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Accepting Limitations Placed On You By Bipolar Disorder

I met a beautiful young creature. I then flirted with said creature, as is my habit. Eventually, she asked me a question about local politics. A perfection reasonable question, one assumes. There was just one problem, I don’t know anything about local politics. This is because I refuse to watch the news as I find it depressing and I told her so. She said she understood.

Then we planned to go out to a movie. She asked me to pick the film. I picked one of the action-suspense genre as then there was no chance of me becoming emotionally activated by a stupid movie. Nope, no romantic movies on a date with me.

And then we discussed the showing to see. I have to see the early show because I turn into a pumpkin at 9:00 PM. And really, I prefer to see matinees because they disrupt my sleep cycle less which disrupts my bipolar less.

Poor girl, she had no idea what her flirtation had waded her into.

Bipolar Limitations

Yes, it’s true, my life is built around my mental health. My life is built around my stability. If something is going to destabilize me, I just don’t do it. I apologize to the cute boys and girls of the world, but that’s just the way it is. I don’t expect others to lick a toad and get sick just to be around me and I think others shouldn’t expect me to do things that would make me sick to be around them either.

Accepting These Limitations

And while sometimes I get frustrated as I bump up against the things I just can’t do for the betterment of my mental health, I have to accept that these are the choices I have to make if I want to be well. And I do. I really, really do. And altering the time of a date is a small price to pay for not wanting to kill yourself. And yes, it’s really that simple.

And while this girl doesn’t know me today, if one day she does, I would like to think that she would respect my desire to be well. My desire to take care of myself. My desire to be true to myself. Because people who care about us care about our self-love too and don’t judge us for what we can’t do, but instead celebrate us for what we can.

And believe me when I tell you, in spite of my own limitations, there are still lots of fun ways to spend a date. Trust me.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

This entry was posted in Achieving Remission, Coping, Desire For Remission, Impact of Bipolar and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Accepting Limitations Placed On You By Bipolar Disorder

  1. Steffie says:

    Allowing yourself to be limited by Bipolar is disabling yourself. Putting my illness first would have me not doing the things I love, even on the days I want to jump of the roof I suck it up and go to work or school, yes there are days where it’s harder to do, days where I just want to hide away or days I wish it would all end but I won’t let those days disable me, stop me from enjoying the small things in life. If anyone asked me if Bipolar limits my life then the answer is no, I won’t let my mental illness rule my life, I do, I’m in control, not my sickness. I don’t like that people allow their mental health disable them because it doesn’t the truth is you control your life and just because you illness makes you feel depressed today, tomorrow you’re going to be happy again (or a few weeks down the line but you get the picture) I’ve been diagnosed bipolar 2 years now and not once have I let it dictate the decisions I make, I wake up feeling like crap but remind myself that if I carry on as normal that crap feeling will go away eventually and I’ll feel like myself again soon. It’s people who allow their illness to be in control who don’t help people like me drop the stigma that comes with mental health, it’s why people like me hide it away and don’t disclose it to employers and friends because they’ll judge me on garbage they see on tv and read online.

  2. Hi Steffie,

    Certainly it is your prerogative not to take your bipolar into consideration in an situation, but that is not a reasonable state of affairs for many. Many of us have to watch out diet, sleep, exercise and many other things to stay well. If you do not need those things for your wellness, that is good for you but it certainly isn’t reasonable to chastise others for making good decisions about their own health. Taking care of oneself due to an illness isn’t stigma-creating it’s just good medical sense. People with diabetes can’t run around eating sugar and that’s exactly the same thing.

    - Natasha Tracy

  3. Graham Nelson says:

    Hi Natasha

    I agree with your approach. I wish I had your discipline to do it, too! For example, I know I ought to have regular sleep times but I don’t; I am always tempted to stay up late after a tiring day with my kids around, so I can have some space for myself.

    But with regard to Steffie’s point, I was reading a book about surviving Bipolar written by a guy who is a psychiatrist AND Bipolar (I forget his name) and something he said rings true for me, and that is this: Bipolar lets us think we’re in control and, like a mean sleeping dog, every now and then it will wake up to bite us, just to remind us who is really in charge. We do, or should do, what we can to encourage the Bipolar to stay asleep! I’d say what you are doing is keeping it from waking up. But you know how it is: There are those BP “break thoughs” that occur every now and then. How we manage our lives may determine the extent of the damage the BP does when it wakes up for a stretch and how soon it goes back to sleep. I’d guess you’re pretty good at that! Me, I’m not …

  4. I turn into a pumpkin at 9.30pm! Great post.

  5. Sarah says:

    I do agree with Steffie in that Bipolar disorder doesn’t have to limit you, but I agree with Natasha that one has to be sensible about day-to-day choices, and even bigger life choices. You can do anything you want but you can’t do everything you want every day.

    In regards to stigma, I believe that mean and insecure people create stigma about all sorts of things, so it can’t really be eradicated. Education about mental illness can reduce stigma but there are some people who just don’t want to be educated.

    In regards to gaining control over bipolar disorder, it is not always something we have a choice about. The ability to function with bipolar disorder depends on a number of factors including age of onset, education, family and social support, access to services, and many more. Your mindset is only one factor here.

    In regards to finding love and other of life’s adventures, we bipolars are well-equipped. I found love when I was fat and crazy, but not when I was skinny and high-achieving. It can happen anywhere, any time, to anyone. I hope the cute girl calls you back – and if she doesn’t, she doesn’t deserve you.

  6. I agree with this post, because everytime I’ve tried to “tough it out” it just never worked.

    For example, I took a job that I knew would make me worse because it was a 2 hour drive and they made me feel anxious about asking for accommodations due to my disorder. It didn’t end up working out, and I made myself even worse.

    Now I know to trust my judgement and refuse to sacrifice my health & peace of mind.

  7. Kassie says:

    I admire how strongly you stick to it.

    I have to maintain a balanced schedule or things just turn bad. I become angry, agitated, irritable, unfocused, snap on people, and if it continues, huddled in a corner crying for no real reason.

    This trick, as you have discovered, is not “limiting” your life, as one comment suggests is happening, but balancing it and making the most of it.

    I am home most nights by 10 pm. I have scheduled breaks that allow me to step away from work and relax/clear my brain. I wake up at the same times, and sleep at the same times. My weekends are scheduled pretty similar each week.
    I find comfort and peace in my schedule.

    Some people might find it limiting, but I find it balancing and instilling happiness. People run around non-stop (even non-bipolar people) and never get anywhere. They do not enjoy their life jam packed with things every waking moment, so why do it?

    I think it is a great gift to know one’s limits, and respect those limits. Yay for you!

  8. trish g says:

    I am working towards being stable and calm and balanced, and sometimes I hate it. My natural personality type is to be creative and random and spontaneous. That is how I experience vitality and feeling alive and whole. Sometimes, when I am following routine it feels like I am limiting myself, and that I no longer have a life. I feel ripped off and like I am punishing myself.

    However, I am going with the winners. If people with credible recovery, (given the diagnosis), have learned to maximize their stability by living with a routine,then that is something I will also work towards being able to do, and to do it peacefully. When I am raging and crazy, or I can’t get off the couch, I am not living a quality life. I guess I am embracing my inner Buddha, and allowing acceptance to become the way I live my life. I have learned that my life with biploar is suffering, and am calmly letting go of the struggle so I can have peace.

  9. Amy says:

    Hi Natasha,

    Do you think it would be possible for you to list some of the other limitations you put in place to keep yourself safe? I’m still learning to control my bipolar so it would be useful to see if any of the things I’m doing without thinking are actually having a detrimental effect on my health.

    I understand if perhaps that’s a little too personal but maybe you could list some more general ones if it is?

    Thanks for another fantastic and well written piece.

    x

  10. Sarah says:

    This comment is for trish g. Hi trish, I think I was where you were about three months ago. I was recovered and stable but terrified of being myself again in case it led to Mania.
    My psychologist’s advice was to not be afraid to let my personality shine again. After all, now I have supports in place such as medication, and early warning signs for myself and family to notice. So I tried her advice and it worked! It wasn’t long before I was feeling better about myself again. I quickly learned to tell the difference between a good mood and a manic one.

    So my advice to you is: go wild! have a good time! Be spontaneous! Just make sure you are in bed by 10:30pm. Alcohol is not necessary to have fun :)

  11. Cassie says:

    Really great post! It is often difficult for people to understand the limitations that come with bipolar disorder. I cannot watch certain films sad films because they emotionally are too much for me. Sleep is essential to my state of mind and lack of it can lead to a manic episode.

    As for Steffie it is amazing that you are able to suck it up and push through your bad moods but for the majority of people with bipolar it goes way beyond something they could or should push through. You may have a different diagnosis or really found the magic bullet with your medication because when I have insomnia for days on end just carrying on is not going to cut it.

    As for friends and the stigma attached to mental illness. I personally wouldn’t want friends I had to hide things from, the bipolar makes for a good pre-screening process if they are so shallow that they can’t look past my bipolar I can only imagine how ignorant and bigoted they are about the rest of the world.

    The way to fight stigma is not to pretend we are fine it is to be accepted for the fact that even though we are not fine sometimes we do not deserve to be stigmatized against, they have to change not us!

  12. MaryAnn says:

    Great post. I find keeping a regular sleep/wake cycle is vital. I have come to a place in my acceptance of this disorder where I don’t consider it “suffering”, I consider it enduring. I think the analogy about the sleeping dog is a terrific one. My psychiatrist used a forest fire analogy, you keep it under control with meds but still every once in a while you’ll have a flare up(breakthrough) you tweek the meds and ride it out.

  13. stephanie hansen says:

    I am delighted to find another Bipolar type II joourneywoman! Absolutely it is essential to know when to say ‘when’. I have been significantly bipolar since early childhood and was always harshly condemned as a lazy-ass neurotic by my family. At 21 I began having grand mal epileptic seizures which continue to this day and had to accept (the hardest way!) that there are a number of things it is utterly foolish for me to attempt to do – like climb ladders or ride bikes, go too long without food or physically overexert myself, and the list goes on. The same goes for the bipolar: no drinking copious amounts of coffee, cola, or sugar; no watching upsetting movies or spending time with people who upset me, which meant separating from my abusive family (a long, heart-wrenching but infinitely necessary process and a great relief). I wouldn’t forget my bipolar medication any more than I’d dare not take my epilepsy medication!

    Because I am a low-functioning person with bipolar I struggle deeply with image issues. I have very low energy because I have depression nearly all the time in varying degrees and require a lot of medication that exacerbates the low energy issue. If I let my ego get the better of me and push myself to ‘fit in’ and play the part of a ‘normal functioning’ woman by getting as busy as everyone else around me I get hyper and spend a couple days awake and then crash into a sleep that lasts for anywhere between 14 – 24 hours! Who benefits from that?

    I admire anyone who respects themselves enough to live as they must to be their best healthy self! I am now turning 43 and I’ve had enough of this ‘trying to fit in’ crap. I hope I’m smart enough now to relax, accept, and live my best life possible without any more worry about justification for who and how I am. Kudos to all of us on the path.

  14. Tez says:

    I so agree with your approach, Natasha. As someone with physical disabilities and type 2 bi-polar, I know the what it’s like being in a wheelchair (whilst waiting for a hip replacement aged in my mid 40s) and now live with numerous aids and medications that get me through the day. I would no more live without these aids than fly over the moon! And the same goes for my bi-polar schedule, which is just another aid to my well being.
    I feel no shame about using any of these aids and the people who care about me can see past them and love me for me. I only wish I had learnt all this earlier because my life would have been filled with so much more joy instead of so much struggle and sorrow. So glad you know this and can be the best of who you are. :-)

  15. Hi Tez,

    Nor should you feel any shame about using these aids. You’re a great example of someone with a physical disability who understands that it’s the same for people with brain disabilities.

    Thanks for your support and your great words.

    - Natasha

  16. Catherine says:

    Great post Natasha :-)
    I think you’re very wise…
    The world is a crazy place these days, with disruptive schedules, disturbing images and minimum time-outs for most.
    This makes it tricky for sensitive folks like us. To be honest the coping mechanisms you describe are far closer to how humans were designed to live..which makes me wonder who the “normal” ones are :)
    As well, I’ve found that many things that might be considered ‘accommodations’ in the workplace are actually just meeting basic human needs…like daylight for example!
    On a final note..I’e come to realize that folks with bipolar, myself included, tend to feel guilty and apologetic to a greater level than the average person. Most folks with balanced personalities are quite happy to state their requirements and limitations and don’t feel the need to justify themselves. Maybe if we followed your example and developed a better sense of self worth then stigma would be reduced – we are often our own worst critics…

  17. Drew says:

    I have battled with bi-polar for over 5 years now, I was diagnosed at 18, and turned 24. I hear that the late teens, and early twenties are the hardest to break-through. I am so emotionally, and psychologically tired from all the episodes, that always mesh into the same way of “dillusional thinking” Which leads to sever lack of self-worth, confidence, anger, and loneliness. I never was this way growing up, and when get out of an episode, and realize my faults, and stop blaming everyone else, and the world for my problems I feel like a big piece of worthless dogsh***. I finally have found a career to pursue in college, and getting into classes, starting a job, and hitting the gym occasionally will help me keep in a routine, and I can start to identify my triggers, and get back to reality, where when I get to my normal self, I am a good person, but things that happen, and that I fear most or those things I did in those episodes as being someone I really am not. Those episodes usually involve heavy alcohol, and drug abuse, and when I say abuse I’m not one to pound back a ton of liquor or put a ton of drugs into my body though I have in my past, I self-medicate… I’m getting closer, and closer to the fact that I am going to have to start (as I already have) very much limit myself from these substances(pot/alcohol) these days, but I very much love to smoke weed on the occasion, I know it sounds dumb, and I don’t like to be considered a dumb pot-head stoner, which I did let myself become for awhile, but I also had to deal with the loss of my grandmother, the first encounter with my biological father unexpectedly at the age of 18, and so on.
    So I guess what I’m trying to get at is how do you handle dealing with running into people that have seen you as a completely different whacked out person, to showing them your true self, and not necessarily appologize to them as the encounters were just a little bit blown out of proportion by myself. I just want to be the good hearted person I once was, so I can be a good family member, and eventually boyfriend again. I have closed myself off so much from just meeting people, and growing up I always had a bunch of friends both guys, and girls, and now its like I have a bunch of acquantances mostly guys, and I don’t consider myself like most guys, but I have forgotten or had a hard time getting back in touch with my true character. I feel I am on a very good path right now with getting back in touch with all this, but what always triggers me to fall back into drinking, and smoking, or just giving up on myself is getting reminded of some of these weird things I did while suffering emotionally, and psychologically, but not being able to express those feelings in the right way, which is usually by some big jerk-off or something. I am getting too old for fights. I have had too many run ins with the law (DUI, Malicious mischief, resisting arrest.) all from being in these episodes. I don’t want these things, and try not to let them define me. I just want peace of mind, and character which has been a struggle to achieve for a good deal of my life over the last 6 years. Any advice from male or female is very much appreciated.

  18. Drew says:

    Sorry for the very hard to understanding blast of thoughts, and feelings of mine on the above comment. It kind of shows how my mind works, with swarming thoughts of this, that, and everything. I could write for days on this topic, and all these issues, both asking for help, and giving advice.
    I’ve never been apart of one of these things, and I don’t know how much help I will get from all this. I just don’t know how to approach others with letting them know about this disease, because it’s so damn annoying when others start treating you differently, or talk down to you… without them even maybe knowing or some. I am very much one to keep it to myself if I can.

  19. JB says:

    I have found that when I embrace my limitations and just let go the anxiety goes away. It might be a case of the chicken or the egg; maybe you are not led to have thoughts of dissatisfaction as long as your brain chemistry is OK, or maybe these thoughts lead to feel anxious. Maybe a bit of both. Anyway, I´m from a third world country but I am fortunate enough to speak English at a level that allows me more access to information about BP, there´s hardly anything in my own language. Sometimes I read posts that mention disability payments, health benefits (or the lack of) houses in the suburbs and other things that seem so distant from the reality in my part of the world. Whenever anxiety creeps in I feel like going somewhere else could really change. So is it just trying to escape? Does it really matter where you are? I´m guessing depression is just as bad anywhere. So, speaking of limitations, where is that thin red line between not fighting for your dreams and setting achievable goals for yourself? Having what you want or wanting what you have? I live in a “bipolar” city, one of the most unequeal in the planet, economically speaking. So whenever I´m walking home thinking, man, If I could only get out of here, I always seem to see a recurrent sobering image of someone digging through the trash in beautiful upscale neighbourhoods, my situation is not so bad is it? Maybe we just need to settle for “not so bad” and learn to love it. I guess if you always have expectations you´re never in the moment. I just mention these things because I find myself constantly fantasyzing about migrating, but maybe these are just empty thoughts. I tried it once,I was washing dishes in Melbourne (“The Most Liveable City”) and I had to come back, I was so depressed I had trouble breathing. The right combination of meds and a good psychiatrist did the trick more than migrating ever did. Maybe this whole reach for the stars thing is overrated. Of course I´m not happy about a lot of things (I won´t go into any details, we´ve all had our losses), but all I know is whenever I´m just working at the computer or watching TV and I DON´T feel like crap, I am very very grateful. Starting over in a new country or trying to for broke with all your aspirations might just tip the scale of thosevaluable moments when you just are. There and then. No aspirations, no goals to achieve, no anxiety. Not feeling like you need to be somewhere else. Just the underrated feeling of calm.

  20. A says:

    What a great post. So much rings true. I am also learning to have a balanced life and know I need my meds to keep me there. Apparently the meds are like training wheels on a bicycle, and some people with bipolar are sometimes weaned off meds once they are used to a schedule of a normal life. Most importantly what we have to remember is that “normal” is subjective. Different for every single person. I know it’s hard to take when friends tell you your too disciplined, or too focused on your routine/schedule. But deep down inside you have to know that they have no idea what you will go through if you break your cycle/routine. Yeah sure you could go to that party with them, and chat everyone up, and have unprotected sex with a stranger, and then end up in some foreign place the next morning. Of course that will be one more “funny” story to speak about you. However if deeply you care enough about yourself, then ask yourself two questions:
    1. Will it feel good?
    If it’s something risky and dangerous, and the temptation is to say yes to this question because it will bring you to a manic state or feeling, then ask question number 2.
    2. Will it be good for my health?
    Often enough the answer to that question will be “no”. So, don’t do it, period. Thank yourself and pat yourself on the back for coming to this crossroads and choosing the correct decision. Eventually the neuropathways in your brain will readjust and these decisions will come naturally, and better still will lead to living a calm stable life that works for you. Peace and Love.
    And, if ever you meet a partner who disagrees with your schedule and/or your lifestyle, then drop them because they are not the right person for you. When the right person comes around, it will feel natural and healthy.

  21. Enigma says:

    reading the comments here has really helped me in some ways. about 2months ago I agreed to having my mother-in-law move in with my husband and I. at the time she could do a lot more than she can now. I stay home to care for her as hubby works. she now can’t shower on her own, go to bathroom, get in or out of bed on own among other things. I’m stressed, tired, sick which doc says could be ulcers. I feel guilt for not being able to do these things when in the beginning I thought I could and felt it was the right thing to do. I already knew I can’t handle much stress but at the same time I hated to admit that I do have bipolar and there are limits I need to set. after reading about either doing things out of my limits or dealing with wanting to end it all by killing myself, I see how it’s best for me to tell the family this is beyond my ability to do and stay healthy myself. I do however feel guilty because I feel I will be a disapointment to family and they may not understand why this task could be so much on me. I tend to worry to much about what others think. as for taking some time out for myself, I find I can’t. if I try, I only here my name called so I have to stop what I’m doing to go find out what she needs now. if I sit back down again I can’t relax I find myself feeling anxious or on edge that soon I’ll be hearing my name called again. I want a way out so I can get my mental and physical health back for I feel I’m going to go insane.

  22. Ruth A. says:

    I don’t date for self care reasons…I have depression and anxiety, I’m divorced and am too sensitive. I’ve come to accept it and work around it. So yes, like the author, I too respect my sleep cycle, don’t watch the news and stopped following politics. been called Debbie downer, most recently called a food snob because I refuse to eat anything with a tv commercial, gmo or non organic. Lol! Regardless, l love myself, well most days.

  23. Tgirl says:

    Taking care of myself is not a limitation-it’s self care. I try really hard to manage my bipolar on a daily basis, shoot on a minute by minute but since I am in grad school, I’ve not done those things that are so critical to my health.
    Thank you for reminding me that I HAVE to practice self care and learn to do those things I need to do to make sure my bipolar stays away.
    Just because I’d love to stay up all night and read a good book doesn’t mean I should. I know the price I will pay for a few days of no sleep. It’s not pretty.
    Just because I would love to go out and tie one on, doesn’t mean I can. I KNOW the price I will pay and I can’t play that game.
    It’s called self-care. Take my meds, eat right and get some sleep. Do I always do it? No. But I try.

  24. Kelsey says:

    I came to terms with a self-diagnosis of bipolar disorder this summer, just a few months ago. A part of me always knew. I have looked into personality disorders and mental disorders since I was very young. I’ve always been unusual. It was extremely difficult for me to accept my bipolar. The aspect that tied it all together for me is the insomnia. I had no prior knowledge that my insomnia was tied to the disorder. I’m 19 now and a sophomore in college. Sometimes the party scene combined with my problems can be totally devastating. I experience a great deal of mania which can sometimes feel like euphoria and I love the creativity and the energy I experience during these episodes. Truthfully I love my bipolar far more than I hate it. It is a part of who I am and a part of my uniqueness. But the lows have become increasingly difficult to ride out lately. It is essential during these times that I be conscious of the danger of my suicidal thoughts which have become louder and louder only during the lows. Recently I’ve fallen in love with my best friend who also has deeply emotional issues and is a recovering drug addict. I know how it sounds haha. I don’t post on internet forums but today I am deeply seeking other individuals who understand on some level. Anyways my relationship has been a disastrous roller coaster. I am finally on my way to recovery and I know D will totally destroy this, but I love him. He gives me something that I feared I would never have ever again. When I’m with him I’m not alone. He shares this deeply intellectual mind that I have only ever encountered in one other person in my life. I’m actually pretty terrified he might be my soulmate. Although I do believe that there can be more than one soulmate

  25. Inanna says:

    I need to read this. Or actually I needed to read this, and I did a couple of weeks ago. After reading I did not place limitations on my behaviour and now the limitations are placing themselves.

    Either the world has gone irrational, or I have. I think it is me. I have schizoaffective disorder, and the chances of me having another psychotic episode is greater that the chances of laws of nature, people around me, and even the furniture in my apartment, being so very different all at once.

    I was in hypomania for three months. I was going higher and higher until I decided to go off antidepressants. When I came down from hypomania, my brain was broken. If I had been sleeping, eating and resting more, maybe I would not be sick. At least not this sick. Maybe some of the limitations could be worth it. If only I would get used to them and not hate them so much.

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