Confrontation and Assertiveness

Assertiveness and standing up for myself is something I have been terrible at my entire life (that I remember anyway).  I hate, hate, hate conflict and panic whenever it’s around me.  I recently discovered that therapy is giving me the ability to show assertiveness, all be it in small things.  The other day, I had a perfect and small example of this happening to me.  Most will think this is the silliest example ever, and not a big deal at all.  But this is one of those situations I’d get stuck in and not be able to extricate myself from for a long time, no matter how uncomfortable I was.

There have been two little old ladies traveling around my neighborhood for the past week.  Now, I live deep in the woods in a community that does not want to be found, nor have anyone we don’t invite around.  I guess you could say we are in general, suspicious of outsiders.  Most of the neighbors have guns for protection (I’m going to say from lions, tigers and bears).  This is not the neighborhood to invite yourself into and go knocking door to door in.  We also have “no soliciting” signs at both entrances to the neighborhood, so these little old ladies should have known better.

They’ve been knocking door to door for the past two weeks or so, and in our HOA Facebook group, people have been making comments.  Their opening line is “have you ever lost anyone you’ve loved due to death?” because everyone has, of course.  This, understandably, causes a lot of turmoil for people who have recently lost someone.  It’s logically a good hook, but a cruel one to bring up the Jehovah’s Witness religion.  Just, not okay to do.  They also have left pamphlets all over, which is irritating in its own right.

Well, they finally made it to my house this week.  After having talked to neighbors about it, I had been biding my time until it was my turn.  I was cleaning the house and they came to my side door (nobody ever comes to that door, even though it’s the one we use) and looked through the window as I was washing dishes.  Creepy, strike one.  Then they knocked.  My dogs went insane, as they are supposed to do, strike two.  Once I got my girls put in their kennels (I admit I took much longer than needed to do this, hoping they’d leave), I went and opened the door.  Cue the ‘death’ line, strike three.

I lied and told them no, I’d never lost anyone, as I didn’t want to give them ground to bring up the rest of their rehearsed speech.  They kept pushing, asking about friends or grandparents.  I refused to let them “in,” both into my house or into their conversation.  When they paused, trying to think of what to say to someone who had no death in their life, I jumped in, “did you two ladies see in the front of the neighborhood, those no soliciting signs?  I know you’re doing what you see as your job, but we do not allow solicitors here.”  They said they’d noticed them and try and pay attention to them, where I interrupted again, “this is not the neighborhood to do this in.  We’ve been getting complaints; I’m the VP of the HOA and so I feel I have to warn you.  Please do not visit any more homes.  We, again, do not allow solicitation.  We don’t like visitors up here, and between armed families and dogs, it’s not a good idea.”  Or something to that effect.  They kept trying to bring up their religion, and I kept shutting them down.  I did mess up a bit and say that I didn’t need to find god, as Connor and I go to catholic church every Sunday.  I didn’t need a pamphlet and didn’t want one.  They started to say how it was nice to see such a young person going to church and I told them how my congregation has a lot of families my age with little children.  I would not let them have any space for conversation but was not mean at all.  I was actually quite nice (a lot nicer than some of my amazing neighbors would be; they’d be sarcastic and hilarious I think.  Maybe opening the door in a towel or something equally silly).  I thanked them for doing what they saw as their duty and warned them again.  I made sure to impress upon them that it’s not allowed at all.

During this very tiny confrontation, I had a thrill of adrenaline like I normally do during any kind of conflict, but I didn’t care this time.  It didn’t faze me.  I didn’t want these little old ladies to go to the wrong house, and I didn’t want them around anyway.  I saw it as my job as VP to do something about it, so I did.  I was so proud!  I know it’s such a small thing, and almost feel silly while looking back, but I don’t exaggerate when I say I’m absolutely the WORST when it comes to things like this.  I make Connor call companies to cancel.  I have never been able to just shut down or say no to things with strangers.  I don’t want to be mean.  I finally found a way to be assertive enough to shut something down, but still kind enough that I didn’t feel like a nasty person.  I still smile when I think of it.  It’s always the little wins that get me through this crazy new life I’m learning to lead.

Things, they are a changin’

Getting diagnosed with bipolar is an interesting thing.  On the one hand, it’s a disorder that has no cure and is going to be something I fight with to keep under control for the rest of my life.  I’ve always had it, I just didn’t know it.  So knowing now, I can actually track and keep better control of my life and moods.  But the weight of such a diagnosis is a terrifying thing to swallow.  It’s taken me a few months to fully accept and appreciate what it means for me.  It’s still a terrifying prospect having to make sure I have the right amount of sleep, as well as my other triggers, which I’m still trying to find out.  Getting my diagnosis has also caused a few other things that I was not expecting, and which I don’t believe have to do with my medication evening out my moods.  Though, having a calmed and evened out mood, without ennui, is an experience I didn’t think I would ever have.

This all being said, there are some changes that I have gone through since September 19th that I don’t believe have to do with medication.  Perhaps my intensive therapy, but not medication.  These are small things, but I’ve found that I like to focus on small wins a lot more than I used to.  I used to just focus on negative.  I finally got my head out of my ass a bit to see the forest for the trees.

  1. I’m much more able to be affectionate

I have never been one to hug people or show much affection.  I’ve always been uncomfortable showing love to those around me.  I didn’t hug those I cared about unless they initiated it.  Hell, I never hugged my daddy and told him how much I loved him.  Recently though, that’s gone out the window.  I will happily hug anyone and everyone.  I am so much more appreciative of those around me, I’m happy to show them how I feel, and don’t care if they don’t want it like I did before.  I’ve hugged Jack more in the past week than in the 10 plus years I know him.

  1. Kindness and understanding

I’ve never been one to be unkind to people, but I find myself being even more understanding of people and what they may be going through.  This one doesn’t have a great explanation.  A lot of my hypomania shows as irritability and annoyance.  I hide it from most people, but I’d have a constant stream of negative and just plain mean thoughts running through my head.  I’m not doing that now.  I don’t get annoyed by the small things anymore.  Even/especially with Connor.  I still get annoyed (who doesn’t when living with a man?) but it’s not a constant resentment and pissy mood anymore, which is such a huge relief to me, and likely him.

      3.  Impulsive Shopping

Okay, this one may be the medication, but it’s a side effect I’m grateful for, as well as my wallet.  Whenever I’m at the store, I’d pass something and say, “oh, I need that too!” and fill my cart.  Eventually, I’d end up with a full cart when I went in for milk and creamer.  It was a constant sore spot between Connor and I, but I felt helpless to stop it.  Usually it WAS something the house actually needed, but it was not what I came in for.  I’m still not great at this, but at least now I hesitate for a moment and think if I REALLY need to buy it now, or if it can wait.  I try and make a shopping list and stick to it.  I am still not great, but at least I can stick to a budget better.  If he gives me $300 for Christmas presents, I can spend $296.98.  I did that the other day and was so proud.  I used to split payment and charge my debit card for anything over the amount I was supposed to have spent, and the rest to our account.  I don’t do that now.

  1. Telling myself hurtful things

I am terrible at negative self-image and guilt.  I make everything my fault and feel terrible about everything that happens.  This is still a huge struggle for me.  However, I am being more kind and forgiving to myself.  Or trying to be anyway.  I have started to check myself when I say I “should” be or should have done something.  I know this is more to do with therapy than accidental, but it is at least something.  I’m able to sometimes step back and realize I’m being terrible to myself and stop it by changing subjects in my internal dialogue.  I’m trying to be as kind to myself as I am to others, though I’m not sure I can manage that.  I’m an angel to others (that was in sarcasm font).

  1. Who I am and what I want

This one is an ongoing thing, as I haven’t had a clue for most of my adult who I am and what I want.  I’ve learned a few core things about myself that I can hold onto as I go through episodes of despair; that I can cling to until I come out the other side.  I’m learning to say when I don’t want something and stick to it.  I’m finding out what I do love and what relaxes me and working to do that more.  I’ve got a LOT more work to do on this one, but the fact that it’s even an option now is a welcome relief.  I’m no longer subject to only depression where everything and everyone is just grey and holds no joy.

As the great Brandon Boyd of Incubus says, “It helps to know the difference between serenity and ennui.”  I finally have a little bit of serenity, and it is priceless.

 

Fighting the Stigma

Because I have my undergrad degree in psychology, I’ve always pushed to end the stigma attached to having a mental disorder.  It’s something I will argue about with people with no hesitation.  The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, why can’t it get sick too?  Why do we look down on those that are depressed and tell them, “just get over it.  Why can’t you see the good in things?  Just be happy!” and things to that effect.  I logically understand that it is a holdover from previous decades and not understanding the human brain nor it’s disabilities.  But it can still be infuriating to someone who not only suffers from a mental disorder, but has an education in it as well (all be it a small one in the scheme of things).

Then I admitted myself to the psych ward.  I voluntarily checked myself into the loony bin, and not for an experiment like Nelly Bly did (check her out, her investigative journalism really shocked the world of mental health:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Days_in_a_Mad-House).  I was diagnosed with bipolar II, not just a simple depression/anxiety thing which I believe is a lot easier for people to swallow, if still stigmatized.  Well shit, what now?  How do I go about living with this, in more than a logistics way?  Do I hide it?  Do I only tell certain people?  With my open views on mental health, do I shout it to the world?  What will the repercussions be to myself and those I love?  What about gun control and the conversations involving us “crazies” now?  How will that affect me?

For the first few weeks, I was extremely tight lipped about my diagnosis.  I didn’t tell anyone but my family and close friends.  I felt like a total hypocrite.  How can I say everyone ELSE needs to be open about their diagnosis, but not do that myself?  I had already begun working on my book about being in the hospital but planned on using a pen-name, so my family wouldn’t be harmed if I was ever able to publish.  The cognitive dissonance was astounding and hurt my head.  I couldn’t reconcile the two.  So, I decided that I was going to blog.  That way I could practice and hone my writing “skills” as well as be open about what was happening to me.  I’m so glad I did.  I am sure I will feel negative repercussions for this other than Connor questioning me about privacy the first day I posted and my dear friend G calling to warn me.

I truly hope that I can, in some small way, help end some of the stigma of bipolar.  I still catch myself when asked, hesitating to say what’s happening to me.  I will choke on the words but spit them out nonetheless.  I have got to.  I can’t lie to myself and others about something as simple as a chemical imbalance (they think, as far as I’ve seen, they don’t know precisely why it happens).  The brain and psychology are still a very young science.  When I do say that I have bipolar, I make sure to not specify bipolar II for a few reasons.  One is that most don’t KNOW that there are two distinct types of Bipolar.  Another reason is that it just doesn’t matter.  I have the disorder, I’m admitting it, it doesn’t matter which.  One more reason is that bipolar II, for those that know about it, is seen as the more “mild” form of bipolar, which isn’t true.  Yes, the mania is much more mild (called hypomania), but the depressive episodes are MUCH deeper than Bipolar I, which makes it just as intense, but in a different area.

Sometimes I will refer people to read my blog, which feels a lot like a shameless plug for views.  Even though I only get a very small amount of views, I do want more.  I want more people to see what it’s like to live through the disorder.  I want as many people who DON’T have bipolar to see that we are just the same as you, we just have to fight our brains every day.  That’s not scary to you.  We (for the most part) aren’t scary or dangerous, though there are some that are.  Not all mental health sufferers will be dangerous.  With millions of people diagnosed with some type of illness, it’s such a small percent of us that do become violent or dangerous to others in some way.  Mostly we are self-harming.  Mostly.

Shameless self-plug ahead.  If you’ve ever thought about sharing this blog, please do.  I want to help others in any way I can.  If that means putting my whole life out there, then so be it.  My existence doesn’t feel worth it if I don’t make some small impact, in some small way.  I think this is the way I was supposed to make my impact.  Let others know they are not alone.  They are seen.  So, share away!  It’s an easy link to remember, Enterbipolar.com.  Think of the Metallica song “enter sandman” except with bipolar.  That’s what I stole the name from (fun fact!), as well as from Hamilton the musical, “So there will be a revolution in this century, Enter me! He says in parenthesis.”  Hopefully that’ll help you remember as you’re living and encounter someone that may need any kind of help.  And of course, please reach out to me with questions if you have any!  I have an email address set up just for this site and you should be able to find it under the “contact me” page.  Or, if you know me personally, message/text me.  I’m terrible with phone calls, they make me anxious as all hell.

 

Ever Present Guilt

This month I’ve only posted twice.  I’ve been playing around for how often to post and when, to see what it does to views.  With every 4 days posting, NOBODY reads!  So, I’m going to try once again to post daily/every other day (sorry for those that will see constant reminders!).  When I inevitably wake up at 2AM every morning, I’ll go down and write instead of laying down and mindlessly looking at other people’s lives.  There is really no point.  My goal during all this intensity is to be productive.  Looking at other people’s happiness does absolutely nothing to my productivity, nor my own mental health.  I feel guilty for coming downstairs in the middle of the night to write as well.  Connor cannot sleep without me beside him and so me being gone will wake him up.  I feel guilty infecting another person with my inability to sleep for only 3-4 hours at a time.  So I give myself grief for coming down and spending the few hours alone in my solitary self-reflection.

Feeling guilty about writing at night is what brings me to what I want to talk about.  Guilt.  It is absolutely pervasive in my mind.  Guilt is a lot of why I feel so negatively towards myself and what I do.  I practice so much mental self-flagellation for about anything and everything I do.  I didn’t do the dishes soon enough?  *whip* Didn’t have a trauma growing up during a trauma class, but am still messed up?  *whip* Laundry piling up?  *whip* Said what I believe is an awkward thing to a friend?  *whip* Thinking about going on disability to fully heal both my back and my brain?  *whip* This type of thinking is absolutely no fun and is what I think may be my most destructive brain pattern.  Why do I feel guilty about feeling guilty right in this moment?

Guilt in very small doses can be a good thing (so I hear).  It causes you to be sure to do kind things for others, like remembering to send a present for a birthday or call your mother/friends/siblings etc. on special occasions.  This type of guilt can be NOT self-destructive.  It’s when you over use guilt that makes it so damaging.  I don’t know why the guilt dial can be turned to 11, but I wish I did.  I only realized that my guilt lever was fully on today when I was in therapy group.  We were talking about trauma and the physical responses with the nervous systems as well as symptoms of trauma that persist throughout life.  Because I HAVE no trauma that I know of, I felt guilty for even being in group.  Why do I deserve to have this amazing opportunity to be in this intensive outpatient therapy group, when I haven’t and don’t go through what the other wonderful people that are there do?  I don’t have childhood abuse; my family life was great growing up.  Why am I so depressed?  I am not abused now either.  I sat in group and practically disassociated and went somewhere else as an unintentional coping mechanism.  I couldn’t handle my guilt for lack of trauma.  How in the hell does THAT make any sense at all?  I feel guilty for NOT having a life destructing trauma?  What the hell?

I’ve heard that these types of self-flagellations are a phenomenon called the “Dobby effect” named after the house elf in one of my favorite book series ever written, Harry Potter.  Dobby will self-harm any time he goes against his owners or says something that is negative or forbidden about them, at least until he’s freed by Harry.  The Dobby Effect causes guilty feeling people to ward off the guilt by self-punishment.  I use this effect in spades.  I don’t know why, but I do.  It makes me avoid persons and situations in which I’ve felt guilty, as well as isolate myself, feel guilty about that and then over-work myself at the house which will cause a crash later.  I have recently crashed in the last two weeks or so, which I feel guilty about as well.  I was doing so well at being good and productive and positive about things.  I’m now back down in the depression pit, although not as deeply as I normally do (thanks bipolar meds!).

Because it’s what I do, I researched ways to work through guilt and found a good article on psychologytoday.com.  I love this website.  I do everything from research to finding a psychiatrist here.  I’ll link below for those curious.  I think I need to print out these suggestions on post-it’s and put them around my house for me to see, along with my “you are enough” magnet on my fridge.  The headers for each suggestion are as follows:

  1. Tell yourself that you have done the best you could
  2. Consider that at the time, you didn’t know what you do now.
  3. Remember that you’re not to blame for surviving a tragedy
  4. Think that to blame yourself for a mistake that was beyond your control may not characterize your behavior
  5. Tell yourself that you may have adopted too rigorous of standards for yourself (!)
  6. Acknowledge your right to protect your self-interests
  7. Recognize that you can stand up for yourself and your rights
  8. Remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong for pushing for your own goals
  9. Stop the inner dialogue that is negative

Admittedly, these are not exactly easy things to do, but at least it’s somewhere to go and something to reach for.  I’m going to work on putting these suggestions into my daily life, and practicing them.  Maybe this will help my flagellation problem.  Man, for such a negative word, I really like the word “flagellation.”  Oh look, squirrel!

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201506/9-ways-talk-yourself-out-unnecessary-guilt