by Christine F. Anderson
May is Mental Health Month so we will be featuring a mental health related article every week. You can learn more about Mental Health Month on the NAMI website, and more about bipolar disorder on the International Bipolar Foundation.
Christine writes about mental health/mental illness in her column, Forever Different, where she shares from her own experiences as someone who has bipolar disorder. Christine has also started a Facebook support group for those with Bipolar Disorder: www.facebook.com/groups/foreverdifferent.
I’m bipolar and I suffer from paranoia. They should be synonyms. It almost seems as if, if you’re bipolar, you’re automatically going to suffer from paranoia.
I know from experience; my level of paranoia runs the gamut. I have had episodes where I have thought that people were being sent to my house, that my house was bugged, that people or the feds were watching me, or that I was being followed. I got to the point where I wouldn’t drive. I had to have somebody else drive all the time, because I was afraid of getting pulled over and possibly arrested. I had gone to the extent, at one point, to hire 24-hour security. Someone was always with me at my home or in my office, I never went anywhere by myself. I had a fear of being alone, but also had a fear of people talking about me, wondering if whispers were about me. My paranoia lends itself to me thinking that my partner is cheating on me, always thinking that there was another woman. As to wondering what people were thinking about me, some of you might say that that might have some credence. Which is true, you know; you worry about people talking about you behind your back. If someone isn’t talking to you directly, you wonder if they are having conversations about you. That’s all part of normal insecurities, but I go to extremes; I create an environment where I try to trap people to see if they are doing things to sabotage me. I create drama that is unnecessary, or maybe I initiate arguments and accusations of things that aren’t real, things that are just in my mind. That’s where it becomes detrimental to my mental health, when I actually create a world that only exists for me, and isn’t based on reality or fact. The paranoia is palatable.
My Xanax was the only thing that helped me with the paranoia. I’m very open about it in my memoir, Forever Different; I was abusing Xanax. I was taking 2mg. bars, and sometimes I was taking twelve bars a day. Of course not all in one swallow; this was from the time I woke up, until the time I went to bed. On top of that, I was drinking about a fifth of vodka a day, plus a bottle of wine at dinner, and possibly some margaritas at various times of the day. In order to amp down, I self-medicated instead of taking my medication as directed.
If I can offer any advice to others suffering from these problems, it is this: if you are creating a world not based in reality, if you are feeling paranoid, if you’re self-medicating, get some help. Go to therapy, get to the root of the problem, face your fear, be honest with your therapist, and get yourself on the road to recovery.
Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles, and watch for more from Christine.