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I am a 29 year old woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 and also suffer from general anxiety and panic attacks. I have only been recently diagnosed but have been ill since I was a teenager. I tend to have mixed-manic episodes, hence the name of my blog. I am a regular guest blogger for Black Dog Tribe. I am not a mental health professional. I am just writing from my own experiences with mental illness. If you wish to use any of my blog content please contact me at lababup@gmail.com. Visit me on twitter @lababup

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Bipolar versus anxiety

I have both bipolar disorder and a general anxiety disorder. Most people think that the bipolar disorder is the more serious mental illness and in some ways this is true.

When my mood is manic or mixed I can become very paranoid, hyperactive, restless and distressed. I exhibit more typically abnormal ‘crazy’ behaviour like running around in circles, speaking incoherently and screaming. This makes socialising, work and normal day to day activities impossible.

The thing about mania though is it only happens in episodes. It may last for a few months but thankfully it ends. It is the same with depression. The episodes are horrific and completely take the life out of me. However, because they are acute in some way I can cope with them. I know they will end eventually.

Anxiety is a different story. It is there with me all the time. I am anxious about any kind of socialising, being seen in public and random other stuff like being stabbed when I am walking around outside. I can’t function when I am manic or depressed but anxiety cripples me every day.

The problem I have been having over the past couple of months is that the anxiety has reached a level where it is just as invasive as the bipolar episodes. I feel a sense of dread all the time. I get waves of nausea. I find it hard to breathe and my chest feels really tight. I am dizzy and I feel tired all the time. I keep getting panicked that I have some kind of physical illness but these symptoms are all consistent with anxiety.

But I feel like I am DYING. Like at any moment I could drop dead from lack of air. I am trying so hard to remain calm but I can’t. Everything in my body feels wrong. I keep over thinking things and noticing weird stuff. Like how big my tongue feels in my mouth. And how weird it is when I shut my eyes and I can see the darkness. And how often I swallow during the day. All of these normal things suddenly seem completely abnormal. I try and fall asleep at night but just as I drift off, I feel a sudden jolting pain in my chest and wake up in a panic. I am now afraid to go to bed. I make my partner stay up next to me and wait for me to fall to sleep just in case.

I wonder if I might stop breathing at any moment. I don’t want to die. Death terrifies me. But I don’t want to live like this either. The strange thing is that I don’t have anything to feel anxious about. I am worried about being off ill from my PhD and losing my funding but I am not thinking about it constantly and it doesn’t seem to coincide with the anxiety attacks. In fact the thing I am most anxious about is feeling anxious. It’s a vicious circle.

The only thing that keeps me going is writing and the internet. They are so engaging that I am briefly distracted from the anxiety. However it all comes rushing back as soon as I stop. Perhaps I should just be online all day!

People don’t take anxiety disorders seriously enough. They sit up notice when you say that you have bipolar disorder. Of course with this comes all sorts of judgements about how scary and dangerous you are. However, with anxiety it is like people don’t see you as having a real problem at all. Because everyone gets some feelings of anxiety occasionally they think they know what having an anxiety disorder is all about. But they don’t. They haven’t had to deal with it day in and day out and at such an extreme level.

Depression, mania and anxiety have all taken their toll and it is near impossible to say which is the worst. i tend to think whatever mood state I am currently experiencing is the most difficult one.

I am tired. So tired of being this wound up. My body can only take so much. I don’t know when the anxiety will subside but it feels like it will go on forever. I am mentally and physically exhausted.

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