Last week, I diligently sat at my computer eyes straining, neck craned, shoulders tense and fingers poised over my keyboard. In short, I was stressed out. See, I had this big project due for my master’s class and it just wasn’t coming very easily. My words weren’t making sense to me, the research articles I’d found didn’t really fit in with the points I was trying to make. And worst of all, I was running out of time. So, as I sat there in my pool of misery and wretchedness, I felt a sense of overwhelming overwhelmingness. Have you ever felt that way? Completely overwhelmed. Stressed out. Wondering how on earth the thing before you is ever going to get done?
Well, as I sat before my computer, I felt a gentle nudge from God, or maybe it was just a craving for sweets, either way, in my heart—not my head, mind you, because my head never wants to listen to God—but in my heart, I felt this nudge of, 'Okay, Nici, take a break. Walk away, come back to it in a bit. Gain some perspective.'
So, what did I do? I shouted for my kids, “Who wants to go for frozen yogurt?” and my kids who would normally ignore me every other time, miraculously appeared at the top of the steps, smiles on their faces and eagerly nodded their assent that yes, they wanted to go out for yogurt. For a fleeting moment as we got in the car, I was tempted to let the guilt monster take over, but then I thought, 'Why not? It can’t hurt to try it this way, maybe I would feel better if I just took a break.'
Later that day, I even posted a picture on Facebook joking about my choice to go out for frozen yogurt when I had a big project due. But you know what, I’m not so sure that in that moment of complete and utter stressing out, I didn’t do the exact right thing.
Why? Because I came back to my computer, ready to try again. I took a deep breath and dove right in. And I did my best. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t, in my mind’s eye, a masterpiece, but it was good. Good enough to get me full points. Full points.
Does it pay to stress out? Does it make things better? Easier? No. In a simple word no. At least it never has worked for me. And I bet if you think about it, you’d agree that, really in the end, it doesn’t do anything for you either.
Don’t stress out. Take a break. Take a breather. Let God get hold of your heart and calm you down. Let God get hold of your brain and slow down your racing thoughts. He’s got this. And in his grace, it really will turn out okay. It always does when we leave it in his hands and stop trying to hoard it in our own.
Happy are those who are strong in the Lord who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping it will become a place of refreshing springs where pools of blessing collect after the rains.
Another oldie, about dealing with the diagnosis that is bipolar. For more information on the symptoms of bipolar visit: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20027544, http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/understanding-bipolar-disorder-symptoms or, http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20436786,00.html
Last week, I was wishing I could find words to describe what it’s like to deal with the symptoms of bipolar—mania, depression, and, my happy little friend, anxiety. But nothing seemed adequate enough to explain it. Then, I remembered a children’s book I read to my kids when they were younger. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss uses colors to describe the different types of days that are part of the human experience, including sad, happy, and mixed-up days. It gave me the idea to try and describe the symptoms of bipolar using color. So, here’s my attempt to depict what it’s like to struggle with mania, depression, and anxiety.
Mania- Bright, happy pink carries me weightless above the world. I’m flying and it seems so easy—like it should always be this way. But when the balloon pops, I fall helplessly to the ground with nothing to brace me for the impact.
A few entries ago, I wrote about how, in the past, I loved being manic. It felt so good—like I truly was flying weightless above the ground. Manic episodes were euphoric. They tricked me into thinking that things would always stay that way—that I wouldn’t ever come crashing back down again. Now, I know better. No matter how much I wish it weren't so, manic episodes always end, and I hurtle back down to earth knowing in my heart that, for as long as I live on this planet, mania will always be followed by the bitter pill of depression.
Depression- I wake up pink, but the shroud of gray quickly wraps me up in its suffocating folds. As this boa constricts, struggling to break free seems pointless. I turn back to my bed, my place of safety, burying myself beneath the blankets that offer precarious protection at best.
Depression can be deceitful. Even when I’m dealing with a bout of it, I wake up feeling happy and focused. But, when I’m in this part of the bipolar cycle, the familiar cloud of despair quickly colors my day, and the hope I had when my feet hit the ground is nowhere to be found. Morning always tricks me into thinking that I’m not going to struggle with depression that day. But it’s a lie because, as long as I am bipolar, I will always struggle with depression. It’s just part of the deal.
Anxiety- yellow birds pop in and out of my brain creating chaos. I try to focus but, just as one coherent thought begins to take shape, another distraction flies in, clamoring for my attention. The uproar in my brain is paralyzing, and I find it difficult to make even the simplest of decisions.
In my world, anxiety is always along for the ride. When I’m struggling with it, I literally can’t make a decision, fearing it will be the wrong one. For example, in the past, I could stand for an eternity in the frozen foods aisle trying to choose which brand of bagged vegetables to buy. I know it sounds silly, but making even the simplest of decisions was a real struggle. These days I’m not as afraid to make decisions, even if they might be the wrong ones. But anxiety still has its way with me at times. It’s very strange feeling my stomach churn with anxiety when there’s absolutely no reason for it. It reminds me that being bipolar isn’t my fault; it’s just a disease that affects my neuro-transmitters.
Though I’m no poet, using color to express this disorder was the best way I could think of to describe the battle I fight every day. Over the years, I’ve learned coping skills to deal with mania, depression, and anxiety while also accepting the fact that medication is a strong ally in my fight to be as productive and healthy as I can be. Being bipolar isn’t my fault. Nor is it the fault of anyone who suffers from a mental disorder. If you struggle with any of these symptoms, and they never seem to completely go away, I encourage you to get help. You don’t just have to cope with your condition. You can find relief and help if you just seek it out.