count yourself worth it dammit.

Keep counting, cause you’ve got this.

Don’t Worry About Getting Credit

By Mel

DO NOT stop doing your best because someone/something/or a circumstance doesn’t end up giving you credit.

It’s easy to become offended, let down or insulted if someone else doesn’t appreciate you, your efforts or creations.  For someone struggling with a mental illness, that let down can reach us in an even harder, more negative way. These feelings we develop can stress us out even more when we’re already dealing with an anxiety issue (as an example).  If we are in a low place, like currently in a depression, the feelings can also drag us even further down than we already were.

 

Who the fuck do these feelings think they are anyway?  I think we’re allowed to hate them!

They tell us bullshit like:

  • They didn’t like what I said when I spoke up for myself, I must have been wrong or my opinion doesn’t matter.”
  • They didn’t like what I did when I stopped caring about drama and started to fix myself.  What I’m doing is obviously wrong and I guess they were right all along.”
  • They didn’t like what I made when I created this beautiful art, it must be terrible, I knew I wasn’t a real artist.”

When thoughts like this run through our heads, they usually start to manifest into something much bigger.  If we’re offended that we didn’t get any credit, we can truly walk back on ourselves because of lack of confidence, self doubt, and pressure from whoever that outside source is.

I understand that when we’re struggling, saying that we can actually let our feelings do anything is almost insulting. To us, they can mostly seem uncontrollable.

BUT if you can, if you’re strong enough, or you have someone strong to help you, tell all the thoughts like this to fuck off! Kick that self doubts’ ass! Chin up for more confidence and get rid of whoever the hell that outside source is that’s pressuring you!


Because guess what?

 

  • You should be able to voice your opinion, regardless of what it is, you weren’t wrong, and your opinion DOES matter!
  • If someone doesn’t support us and appreciate the fact that we are trying to better ourselves by ridding our own lives of drama and negativity, chuck ‘em. Seriously, If you’re doing this, hell, even I’M PROUD of you!
  • Whatever kind of art that you create, it should always be appreciated.  Not everyone has the same perspective on what they think “art” is, but even if you don’t like and/or understand it, it can still be APPRECIATED!

 

If you receive credit for anything that you consider to be art, well that’s excellent! But if you don’t, look back into why you started creating in the first place. Because that is the real credit in itself.  Most people I know start creating because of some kind of healing, cathartic, or passionate reason.  And all 3 of those words are extremely personal.  If someone else appreciates it, learns from it, or participates in it, that’s just the cherry on top.

 

Just always remember where it comes from.

From inside of us.

For us.

Give yourself credit, and don’t worry about any judgemental fools that seemingly like to live their lives, riding the line of ignorance.