Anxiety & False Guilt

I woke up at 5:30 today, to be intentional about writing and getting some things accomplished. I went to bed at 9:00 last night to make sure I would get up early today and not struggle with potentially less sleep. I was up for about forty minutes and all I could do was OBSESS about how much I’d like to still be in bed. Ridiculous. I had my coffee and my beautiful flower arrangement from Mother’s Day sitting in front of me, next to my laptop. The kids were asleep and the husband was occupied. I was alone. It was quiet. And I was obsessing about sleeping. Not just wishing I was still in bed, or thinking how nice and cozy my bed would be. I was OBSESSING about sleep. OBSESSING and couldn’t get it out of my head and starting-to-turn-into-anxiety-OBSESSING. How dumb. I got almost nine hours of sleep last night. Geez.

Do you ever do that? I’m sure, if you’re bipolar, you do. These obsessive thoughts are sometimes more interesting, but sometimes…not so much.

In the past, before I found the right cocktail of medication to stabilize me, I obsessed a lot. There was a lot of anxiety. I still have obsessive thinking and anxiety now (clearly), but have learned to deal with it better over the eleven years since my diagnosis. But something I’ve learned to truly help is trying to IDENTIFY the source of the anxiety. Sometimes, my anxiety is just “chemical.” It’s the disorder. But in actuality, even though it’s “just” the disorder, it was likely triggered by something. If I can figure out what triggered it and work though that issue, it helps dissolve the anxious thoughts and feelings. It’s not foolproof, but it really helps.

Anxiety was once described to me as worry about something from the past—which I cannot change. Or worry about something that might (or might not) happen in the future. Also, something I can’t change OR control! Living in the present, day-to-day, sometimes hour-by-hour is where my focus has to be. We cannot help what’s already happened or what is still to come, so for my mental health I have to stop!

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Let’s talk about guilt. Guilt and anxiety— two things I’ve always struggled with. In my teenage years, it was real guilt. I did something stupid and felt terrible for embarrassing actions. But often, it’s actually “false-guilt.” As in, I didn’t do something wrong, but I have this nagging horrible feeling that something is not right. A feeling of unease, of guilt. It’s hard to explain perhaps if you’ve never felt it. But we all know what guilt feels like, right? Well, imagine that uncomfortable feeling, only, you didn’t do anything to feel guilty about. Sometimes with guilt it’s hard to know the difference between real guilt for something I’ve done, and false guilt, well, just BECAUSE of the disorder and my chemicals being all out of whack.

Something specific that helps me with the feelings of false guilt are the same exercises that help with anxiety. False guilt and anxiety often go hand-in-hand in my experience, or at least the “symptom” (the uneasy feeling—for lack of better description) can be similar. Although, I think anxiety is often harder to get to settle down. Taking a step back, so to speak, taking anywhere from three to ten deep breaths, closing my eyes and calmly processing in my head what I may OR MAY NOT have guilt (or anxiety) over. The very best thing I can do is to write things down. Bullet points or a numbered list to organize my thoughts and boom! Either the answer is there, that I have real guilt, or I don’t. Once I clearly IDENTIFY that the problem is CHEMICAL and due to the disorder, it really does help ease the pain of the false guilt. (Especially, if I can identify what triggered it, that really helps ease the feeling). Talking it out with a friend or a family member who understands too. But I feel like it’s crucial to be able to help yourself, especially in cases where you cannot seek out some one else.

Prayer is always a winner too. I figure, if I’m trying to contact someone to talk something out, but I can’t reach whoever it is…that’s God saying; “I’m right here. Talk to me.”

Dreaming of Sleep,

Mrs Bipolarity

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