This has been a very interesting summer. I would call it a Season of Self Care for me this year. I’ve had some majorly awesome personal things happening that have taken a lot of time and energy. Mostly exciting stuff! We bought a beautiful new house, we’ve been nesting and redoing the condo, we went to Vegas for my birthday, to Chicago for Steve’s, went to visit my sister and their new baby… General life stuff. Feeling great!
However, I’ve also been taking some mental and emotional space to realign. If you read the blog (and yes, I know I’ve been negligent for a few months- sorry about that!) you know I’m living with the intent to manage my eating disorder and balance any other mental health issues as naturally as possible. Until recently, this has meant treating my depression and anxiety as they come up through the normal means- exercise, sunlight, being gentle and patient with myself, essential oils, supplements, etc.
It’s a constant experiment in what works and what doesn’t, and I keep inching toward less bad spells as I go along.
However, a few short months ago, it came to my attention that what I’m actually dealing with is much more likely to be bipolar II. I’ve been giving myself space to understand what that means and adapt how I’m treating it. It’s been incredibly eye-opening and life-changing!
For instance, the triggers and cycles for bipolar are different than those of depression or run of the mill anxiety. I’m learning how much stress affects my symptoms. I’m also learning that an episode of mania is not just a few extra-anxious days. Understanding what’s really happening to my mind and body calms me, allows me to focus on riding that wave safely, and even gives me the opportunity to harness some of that energy for productivity or creative endeavors, instead of simply panicking when it becomes overwhelming.
If you don’t know, there are technically four types of bipolar disorder, but the two main types are bipolar I and bipolar II. The main difference can be found in the severity of the manic episodes. Those with bipolar I will experience true mania, while someone like me experiences hypomania, which is basically less severe than a full manic episode.
Here is what my hypomania looks like:
- I don’t sleep much. I’m usually someone who likes to sleep in, but during these episodes, I can often wake up less than four hours after I close my eyes and I’m full of energy.
- I talk nonstop. I have a million ideas running through my head and I want to share them! It’s almost like someone on Adderall or listening to a way less brilliant Jesse Eisenberg (speaking of- have you checked out the Life is Short podcast? Do so!!)
- I become euphoric! I don’t so much mind this part, except that sometimes the euphoria goes so high it can literally feel like being at the top of a roller coaster, which can be scary.
- My appetite basically disappears.
- It’s difficult to concentrate at times.
- I do become more impulsive in ways, but I don’t steal cars or rob banks or anything! I’m more likely to spend money on something I might not really need- like a new purse- or I tend to make big plans I might not want to follow through on in the future.
I definitely have downswings and balanced days between these periods, and part of what I’m doing to learn more about how to care for myself is to chart these and look for patterns. So far, I haven’t felt any need for medication, and while I hope to be able to stay off pharmaceuticals for life, I also know we can sometimes find ourselves influenced by things we can’t control, so we will see. I’ve read, for example, about Catherine Zeta Jones’ bipolar being triggered by extreme stress and needing treatment- that could certainly happen to any one of us at any time.
Meanwhile, I’m taking it one day at a time. I will say this- learning this diagnoses reinforces something I truly believe: putting words to something, being able to name it and understand it, truly does help. When I admitted out loud I had an eating disorder, I felt less crazy for knowing it. When I first was diagnosed with social anxiety or depression or major manic depression as it used to be called, each time I felt relief. I felt less crazy for knowing I was, indeed, “crazy.”
This is why I share my story. This is why I encourage you to do so as well. This is why we discuss and destigmatize and share.
Everyone deserves a chance to put words to what causes them to suffer. To name it and thus become friends with it. To develop a relationship as coworkers with your “issues,” working together for your common good. Only then can we truly know and understand ourselves and, by extension, others.
I named this blog The Crazy Actor because I wanted to take back the term “crazy.” Too often it’s attributed to a “crazy ex” who was scorned and angry, or a “crazy” homeless person, probably battling demons we couldn’t begin to understand, or a messed up situation that’s just gotten “crazy.”
To me, my crazy means I’m different and normal at the same time. I deal with something a lot of people can understand and also deal with, but I also have a different kind of mental makeup that brings gifts with it as well. I’m extra sensitive, which makes me extra caring. I have extreme highs and lows, which forces me to understand that a person is a totality of their makeup, not how they seem for one minute or one day or one week. I struggle sometimes with basic life tasks, which makes me patient when someone else does as well. I believe I’ve found great wells of creativity in my mania. I believe my depression has forced me to learn to listen to myself and take care of myself with great love.
We can choose whether these things that live inside us are gifts or curses. We can find the blessings. But it all starts with being honest and getting to the truth of what’s happening, then removing all traces of shame.
I’ve neglected this blog and some aspects of my career all summer, but I’m not mad at myself. I prioritized my mental health and getting my personal ducks in a row because if I’m not clear and balanced, I’m not bringing my best self to the world. I’m not doing my best work. I’m not making the best use of my unique gifts to serve my purpose.
Take time for yourself. It’s ok to do so. Rather, it’s necessary.
Recently my jiu-jitsu instructor (oh yeah! I started training in jiu-jitsu!) spoke about how we do our part for the world simply by making ourselves better. We educate ourselves, heal ourselves, love ourselves, we learn things and pass them on, we organize a box, we give a gift, we read a book. These might seem like small things, but each one brightens the space around us, helps the people in our sphere, makes us more capable of creating positive change, and generally lifts our energy to a higher frequency to raise the energy in the space around us.
To take this even further, we have a responsibility to heal, learn, and grow. The longer you refuse to face yourself or your truth, the harder things are on the people around us. The more we invite conflict and chaos. The more we go through the same painful situations trying to subconsciously learn lessons we could have learned the first time or the time after that. All the while dragging our loved ones through it with us!
Everything you do to create growth inside of you and heal yourself lifts up the world, too, that little bit. It’s the furthest thing from “selfish” you could ever do.
And that, teacher, is what I did this summer.