Heather Havens

@hhavens27 | contributor
I am a writer with a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 disorder and a grab bag of chronic illnesses, including ulcerative colitis and Type 2 diabetes. I've read stories from The Mighty contributors for years and decided it was time to join your supportive and inspiring community.
Community Voices

Fed up

I am depressed and physically ill with ulcerative colitis. I have a deep, fundamental rage toward my employer and a high-stress project to work on where most of the team is not pulling their weight. I have had it and I have nowhere to vent my despair and nobody in my life who wants to give me even five minutes to interact, so I am dumping here. I don't even expect a response. I just figure this is a safer place than Facebook.

Vi

Choosing Self-Love Over Grandiosity in Bipolar Disorder Treatment

“Grandiosity.” That’s the word that convinced me I actually had bipolar disorder. The sleep disruptions, increased energy, racing thoughts and flight of ideas — not to mention the recurring depressive episodes — all these other textbook symptoms somehow left me doubting. But the grandiosity is what got me. When I think of grandiosity, I look back on my very first hypomanic episode: I was studying music in college… though in retrospect “studying” is too strong a word. I barely ever went to class or rehearsal, failed many subjects, completely hung my duet and trio partners out to dry, and scored shamefully low at competitions. And through it all, despite overwhelming evidence of the contrary, I was convinced I was better than everyone around me. Yes, they got better grades than me and beat me at competitions, but surely if someone could see beyond the surface they would realize I was superior, right? And if not better at music, morally superior at least. I didn’t go to certain classes because I saw the teachers as failures who surely couldn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know. And anyway, I didn’t need to go to class, because surely those teachers would know to give me a passing grade based on my innate superiority alone, right? Wrong. I was so obviously wrong, but I couldn’t see it at all. But I see it now, and I look back on that part of my life mostly with shame. That certainty, confidence — over-confidence — was just a symptom. And in accepting that, in choosing to pursue treatment, I wondered if I would ever feel such confidence again. I can say I truly love myself now. That self-love is not quite as exhilarating as the grandiosity I’ve experienced while hypomanic, but it’s more reliable. It can be nurtured and worked on. It may fluctuate, but it won’t just disappear at the end of a hypomanic episode. It’s not unshakeable, I may lose sight of it at times, but I always know it will come around again. Where grandiosity made me look down on other people, self-love allows me to appreciate them as they are, regardless of how I measure up to them. Where grandiosity told me I deserved the world “just because,” self-love lets me react appropriately to events in my life: I can be proud of my accomplishments, and I can forgive myself for my mistakes while still holding myself accountable. I can see myself as I am and find worth in that person. Sometimes I worry when I love myself “too much.” I worry about having another episode and losing myself in those feelings of superiority, losing myself in a lie curated by my bipolar brain. And yet sometimes I miss it. Hypomania has its magic: it’s like the most intense power-trip… except you don’t actually have any power. Sometimes the difference is obvious. Other times I can’t tell them apart at all. One is all thrill, the other is… I don’t know. Peaceful? And though it would be nice to have both, if I have to choose, I guess I would rather have peace. I didn’t go directly from self-loathing to self-love. It was more like a gradual progression of logical steps: from hatred to a vague and passive dislike, then from disliking to being able to tolerate myself, and from tolerance to a vague occasional appreciation, and so on. And it still varies from day to day. I still dislike myself sometimes. Some days I dislike myself a lot. And other days I tolerate myself. But most days I find myself somewhere between “like” and “love,” and that’s a wonderful place to be. A version of this post originally appeared on International Bipolar Foundation’s blog.

Community Voices

Brain fried

I am a rapid cycler with mixed features and I feel as though it is frying my brain. I just want to see if there is anyone else like me out there. Specifically, does anyone else feel as though they are becoming more stupid as your episodes increase? Or do you notice this while in an episode or when you are stable? Hopefully this makes sense to someone.

#BipolarDisorder #Bipolar2Disorder #BipolarDepression

23 people are talking about this
Grady Stewart

What I Wish Others Knew About Life with UC

An average day of life with ulcerative colitis cannot be explained by all of the Oxford English Dictionary words, or squished between cascading columns of commas on a blank page. Each day is like an unopened fortune cookie with a paper-thin prophecy crammed safely inside the shell, just waiting to be unlocked. Poetry aside, the future is not as permanent or material as a lukewarm fortune cookie waiting on top of the receipt at the end of a hot meal. The reality of living with UC is that each day is a gooey blob of uncertainty. Living with a chronic illness like UC means embracing disruption and chaos as a part of the everyday. In the morning, life with UC can be motivating, uplifting or exhilarating. Some days, I’ll wake up to blue skies and birds chirping, with good news waiting for me and a sense of accomplishment adding to the spring in my step. But by 3 p.m. sharp, I’ll feel the energy sputtering out of me like the world’s saddest balloon, as pain settles into its place. Other days, I’m trapped outside of my comfort zone, doubt and fear chaining me down and keeping me from my goals. On lucky days, I’m carefree and resilient, able to sidestep any obstacles and end the day feeling normal and fulfilled. Simply put, living with UC is incredibly unpredictable. There is a broader range of experiences in a day with chronic illness than colors in an evening’s sunset. While few things are certain with UC, living with it for five years has forced me to adapt. Our current society is not equally accessible for all, especially those with illness or disability. As such, learning how to navigate the everyday world is vitally important for anyone living with chronic illness. I’ve learned how to fake normalcy and how to fake a routine. For instance, I always start my mornings with a typical shower, breakfast, toothbrushing and pill-taking. As I’ve lived longer and longer with UC, it’s become easier to role-play a routine, even on the days when it’s merely a fantasy, dragons not included. While I’m aware that I was stuck in the bathroom for an hour because of painful cramps or bone-rattling nausea, the outside world is none the wiser. Instead, I’ll blame traffic or a surprisingly empty gas tank for my delay. I confess it should be easy, to tell the truth. In the real world, it’s frustrating, time-consuming, and even embarrassing to have to repeatedly explain yourself and your illness to others. Chronic illness is not an easy thing to explain. It’s something you have to experience directly or as a caregiver to fully understand. A consequence of perfecting your ability to lead a normal life is that it conceals the fatigue, the brain fog and other symptoms that I carry through my day. In particular, it’s hard to see the differences between my everyday routine and that of someone without a chronic illness, unless you look below the surface. I’ve been told ‘you don’t look sick’ or ‘you seem healthy’ often, like many others living with UC or other chronic illnesses. Nonetheless, by midday, I’ve likely knocked out several work projects. A common and toxic misconception is that those with chronic illness and disabilities are less productive or capable. The reality is that those with chronic illness are actually forced to work harder due to the obstacles their health creates. Most of us are continually striving to excel. Accommodations, such as access to a bathroom, remote work and a flexible schedule to attend appointments, equalize the playing field and help me be productive. For the average individual, there’s only so much time in a day, and only so much one can accomplish in that time. The same applies to an individual living with UC like me, except there is even less that is in our control. There are additional limitations and pressures placed on you when you live with a chronic illness. From time to time, all humans experience the vice grip of stress. It creeps up on you and squeezes down hard when you least expect it, whether it’s an unexpected flat tire or a rapidly impending deadline. It’s only natural. Due to my illness, there is always some stress in my life. It runs in the background like a forgotten program chewing up all the RAM on a computer. Sadly, human bodies don’t come with a task manager or a restart button. Instead, this stress becomes the static of daily life with UC. I monitor my symptoms, and I paradoxically plan for the unpredictable. If I’m at work or simply out and about, I immediately scan the environment for a bathroom. The ability to locate a bathroom anywhere is truly a supernatural ability of people familiar with UC. As a backup, I always carry an emergency kit of essential supplies with me. The kit contains, among other things, safe snacks, wipes, clothes, medications and a mishmash of various other items. Each item plays a critical role in providing peace of mind for me, even if I don’t actually use the item. For instance, by carrying foods that I know won’t trigger my gut, I’m ensured that I can eat at least one meal until I’m home, if I can’t find sustenance elsewhere. (I’ve become a skilled linguist and can decode most modern menu hieroglyphics without a curse befalling me, but again, it’s nice to have a backup.) Attention to detail and planning are another part of everyday life for me that goes unnoticed by most. When you live long enough with UC, even your most quirky habits become invisible. By the time I’m home, the fatigue I’ve carried with me all day is usually bubbling over. Fatigue piles up like a child stacking smooth stones on a shoreline. Every morning, there’s a certain number of stones to start; sometimes I’m lighter, and sometimes I’m heavier. Nevertheless, there are always some stones. As the day goes on, the stones keep stacking up until they outweigh me. By then, I’m usually fast asleep in bed. Despite fatigue, there are usually things I have to handle in the evening before I can rest. This often means having to make sacrifices. I’m often torn between finishing side projects, engaging in my hobbies or socializing with my friends. The truth is that there’s usually not enough time left in the day, or there’s not enough energy left in me to get everything I want done. The truth is that, for those with chronic illness, the choices and sacrifices never really stop. After the meals are made, the work is done, the house is tidied and the friends are seen, there are still choices to be made. Big decisions like choosing to continue on a medication, and small decisions like skipping a social event to get additional rest. Likewise, they have to get made. Tomorrow, the cycle restarts. Ulcerative colitis is an everlasting commitment and unbreakable bond — at least for now. Every day is different, and every day even the changes in my life change. Like I said at the start, it’s exhausting and frustrating. More than anything, it’s a challenge as tremendous and unknowable as infinity. However, every day is also beautiful, thrilling and full of joy. I’ve learned that life is a rollercoaster. I’ve survived the peaks and valleys alike, even when I felt like screaming until my face turns a deep-plum purple. I’ve met many other incredible people living with UC who inspire me on every average day of mine through my journey. I’ve learned that the bad can be overcome, and the good can be savored. If life is going to be a twisty, topsy-turvy ride, well, you might as well enjoy it. So, in conclusion, tomorrow, I’ll wake up, claim and overcome whatever fortune is waiting for me.

When You Have Bipolar Mania or Hypomania Without Euphoria

Why do people never talk about how painful dysphoric hypomania is? Everybody just seems to romanticize euphoric hypomania but I experience that only for the first few hours of an episode, then it always turns into dysphoric mania and, eventually, it becomes a mixed state. At least, that’s what has always happened to me. Why can’t I just be euphoric and super productive and “the life of the party?” Why can’t I write a million essays and articles and blog posts? Why can’t I have creative ideas and unstoppable imagination? I’m not talking from hearsay. It happened to me once, when I was 20. Five years have passed since then and euphoric hypomania never visited me again. But I know what it’s like and today, with my hands shaking from the urge to move move move, with my restless legs and mind, with intrusive thoughts trying to ruin my life, I can only ask: why? I’m imprisoned in a body which won’t rest, a mind full of racing thoughts and noise, paranoia, no ability to concentrate or even just read two pages of a book, people hardly understand what I’m saying because I talk too fast and I can’t sleep despite being put on medication which I’m clearly not responding to. And I’m not even happy, let alone euphoric. Join the conversation! Answer this Mighty member’s question about the warning signs of mania. I’m in such a state that my editor on the blog on which I’m an author told me to send my articles to her for proofreading before posting them because they are too full of mistakes or simply not making sense. It’s humiliating. Actually, last night, I slept a fair amount of hours, but I would wake up every hour since 5 a.m. and when I got up at 10, I was feeling even more sped up than yesterday. I have so much energy that my body aches and it becomes negative energy. And it’s Sunday, so no one will answer the phone in my outpatient psych ward. And here I am, waiting for the next intrusive thought or urge to fight off, trying to sit still for at least 10 minutes. Hoping my words make sense. I hate this. Please, let’s talk about dysphoric hypomania more. Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Community Voices

Is there any help at reducing drug costs for UC drugs not covered by your insurance company?

4 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Is there any help at reducing drug costs for UC drugs not covered by your insurance company?

4 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Is there any help at reducing drug costs for UC drugs not covered by your insurance company?

Community Voices

Living with a toxic environment

I think that I've finally gotten to the root of my intense apathy where I just don't care about anything at all. i.e. Nothing. matters and I mean nothing.

I live in a toxic environment and there is no end in sight. Well, there is always an end in sight but I prefer not to go there but know that it is an eventuality.

My wife of 39 years sees me as support and little else. There are the platitudes of "I love you so much" but where the rubber meets the road, it just doesn't happen. I am nothing more than stability.

I am a very strong willed person. I live my life the way that I want to live it by my rules with no exceptions. I ask for nothing from anyone while yet I will do anything that I can to help others. Of course that sometimes causes people to take advantage of me.

I applied for a job that actually made me excited about life again. Something large scale and high tech that would allow me to leave life some day and be able to say, I helped do THAT. It would be working 1500 miles away so my wife was not displeased that I did not even get an interview.

We had a manager job open at work and I initially applied for it even though it would mean once again working under a manager that micromanages to the nth degree. I've almost quit a few times working under him before. My wife was put out that I backed out of applying for the job. She'd have been pleased to see me miserable as hell as long as I was tied down more to this place.

I've realized that the job that I wanted so badly not only meant being part of something bigger but also being away from someone who only sees me as being security. People will say ANYTHING to not lose security regardless of the cost to ones that they "love".

Just commiserating a bit today.

#Depression #apathy

7 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Been sick

Been in the hospital for 10 days because of my bipolar. I’m on the verge of losing my job and was written up 3 times in 2 weeks was the cause of it. I’m struggling with bipolar

15 people are talking about this