by Julie A. Fast
I drove around aimlessly this morning until I forced myself to choose a coffee shop so that I could sit down and work.
It’s only 7:30 AM and I already feel like my day is a mess.
Why am I so restless?
I know the answer to this question. It’s such a simple answer that I don’t want to believe it.
I’m restless because it’s a very normal symptom of bipolar disorder. If you have bipolar disorder or care about someone with the illness- do you have these symptoms of bipolar disorder restlessness?
- Can’t make a decision.
- Drive aimlessly. Sometimes for hours.
- Stop at one place. Get out of the car, ALMOST go in and then change your mind and go somewhere else.
- Trouble working. It’s hard to pick a project.
- The body feels buzzy and uncomfortable.
- LOTS of guilt over not being able to settle down.
- Continual feeling that there is something you should be doing, but you aren’t sure what it is.
- Worry. Lots of worry.
- Can’t stay in one place longer than a half hour.
- Caffeine makes it worse.
- Cloudy thinking.
- Slightly irritated.
Oh, I could go on!
Some would call this anxiety, but I know my anxiety well. This is not anxiety.
Restlessness permeates bipolar disorder mood swings. We can be wired and tired when depressed – agitated and manic when in a dysphoric manic episode. This makes sense. And yes, restlessness is a part of anxiety. But, I have lived with these symptoms since age 19 when my main mood swings started and over 30 years later, the same restlessness is here. I have this restlessness when I’m NOT in a typical mood swing.
I’m not overly depressed, manic or anxious right now. I’m not psychotic. This isn’t ADD. There is nothing wrong with my life except the fact that work often feels impossible. I have the ideas- I have the means. I have the outlets and I have the desire. If I let it take over, I will spend the day driving around to feel better.
But I won’t let that happen. Recognizing this restlessness as a part of my illness helps me counteract the symptom. I am not yet sure how it fits into bipolar disorder, but I do know what to do about it.
Force myself to make a decision. That is what I did this morning. After driving around my city in the dark, trying to find a place that felt comfortable. I reminded myself- as I write in my book Get it Done When You’re Depressed- I am NEVER going to feel comfortable when in one of these mood swings- so if I want to feel comfortable to make a decision, I will drive forever. So, I forced myself to pull over and sit down. I did that. I am now writing this blog. It worked.
Keep a list of my restlessness symptoms handy and show it to others. I work with a manager three times a week. I have to do this to keep on track. I simply can’t do my work and deal with my bipolar disorder without a lot of help. She knows these restlessness symptoms well. She has a system I have to follow. It works when I remember to use it. I often lose the paper it’s printed on. I forget to look at it. I am all over the place. Then we meet and she reigns me back in.
I plan to crack this restlessness problem one day. For now, I have to focus on how far I’ve come in terms of being able to work despite not wanting to sit down.
I lived in Seattle for many years. Mt. Rainer is one of the world’s most spectacular mountains. I remember being so restless, I would get in my car and drive an hour away from Mt. Rainer and then turn back around and drive an hour towards it, just to see the mountain. I had no idea why I would take these drives. I felt guilty about them. They were not for pleasure. They were not about beauty. I now know it was my restlessness forcing me to drive for hours.
This morning I drove for only 15 minutes. That is a huge improvement. Bipolar disorder management is a process. I learn more every day and I will continue to learn. My illness may stay the same- I have bipolar disorder and it’s not going anywhere. The difference now is awareness and having a plan. This is how I survive these restless days.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community