I Still Have Bipolar Disorder

My bipolar life is a storybook success at present. I’ve just finished a period in which I received free job training and then a three-month paid internship, for which I was highly rated. I am actively involved in community theatre where I live, and I’m well-respected for it. I acted in a play recently, and now I’m directing another one that will hit the boards in November. Plus, I will be directing Shakespeare next summer, and that takes a year-long preparation. It’s a major undertaking. On top of it all, I’m writing and reading. I have dreams of a book with my name on it.

Last weekend, I went to see a play produced by the community theatre organization I work with. The play is a true smash hit. Eight of the nine performances have been totally sold out, and they are trying to figure out how to extend the run one more weekend.

My daughter and I arrived early to get good seats in the theatre. We took our programs and sat in the front row. I put on my reading glasses and buried my head in the very informative program made for the historical drama we were about to watch.

After reading the program, I put my glasses away and looked at the stage before us. Then I felt it. The theatre was nearly full, and the house manager was looking for empty seats for people waiting at the door. There was a crush of humanity around me. I didn’t have to turn around and look. I could feel them.

My stomach churned; my chest tightened. I began to squirm in my chair, and my thoughts began to race.

I was getting very near a panic attack, and I haven’t had one in ages. I thought of the Klonopin at home in my medicine chest. It was useless to me in my situation.

So, I thought of WRAP. I tried to remember what was on my Triggers Action Plan for just these situations. Crowds can cause me to panic, and they are listed as a trigger for me. Thankfully, WRAP does not stop with the knowledge of what hurts us, but we make an action plan for each item in case they arise. In the case of panic due to a crowd, I remembered to concentrate on slow breathing and to feel my body .

I took methodical breaths, and I placed my mind on exactly where my feet were and then how the chair felt and then the temperature in the room. I soothed my racing mind by giving it clear, concise things to think on.

My panic was not rising, but it was not easing either. Luckily, the play began, and the action whisked me away with its story.

I came away from the experience enriched. I survived a near panic attack.

I can see now that I have built strategies for dealing with triggers. For example, I hate large parking lots. I have an unreasonable fear of them. As a result, I learned many years ago to visualize driving into the parking lot, going down a certain row, and taking the first available space. It works for me. As a result, I am able to enter large parking lots without the unpleasant emotions.

My last post may have sounded smug. I was reminded that while things may be going well, I still have an illness. More importantly, I learned I have strategies to help today. They may not be foolproof, but they give me hope.

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6 thoughts on “I Still Have Bipolar Disorder

  1. Good for you….despite the unpleasant onset of anxiety you chose to remain rather than exit. The anxiety eventually lessened, and you were rewarded with a fine evening with your daughter. You have made some incredible achievements this year and have every right to feel good about yourself!

    • Thank you. When the sensations began, I so wanted to run. I looked at the exit and could so easily have got up and excused myself. Instead, I asked myself if I had tools to help me in the situation. I do have tools, and they work.

      Thank you for reading and recognizing my changes. It makes me feel like there’s a little something worthwhile in my writing.

  2. The important thing is not that you almost had a panic attack. The important thing is that you have tools for thwarting them, or at least reducing the effects. I so look forward to every one of your posts. I am so very proud of you.

  3. I’m so impressed and inspired. I love that you found that you had the tools that would work in a situation that could have become unmanageable otherwise. Dealing with triggers as they happen is a powerful thing. I think they give out capes for that.

    • I’m impressed, too, actually. I was so surprised when I realized a panic attack was coming on, and afterwards, I was so grateful for the tools I’d learned that worked. It could have spoiled a really wonderful afternoon.

      I’ve had a cape in the past. I’d settle for time and a good book these days.

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