I’ve been Brooding about Three Things

I think the last personal post I’ve put up here on this blog, that didn’t involve a template, was back in early December. Since then I’ve been brooding (which looks like me playing FFXI while set to invisible mode) about many things while bookmarking stuff I’ve read online to sort out, mull over, and discuss later.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I’ve been able to see my therapist due to weather and my car breaking down. So yesterday I started bringing up these thoughts and I list these topics here, in no particular order.

  • Bipolar Type I versus Bipolar Type II
  • Mood Trackers
  • Fear of Success/Failure (which for me means Maladaptive Perfectionism)

I brought these topics up due to things happening in my life and stuff I’ve been reading. And on the surface, one could say yesterday’s session didn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t have any sort of breakthrough or epiphany. However, I did at least break the silence and I’m starting to feel like I can address them. Right now I think I’m still just scratching the surface, but it’s a start of the process.

Each of the headings below include a list of reading related to the topic. I’m sharing the links just in case someone out there will find them useful.

Bipolar Type I vs. Bipolar Type II

This is actually an old topic for me. Since the day I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type II, I’ve had many questions. Not whether I had Bipolar, but rather whether I’ve been placed in the wrong type.

Why does this matter when the purpose of a diagnosis is to define the care plan? My simplest answer is that the word “Recovery” regarding Bipolar is misleading. I believe the word “Remission” is more accurate since, like cancer, there is always a chance that it will come back no matter how well you are doing. The word “Recovery” suggests the illness is gone and it’s over with nothing to worry about when with Bipolar this is never true.

Although I do want and need to point out that Gabe Howard argues in his article Is Recovery the Best Word to Describe Wellness with Mental Illness? that both words are correct. And based on the presentation of his stance, I agree. I’m not going to tell anyone they are wrong for using the word to describe their wellness any more than I’m going to tell someone they are wrong for using person first language to describe themselves.

This is a genetic disorder that causes the brain to misfire biochemically that alters the way it functions. This is why I also believe calling Bipolar a mood disorder is misleading.

The emotions we experience due to the dysfunction of our brain is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

It’s no different than those with Autism having an emotional response to any one of their sensory processing disorders. Wouldn’t it piss you off and put you in a bad mood if everything was too loud all the time? How about clothing that never stops itching or lighting that hurts your eyes? What about being made to eat something you can’t swallow easily due to the texture? The list goes on.

All of these things are valid reactions to something abnormal.

Those of us with Bipolar may be reacting to different things, but the principal is the same. Do these emotions need to be recognized and addressed? YES. Should these emotions be dismissed? NO.

So the reason I continue to have concerns about which type I have is due to the very real potential return of a Bipolar episode. Both me and my support team need to be fully aware of what to watch for in symptoms. In the past, the first argument has been that I have never been hospitalized and have never been in a full blown manic episode. Therefore I must be Bipolar Type II, right?

Not so fast.

There is one very distinct symptom set that defines the difference between Type I and Type II. That difference is the presence of psychotic features. That symptom set belongs to Type I, not Type II. So why is it that while everyone knows that I have experienced delusions and hallucinations (symptoms of psychosis) in the past, that I have been placed in Type II?

Which leads to the second argument: my behavior has never been extreme enough to fall into the mania category. My behavior falls into the hypomanic range.

But, Bipolar isn’t the only thing I have going on. We know I have Maladaptive Perfectionism (don’t know yet where it’s coming from) and we know I have PTSD. I’ve always had a high risk aversion, but now with the two of these combined it creates an even higher risk aversion in me at baseline (my normal, but still abnormal compared to everyone else).

This is why I believe knowing your baseline is critical. This alone dictates what’s normal and what’s abnormal for you. What if when manic, my risk aversion drops to normal levels when compared to the general population? Compared to my baseline, this is very abnormal. Is there a possibility that a care provider would miss this as a sign of full mania if they don’t know what my baseline is?

My therapist says, yes, and this is why I should go through the full psych eval since I have been with them over two years now. My baseline has been established in their records which can now be used as a measurement. I just need to hurry up and get MaineCare in place so I can get that done.

It isn’t enough to compare behavior to the general population when you have Bipolar. Yes it’s a good place to start in the beginning when first diagnosed, but after that it needs to be measured by the individual’s baseline.

One of the other defining characteristics between the two types, is that I’ve often read that Bipolar Type II experiences depression more often and more severely. There is some documentation that says otherwise though, so I don’t find this to be a strong argument as to whether anyone is Type I or Type II. That aside, I don’t often identify myself as depressed and when I do, it’s not typically severe. More often than not, I identify myself as being on the low end of my normal.

Is this because I’ve been diagnosed with the wrong type, or am I not able to perceive myself correctly?

In fact, this is the reason I began to question whether or not it was worth keeping a mood tracker if I can’t correctly identify episodes.

Mood Trackers

In speaking with my therapist about this, she reaffirmed that it’s completely okay to use the mood tracker to determine retroactively whether or not you’ve had an episode. Due to the cognitive changes a Bipolar episode creates, it becomes difficult to identify them as they are occurring. It’s not uncommon to completely miss the fact until after the episode is over. This is why having a solid support network (that knows your baseline) is important.

A mood tracker can help you identify an active episode when you use it to record behaviors and events. Doing this also helps you identify anything that makes your symptoms worse or more frequent. Additionally, it helps identify side effects from medications – which is important as I’ve learned from Little Bear since sometimes side effects can make your symptoms worse. Most importantly, I think, is that keeping a mood tracker helps you establish what your baseline is.

In the beginning, my tracker was for my migraines. I hadn’t been diagnosed with Bipolar at that time yet. It was through this I discovered my allergy to citrus fruits. I also learned that MSG and artificial sweeteners in my diet caused most of my migraines. This is why my tracker still records what I eat (but not how much – I refuse to do that).

So I’ll be resuming my mood tracker and I will try to discuss it more rather than just posting it up here on my blog. Partially because in the past I’ve had people point things out that were glaring to them, but I missed completely. Adjusting my behavior around that one thing I missed made a HUGE difference in my life.

Like rebound pain caused by an accidental overdose of Advil (not life threatening levels, and thus easy for anyone to miss). I had no idea that was even a thing. Someone else pointed out my choice in snack foods, and while they were focused on amounts, by them bringing it to my attention I was able to connect it to the GI problems I was having at the time.

The take away in all this is that my mood tracker doesn’t require me to be able to perfectly identify whether or not I’m having an episode, or even which one I’m experiencing. It’s purpose is to identify symptoms, their severity, and whether or not something can be done about them. Like I can’t prevent changes in weather to prevent my migraines, but since I know that heavy thunderstorms bring them I can take preemptive medications to mitigate the pain. Recording my sleep patterns not only lets me know of potential Bipolar episodes, but it also provides me with insight as whether or not I’m managing PTSD well.

And this all lead to my perfectionism and how it prevents me from doing certain things.

Perfectionism and the Fear of Success or Failure

Somewhere along the way in my life, I developed an extreme dislike for messing things up and falling under scrutiny. These two things don’t always go hand in hand. Success, not just failure, brings scrutiny. More people look at you longer for a whole host of reasons when you accomplish something versus when you make a mistake.

Okay, I admit, for me it’s mostly just avoiding scrutiny rather than failure. And I suspect it’s due to past delusions centered around being under surveillance. When you live for 5 years straight under the unshakable belief that every move you make is being watched while waiting for you to make a mistake, you begin to feel paralyzed and immobilized. It changes the way you do things. As a result, some really strong habits are formed in response and they don’t just simply disappear when the delusion fades.

Failure isn’t really my big problem. It’s part of the learning process I embrace. So I guess it depends on the type of failure? Not getting it right the first time while I’m learning something is no big deal. Not getting it right after I’ve been doing it long enough to feel like I’ve mastered? Very big deal.

Being the cause of someone else’s misery? That’s a fear I harbor and one I’m sure everyone can understand. And I think it’s a type of failure – one that comes from making a mistake. I’m assuming if you did it on purpose then the outcome was intended so it wouldn’t be a failure?

Being the target of unproductive criticism? I entertain that one quite a bit. Nothing is more aggravating and distressing to me than getting bombed with how broken/wrong something is without being told how it’s broken/wrong or how to fix it. Or worse, you do fix it and it’s still broken in some way. Honestly, I’d rather do nothing than deal with that mess.

So not only does scrutiny tend to bring on the criticism, it also generates a sort of stage fright – again, something I’m sure many people understand. It’s a pretty big deal to get up in front of a group consisting say, 50 or 100 people or more, and talking about anything. For some reason though, we tend to think of communicating online differently simply because we can’t see the audience. The numbers are invisible when you think of them being in the room. And for some people, this makes communicating easier when we feel like we’re talking to an empty room.

I don’t have a problem with the idea of speaking to a live audience of roughly 100 people. I’ve done it – in church and in school. It’s no big deal. I can see their faces and respond or adjust to them on the fly as it comes.

The problem I have is knowing that with my writing, whether in print or online, the audience is potentially much greater than 100 people. It’s not uncommon for people online to develop an audience greater than 1,000 people or 10,000 people or in some cases 100,000 of people. And every member within that audience is reacting to whatever you’re sharing. Not all of these people will follow you. Not all of them will respond to you. Not all of them will let you know they even exist.

AND once you’ve put something out there online, that’s it. It’s out there and you can’t take it back. Responding and adjusting on the fly with an audience like that isn’t realistic. As far as being in print, recalling publications and making adjustments is expensive so it’s not typically feasible.

The bottom line is, whatever it is you publish you have to commit to it since it will be attached to your name and your character forever that potentially thousands of people will see.

What if my book sucks? Well… arguably on an academic and literary level, Fifty Shades of Grey does suck BUT it’s a best seller and a bajillion people love it. I guess that’s not a concern anyone should worry about.

So… what if my book sucks AND people hate it? I think that’s a valid concern – especially if I can’t figure out how not to repeat the problem.

What if the book doesn’t suck, but the vast majority of people STILL hate it? There are plenty of published classics that fall into this category. Not everyone loves Oliver, or The Tale of Two Cities, or War and Peace for example.

The harsh reality is, the longer it’s out there and the bigger the audience becomes, the more impossible it becomes to please everyone.

You. Just. Can’t. Do. It.


And now I’ve been kind of stuck and brooding because suddenly, by joining Twitter, my audience has become potentially that much bigger. It doesn’t matter whether anyone comments or presses the “like button” on anything I post in here. It’s the knowing that more people are seeing it. It’s like stepping up in front of an audience of 100 people and after you started speaking, the curtain behind that audience opens to reveal 1000 more people.

That’s pretty daunting.

It’s not just an audience either. It’s fellow creators, writers, and communicators all with something of their own to say. No one ever speaks without feeling like what they have to say isn’t important. After all, if it wasn’t important to you then you wouldn’t waste your time with it. So every time some one posts, shares, retweet, or whatever, they are saying “this is important, pay attention to it”.

I know this. I respect this. I know it means that whenever I put anything up, I’m doing the same. Sometimes though… I feel like whatever I have to say might not be important enough to be added to someone else’s feed or notifications.

There are many people writing about living with Bipolar/Migraines/PTSD, being a writer/creator, or being a parent of special needs children. What do I have to say about any of that to add to the conversation, and thus the feed, that is worthy of someone else’s time?

This is when I have to remind myself that not all of them experience that entire list. My unique combination puts a very different perspective on each one of those topics. Each of my disorders influences the symptoms of the others. It influences the way I parent. It influences the way I see my children’s disorders.

Okay, let’s be real: the combination of my disorders influences everything in my life and how I do everything I do. And it requires me to do a ton of experimenting.

One of the things I’ve learned after becoming a parent is that learning how other people do things, even if their circumstances are different, can provide me and my family with the much needed breakthrough. Before having children, it never occurred to me to speak to any of these communities.

I never would have tried weighted blankets or heat therapy if I had never given the Autism community or chronic pain sufferers the time of day. By reading about how they cope with various things and giving them a try, I discovered two things that help me greatly in coping with disassociation. I didn’t learn that from a doctor. I learned that because someone was willing to write about those types of therapies and how they work.

So I’m going to keep writing and sharing. It might take me longer if I think that maybe what I’ve got to say is silly, stupid, or weird but I’ll eventually get it out. At best, I’ll be able to return the favor and lead someone else to the breakthrough they need. At worst, I just go on record as a silly person that rambles a lot. Most likely it will land me somewhere in the middle where I’m just letting people know they’re not alone in all this.

As for the book writing… I’ll keep working on overcoming whatever hang ups I have there that keep me in revision land forever.

7 thoughts on “I’ve been Brooding about Three Things

    • Yeah, I try make a point to differentiate between adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism frequently. The adaptive type is functional and improves productivity. The maladaptive type just isn’t any of that. It’s self destructive.

      It has always been easier for me to do nothing rather than do it wrong. But that old saying, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” is very true. There is more than one way to do a lot of things, and none of them need to be wrong. They just need to get the job done, and that’s something I have to remind myself ALL the time.

      I’m glad to know that what I have to share is helpful to at least one person.

  1. I agree with what you said about recovery vs. remission. I was diagnosed Bipolar Type 1, but it’s my understanding that recently psychiatrists are moving away from distinguishing between types and are going back to the umbrella term of ‘bipolar’. I’m not sure how useful having subcategories is, as treatment, as far as I understand it, is basically the same.

    • I’m not sure. Like I know that for Autism, the mental and behavioral health hospital we go to do not use the “level” designation with my son, but they do mark me as Bipolar Type 2 in the paperwork. This suggests to me there is something different in the way they approach treatment and care plans between the two types of Bipolar, but not with the levels of Autism. Why that is, I don’t know.

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