On Monday, I was told that my kitty – one of my best friends – has less than a month to live thanks to a tumor in his belly. He went from a clean bill of health in September to now, soon-to-be euthanized, in November. I’m gutted; I’m grieving; and because I have bipolar disorder, I have extra problems to worry about.
Grief Comes in Waves
What I’ve found is that the grief is coming in waves. It’s extremely difficult to look into his little, innocent eyes and know that very soon the light will be gone from them. In fact, it’s almost impossibly hard.
But some moments are more impossible than others and I find waterfalls of tears wash over me like waves. And then I’ll be “okay” for a bit only to find myself surfing another crest hours later.
Watch for Bipolar Waves
Luckily, right now, I’m feeling pretty stress resilient thanks to the right medication and coping skills. That means that what I’m going through is normal grief and not bipolar crap. But I know that could change at any moment. I know that this grief could be the stressor that pushes me over the edge into a full-blown bipolar episode. I know that my sweet darling’s death could easily make me downright suicidal.
So I’m on guard. I’m on guard for everything my cat is going through so that I can make sure he’s not in pain, but I’m also on guard for me. I’m on guard for bipolar symptoms and a mass exaggeration of grief. I’m on guard for depression and suicidality. I’m on guard for something that will be extremely hard to come back from.
Keeping Bipolar in Check While Grieving
To keep bipolar in check during grief:
- Talk to your friends; talk to your doctor; talk to your therapist; just talk about what you’re going through.
- Make sure and get support during this tough time. You’re already doing enough, if someone else can help you by bringing you dinner, then that can be a huge help.
- Watch carefully for bipolar symptoms. What is depression or bipolar mania like for you? Are you seeing any of those symptoms that cannot be directly attributed to your grief?
- Rest and drink plenty of fluids that are not alcohol. Practice self-care. Your body and mind need it.
- Use all your coping techniques and reach out for more if you need them (such as through reading about the stages of grief).
Because while waves of grief do suck, hard, and are incredibly painful, they are a normal pain and one that everyone goes through with a loss. The waves of bipolar disorder, on the other hand, are not normal and something to be avoided, if at all possible. So it’s double duty for me. Make sure he’s okay and make sure I’m okay. It sucks to have to be in that position when under such stress. But life, and illness, works out that way. And I know that the effort and avoidance up front now, is incredibly worth it in the long run.