Anxiety is something I struggle with in almost every situation I find myself in, I don’t think it will ever leave me but I think I have been coping with it fairly well recently.
The main problem with my anxiety is its tight link to the swinging moods of my Bipolar disorder; If I maintain control over my anxiety and manage to calm myself down there are very little repercussions but if I allow the anxiety to blossom beyond my control it will inevitably breed paranoia which in turn triggers a manic (high) episode. Nobody gives you this information, it isn’t written in any of the books and it will not be this way for all sufferers of Bipolar disorder (some of them are incredibly confident and have no anxiety issues), I had to learn that this is the pattern that my Bipolar takes, these are some of my triggers or early warning signs (that tend not to be very early!!) It takes meticulous monitoring of every change in mood and emotion, every overreaction and illogical thought to start making sense out of these symptoms and when I first decided to monitor my swinging moods it left me feeling precariously close to insanity. I used to think I knew myself so well but it was surprising how little attention I had paid and the things I was missing about myself.
My brain fought against me every step of the way – and still does, the very thought of so many of the things I have always berated myself for or had accepted as part of my nature being symptoms of my illness just felt like a cop-out to me, a very good excuse for being a bad person. The acceptance comes when you see the recurrence of these symptoms and begin to piece the pattern together but even then it is not a tangible thing, there is no solid proof to hold up and inspect or show to others. All you are left with is what works and management in this sense seems to work.
Anxiety can be difficult to overcome, but I try. Deep breathing can help, calming the pounding of my heart and easing the sweats caused by the age-old fight or flight response that my body instills at the feel of my inner turmoil. Sticking to smaller groups of people can also help, crowds are intimidating; there is too much for my anxious brain to analyse and so conversation is beyond me, smaller groups are safer, easier for my mind to process and less daunting. New places always inspire large attacks of anxiety, often accompanied by panic attacks – again deep breathing can help, someone to come along to the new place with me can also help; however, then it feels like a new place the second time I visit too!! Knowing as much information as possible about the new place can help greatly, for example if I was going to a swimming pool for the first time, I would try to find out exactly where the entrance to the building is, how much I need to pay, the hours for swimming, the location of the changing rooms, the way to get to the pool from the changing room, the length of time allowed in the pool, how busy the pool will be… the more information I can garner the less room there is for my brain to create anxious scenarios of things going horribly wrong and the more power I have to quiet my fears with answers brimming with knowledge.
I am currently heading into the paranoid phase of my anxious cycle, I know how to stop it from going this far; I must confront the cause of my anxiety but sometimes that is easier said than done. My brain screams at me not to face this one because I may well be right and we just can’t handle that sort of pain and logic argues that knowing would shut my brain up regardless of whether I am right or not.
I know that allowing my anxiety to get to the stage of paranoia is going to send me into a manic episode but I can’t find the gumption to do anything about it. Mania is perhaps more disturbing that depression in its own way; I am not aware of my mania very often whilst in the throes of it, though I recognise it for what it is afterwards. The self-destruction and disregard for all around me leaves me bitterly ashamed. I have less control over my actions when manic that I do when I am in a low mood, logic is not something I can identify with and no matter who tells me my behaviour is odd or damaging I will not believe them. The people who don’t know me well will just look at me and think I am a happy, confident and carefree person; I often wish that were true.
I hope, in time, I will get better at managing and recognising my moods. It is not easy, it feels like a huge drain on my, already low, energy and burden on my shoulders. I feel utterly despondent. But then, what is less work is not always what is easier.