Living with Bipolar Living with bipolar is like walking on a tightrope, trying to maintain my balance, fearful of each step I take.
Living with bipolar is like walking on a tightrope, trying to maintain my balance, fearful of each step I take.
As a young adult, I didn’t understand what triggered my highs and lows. I saw depression as a problem, but I didn’t fully understand the role of workaholism, overachievement, and perfectionism, even as I crashed over and over.
After my training as a clinician, when I finally turned to medication for help, I understood and described myself as cyclothymic (experiencing highs and lows less extreme than bipolar) even as I was diagnosed and treated for dysthymia (persistent depression).
At almost 54, I’m still learning about myself. I used to consider myself extroverted. I threw parties, loved to be on stage and the center of attention. When I look back, though, I performed at parties. I did not really feel comfortable. I danced and laughed loudly, or I shrank back into a corner, wanting to leave.
Now social stimulation overwhelms me. Sounds bombard me.
This summer, first the long days challenged me with too much sunshine. My thoughts raced at bedtime. I found it hard to sleep, had to take benzodiazepine to turn off my thoughts and allow slumber. I started to ramp, to take on more and more tasks.
Recently, I signed a three-month private trainer contract at a Pilates studio. The training itself overstimulates me. Too much social interaction. The exercise has aggravated forgotten knee and hip injuries. I know that Pilates should help, but for now, I’m in pain.
Responding to the pain, I’ve scheduled appointments with an orthopedist and a physical therapist.
Picture of sun shining through evergreen forest of coastal redwoods (I believe).
Escape is what I yearn. I want so badly to be in a less stimulating place, quieter, slower, surrounded by trees on one side to shelter me and an open vista on the other so I can look at the horizon and feel free. It’s a place I’ve had in my imagination a long time. My husband and I have been talking, but it’s not yet time to retire. Our life is here for now.


32 responses to “Walking the Line”

  1. Send my love right back to you. We are wondering where we will eventually retire. Needing transportation and services definitively weighs in on the decision. We also want to live close to where our son eventually settles down and has a family. He’s only 17 now, so… too early to say.

  2. I totally identify. Despite the overstimulation we have decided to retire to New York City. Mainly because I am too disabled to drive. But I have the same feelings you do. Thinking of you and sending love, Ellen

  3. I fully agree! That’s exactly what I wrote about 🙂

  4. Usually when I have to reach for meds to sleep, it means that I’m hypomanic. I often can find a trigger, some stimulant, such as caffeine, sunshine, too much socializing… (we each have our own triggers, I suppose). When I’m stable, I don’t need sleep meds. Better to take them and nip upswing in the bud. Lack of sleep is dangerous, can lead to mood cycling. Wish you the best at getting your sleep cycle back on track.

  5. Hi. I am diagnosed bipolar, and I wish you the best in your endeavors! I can relate to this post. I searched for “bipolar sleep” and came here – I just wrote about how I needed medication to sleep last night for the first time in a while.

  6. Comments welcome. Thank you!

  7. Meditation, visualization, and art are al helpful. My mother used meditation and visualization to fight lymphoma (along with antibody therapy) and overcome pain and discomfort. Big believe in its power. When I’m in a hypomanic state, I cannot always meditate. Using guided visualization may help silence my thoughts as I focus on the hypnotherapist’s voice. It’s been decades since I saw my mom’s hypnotherapist.

  8. Hope you do not mind me providing an additional comment, Kitt. Just read about the Pilates “core” exercises and think I would prefer Yoga based on my age. Since you are now seeing an orthopedist and physical therapist for your injuries, hope the Pilates contract you signed had a pain and suffering clause. Think you should be entitled to some compensation. Please take care and wish you a speedy recovery.

  9. ? Absolutely glad I am not diagnosed as Bipolar, Kitt. Remember commenting on one of your posts last year about underestimating your modesty. Can see from this post I underestimated your perseverance as well. Think you are coping well.
    God Bless + Namaste !!!

  10. When I was misdiagnosed I had terrible trouble with groups. I still have one place I get overwhelmed, the grocery store. But med management took a lot of the social issues away. I’m able to attend a wedding I could not have attended five years ago. I feel the key was getting into see the right Dr. I wish he could see you all! Maybe there would be better improvements. Alas, he has retired. My story is I was like a dog with a bone. Always thinking there must be a way. And there is. I got to go to the bridal shower. What a joy! I’m not outgoing but being with people felt good for a refreshing change. Lots of interesting people out there to listen to. I did not have to talk about me, was great!
    Meditation, visualization, creating with an art medium. Even just photography with your phone. But you know all those tricks of the trade, so to speak. Dr David Illig of success world self hypnosis; I know bear with me. He has two discs last I knew. Put me right to sleep. Walking your forest floor made me think on it. I don’t have anything to do with him. Not even sure if I can write about him here. Just a suggestion, helped me.

  11. Sounds like the meds are working well.

  12. That’s also true for me lol. It depends on what mood I’m in. If I’m getting depressed, the worst thing for me is to be alone. Even the car ride to work is upsetting because my thoughts dart around so fast and are so negative. Everything is determined by whether I’m feeling up or feeling down. Since I’ve been on these meds (started in December I believe), my moods still cycle, but they aren’t as severe. I’ve been able to function and go to work, etc. I do feel like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, though. Hopefully it’ll be a long time before I have to deal with another severe cycle.

  13. Glad your meds enable you to work. Quiet is nice, but sometimes even quiet is disquieting, for my thoughts race too loudly and set me on edge.

  14. One of my favorite places to be is at home, with the tv off. Peace. When I’m in my car the radio is off. Nice and quiet. But at work it’s so noisy and can get chaotic at times! My meds have helped me be able to work in that environment and not freak completely out, like I used to do lol.

  15. Parties are tough for highly sensitive people and introverts, no less ones who live with bipolar. I’m sure your friend could use your support now one on one. She was probably overwhelmed by the wake, too.
    Pilates and yoga at home sounds better. My dogs licked me when I tried doing my physical therapy stretches on my yoga mat today. I may have to go into a separate room.

  16. Send you my condolences on the loss of your cousin.

  17. Aaron D. Cohen Avatar
    Aaron D. Cohen

    Susan, I have the same issues. Last Saturday I turned down a date to go to a wedding reception where I would know no one except my date. I turned the date down. A few weeks ago my cousin passed away. Her wake was held in a very small area and it was crowded. After a few minutes I started to panic therefore I said my goodbyes and left. I do not feel bad about it as I was there for my cousin, God and me. I didn’t care about who was there.

  18. “social stimulation overwhelms me. Sounds bombard me.” Oh, me too. It’s rare when I can be around more than one person at a time. Just this past weekend I went to a wake to celebrate the life of the husband of a friend and neighbor who passed a couple of months ago. It was so loud and overwhelming due to the number of people, I literally left after ten minutes. I felt so bad, and hope she didn’t miss me.
    Kudos to you for leading the pilates class. I now do pilates and yoga at home with my computer. 😮
    At least it’s quiet. 😉

  19. Thank you, Serena. You are right that not only those with bipolar get overstimulated. Wish you the best in caring for yourself.

  20. Hi. Although I’m not bipolar I relate to the constant overstimulation and a yearning for peace! Thing is even if I do find “it” my guess is I’ll find ways to be hyper…. Even on a still midsummer evening, by candlelight, with nothing but …….

  21. Wish you the best, too. Hate that jittery coming out of your skin feeling.

  22. Water exercise is lovely for joint pain. Great idea.

  23. Great idea. I may end up doing that instead. I crave swimming, but in a quiet uncrowded pool.

  24. Santa Cruz Mountains would be lovely.

  25. It is a big decision Kitt, emotionally as well as financially, as it takes in and affects so many parts of your life. But it will give you direction and something to strive and look forward to.
    But in the meantime, maybe some test weekends away to find just what environment you feel best in, some purpose and hope for the future, so that when the time comes you will be ready with open arms to ‘be’ what your heart desires 😀 <3

  26. I can relate so much to what you’re saying. I’m bipolar and right now transitioning into full mania. This is the worst time in a long time. It’s like I’m coming out of my skin. Best wishes for you.

  27. Mary McGerald Griffith Avatar
    Mary McGerald Griffith

    Certainly understand the part about how exercise is supposed to help. I too over-stressed my body and there’s not much I haven’t had physical therapy for. Found an understanding personal trainer and water aerobics work best for me. Love the water classes.

  28. I completely understand what you’re going thru in the social stimulation department. I feel so drained after having to interact with certain other humans. Thank goodness, I’m comfortable with some. I use an app for my yoga ‘classes’ and I can do them whenever I want to.

  29. I love the picture of the sun rays peeking through the trees!
    Re: “I know that Pilates should help”
    Well, I’ve never tried it, but the very thought of Pilates has totally intimidated me. However, I’m proud of you for signing up for three months, but it sounds like it’s not a good fit due to the aggravation of your injuries, the overstimulation etc. (Could they refund two months, perhaps?)
    I’m very glad you made appointments with the orthopedist and P.T. – that’s the way to go.
    XOXOX sending you love as always,
    p.s. You described you yearn to be:
    “surrounded by trees on one side to shelter me and an open vista on the other so I can look at the horizon and feel free.”
    I want you to retire in the Santa Cruz Mountains, please, because that’s exactly what you can enjoy in the area!
    Bonny Doon would be perfect for you two! 😉

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