Self-confidence, where does it come from? My theory is it comes from within. I haven’t been able to find my own inner self-confidence in a long while now. I have had glimpses of it, here and there. Every now and then I will have a fleeting moment where I will not think that every one that is in a room is laughing at me, judging my every move. However, for the most part, I lack the self-confidence I desire in my life.
Part of that does have to do with my mental illness diagnosis and my mental health overall and the fact that paranoia and delusional thoughts about how others perceive me is going to be a part of my life forever. There is never going to be a point that I will be completely free of the nasty thoughts that plague my brain and make me think others are judging me and dislike who I am. It is however up to me to make sure I am mentally as strong and as healthy as I can be in order to find those true glimpses of self-confidence and find the self-worth I know I want and deserve to have.
What can I do to change my lack of self-confidence?
I often think there must be a way for me to overcome this lack of self-confidence that I carry around with me. Whether it’s in my personal life or my career, I walk around in a state of constant avoidance in life with even the simplest of things, because I am always so fearful of the rejection that seems inevitable. I fear rejection, and I think that ultimately that fear of rejection is what is keeping me from the abundance of self-confidence that I crave. So, what can I do to change that fear of rejection and my lack of self-confidence?
Stop Giving My Power to Others!
I need to stop giving my power to others. The reason I am always lacking self-confidence is that my mood is dependent on external factors in my life. I live on an emotional roller coaster ride that is determined by my emotions that will be decided by the way others react to me. If I am praised, I will be in a great mood. If I am given bad news, I will be in a terrible mood. My mood is determined completely by outside factors all dependent upon if I am rejected that day or not.
My happiness should not depend on whether my husband had a bad day at work or not. Yet my whole being is wrapped up in how I perceive someone is viewing me at a given moment. If he comes home in a bad mood and not in the mood to cuddle I take that as a personal rejection and I am hurt by it and I will lose my confidence in myself. My own self-worth is then devalued and I feel as if I am unwanted and I and my feelings don’t matter to him. When that isn’t true. He simply had a bad day and needs some space.
If I am volunteering somewhere in my community and I am given criticism in the way I am doing something my mood and whole demeanor will change, and I will instantly go into a state of depression because I will feel the rejection from the criticism that was stated even if it was given to me in a constructive manner. I will feel I wasn’t good enough to get it right the first time and that I let the organization I am working for down and I should have known better, even if it is something I had no way of knowing about. I have a hard time convincing myself that there was no way I could have known. When by them telling me, they just wanted to help me learn to better my skills not make me feel rejected at all but better my skills.
Stop Blaming Others for My Mistakes and Lack of Growth!
Living with bipolar disorder it is very easy for me to blame others for my mistakes and my lack of growth. I have quit many jobs and even dropped out of college and blamed my husband, my children or my illness for the reason for not returning to those things. The real truth for the reason I have not returned to any of those things though, is I am worried about failing yet again.
I have been told over and over again that history repeats it’s self, I have it in my mind that I will once again fail if I try to return to work or school. However, being in a standstill and never making an effort to improve who I am is killing my self-worth. I need to stop blaming my husband and kids for the reason I have not made changes to my life. I worry that the stress of working or going back to school may cause another episode. I worry if that happens it may cause my family more distress again, but not going is causing damage to my psyche that will be nonrepairable if I don’t act and do something to make myself value who I am once again.
Starting to take ownership of my own failures is a new step for me and not allowing myself to blame my family for holding me back. I chose to be a wife and mother first. I will never regret that choice. I do however wish I had made some better life choices along the way.
Recognize that Making Change Starts with Me!
I have to recognize that making change starts with me and unless I believe I can do something, it doesn’t matter if anyone else believes I can do it or not. I have to own my mistakes and take ownership of my failures and make the improvements now towards the future I want. I need to not fear failure as rejection and realize that I will never know “what all could go right” if I am in a state of constant fear of failure. Avoiding the things that trigger my illness doesn’t mean that I am in a state of recovery it means that I have learned how to avoid the things that cause my anxiety not learned how to cope with the anxieties in a healthy manner.
Overall I know I have some changes to make when it comes to myself acceptance. My journey to self-love is one I have been working on for a long time. I know it isn’t going to happen overnight and that is something I am okay with. I will always be plagued with the paranoia and delusional thoughts of mental illness and those will always be a fight I have to deal with. Staying mentally strong and healthy will be the best asset I have against those thoughts.
I have started to accept that I am who I am, and people love me for the unique person that I am. I don’t have to put on an act, pretend to be someone I am not, or try to be something I can’t be. I am a bit too loud, a little too much for some people, and my style is a little too over the top for most to handle, I’m a little too glamorous for some and I may get a little too excited sometimes for most people but I am who I am, and if people don’t like those things about me then they just aren’t my people. The people that do like me, they are my people, and I love those people that I can just be me around.
I always wondered how I would tell my story if ever given the chance. Having bipolar 1, ADHD, and general anxiety I have so much to share. It was cold out. That’s all I really remember. I had on a stocking cap and I was wearing a sweatshirt. This was my common attire for my then-position as a bus monitor for the school district I lived in. The depression was back and it was hitting hard core. I had lost faith in my current psychiatrist and getting in to see a new one proved to be a challenge. I had an appointment, but it was a month away. I was going to see a doctor who was newly out of school, young, and hopefully wouldn’t, as I called it, “cookie cut” me when it came to medications. I had just found the webcam feature on my new mac, hit record, and “Ramblings of a Bipolar Mom” started to flow from my mouth. After I was done speaking I thought, I am going to use this for good. Maybe someone else needs to hear it. I posted it on Facebook without a second thought. I did a video about every other day, talking about having bipolar illness and how it made me feel and some of the things that it did to me. I got some positive feedback from friends; supportive feedback. “Good for you Tosh, maybe this can help someone else,” one friend said. I felt good about the video blogs. I was very depressed, but I was getting into the doctor and hoped I would be OK soon. I remember getting one message that didn’t make any sense to me until later. It said, “I don’t care what people are saying, I have depression and I am behind you 100%.” It was from a neighbor. I live in a very small town, small enough that it is actually called a village. I just took that comment as a compliment, and it didn’t dawn on me to pay attention to the part that said “what people are saying”. I would, however, find out very soon.
I was at the bus barn in between runs when my boss asked me to follow him into the offices of the administration building. My chest tightened and my heart sped up as I walked through the hallway leading to the HR manager’s office. On the screen of his computer was my face, my blog pulled up as if I was doing something deceitful on the job. The whole school district was in an uproar over my videos. Some of my children’s friends were on my Facebook page and some of their parents were as well. News of my illness traveled quickly among administrative staff, principals at the schools, and all the way up to the superintendent of the district. They were flooded with calls demanding my immediate dismissal.
I sat there blank faced. I explained I was trying to help others who have bipolar, asking why there was a problem. They told me I yelled at the students. I said I have never yelled at the students, I talked loudly. There were 70 students on the bus. If I didn’t speak loudly, how would they hear the instructions? I was dumbfounded. I was advised strongly to take the videos down immediately and not do anymore. I was hurt, and ashamed, and worse than that, I worried about my boys and how would this affect them at school. Would the other kids make fun of them for having a crazy mom?
Without thinking I took the videos down and sank even deeper into depression. The shaming, however, had just begun. Day after day I was told of phone call after phone call to the school and the administrative offices. The parents were relentless. The principal, with whom I preciously had a good relationship since my sons were in preschool (now my oldest was in high school) asked me rudely, “Is it worth it for this stupid job?” when I tried to apologize to him for all the phone calls he was having to deal with. I told him yes it was since the school board paid my insurance. I was crushed that he hadn’t assured the parents I was fine to be around their children, that he knew me personally and knew I would never harm them.
Then the unimaginable happened on the first warm day of spring during an afternoon bus route. Seating on our bus is by grades with kindergartners sitting in the front progressing towards the back with first and second graders next, through fifth graders at the back of the bus. I always sat with the fifth graders because they tended to be the noisiest and needed the most supervision. We stopped in town where the majority of the children and I got off the bus. Seventeen kids got off starting with the youngest. I was the last one off the bus after the fifth graders exited. The snow had melted, the air was fresh and my children decided to walk the two blocks home instead of riding in the car home with me. I remembered that my oldest son had lost his key to our van in the snow a few weeks earlier so I started looking for it along the side of my car. I noticed another van parked across from mine but didn’t see who was in it, just figuring it was another parent picking up their child at the bus stop. My twins called to me, asking what I was looking for. I called back, “The van key that Colton lost a few weeks ago”. After a few more moments I gave up the search got in my car and drove home. The next day my boss asked me to come to his office. He had received a call from a man who said I had pushed his son, a kindergartner, off the bus and then went up to his son and wife sitting inside their van and started growling at them, trying to get into their van, all of which was a complete fabrication. I asked my boss, “Why do they want me gone so badly? I have done this job for four years without a problem. I don’t understand.” I had never dealt with the stigma of bipolar before that moment. Why would someone go out of their way to fabricate a complete lie to try and get me fired from a job that I had done for years for with no complaints from anyone. I couldn’t understand how people, knowing I was already depressed, would try to take something from me that could send me further into depression. I still don’t talk to many people in the town we live in. Fewer than 700 people live there, and most know of my diagnosis. They choose to think I am different because of that. I know that I’ve read somewhere that 1 in 5 people have mental illness. Is it possible the lady who made up that story about me growling at her is dealing with some undiagnosed illness of her own? Then again, maybe she is just that mean-spirited. Either way, I wouldn’t change what happened. It set the course for other things that happened in my life, and the changes that came next were bigger than anything I could have imagined. Although not all of them were good, they all did prove that I have Amazing Strength.
Finding the right psychiatrist is a difficult task. For me it took almost 10 years and three different doctors. It seems like finding a doctor would be a simple thing, however it’s very personal and you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position when you speak with a psychiatrist.
By the time you get to a psychiatrist you have either spoken with your primary care doctor or a therapist who have referred you to go see the psychiatrist. So, you have already told someone your secret of not feeling well mentally and the fact that you feel like you need some help. Most people go to see a psychiatrist reluctantly.
When you go the first time you have to tell them everything you’re feeling. However, I have found through my studies, that at this first appointment not enough time is allowed and never is enough information given to the doctor to make a proper diagnosis. Most people will at first state they are feeling sad and be given an antidepressant or anxiety medication. They may be misdiagnosed and then rushed out the door. However, I believe the real work needs to come from the patient themselves and not the psychiatrist — and I will explain why.
It has been my experience that a psychiatrist won’t know how to diagnose if the patient doesn’t know what that what they are feeling is a symptom, so it is many times overlooked. Often it takes the patient themselves doing the research and learning what their symptoms are to get the proper diagnosis. The doctors aren’t to blame though; they can only treat what they are told about. Nobody gets upset when you have a burst of energy and clean out two closets in three hours, so people don’t think to tell their doctor about it and things like hypomania there for are sometimes missed. It takes years of work with a doctor to get the proper diagnosis.
It also takes years once you have the right diagnosis to get the correct medications that are going to be the least harmful to you — with side-effects you can tolerate — but that also have the highest return on reducing your problematic symptoms. It is not easy and many people find themselves overwhelmed, giving up way before they find the relief that can come from proper care. However, it is normally a combination of medication and therapy that works best
My advice to those of you who are just starting with a doctor, stick with it, if the doctor doesn’t seem to care find a different one. You shouldn’t be just a name on a file to your doctor. Your doctor-patient relationship is important. Make sure it is someone you trust, can talk to and someone who doesn’t rush you out their door. Make sure they are open to suggestions. I always tell everyone, “you are your biggest advocate.” Most of all educate yourself. Read as much as you can about your diagnosis. Reading what others with bipolar go through helped me learn the proper language to talk to my doctor, it taught me how to tell him what was happening in my mind. Talking and discussing symptoms with your doctor is the fastest way to get the help you need.
Being bipolar can be challenging. For me it’s partly because my mind refuses to shut off. When I’m not doing much and just being around the house, I find myself doing the one thing that makes most people break into anxiety: overthinking. It’s one of the quickest ways to find yourself in depression.
I spend so much time pressing out the thoughts that I have forgotten what an impossible task this is. Ironically, I wind up having to take medication to help my brain press out the thoughts now causing anxiety.
Fortunately for me, normally they work. However, sometimes the thoughts become so overwhelming that no matter how I try to distract myself, I can’t seem to manage to do so. Paranoid delusional thoughts can come at me so rapidly that even when I think I have the whole bipolar delusion thing figured out, I realize that ability goes and comes.
Most of the time my delusions are that people I know and are on my side do not like me. I think people who are trying to help me make things better are against me. I feel that everyone around me is talking badly about me and are having conversations with each other about me and the things they don’t like about me. I think every giggle they make with someone else, and every look they exchange has got me in the center of it. It’s as if I am standing in front of a class in my underwear. Except for me, I am not dreaming — at that moment it’s happening in real time.
Sometimes they get so extreme that I believe my biggest supporter is against me. Sometimes I am able to pinpoint what I have done wrong with my compliance plan for managing my bipolar and figure out quickly how I got off track and started down the path where the delusions began. Other times I struggle so badly that I know that no matter how well I take care of myself the delusions will never be more than a thought away. They, just like breathing, are a part of my life. I don’t get to decide to do it, when to do it, or how often they come. I have been told many times I am a likable person, so why I believe that others dislike me will always be something I don’t understand. My mother-in-law used to say, “Tosha, they have better things to think about than you.” Although though I know that’s right I still cannot make the delusions or the overthinking stop.
I try to keep myself busy throughout the days. I read, study things I find interesting, crochet (but there is a lot of free time for thinking while crocheting), play on Facebook or clean. Sometimes, though, when things are really coming at me fast, the overthinking and delusions won’t stop no matter how hard I try to repress them. When they happen, I tend to create the environment that I was trying to avoid. I will talk about someone, call them a name, because they are out to get me, or so my mind believes. I will make up a reason for my husband to be upset with me or me to be upset with him. I believe he isn’t loving me enough or we aren’t connecting anymore. I think since I have bipolar and my mind is always going that I need the reinforcement continuously.
Now that he and I are nearly 40 and our children are well into their teen years, life is slowing down and because of it, there’s more time to think. I have more time to develop problems that are not really there. I can normally get past them, sometimes convincing myself that I am overreacting. Every once in a while, though, I forget to check myself and the delusions create something out of nothing.
My husband is very forgiving. It might take him a day or so, but he tries to remember I am not always in control of the thoughts that bog down my mind. He tries to reassure me that what I am thinking isn’t happening. At times he has just refused to talk about something because he knows I conjured it up and he won’t fall prey to my mind like I do. I am very thankful for that. He has lived with me for long enough to know when I’m having delusional thoughts.
They can be strong or they can be weak, but I am never truly free from their torment. The biggest battle has been fought, though, which was the battle to know what the delusions were. I didn’t know at one time that the paranoid thoughts I was having had a name, and they were actually part of bipolar disorder. I was both relieved and scared to learn that what was happening to me had a name. Scared because it meant that I truly did have the disorder but relieved because if it had an actual name maybe they had developed something to help me. I was lucky treatment helps me get a handle on what’s happening.
I never wanted to be put on an antipsychotic, never considered what I manifested was psychotic behavior. Long before I figured out that the thoughts were actually delusions, my doctor knew what they were. He never told me they were bipolar delusions and common in the condition. He treated the symptom of the delusions, which, I believe, has more than once saved my life. I worked hard to find the right doctor. I had two other doctors before the one I have now. He listens to me and he doesn’t give me the same medications he gave the patient he saw right before me. He gives me the medicine I need to treat my symptoms. This means I am not taking medicine I might not need. He sees patterns in my behavior and helps me recognize what my mind is doing. I trust I am getting the right care.
When the delusions start, I know what to do. I know now that they will be there no matter what I do. My doctor said when it comes to medication we have it all right. I have to learn to talk about it and learn how to work it out for myself. I can’t depend on the medication to correct everything.
Today, because I felt guilty for overspending, I started to blame myself more than my husband blamed me. In fact, he had let the situation go. Then he talked to me a bit about my thoughts and did not feed into my paranoid thoughts of him being more upset with me than he truly was. Eventually I was able to see what I was doing.
More and more I am able to recognize the fact that I am overthinking a situation, that my mind is not being rational. I am able to warn my husband and let him know by saying, ”I am having a hard time not overthinking things today.” I am lucky enough to have found someone who says he will never understand why I do the things I do, but he will always support me through it. I am a very lucky wife.
So yes, overthinking is a bipolar symptom. I no longer walk around in a solid depression because of what I feel others think of me. I am able to be confident and have good self-esteem. I am able to be a leader and try to help others when they don’t think they can keep going. I don’t let the delusions win. I tell them who I am, and I don’t let them destroy things I have worked hard to create. I am able to remind myself that this is part of the disorder. What I am going through is going to be there sometimes, but I don’t have to let it control me. I make the decisions in my life, my mind doesn’t anymore. I know my mind thinks it is in control most of the time but I always remind it that I, not it, is the one with the ability to stay in control of the delusions.
The need to be desired, it is a topic many women will avoid. They think it shows weakness to express the need to have a man find them attractive. I don’t. Maybe it was the many years of being overweight, but I love when I get hit on by a man. Being bipolar I admit that my need for a man to flirt with me takes on a life of its own. I love it! I crave the attention, and don’t feel as good about myself when it isn’t happening on a regular basis. Being told I am pretty, sexy, hot all makes me feel wanted and, after feeling like the ugly duckling for most of my life, I find nothing more thrilling.
Since I long for the feeling of feeling attractive I do certain things that make some women question me. I always have elaborate makeup on. I take a lot of time to do my makeup before leaving the house each day. It is something I am known for. I am often asked about the products I use, as well as the techniques I use to apply my makeup. I never feel unqualified to give the advice because I did have a cosmetology license, even though it has lapsed now. I also did makeup backstage for theatre even on traveling Broadway shows and for many community theatre shows, so I know my skills are there. I use it to my advantage to give myself a flashy look.
I also make sure to do my hair and have it styled nice as well as put on a fashionable outfit. Being known for my style and flare makes me proud to have bipolar because I know that the bipolar is part of why I have my creative style and flare. It gives my personality a complete persona, and I always enjoy when a gentleman can appreciate the time I put into looking nice.
Then on top of the makeup and the hair and the perfect outfit. I make sure I exercise and go to the gym. I know it seems like not a big deal but as I mentioned I was overweight most my life and now that I am not it is nice to continue to maintain my weight loss. I enjoy jogging and being fit. I like being able to wear sexy clothing that make me feel attractive and yes they are normally provocative and turn heads but that is the way I like it.
I know now that hypersexuality is a symptom of bipolar disorder and I know that my need to be desired probably stems from that. I don’t always like that I care so deeply what others think of me and sometimes it is the one thing that will send me deep into a depression. I may over think why no one has flirted with me recently or why my husband of almost 20 years hasn’t tried to have sex with me lately, however a good night out dancing is the one thing when I am feeling confident again that can knock that depression out of me too. It is always amazing to me what a night of feeling like a sexy woman can do for my self-esteem. For me it is a rush like nothing else, better than any drug that I could even imagine is out there.
I know bipolar has some symptoms that are a pain in the bottom and many of them I don’t care for. This symptom however is not one that I am looking to correct anytime soon. I don’t mind needing the reassurance from others that I am attractive. Maybe, that’s because I am finally okay with who I am. It won’t happen every day that a man finds me attractive and I am okay with that. I am happily married and I would never change that. I love my husband but I do love to flirt, hyper-sexuality must be controlled but can be by staying on your wellness bipolar wellness plan. I am lucky to have an understanding husband who understands when it happens it isn’t something he isn’t doing but something that is because of my disorder. Bipolar, it’s a beast!