by Christine F. Anderson
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. This week we are celebrating the end of Mental Illness Awareness Week with not only Christine’s latest column, but also an interview with mental health advocate Emily Wu Truong.
Christine has also started a Facebook support group for those with Bipolar Disorder: www.facebook.com/groups/foreverdifferent.
I went to the psychiatrist this week and we discussed fear: fear as it pertains to causing paranoia and anxiety in bipolar disorder.
There are different types of fear. There are everyday-life apprehensions; there’s the fear of making a mistake, of upsetting someone, of not trusting your appearance.
Then we got to the deep fears, rooted in something unrealistic but nonetheless very real for people who suffer from bipolar disorder. I’m speaking of the fear of being not good enough, the fear of being alone, the fear of being with people and socializing, the fear of leaving your house. Fear of the unknown in particular is difficult, and when you’re bipolar—either depressed or manic—you tend to dwell on things that make you afraid. So simply getting out of bed can arouse fear when you’re depressed. Or maybe when you’re manic you think somebody is watching or listening to you (paranoia).
My fear this week was leaving the house. Not so much that I’m agoraphobic and I don’t ever want to leave my house, but I’m afraid to leave the safety of my house, where things are normal for me. Where things are predictable, where my comfort zone is. I’m afraid to go outside of that.
So I talked to the doctor and I said, “You know, here it is: I’ve got to go to work, I’ve got to do something, I’ve got to earn a living, and I am petrified to leave my world of existence and things that have become routine to me.”
And she said, ”You’re a meditator, meditate on what it is that you’re afraid of.” I’ve given it a lot of though and I think the thing that I’m most afraid of is being in a position to do something that may set me back.
So I’m afraid to move forward and I’m kind of stuck in a routine, and I don’t want to upset the routine. When you’re bipolar, a routine is very important. A routine for taking your medication, a routine for exercise, a routine for eating well. Routines are very important when you are mentally ill.
I thought about it, I meditated on it, and I talked myself out of my fear. Now: how long will that talk last? I don’t know, I don’t know if it will last for a day, for a week, or for a month. I won’t know until the next episode hits.
What I’m saying to you today is this: your fears are very real, whatever they are. Whatever causes you discomfort. And if you take the time to meditate on what’s causing your fear, you can hear yourself in your head, you can conduct a dialogue and talk yourself out of that state. You can do it through talking to yourself, talking with a friend, talking to a support system, talking to a psychiatrist; no matter what, I urge you to talk.
Talk therapy is what is needed to overcome your fear. And in the event that therapy is not affordable, I recommend getting on YouTube and learning how to meditate. Also, music therapy is a great healer. I have been known to put on comforting music and light an aromatherapy candle and take a bath and just relax. I do not color but I hear this is a great coping mechanism as well. Wherever you are at with your level of fear and discomfort, I wish you peace.
Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles, and watch for more from Christine.