I. Am. Extra. They say for some people you will always be too bold, talk too loud or too much, be too hyper and too over the top. That is just how you might describe me if you knew me. In fact, one of my best friends from childhood told me one day while we were grabbing coffee outside of a Starbucks in the small central Illinois town we grew up in that she could “only handle so much Tosha at one time.” I remember, when she said it, thinking to myself “I. Am. Extra.” Her words have stayed with me ever since.
The Depressive Episode: When You’re Too Tired to Get Out of Bed
Today has been a hard day, I woke up in a slump and haven’t been able to break its hold on me all day. I moped and complained and I truly gave in to the awfulness that consumed me the entire day and stole my happiness yet again today.
I had been doing fairly well. I had been very carefully (I thought) taking my medications on time and I was having a hard time figuring out why this dark cloud seemed to linger over my head making me feel as less than the person I know I am. When I feel down, I doubt the person I know I can be, I doubt my abilities and in my confidence and my ability to do simplest of tasks. I worry immensely of others judging me. I believe I am not good enough to ever make a mark in this world and I think that my existence is non instrumental in anyone’s lives. Where I know logically these statements are not true, in my mind they are very real to my sick bipolar 1, GAD, ADHD, PTSD mind.
I now have to break this cycle of downward swing and as quickly as I can. I start by evaluating what I am doing with my medications and making sure I haven’t accidentally missed any doses of medications at all. I keep my meds in a monthly divider and I fill it at the start of the month, only some of my medications run out mid-month and I won’t go back and put them in and just will open the bottle each day and take it.
I realized tonight I have missed 3 days of a very important antipsychotic to my regimen. This was the medication that broke my cycle of depression over 8 years ago and always sends me into a downward spiral when without it. In fact my husband has driven as far as two hours one way and two hours back to make sure I wouldn’t be stuck without it because it keeps me from having awful voices that tell me to harm myself. It also contains my anger issues. I know my medication currently is my trigger to my depression this time and knowing my triggers are the way to controlling this hell of bipolar disorder.
Today I was too tired to get off the couch. I barely ate. I tried to binge watch a TV show on Netflix but was too distracted. I let all my house work chores go un-touched. I am sure I let my family down. I did not cook them dinner. I did not return phone calls and I didn’t return emails. I canceled meetings and I didn’t shower for the third day in a row.
I hope tomorrow will be much better. I live in constant fear that a trigger is on the surface waiting to emerge to take me into a deep depression or to throw me into a full blown manic episode that will lead to psychosis that will end me up getting admitted to the hospital. I am either too happy or too sad — those middle feelings, those stable feelings, I just don’t know what they really are. I hope someday I do know what they are and how they feel. For now, though I will continue the daily struggle of waking up and not knowing which Tosha will emerge from under the blankets. I hope the happy, go lucky, fun-to-be-around, productive, full-of-energy person is up to the challenges the day brings her because she likes a good challenge, but more than anything I hope that I am just not too tired to get out of bed.
originally posted on psychcentral.com
My support system has earned certain rights that other people in my life do not get. The main thing that comes to mind when I speak of this is the age-old question that most people with bipolar hate being asked, “Did you take your medication?” I have got to admit at one point in my life with bipolar disorder it was a question that would boil my blood. My husband would ask me, “Honey, did you take your meds?” in the most loving, a sweetest voice he possibly could, and I in return would absolutely blow up at him. In my defense, we weren’t working together to keep my bipolar disorder in check yet and so he hadn’t yet earned the right to ask me the meds question.
Here we are years later and the times I get asked this question by him or my children are very rare. Partly because I do my best to take my meds. Partly because every night, he reminds me to take my nightly meds that I only take once a day, I won’t say he watches me take them, but he does make sure I take them by reminding me till he sees me actually open the bottles and do so. He doesn’t count the bottles or the pills to see that I take each one or something like that. I don’t have to be watched that closely, but people who have bipolar are forgetful by nature, and it comes with my symptoms and my medication side effects to be forgetful. Without his help I will not remember to take them on time or at all. He is an important part to my success in my recovery.
What earns the person the right to ask the question, “Did you take your medication today?”
Most people would have you believe that people with bipolar disorder can take our medications on our own. Where that is true, a good support system is what makes or breaks someone’s success story! I am not saying you can’t be a success without a support system; I am saying it will make the process much easier.
Bipolar disorder comes with certain symptoms that are true for most people who have the disorder — one being we are forgetful and another being we are addicts by nature. Now I won’t get into substance abuse here because I don’t believe all people with bipolar disorder have a substance abuse problem — because I don’t have one nor have I ever had one. However, if not for my husband I would probably abuse my anxiety medications and my ADHD medications because if one is great two is better. My husband took that problem away for me by supporting me enough to put any medications that could have any addictive nature to it in a safe and I only get the ones I need for that day. He is truly a great gift for a bipolar wife. Between that and reminding me daily to take my medications together we work to keep me level so that I can be the best wife and mother I can be.
On top of handling dishing out my medications he takes care of taking me back and forth to my doctor appointments because I can’t drive, he picks up all my medications on time, and he attends weekly support groups as a member and as a facilitator. This man has “earned” the right to ask me “honey have you taken your meds today?” or in many cases nowadays it might be asked more like this “honey something seems off, are you sure you took each one of your meds correctly I think maybe we should double-check them?” He has learned the correct way to ask me the question and he does it with care and respect. He isn’t accusing me of skipping them because I want to go manic but instead is seriously concerned for my well-being.
I know no one likes the question “have you taken your meds today?”, but I feel blessed knowing that my husband has earned the right as my support system to ask that question!
Recently a friend texted me upset because a family member wasn’t being understanding of the complications due to her autoimmune disease. My friend was very distraught as this had her in tears because she was being expected to do something that she knew she was not capable of handling and I was reminded of my own situation and how many times I have had to learn to say no to someone in order to put my own well being and illness first.
Here’s the thing I live with Bipolar 1 Disorder
Here’s the thing I live with mental illness Bipolar 1 Disorder along with a slew of other co-morbid disorders to go with it. It sometimes takes me all I have, to get through the day. Some days mustering up a shower can be more than I want to do. (I do it but that’s because it’s something that my husband and I have set in my care plan as one of my must do’s each day in order to stay well.) I know that for me, taking on more than I feel I can handle is never going to end in a good situation. I had to teach myself that telling others no I don’t have the time, or simply saying you know I am not feeling myself right now I just wouldn’t feel right saying I would do something I can’t be sure I can do, makes me a lot less filled with anxiety then trying to suffer through a situation that makes me terribly uncomfortable or a situation where I may have to call and cancel out on an obligation all together.
I don’t like to have to cancel on people but many times my disorder takes the drivers wheel so I may say something like “I am going to say yes, but please be aware that I haven’t been feeling very well and may not be able to do what I plan.” Giving myself an out, just in case I don’t feel up to it the day I am supposed to go through with something for someone else.
I am a high functioning person with mental illness
I am a high functioning person with mental illness and many times if you were to just look at me, you would never know that I was having issues with the thoughts inside my brain. However, at any given moment I assure you it is a battle to keep the negative thoughts at bay and keep myself grounded. Sometimes I get lost in my over thinking and I must step away from a situation and get a break and I need the others around me to know that. I should never have to apologize for being sick. Does aunt Sylvie have to apologize because she got cancer and must be on oxygen and no longer can take the stairs. No because we don’t look at cancer the same way we do someone with mental illness. However, I promise you it can be just as draining.
When someone is in a bipolar episode, Julie A. Fast of the blog Bipolar Happens likens the rebuilding of someone’s life afterwards to that of a person rebuilding their life and home after a natural disaster. It takes just as long for someone who experiences a major life-altering episode to find stable ground again. If it takes six months to rebuild a town after a hurricane it will take that long for someone to rebuild their life after an episode. Let’s be honest, when did you last see a town truly rebuild that fast after a hurricane without some lasting effects.
Daily bipolar care plans are key to success
When your family member is able to return to stable days faster than that, you should look at them with pride because that means they are doing the work in their bipolar care plan daily so when an episode happens it won’t hit quite so badly. Daily bipolar care plans are key to success with this disorder because it gives us a way to keep ourselves on track even when doing well. If we slack and we don’t put our illness first that is when bipolar is going to rear its ugly head and knock us for what we are worth.
When you have mental illness or any other illness it is important to remember that it is not selfish to put yourself first. Setting boundaries and setting limits are good for children because we are teaching them right from wrong. Setting personal boundaries is teaching others how they can and can’t treat us. We deserve to not feel badly about how badly we already are feeling. We hate the fact that we can’t be all things to the people we love. I however refuse to believe that I should be made to feel bad because I wish to protect myself from becoming sicker and possibly facing hospitalization. My advice is that you should remember to put yourself and your illness first because you and your family are going to end up benefiting in the long run!
I spend so much time not confident in who I am. I often think others are judging me by my appearance or because they don’t like the person I am. I have started to try to remember the times that I did feel good about myself fully and I try to remember what I felt like in that instance so that I can start to crave feeling like that so often that I can begin to make a habit of it.
Not good enough for my grade school friend
I have been told before that confidence comes from within, however my inside voice tells me I am inherently bad. Let me explain, when I was in grade school I was taught by my best friend I wasn’t good enough to be her friend at school in front of other kids because I was over-weight and poor not to mention I was annoying and considered a cry baby. She made me believe the thought that I was not good enough for anything. Not even common friendship. Now about 6th grade she finally grew up some and told the other girls that I was her friend and they were wrong for thinking I was not good enough to be friends with because of the way I looked but by then the damage was already done.
Not good enough for the guys to date in school
In junior high and high school boys didn’t date me. I was the “fat, ugly friend”, by age 12 everyone at my school knew I was considered ugly and fat and even if their opinion of me differed they would have never had considered dating me because that would mean going against what their friends had made them believe. I wasn’t good enough to date.
According to a PE teacher in my high school I would never be good enough to parent a child
A lot happened in high school. I had a teacher who told me that she hoped I never had children because I was a poor excuse for a human and any child, I would have wouldn’t have a chance in life. Yes, a teacher said this to me. It felt crappy and that PE teacher did get a phone call down to the dean’s office after my mother called the school to discuss the topic, but the damage was done. I was bad. I wasn’t good enough.
Not good enough for my own father
Then in high school my father left my mother and I for another woman and her children leaving us behind. He then raised another woman’s children and left me, and we hardly spoke because she wanted it that way. In fact, on one instance because of this other child that he ended up raising he hit me numerous times and security was called at a hotel because of it. He explained it away to my mother as I had gotten out of hand. What was out of hand was his and his wife’s expectation that I and my step-sister could handle the other step-sister with-out their interaction that day and they would not help get her to cooperate. He got mad and I got beaten and I don’t mean spanked, I was beaten. I had welts left on my arm for well over a week. Again, I was taught I was a bad person. I don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but facts are facts. This did happen and it is a part of my teenage years.
Still not good enough for that grade school friend as an adult even after 30 years of friendship
As an adult I handled things fairly well with my confidence level for quite sometime but I was having coffee with the same friend who taught me in grade school that I wasn’t enough and she looked at me and said “I can only handle so much Tosha at one time” I know it seems like such a simple sentence. It doesn’t seem like it should stick with someone for the next 15 years. However, as a young adult trying to make my way in the world it hurt me, and it stuck with me that this same girl felt that I still wasn’t good enough after almost 30 years of friendship. I was her maid of honor, her mine and yet I wasn’t good enough to be her friend most of the time around her other friends. I mean, when she got married the last time, I met her husband only one time. Sadly, he passed away not too long ago. I am sure it isn’t easy on her and I do care about her very deeply as she is my oldest friend. I also don’t believe she understood the damage she was doing when she did these things to me. I don’t think she understood that what she was saying to me or how she was acting could do so much damage to someone’s self-image that it truly changed the person they became.
Ran away from the job due to other ignorance of bipolar and their belief I was not good enough to be around their children
I then as an adult let it be found out I was bipolar while working in a small town. (https://inbipolarfashion.com/2019/05/02/stigma-in-a-small-town/) As a bus monitor. I ended up having the whole school district of parents calling the superintendent of the school and the school principal. The parents were making so much of a fuss about me being with their children that I finally gave up and quit my job because I was already battling depression so badly I had no fight in me to battle the storm that was happening around me and my public lashing with being bipolar. I again was taught I was inherently bad just by simply being who I was.
Through out my life I have had message after message that has told me from others that I am not enough and bad. Why? I am not. I am smart, I am compassionate, I am empathetic, I am generous and caring. I am kind and a hard-worker, and I give a whole lot of myself to others. It is now though, that I am finally realizing that all of these situations really had nothing to do with me, or the person I was. These situations all had to do with the individual that was at the root of the problem. It was because my friend wasn’t confident enough in who she was to say, she wanted to be my friend as a child. It was the teacher who should be ashamed of the way she spoke to a child in her classroom and obviously did not have the emotional intelligence to be teaching young kids who were being shaped into the individuals they would become as an adult and should be encouraged and nurtured not degraded and taught they are bad and not worthy of the life they are living, my father, well, he was just a jerk, and the people in my former community, well, they just weren’t educated enough to know that bipolar didn’t mean bad, and there is always going to be that ignorance and that stigma in the world. As much as I wish there wouldn’t be as long as we have people blaming mass shootings on the mentally ill, we are going to have stigma. It’s a fact. BIPOLAR PEOPLE ARE NOT VIOLENT! There I said it! I’ll leave that soap box alone.
My confidence level has been shot a long time. I however, for the first time in a long time no longer think I am a bad person or think that people automatically don’t like me. I am actually kinda cool. Maybe we should be friends!