I joined the DBSA- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to get involved in their support groups. I’ve always liked the idea of support groups, and have always thought about them in that sort of romanticized way that I use for things I’ll never ever in a billion years get around to, like gardening, or working out. (I do these sorts of things in classic bipolar style- full-bore all at once until I collapse, and then forget about or ignore it for a long time. Bonsai and cacti are all I can grow, I swear, and we’re not even going to talk about exercise.) Thus far, I’ve managed to pick out a username, start an account, and look at the forum. That was about all I could do before starting into a panic attack. This is supposed to be helpful, and it’s sending me into hysterics. I think I’ll let it sit for a while, and maybe think about what it is that scares me so much about seeking help.
I had a therapist all through high school, and she was wonderful. Then, in college, it took until I got kicked out of the education program for me to finally seek out a therapist at school. He was great, too, and helped tremendously. Then, when I graduated, I initially had no insurance, so it took me until I nearly ended up in the hospital again to seek out help from the local mental health program. The day I had my first appointment with that therapist, I had come from the job interview that actually panned out, resulting in my current case management job. I no longer qualified for her services, so I only saw her once. Even though I then had insurance, it took nearly three years before I finally sought out a psychiatrist and therapist. (My insurance, which initially was excellent, became a nightmare after a year, in which I suddenly had a $5000 deductible. That gave me pause in my search, and it took me a while to decide that it was worth spending so much to see a psychiatrist and psychologist, because I needed it.) I am very happy with both, and have stabilized somewhat since.
But why do I get so very panicky about seeking help? I tend to put off a great deal of things in my life, such a bills- I wait until the last minute on those, because the thought of opening up my bank account’s website often gives me a panic attack, as I have a nasty habit of spending money I don’t have and ending up owing my bank money- due to having panic attacks about them. I am not sure what it is that scares me so much about seeking help. Digging back through my journal, I’m finding entry after entry of panic, with little insight into the WHY. The most recent journal about panicking was this past December, when I got into a fender-bender after work.
From my LiveJournal, December 9th, 2010:
My fault. How could I do that? My fault. I should’ve looked and never trusted someone waving me out of a parking lot at that hour, when it was so busy. My fault. I failed. My fault. I should just kill myself and spare my loved ones the misery of dealing with me. My fault. My fault. My fault.
That’s all that keeps running in circles in my head.
My therapist called while I was on the phone with my mom, once I’d gotten home from my accident and had showered to warm up, and gathered myself a bit. She’d had me down for an appointment, and I didn’t think I had one today, but I was scattered enough that it was perfectly likely that I forgot. I told her I’d been in an accident and apologized for being late, threw on some proper clothes (I’d changed into my jammies) and scooted my happy butt to her office. She realized shortly after hanging up with me that she’d written me in for this week by mistake and had me in for next week as well, but given the situation, it was well worth being seen. We talked about it at length, and I was able to laugh about it a bit, so all is not lost, and I definitely was able to gather myself up much faster than I did after my accident in college. That was a much worse accident- both cars were totaled- and my passenger should have been thrown from the car, and it was a miracle that she was unhurt. I was a stiff, bruised, whiplashed mess who wasn’t properly medicated at the time, so I spent three days in a ball in my dorm room, living on muscle relaxers which had the added benefit of letting me sleep without hearing screeching tires and breaking glass on repeat.
My therapist and I talked about my PTSD and how I react to situations like this, by locking up and panicking and doing nothing but think of worst-case scenarios and self-flagellate for a while. It all comes back to my perfection complex, that I hold myself to an impossibly perfect standard and beat the hell out of myself when I inevitably fail.
Knowing how my mind works to hopefully combat it, still doesn’t make the thoughts stop. They’re still there, lurking when I close my eyes, replaying the screech of tires and dull, painful thud that populates my nightmares as it is, ever since my accident eight years ago. I have so many nightmares of being unable to stop my car, of sliding into something and crashing and being unable to control it. All the thought stopping techniques in the world are useless when I’m trying to sleep and too tired to focus enough to make it stop, because that will keep me awake.
Having a therapist is helping so much in giving me some insight about my idiosyncrasies. Thinking about my PTSD, though, makes me wonder if this avoiding behavior is more due to PTSD than bipolar disorder. Do you have problems with panicking over stressors, and avoid them? How do you cope with them? All I can do is take a Klonopin and power through it, but it takes all the mental fortitude I’ve got. I’d love to hear some ideas about how to let go of some of the anxiety!