Coping and recognizing the signs

I am new to all of this.  I have been suffering for years with depression and highs and lows.  I am not on medication yet for this as I have to go back to dr. next week.  Today was one of the worst days I have ever had.  I can’t turn it off.  I cry and get so fixated on one thing that really should not be a big issue.  I am driving my husband away.  I am a proud person and don’t like to let people know how bad I feel.  I don’t know what to do.  If anyone can offer me some help I would

really appreciate it.  I suffer from a autoimmune disease which makes life miserable enough then to be depressed is worse.

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First, I am so glad that you are trying to find help for these feelings you are having and I am so sorry that you are going through this.

Let me say before I say anything else that I am not a doctor and nothing I say should take the place of an evaluation and treatment by a trained medical professional.

I suffered with (or from) my moods for 34 years before I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For many, many years I was extremely depressed. I was also extremely good at hiding how depressed I was and I did that by pushing people away from me. I could be hysterically crying in my room one minute and come down for dinner and my parents would have no idea there had been anything at all wrong. But my depression and my undiagnosed manic symptoms cost me a lot of relationships. I have had trouble my entire life maintaining friendships because people don’t know or remember that it can be my bipolar that causes me to say things that are hurtful without meaning to. “I’m sorry” are the two most common words in my vocabulary.

For the first years of my marriage I, like you, pushed my husband away and said spiteful, mean, hurtful things to him. Neither of us could understand why I was so nasty and then so needy. When I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, we both suddenly understood why I was so out of control and so distant. It all suddenly made sense. The diagnosis did not heal the relationship right away, but it gave us something to hold onto and a way to start working to make things better. I am so happy that my husband was willing to work with me, support me in getting stable, and, of course, stick around. He is now the barometer for how I am acting and I often ask him if I am being unreasonable or irrational. If I do not listen to him, I am always sorry later. He and my mother have saved me from myself more times than I can remember.

You say that you are a proud person and do not like to let people know how bad you feel.  This is normal.  For many people, the thought of having a psychiatric illness of any kind is very scary.  You might be having trouble maintaining important relationships, like the one with your husband. If and when you are diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s not uncommon for people to pull away from you, because mental illness still carries such a stigma. I cannot guarantee that this will not happen if you are diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder because I think the diagnosis still scares most people. But if a person is truly your friend or really loves you, they will want to help you cope with this new wrinkle in your life.  Believe me – the good ones will stick by your side and try to help you, even when you are being your most unreasonable or depressed or manic self.

Look at it this way.  If you had high blood pressure or diabetes or cancer, you would seek immediate medical attention and not feel that your pride should or does have anything to do with it.  Well, psychiatric illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder are physical illnesses of the brain.  There is nothing to be ashamed of if you need to seek medical attention for a physical problem with your brain.  Please, do not let your pride stand in the way of asking for help.

I think where a lot of people get hung up on getting treatment is because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and this is sad.  Because mental illness causes behavior that can make us do things that might seem strange or pull away from our loved ones or even harm ourselves, some people still have a hard time understanding that this is an actual physical problem and not a character flaw.  Hopefully, this will change with time and education.

It is normal to want to shut out those around you when you are feeling depressed or frightened of what is going on in your brain.  It is also normal to fixate on things when you are depressed.  Obsessing is what people with depression and/or bipolar do best!  It does not mean that you are a bad person.  Mental illness can make us act in ways we don’t really want to act.  I do not know why you are pushing your husband away but, if your husband is someone you feel you can trust, you should talk to him about how you have been feeling and tell him that you need help and support right now to find out what is going on.  I can also tell you from personal experience that joint counseling with your spouse can be very helpful for both of you.  I am sure your husband is also frightened and confused as to why you are acting the way you are.  He might actually be relieved if you come and talk to him.  It never hurts to try and communication is one of the keys to a good marriage.

I also wanted to address the last sentence in your email about your autoimmune disorder.  I suffer from both bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia.  Having chronic pain makes my depression more severe.  It is hard to stay positive when you are hurting physically and the pain never goes away.  So getting whatever your autoimmune disease is treated properly and pain levels under control might be a key to helping with your depression.  Please make sure your doctor is aware of all of your symptoms, both physical and mental. The family doctor I work with is one of the best doctors in our area and he not only wants to know how I am doing physically, but also is very interested in what my mental status is. He never fails to ask what else is going on in my life that might be making my pain symptoms worse or better. Stress makes my physical and mental symptoms worse, so the best advice I can give you is to try to minimize the amount of stress in your life.

I am very lucky to have a spouse that is supportive of my living a low stress life and he works extremely hard to provide for me and our family and takes on the burden of supporting us so that I do not have to. Not everyone is so lucky, but if your husband is willing to be supportive and just does not know how, it is crucial that you tell him what is going on so that he can be a part of your treatment. I believe that treatment of both mental and physical illness involves an entire team – doctors, nurses, pain management, meditation and mindfulness practice, exercise, and family, family, family. Not to mention the really good friends who are willing to stick by you and understand when you are having a really bad day.

Good luck and thank you for writing to Ask a Bipolar.com.  Please write in again and let us know how you are doing!

5 thoughts on “Coping and recognizing the signs

  1. Chelle i liked your response to the question. I thought that you were also caring, understanding and sincere in how u answered, awesome job! Vicky

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