Let’s get physical 

As I sit in the comfort of my boyfriends apartment I think, what a great day. I’m feeling good. I’m looking through my assignments for university, deconstructing task sheets and creating detailed study plans for the semester. You know, the stuff I love to do. 

And I’m feeling great. So when I begin to lose concentration, feel the familiar nausea creeping up my constricting throat, become unnaturally hot and sweaty and have an uncontrollable tremor in my hands I think “Oh shit. I have a stomach bug again.” 

And when I realise that’s not true, I believe it is an undiagnosed illness that has come and gone since I was 13. 

And when I realise that’s not true, I wonder if the tiny amount of dairy in my hot chocolate is enough to send my lactose-intolerant stomach into this state. 

What would it take, I wonder, to make me recognise these symptoms as part of an illness all too familiar to me? General Anxiety Disorder. 

Google. Google is what it took. 

It may seem silly to not recognise a panic attack when it occurs, yet after years of therapy I’ve found that the emotional side of it all has become quite insignificant at times. And that leads me to wonder, are mood disorders really as emotion focused as they are made out to be? 

Of course what separates mood disorders from physical illnesses is the distinct shift in mood and behaviour, yet the predominant attitude I have faced is that they are a purely mental condition. But that’s just not the case. 

Shall I explain?

Yesterday (when I started this post) I experienced intense nausea, hot flushes, and abdominal discomfort. I later noticed a serious tremor in my hands, which spread to my whole body making it difficult to walk. My throat had swollen and made people believe I was suffering an asthma attack from my difficulty breathing. The emotional symptoms? Dread, and some fear. Today I have found myself with the same symptoms, add a sever weakening of muscles, an intense dizziness and the fun abdominal cramping I’m facing right now. And the same couple of emotional symptoms. 

But yeah, sure, it’s all in my head. 

And this is important to distinguish because it is not Anxiety whispering sweet nothings into my ear that makes me disfunctional in my daily activities, but whatever Anxiety slipped me to make my mind go numb and my body weak. 

I can tell myself that I WILL pass university, and that I WILL be successful in life. But how does that help the overwhelming sickness? The headache? The trembling hands that can’t right notes?

By treating mood disorders as if they are only mood, we limit ourselves in our treatment. We dismiss some of the most damaging symptoms. And we perpetuate this attitude that it’s all about thinking differently. I don’t know about you, but if I can have panic attacks without particular feeling panicky because I’m so good at the counter talk, we’re clearly missing something.

Reminders

Trigger: Suicide

Did you know I have trouble riding trains?

As a poor student they are my primary method of transport. I ride several each day on most days, and I live across the road from a station. I’m on one now, listening to my music and typing this post on my second hand iPhone with a gorgeous minion case. 

But I struggle with it every day. Every day I wait at the station, every day I hear the trains noisily go by my bedroom window. 

Because it reminds me of things I want to forget. 

Days crying on my bed, wanting to run out and jump in front of the next one. 

Times when I was on my way somewhere, hopelessly waiting for my ride to come, fighting the impulse to take that step away from safety. 

Every time I get on one of these things, no matter how well I’m feeling, I remember. The pain, the crushing feeling, the desperation for an end. 

But I get on every day. 

I keep living my life. 

That’s all we can do, right?

To my readers with Bipolar who can relate to this, you are strong. You are stronger than people give you credit for. It’s not just about making it through the hard time, it’s living in the aftermath. I admire anyone who continues to live after these times. I admire you. 

And if you know anyone who struggles with Depression or Bipolar, recognise how difficult even the little things can be. Let them know how wonderful they are. 

(Apologies if this is poorly written. I’m operating on 30% brain power while I recover from a stomach bug. Regular posts will resume once I sort out my university schedule.)

Complications

I think it goes without saying that when you have a major illness, things get more complicated. That’s true for any illness. Yet although my Nanna whom I love and am very close to has Diabetes, beyond the fact that she loves biscuits and can no longer have them, I have no idea how it affects her day to day.

So how do mood disorders complicate life?

Right now as I am writing this my pale face could have my cast in the next popular vampire drama, my fingers are trembling, my usually bouncy, curly hair is plastered to my face with sweat, and the scent of vomit lingers in the air. Pleasant, right?

Stomach bugs are nasty stuff.

And although throwing up every hour is nasty enough on its own, I now also have to worry about the fact that when I can’t keep down basic food or water, I can’t keep down medication either.

This also has further difficulties in that if this keeps up, I will get to experience oh-so-joyful withdrawal symptoms on top of this sickness. If the Lithium leaves my system completely, I will have to go through the process of building up my medication all over again.

Which is troublesome considering how stressful the past couple of weeks have been and will continue to be.

Why, you may ask?

Because I’ve returned to university after taking a semester off for my health. Yes, university (or college, depending on where you’re from) is a stressful time for all. But having Bipolar, or any mental illness, just makes it that much harder.

When I was at uni last year the stress had me cycling like Lance Armstrong on drugs. I was suicidal, psychotic, and everything in between. Returning to university is not about a few years of stress so that I can achieve the job of my dreams, it has come to be more like a life or death decision.

Perhaps I am being dramatic, but after coming so close to taking my life so many times, perhaps I have a right to be.

Bipolar can complicate some of the most simple of things.

Such as running into an old friend who asks what you have been up to for the last year. If you haven’t guessed by how openly I talk about Bipolar to the public of the internet, being open about all aspects of my life isn’t something that troubles me. But for so many others, running into an old friend isn’t necessarily the joyous event it should be.

I think it’s silly when people assume that an illness will only affect you in the mostobvious ways.

Throwback Thursdays: Trust Yourself

Before I begin, I should explain that what I now consider to be my first manic episode, I became highly paranoid and claimed that my male friends had sexually assaulted me. For years I was filled with guilt over this, it consumed me at times. In this excerpt I was stable, yet it shows the longer lasting effect that Bipolar can have on you, and what it’s like to not be able to trust your own mind.

Trigger warning: sexual assault


The school buzzed with the usual recess sounds. The shouting, the laughter, the milder chit-chatter. Crows cawed for the rubbish left lying around while teachers patrolled and made begrudging students collect it.

As I carried my painfully heavy bag away from English, I tried to avoid thinking about how much it hurt not to head towards H, the man I had been with for years before we separated a little over a week ago, but was instead grateful to the girls who took me in so that I didn’t have to sit alone.

They were pretty cool, but it made forgetting H difficult, as he and his other friends would come over and visit the girls often after playing basketball, and the girls would often go to play basketball with them.

It was so difficult whenever he came over to where I was sitting and ignored me. I was sure the tightness in my chest was because I loved him, right?

I missed playing Basketball each lunch as well. It was so good for me, but since the separation I can’t handle it.

(I intended to write a short paragraph here describing how at that moment I pictured us on the basketball court but I am having an unanticipated emotional reaction to this post and can’t describe even vaguely what I saw)

My throat tightens. I fidget. My skin crawls.

Why am I feeling anxious? What changed?

Oh.

But he isn’t hurting me, it’s the same thing he always did in our relationship.

That he always did.

Should a girl really be afraid of her boyfriend touching her?

Should she have nightmares?

No, Joy. Don’t do this. He didn’t hurt me. I’m just doing it all over again.

My skin is crawling.

No, I’m making it up again. He didn’t hurt me. Don’t be that girl.

I feel sick.

I want to run.

But he didn’t do it. He loved me.

He touched me when I said no. He penetrated me when I said no.

He said sorry.

He did it again. And again.

I’m making it up, he didn’t do anything. He’s a good guy. He made me laugh, he helped me.

He humiliated me. He would walk behind me and pull up my shirt when others were around for fun. He would twist my arm into making me do stuff to him in places I didn’t want to. He would make me feel guilty, like I’m a bad person, if I said no.

But he didn’t do it. He didn’t do it. He can’t have done it. He didn’t hurt me. I’m just a bad person. I’m making it up again. He didn’t do it. He can’t have. I’m not going to hurt him like I hurt the others. He didn’t do it. I’m a liar. I’m a slut and a liar. He did nothing wrong. He did nothing wrong. I’m imagining it again. It’s in my imagination.

Even if it does feel different this time.


This went on for another week or two before I acknowledged the truth.