Fighting the Fear and Worry Surrounding Bipolar Disorder
Many of us know a person who has suffered a bad bipolar outcome. Perhaps the person has lost their friends and family because of bipolar. Perhaps the person lost their job because of their bipolar moods. Perhaps the person became so unwell they ended up on the street. Perhaps the person was driven to suicide.
Those are all very scary and worrying outcomes from a mental illness and, the trouble is, they’re real. I can’t take away your fear and worry by telling you that these things don’t happen because that would be a lie. These things do happen, every day.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to fight the fear and worry that surrounds bipolar disorder.
Fear and Worry
Two groups of people fear and worry. One group is the people with bipolar themselves. These people often know others to whom bad things have happened. These people have seen the negative outcomes first-hand and are terrified that it could happen to them.
The second group of people who fear and worry is our loved ones. Of course, anyone who loves a person who is sick is going to fear the course of the illness. And this group of people has often only been exposed to the scary scenarios of mental illness presented on the 6 o’clock news. And as exceptional as those stories may be, people who don’t know better assume that everyone with bipolar disorder has the propensity for violence hidden inside.
Fighting the Fear and Worry with Fact
I’m a facts girl. I love facts. Even when the facts are nasty, at least they are verifiably correct and something about that comforts me. For example, it is true that many people who are homeless have a serious mental illness, but it is not true that just because you have a mental illness, you will end up homeless – the vast majority never do.
It’s also a fact (according to the doctors at Medscape) that between 25-50% of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide, but, on the other hand, only 11% actually die by suicide. These are big, scary numbers, but they’re much less big and scary when you consider that at least half of all people with bipolar never attempt suicide and almost nine-in-ten do not die of suicide.
I strongly believe that when we know the facts, it dials back the fear and worry because suddenly we’re dealing with the tangibles and not the boogeyman in our heads.
Fighting the Fear and Worry with Positive Change
And once you know what you’re up against you can formulate a plan to try to ensure that one of those negative scenarios doesn’t turn out to be you. This means taking your meds, every day, on time, as directed. It means going to therapy (and family counselling too often). It means keeping all healthcare appointments and working with your doctor to find the right treatment for you. It means reaching out when things get dark and you need help. It means finding a job that meets your healthcare needs. It means surrounding yourself with great, supportive people who form a safety net to catch you if you do, indeed, stumble.
And while the fear and worry is absolutely real, it gets smaller and smaller the more we address it in ourselves and in others. Because that fear and worry doesn’t have the power – we do.
Tracy, N. (2013, October 1). Fighting the Fear and Worry Surrounding Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/10/fighting-fear-worry-surrounding-bipolar-disorder
Author: Natasha Tracy
Thank you for sharing.
I too am very afraid of having another episode.
I didn’t realize how bad my illness could get until I stopped going to the psych doctor and decided to wean myself off the meds, while using a more holistic approach. I went downhill fast. I never had been in serious trouble my whole life until I made this choice about a year ago. I experienced an overwhelming flood of troubling and confusing events all at once. At this time I was living with my parents. I ended up getting into a physical altercation with my mother. After that I got arrested in a violent manner because I struggled. I am still battling the legal consequences of this. I got a no contact with my mother for over 10 months. After being arrested, I was homeless for 3 months. I was kicked out with only the clothes on my back and it took a few weeks to get any of my belongings, including my wallet and cell phone, because of the no contact order. I have never felt so alone in my entire life. I finally found a place to live and ended up getting pregnant soon after. Around this time I decided to engage in more frequent one on one therapy and better medication management. At this time I felt completely lost, unloved, hopeless, severely depressed and broken. During most of this time I was unable to talk to my mother and my family and friends were very distant. I was also afraid to talk to them because I was embarrassed, ashamed, and still confused about what happened. I guess that I was still processing the trauma and I still am.
Now, I’m about to have my first child and I am definitely really worried and basically scared shitless that this kind of thing could happen again. I have been focusing mostly on taking care of myself, my pets, and the baby in my belly.
My mother and I have resolved our no contact issue. My boyfriend and father of our child is supportive. I have been integrating other people back into my life slowly, while also keeping healthier boundaries. My main support is my family, mental health counselor, psychiatrist, support group, ob doctor, my attorney, boyfriend, and the few friends that I have left. I currently attend around 3 appointments weekly for support and I am waiting to be accepted into a court ordered mental health program.
All of this has been hard to cope with, manage, and accept. I don’t want to struggle for the rest of my life, but I will not give up. I just keep living, and I am commited to making the most of what I have.
I'm fearful about a great many things such as having another episode, ending up in hospital and embarrassing myself once again, having to face others after the fact and struggling to act 'normal', being terrified of losing my job, and ending up homeless like so many of the mentally ill people in my neighbourhood (where I work) etc., etc.
A couple of month's back we had a man come into our office claiming someone was after him with a gun. We took him at his word and it caused a lock down situation within the office, our first ever. Later we heard he was mentally ill and an ambulance had been called to take him away.
When my anxiety is off the charts I'm constantly 'what if Ing' every little thing blowing it out of proportion (or am I?)
I was very young when my biological mother shot herself (a method more commom among men). I fear sometimes that my life will completely unravel and I'll end up like her.
My support system shrinks with each new episode so I take my medication, not really wanting to, but trying to keep the episodes at bay, and hoping for the best...
I relate to Sally, it is a challenge to try to be "normal" when you are doing good after a major bipolar episode..the shame and self-loathing after a major one is in it's self another challenge and/or obstacle to getting better. I describe it as the simmering volcano between the "Good" and "Bad"-Denise. People/Family love the good one-but reject and hate the bad one..the bad one is when we need them the most but are unable to express that and when we do..it's written off as "crazy" bipolar behavior..it's a lonely and isolating disease due to the fact as least for me- I tend to hide from people during the bad times so they don't see this "Bad" Denise and also as a means to protect them from my unreasonable, emotionally devastating behavior that during those periods I am unable to control myself and behavior. This is my first look at a blog of this type, helpful in seeing I am not alone in these feelings..
It's also a fact that many people in AA have bipolar illness...and NA too. Dual diagnosis. It doesn't mean that everyone that has bipolar will abuse alcohol/drugs.
As I have read over some of your posts, I find myself connecting greatly with the struggles you describe with BPD. I have previous diagnoses of depression, anxiety and most disturbing Postpartum depression and anxiety (maybe even psychosis, but I don't want to admit it). I think my biggest problem now is anxiety (treated by psychiatrist) I never have had bipolar mania and am thankful for that, but I still feel that my struggles with mental illness are too much to handle at times. I still wish I was "normal" like everybody else I see. Those around me, especially at work, act so normal and I feel like I can't show my true self, as it is weak. I don't want to be a complainer. I want to do my job tasks (teacher) and be an integral part of a team , but it pains me to hide my true self all the time. It is a let down that I can't ever be all better mentally and have to keep fighting and hiding, while never knowing how my brain will challenge me next. I still wonder how much of me to accept or what I should fight to improve.
I want to be like you and inspire acceptance.
I want to start with accepting myself.
My sister was bipolar. I encouraged her to get into counseling with no luck......she didn't want to spend the money or have someone know she was going.....she ended up killing herself. So much for saving money or reputation....... I have schizoaffective disorder and have been into counseling a couple of times when I thought I couldn't go on anymore. It always helps me, and I also take medication as directed by my doctor. I don't know why it is so hard for some to be compliant and others have no trouble following doctor's orders. I miss my little sissy!
You are obviously a very good friend and one to be treasured. You are reading up and learning about bipolar, which is the first step to helping someone with the disorder.
It can be a long road. There are many reasons people do not stick to treatment. The first one is, the treatment may not be meeting their expectations. The second, particularly in bipolar, is a lack of insight into their condition. I was only able to accept treatment after a year and a half, and only because I wanted to get to hospital to cleanse my system of medications. (that's not what they do there, by the way). The hospital staff managed to gain my trust and I have been good with treatment since, although I do occasionally shop around for a better therapist etc.
Other people with bipolar are even worse and never gain insight.
Be mindful that your friend is probably going through a grieving phase of mourning the lost healthy self. She will be in denial, get angry etc.
At least she is going to counselling in the first place.
It is important for your friendship that she seek professional counselling, otherwise you will bear the brunt of something you are not prepared for and it will wreck the friendship. Keep your boundaries.
As for strategies you can use - I don't know any, except patience is necessary. Remind her why she wanted to go to counselling and the outcomes she could have. Ask her why she has given up and help her to either find a new therapist or redefine her goals. She needs to know that her condition may be extremely serious - be gentle if you remind her of this. Best of luck Dave
What is the best way to encourage a close friend to stick to their treatment options?
I have this friend who I suspect is Bipolar, she seems to swing in and out of depression but a few days into councelling or treatment of any sorts, she gets angry and gives up on it.
My mother committed suicide and some years later I was diagnosed as Bipolar NOS and realized she was probably bipolar, too. Earlier generations didn't have the meds that are available today. I hope that as more and more people take meds that can eliminate suicidal tendencies (at least do for me) the high number of suicides will go down.