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.

Agoraphobia

A simple definition of agoraphobia is “a pathological fear of being in public places, often resulting in the sufferer becoming housebound.”

Yesterday was supposed to be a happy day of sorts for me. Instead, it was what I would describe as one long panic attack. I had to take my full daily prescribed dose of my anti-anxiety medication to make it through. Yesterday was the twelfth anniversary of my sobriety. Instead of feeling happy, joyous, and free, I experienced an elevated heart rate, racing thoughts, and thoughts of impending doom. The panic-attack-like symptoms lasted nearly all day.

I was extremely uncomfortable at the noon meeting I went to and had to sit on my hands to keep from standing and rushing out of the room. I was again uncomfortable during the evening meeting and could not keep my feet still. In both meetings, I had a hard time concentrating.

I have for many years had an unreasonable fear of parking lots. I hate them. I overcome this by having certain rows I go down at certain places, and I never vary. If I can’t park in my regular row, I don’t shop that day.

I have quit my volunteer position at the library’s learning center. I have quit another club I was a member of.

On a continuing note, I can’t watch TV. I simply can’t sit still for it, and I get feelings of high anxiety trying to watch it. I can’t even watch videos on the internet. They make me antsy in the extreme.

I don’t feel like I’m winning against my brain today. I feel broken.

Panic Attack

I had a panic attack this afternoon. I felt my chest tighten, and then it was as if some hand reached up from my gut and clutched my throat. I found it difficult to breathe. Next, the hand reached up and grabbed hold of my brain and squeezed. I was in the throes of a monstrously huge pile of emotions, and I couldn’t begin to make sense of any of it. I simply knew that everything was wrong. Nothing was right.

My thoughts were scrambled. My breath was short. I was crying. All I could do was pray and doubt the validity of prayer at the same time.

I’m calm now but exhausted. I’d say the whole thing lasted 20 minutes. Those were hellish minutes.

I want to withdraw from everything. I don’t want to see anyone right now.

What is it like to have a normal, functioning mind? No racing thoughts. No hallucinations. No grandiose ideas. No suicidal ideation.

I’m tired.

Panic

Feeling generalized anxiety is bad, but a panic attack is worse. In an attack, my heart races, I have feelings of impending doom, and I want to crawl out of my skin. I just had one, and it was not fun. It came out of nowhere, but I know that I was very busy this morning. I also forgot to take my anti-anxiety medication at noon. Sigh.

I feel broken, but I’m not going to let this get me down. I am determined to relax and let the medication take effect. It’s the day after Thanksgiving Day, and I’m going to enjoy this time.

I’m sorry this post is so short, but I feel exhausted.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse

Since my panic attack, I’ve been very careful to take my clonazepam (generic for Klonopin). It helps keep me stable throughout the day and able to function. It helps me to sit and relax. I find that it helps me face the challenges of the day. There are simple challenges like washing the dishes, and there are mountainous ones like parking lots.

Last night I went to the theater, and on two separate occasions, I had to force myself to stay in my seat. If I hadn’t taken 0.5 mg of clonazepam in the afternoon, I’m certain I would have left. The anxiety and agitation would have been too much to handle. I’m glad I stayed, because I enjoyed the performance.

It was the drive home that produced the surprise. I was concentrating on the road in the dark, and my dead friend’s voice very clearly said, “I was sad there was no Shakespeare.” I took it in stride and thought to myself or to the voice, “You really would like to have seen a good soliloquy, wouldn’t you?” “Yes, I would,” came the instant reply again in my dead friend’s voice. I cut off the conversation and finished the drive home.

That night in my room, my head was full of sound. Actually, it was full of show tunes. “Getting to Know You” from The King and I ran over and over. I couldn’t make it quit.

Today, lying in bed to take a nap, I heard whispers.

My head is not my own. I feel broken.

Fright

Last Saturday evening, I found myself pacing in my room. Next, my thoughts were racing, careening out of control. They were dominated by doom and gloom and worst-case scenarios, all flashing before my eyes. “Would this person be okay in their present predicament? Would that person die unexpectedly?” Then the uncontrollable crying started along with the thoughts that I have worked so hard to get rid of. The negative self-talk. The self-loathing. The hatred directed at me.

My heart raced. My breathing was shallow and ineffective.

All this angst culminated in a certainty that I was simply going completely insane, and thoughts of suicide were present. I wondered if I could drive myself to the emergency room at the hospital. Would I be okay behind the wheel of a car at that point? I was sure I was losing my mind.

“A panic attack” flashed across my mind. “I’m having a panic attack.” While this thought didn’t calm me, it gave me something to hold on to. It also gave me a way out. I knew what to do. I did a very quick guided visualization exercise that I use as meditation and gained a moment of quiet, which I used to walk to the bathroom for the medicine my doctor has given me for just such emergencies. I took one and went back to my room to wait.

I told my therapist about it today, and she was quite dismayed to hear the news. She said something I hadn’t thought of. She said, “You’re having to work too hard to feel good.” Having someone I trust explicitly means so much. Relief washed over me with those words. Someone else saw my hurt and acknowledged it. I didn’t feel judged or wrong in any way. I’m so lucky to have people in my life I can turn to at times like these.

I see my psychiatrist tomorrow, and I will tell him about the incident as well. Keeping all my caregivers up-to-date with all my symptoms is an important part of staying as healthy as I possibly can.