I was un-diagnosed until my 30s, but there was never a time that I did not think I was crazy. I wrote on my blog yesterday, that “I am crazy” has been one of my core beliefs/wounds. I have joked to friends my anxiety is so bad, I get anxious when I realize I’m not anxious, because I’m paranoid I have forgotten something. “I am crazy” typically manifests when I am depressed, angry, or “not normal”. Not normal is about as broad as you can get, seeing as I haven’t the first clue what normal is, but somehow I was supposed to be it. In general, I’ve always held a suspicion and fear that I was not like most people.
I have a terrible habit of Google diagnosing myself. I’ve had so many negative experiences in the mental health arena, that I tend to trust WebMD more than the MD sitting in front of me. I likely have enough information in my brain about mental health disorders that I could easily major in Psychology. I didn’t just study the DSM V, I studied Freud, Carl Jung, and Buddha. I think it’s common knowledge that most modern psychology is based around Buddhist tenets, but if you didn’t know, envision a starwipe with “The More You Know” flashing across your screen.
Like diagnosing yourself with cancer for every cough or sniffle via the internet, I have successfully diagnosed myself with every disorder too. Ironically, I have been diagnosed with everything, it seems. I say that purposefully, because I don’t want to lock in to any one disorder, because the co-morbidity between everything is pretty damn high. My kids have ADHD; the overlap in symptoms between ADHD and Bipolar is incredibly high. A key differentiator is age of symptom onset. The downside of my research is that I diagnose myself constantly, or second guess myself with symptoms constantly.
Mood disorders put you on such a roller coaster. I can wake up – up, crash down, go up, crash down, and repeat this several times in a day. Call it whatever you’d like, but I call it hell. There are days where I can be smiling then a few moments later sobbing then back to laughing hysterically. My ex has said, “I never knew who my wife was going to be when I came home.” That right there is the painful part of mood disorders. It hurts me and everyone who loves me when I cannot manage myself.
Writing has helped increase awareness of myself. Triggers are a huge factor for everyone, and mood swings are often triggered by emotions and environment. Writing helped me start identifying triggers, which is incredible. Now, instead of “randomly” sobbing my heart out and/or having a panic attack, I can say to myself, “Your anxiety spiked because ___”. Thanks to social media, I started reading others’ writing and understanding that I am not alone in this. Sometimes, I put things out in my blog just to see if anyone else has experienced it as well. Hearing “me too!” has made “I am crazy” get quieter, which allows more positive affirmations to be heard.
The hardest part for me is acknowledging that happiness triggers me. I will be doing my thing, etc. and suddenly, I will get interrupted with the thought of “You are really happy right now, you must be manic or hypomanic.” At one time, that actually made me happier, because I’d think, “Sweet, I’ll actually get shit done!” Now, I fear the rise because of the crash. Those words are like a sucker punch from my heart through my throat, and straight out my skull. I find that I have to cope with…happiness…. At one time, this would spiral. “Why do I have to live this way? This is so unfair. Haven’t I suffered enough? Why does my brain want me to die?!” At the end of the day, these all amount to intrusive thoughts, right? My brain is a total dickhead sometimes, because I have intrusive thoughts about suicide constantly. I previously was unable to control this, and ultimately, my brain would beat the happiness right out of me.
Now, I have one simple tool to quiet everything down. Gratitude. The gift of mood disorders is that you embody the yin yang of life. You know, very, very truly how low you can go and how high you can rise. You have felt the depths of depression, and the highs of bliss. With the darkness of depression, it helps you grab that light and enjoy it as much as you can. Now, when my brain starts with intrusive thoughts, I honor my brain instead of fighting her. I have journaled some simple affirmations for myself to recite when I struggle.
- I thank my mind for the gift of creativity
- I thank my mind for my intelligence
- I thank my mind, body, and soul for the gift of me
Depending on where I am, I also focus on nature and just say thank you’s for the beauty of the sky, or the smell of someone grilling, etc. I read, “When you are in a place of gratitude, only love can exist.” I combined that with my psychologist saying not to fight your brain or your moods. I realized that, by fighting myself so much, I fed kindling to the fire. By accepting and bringing in gratitude, I calmly put the fire out with gentle breathing, love, and calm.
I also changed how I journal to manage my moods better. I journaled heavily when I was depressed, to “get it all out”, but I realized, I was actually focusing MORE on my unhappiness and bringing more attention to it. Now, I actually get quieter when I am depressed, focus on triggers, and stay more clinical in my assessment of depression. I use my logical left brain to diagnose the bad. When I am happy, calm, etc. I focus on what I did to foster that, and write myself more encouragement, etc. I always focus on gratitude though. I use my creative right brain to emphasize joy and beauty.
Thanks to gratitude, I’ve been able to accept that my past, my mind, my mistakes, and my successes are all part of my journey, and I am very, very glad to still be here (even if my brain likes to try to tell me not to). I find myself happy now, even if my moods are labile.
My favorite Yoga routine for gratitude:
Meditation for Intention setting:
My most favorite song – especially if I’m struggling, just helps me release/let go.
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