I’m not whining when I say that the past month or so has been really hard on me. It’s not just about my symptoms either. Those are always present. Unfortunately with bipolar disorder, you never get a vacation. Granted, there are “episodes” when mania and depression occur, but there are after-effects of those phases and also symptoms that just occur all the time. So, in addition to just having bipolar disorder hanging around all the time, I also have another debilitating gastric disorder that I have to deal with. This is just when times are normal. Right now, times are really not normal and I have to live with it.
There are checklists all over the internet that will expound on stressful life events. These include such things as marriage, divorce, death, taking on debt, having a baby, etc. In 1967 researchers Holmes and Rahe developed a Life Change Index scale. There are 43 items on the list, the ones I’ve mentioned included. Each event is given a score. You select the number of events you have experienced over a set period of time, usually 6 months or a year. Then you total up the number of points and it tells you a general likelihood of experiencing illness in the near future. Take it for what you will. These types of inventories can have flaws in the research. But, here are the life events I’ve experienced just in the past couple of months:
- Personal injury or illness
- Change in financial state
- Change to a different line of work
- Change in living conditions
- Change in work hours or conditions
- Change in residence
- Change in social activities
- Change in sleeping habits
- Change in eating habits
- Christmas approaching
Yes, Christmas gets its own score (12).
My score totals to 253. I have a moderate to high chance of becoming ill according to this index. It’s vague about what “ill” means. Stress does lower the body’s defense mechanisms, but sometimes you have to worry about more than a cold.
When life events like these come around all at once, things start popping up. I’ve been incredibly anxious and very easy to anger. I’ve had at least two full panic attacks. My gastric disorder means that I get terrible nausea and stomach pain but stress kicks in my compulsive eating disorder that makes me want to eat anyway.
I haven’t had a whole lot of time to devote to self-care. If I did, a lot of this stress wouldn’t be happening. It’s hard to meditate when you’re packing boxes and tying up loose ends before you leave your day job for a career change.
It’s excruciating. My psychiatrist and I came to the same conclusion. Right now, I need to just let it ride. It’s absolutely necessary to follow my treatments, but, also, in order to maintain whatever sense of sanity I have right now, I can’t worry about fighting with myself.
It has to be okay that I’m having panic attacks. I can’t worry about the shame I feel and the weight I gain when I feel like eating is the thing that is going to ease my anxiety. I just have to know that right now, there’s nothing I can do to change my circumstances. I chose to move. I chose to leave my career. I chose to drive halfway across the country to spend Christmas with my family.
All of these things will eventually have a positive turnout. I just have to try and not stress about the stress and consequences that come with them.
You can find me on Twitter @LaRaeRLaBouff
Photo credit: keith ellwood