talking about bipolar disorder

Recognizing And Dealing With Isolation

G.J. Gregory Community Member July 03, 2007
  • In the world of bipolar and unipolar depression, we learn to look for clues that will alert us to problems.  This is a huge part of dealing with our disorder.  The more knowledge and insight we have, the better prepared we are to deal with our mood swings.  Many of us look for clues such as energy levels, sleep patterns, anxiety level, and so forth.  But one very important indicator that’s often overlooked is isolation.

    Isolation is a fact of life for me.  I am functional, outwardly normal, and know a lot of people, but I keep everyone but immediate family at arms length.  Things are so crazy in my head, and in my house, and everywhere else, I’m afraid to let people in.  One glimpse inside and I’d certainly scare anyone away.   Immediate family is different – I try hard to stay as open as possible with them.  But when I close myself up to family, that’s my isolation cue – things are wrong. 

    We all need time alone, that’s human nature and shouldn’t be mistaken for isolation.  Ditto privacy.  We need our privacy at times, and that shouldn’t be interpreted as isolation.  Conversely, many times we can be surrounded by people but still be isolating.  The fact we may be working or out in public doesn’t mean we’re not isolating.  So it’s important we have ways to identify, and deal with, true isolation when the behavior surfaces.

    When isolation is recognized, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

    First, have a support chain.  For those who maintain a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), make this a part of your plan.  Tell your loved ones to be observant of this behavior, and come up with strategies for dealing with it. 

    Next, do what you can to bring others into your immediate life.  Pick up the phone and call someone.  It doesn’t matter if you have anything important to say, just call.  Ideally you’ve told friends or family in advance that you may do this from time to time so it’s not unexpected.  But it’s important to interact, to have that human contact.  My community has several depression and bipolar support groups, some of them meet weekly.  That’s a great opportunity to get out and interact with peers – people who have experienced exactly what you’re experiencing. 

    If you don’t have anyone to talk with, or your support life-line isn’t available for some reason, keep your mind active.  DO NOT hole up looking at the walls.  Read, write, work puzzles, plan the menu for a holiday meal next year, just get creative.  It doesn’t matter what it is, the important thing is to keep your mind occupied. 

    Another thing that helps me is to get active.  Go to the gym and do a hard physical workout.  Jog, take a long walk, do some brisk exercise, take a swim.  The recuperative values of exercise can be amazing.

    Finally, it goes without saying, but avoid drugs and alcohol.  Even if you feel you’re not at risk for substance abuse issues, avoid them during times of isolation.

    Isolation is something we all experience.  If we’re tuned in to our emotions and our moods, recognizing isolation can be something that is used to our advantage to help stave off depression or mood swings that might follow. 

  • Has anyone learned any techniques to recognize or work through isolation?  Leave a comment and share them with us.
18 Comments
  • John McManamy
    Health Guide
    Jul. 05, 2007
    Hi, GJ. It's almost as if someone told each of us to write a piece on isolation. Check out mine on High/Low Social Energy at http://www.healthcentral.com/bipolar/c/15/10965/high-low-real-polar/


    Cheers
    • G.J. Gregory
      Jul. 06, 2007
      John - that was a great post. While I can write about how I feel, and what I've learned, you can write about the "why". Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
  • Anonymous
    cresta
    Sep. 24, 2010

    im on tablets for depression, and everything that ive read, on isolation, is exact to how i am and feeling day in day out for the past 10years, do i seek medical help, as  ive onley just realized thats what ive been suffing with, for a long time.

  • Anonymous
    S.G.
    Jul. 12, 2007

    I, too, can go days without speaking to someone except my husband.  When I'm depressed even that goes away, because I'm so sensitive that I imagine every remark he says has criticism hidden in it.  I sometime hole up in the closet (even sleep there when depressed to avoid him).

     

    But I have been feeling better on the current meds. ...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I, too, can go days without speaking to someone except my husband.  When I'm depressed even that goes away, because I'm so sensitive that I imagine every remark he says has criticism hidden in it.  I sometime hole up in the closet (even sleep there when depressed to avoid him).

     

    But I have been feeling better on the current meds.  I still naturally isolate myself (no friends)--the phone never rings for me.

     

    But I do combat the isolation & feelings of being so alone by doing volunteer work in the women's jail.  Every two weeks I go  in with the therapist who leads my support group & we do a one & a half hour support group for the prisoners there.  I'd say about half have a mental illness--many bipolar.  It certainly makes me thankful that I never go in trouble with the law.

     

    I also joined a knitting class that meets every Sat. & one night a week.  It is easier for me to be around people when it is a group & not one-on-one.  One-on-one makers me very anxious & flustered & fearful that the person can tell there is something "weird" about me.

     

    I mentioned the support group I go to.  Also, if I have been holed up in the house for a few days I'll take a book to Starbuck's or a park somewhere & read.  It helps to just be around people & do "normal" things like drink coffee & read a book for an hour.

     

    I always dread going out & curse myself for the commitments I made, but when I actually get to the jail or support group or class it energizes me & improves my mood so now I just let the anxiety & dread run it's course knowing I'll feel better soon.

     

    As for the pdoc, mine sees me for one hour every two weeks--not to adjust my meds (they seem to be fine now)--but to give me some therapy.  My regular therapist "flunked" me after I had an overdose & couldn't seem to make any progress with her.

     

    So my pdoc gives me assignments to do & has me write about them.  They mostly center around building my self-esteem, not being so critical of myself & imagining others are thinking bad things about me.  I've been with this pdoc ever since I was dxed with bipolar about 7 years ago.  She is so warm & optimistic that I can get a better quality of life.  She hugs me when I leave & is so encouraging. 

     

     

    • G.J. Gregory
      Jul. 19, 2007

      SG - I understand when you say the phone never rings for you.  I can't tell you the last time I had a call from a non-family member.  I know a lot of people, but have no real friends.   It goes to that isolation I spend so much time trying to avoid.

       

      I think that's so great you volunteer at the jail!  My wife and I fantasize...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      SG - I understand when you say the phone never rings for you.  I can't tell you the last time I had a call from a non-family member.  I know a lot of people, but have no real friends.   It goes to that isolation I spend so much time trying to avoid.

       

      I think that's so great you volunteer at the jail!  My wife and I fantasize that if (when!) we hit the lottery we'll start a charity helping those with a loved one in jail.  

       

      I am envious of the steps you are taking in your recovery, and the relationship you have with your pDoc.  I think that's great.

       

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share that. 

  • Angie
    Jul. 10, 2007

    G.J.,

    Thanks for your reply-

     

    I just remembered a weekend a few months ago.  My kids had been begging me to take them to the park.  It was a large castle-type jungle gym place, with benches built within for sitting.  As I placed myself with my book, my youngest asks me: "Mom, does this place make you too nervous?"  I had to...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    G.J.,

    Thanks for your reply-

     

    I just remembered a weekend a few months ago.  My kids had been begging me to take them to the park.  It was a large castle-type jungle gym place, with benches built within for sitting.  As I placed myself with my book, my youngest asks me: "Mom, does this place make you too nervous?"  I had to answer "no, not today".  But I am amazed at how sensitive they are to my needs.

     

    The key is watching them for clues as well.  When my kids start bickering and whining, that usually means they need attention from me.  Sometimes we just make pancakes and watch cartoons together.  (okay, I may take a mg of Ativan with mine).  Things can get really rolling if we're ad-libbing  SpongeBob.

     

    Then I ease back into my room.... 

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Jul. 08, 2007
    It's me Emma. My husband isolates himself even from his family, if he is really depressed. When he was more hypermania, he wasn't as bad. I wonder if the isolation comes more with the depression or with the hypermanic part, what do you think? He does go to a Psychiatrist every 2 or 3 months, that just for meds, he sees her for about 15 minutes each...
    RHMLucky777
    Read More
    It's me Emma. My husband isolates himself even from his family, if he is really depressed. When he was more hypermania, he wasn't as bad. I wonder if the isolation comes more with the depression or with the hypermanic part, what do you think? He does go to a Psychiatrist every 2 or 3 months, that just for meds, he sees her for about 15 minutes each time. I would like to ask her sometime if anybody she lives with or is related to is bipolar. To me you can read and research bipolar until the cows come home, but unless you live with somene who is bipolar, you just really don't know! I know she's an expert on mental illness, but she doesn't see him like I do when he is so depressed he doesn't talk to anybody in the house.My 9 year old has a terrific pediatric dentist(great with kids, he talks alot). She had her check up last week, and on the way home she said, I sure wish my daddy was more like Dr. Hughes. To me thats what is so hard, trying to explain to her that he can't help how he is. She acts up now, drives us crazy (for lack of a better word), but I think its just to get attention mainly from him. Oh well that is enough, Thanks Emma
    • Angie
      Jul. 10, 2007

      Hi Emma,

       

      I know it has to be difficult to hear your child complain that his Dad isn't being friendly or nice, or is just hiding out somewhere.  I am "living with it" and am the mother of 4.  They live with their Dad because of my limitations.  Even when they visit, however, I try my best to be engaged with all they are talking...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Hi Emma,

       

      I know it has to be difficult to hear your child complain that his Dad isn't being friendly or nice, or is just hiding out somewhere.  I am "living with it" and am the mother of 4.  They live with their Dad because of my limitations.  Even when they visit, however, I try my best to be engaged with all they are talking about, and I do well until late afternoon.  Then I can feel the energy just drain and my attention span goes.  If I don't rest for awhile someplace quiet, I get extremely irritable.  

       

      But one time I was on my bed with a pillow over my eyes to block the light.  My arm was hanging over the edge.  I heard someone walk in and over to the bed.  I reached out my hand and by touch could tell it was my nine-year-old.  We held hands, then I began to lightly stroke her baby soft arm and she did the same to mine.  We did this for several minutes without saying a word.  Then she bent my arm over my chest and patted it there and walked out.

       

      It was one of the most memorable "conversations" I have ever had with her.  I will remember those minutes of gentle, silent touching until I am too old to think anymore.

       

      Too much noise will send me into isolation.  Even if it comes from loved ones.  I try to let them know that visibly reducing environmetal clutter and light, giving hugs, little notes and drawings can all be ways to stay connected and show love and caring.  Without having to go in isolation because we hear people talking like the Peanuts Adults:  "Mmwahhh, Mmwahhh, Mmwahhh" 

      (please let me know if that doesn't make sense).

       

      Angie 

    • G.J. Gregory
      Jul. 10, 2007

      Angie - your story brought tears to my eyes.  My youngest daughter knows just when to climb into my lap and cuddle, and it just melts my heart when she does that. 

       

      Thanks for sharing that. 

    • G.J. Gregory
      Jul. 10, 2007

      Emma - that's hard, isn't it?  I know my wife would try to protect me, telling the kids to give me some space when she knew I needed it.  But it worked against me in many ways, they are afraid of me at times.  They picked up on my wifes vibes, not really fear, but apprehension of my mood when I'd come home.  It hurts in many...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      Emma - that's hard, isn't it?  I know my wife would try to protect me, telling the kids to give me some space when she knew I needed it.  But it worked against me in many ways, they are afraid of me at times.  They picked up on my wifes vibes, not really fear, but apprehension of my mood when I'd come home.  It hurts in many ways, but looking back it could have been a lot worse.  I know now I did the best I could with the hand I was dealt, but I still feel sorry for my older kids and what they must have gone through before I was diagnosed.  My younger kids don't remember the pre-diagnosis me, so our relationship is different. 

       

      And my pDoc doesn't do much more than his.  He's given me a few good lifestyle tips, and I did learn some things from him.  But basically he's there to prescribe.  I guess seventy five bucks a visit beats having my GP experiment with meds like we did until he gave me a psych referral.  My pDoc prescribed Lamictal on the first visit, and my life has been so much easier since then.

       

      Thanks, Emma! 

  • Sunick
    Jul. 05, 2007

    I am now beginning to talk to many/most people I meet about being bipolar as if it were just like diabetes - a chemical/physiological condition. It is not surprising how often people then talk about for example very depressed periods, or how depressed their wife/partner is .. or another good friend who is bipolar ... and then relate to what you are or can experience....

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I am now beginning to talk to many/most people I meet about being bipolar as if it were just like diabetes - a chemical/physiological condition. It is not surprising how often people then talk about for example very depressed periods, or how depressed their wife/partner is .. or another good friend who is bipolar ... and then relate to what you are or can experience. Yes some people might shy away .. so ? All ducks and swans look serene on the surface - you do not see the furious paddling going on beneath the surface.


    Isolation is relative .. when you have a partner and family you have communication. Unfortunately I do not have a regular day job now and have experienced periods of many days without talking to a soul (I do not count the supermarket check out girl) .. until about 6 months ago I thought it was just a weekness that I nearly always got down. Now I have many 'normal' people telling me they would be very down if they had noone to talk to for 4 or 5 days.


    I now having a 'support' group of people I can call which is important.


    It is back to that Mind Factor I mentioned - "Connectedness" .. it is a human need that acts directly on the brain and its functioning and wellbeing.


    I see routine as a "Coping Strategy" - it helps time to be filled which stops the mind going off "doing its own thing" .. up or down. For me, I nearly always replan my day as the day unfolds and would find too much routine mentally crippling. Until the last 3 years, I thrived on it - until isolation became a major factor.


    Nick

    • G.J. Gregory
      Jul. 06, 2007
      Nick - I agree with your statement about discussing it as though it was a physical ailment. Diabetes is always the example I use.

      It sounds like you have a healthy understanding of isolation and how it impacts you. I'm still working towards that level of understanding.

      As far as routine being a coping mechanism, it is, but so is much of what we do. I don't...
      RHMLucky777
      Read More
      Nick - I agree with your statement about discussing it as though it was a physical ailment. Diabetes is always the example I use.

      It sounds like you have a healthy understanding of isolation and how it impacts you. I'm still working towards that level of understanding.

      As far as routine being a coping mechanism, it is, but so is much of what we do. I don't see that as negative - if it allows me to more effectively work and function, that's great.

      Once again, thanks for the thought-inspiring comment.
    • Sunick
      Jul. 08, 2007

      I do not see these as positive or negative, merely as an approach to handling life .. which work for some people/types. Routine works ... yes I have to have some .. I do sleep each night .. but I 'fit in' exercise, meditation etc and do not have a set time or place. As you have acknowledged/experienced .. lose your routine .. on holiday .. and everything...

      RHMLucky777

      Read More

      I do not see these as positive or negative, merely as an approach to handling life .. which work for some people/types. Routine works ... yes I have to have some .. I do sleep each night .. but I 'fit in' exercise, meditation etc and do not have a set time or place. As you have acknowledged/experienced .. lose your routine .. on holiday .. and everything goes to ... *&$£ !!


      By contrast the hygiene factors .. nutrition, exercise, hydration, sleep etc are always good .. for everyone.


      Nick

  • Anonymous
    KansasSunflower
    Jul. 04, 2007

    I do the exact same thing - I hold everyone at arm's length except my fiance. I, too, don't trust easily, and even when I do, I still isolate myself whether I'm depressed or otherwise.


    Why is that, I wonder? I never considered that to be a bipolar trait until you mentioned it. That's not the first time you've shared something that I thought...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I do the exact same thing - I hold everyone at arm's length except my fiance. I, too, don't trust easily, and even when I do, I still isolate myself whether I'm depressed or otherwise.


    Why is that, I wonder? I never considered that to be a bipolar trait until you mentioned it. That's not the first time you've shared something that I thought was so weird about myself that I've thought..."yeah, me too...wow".

    • G.J. Gregory
      Jul. 06, 2007
      KS - maybe it's not so much a bipolar disorder trait, but it is a true fear of mine. I really am not comfortable with what goes on in my head. But it is amazing how many similarities we have, isn't it?
  • G.J. Gregory
    Jul. 04, 2007
    Sharon - A great comment. 2 things I agree with 100%, I'm a huge believer in routine, I think it prevents a lot of the things that can lead to problems for us. And I love the idea of volunteer work. What a perfect way to get out and interact! And to make it part of your routine? Outstanding!
  • su1
    su1
    Jul. 03, 2007

    I am currently off work, so dealing with isolation is very important. I make it part of my routine, first thing every morning, to go on my computer & especially participate in disussion groups like this one; Facebook is also a barrel of fun (plus you get to find people you haven't seen in years). I met one penpal, in particular, through a BD discussion...

    RHMLucky777

    Read More

    I am currently off work, so dealing with isolation is very important. I make it part of my routine, first thing every morning, to go on my computer & especially participate in disussion groups like this one; Facebook is also a barrel of fun (plus you get to find people you haven't seen in years). I met one penpal, in particular, through a BD discussion group & he has been such a support. The routine of being at the computer for a couple hrs each morning gives me a bit of structure for my day.


    Attending mood disorder support groups have also helped me. It's great relating to others who fight the same battle.


    Another thing that has helped me tremendously is doing a bit of volunteer work. It's only 1 hr per week - I do "Meals on Wheels" driving & delivering hot meals to seniors. They are delighted to see me, which gives me a real lift. Plus they deal with their own various disabilities, which also helps me to not feel alone & it's easy to build a comraderie because of this. I have come to gain a big respect for the elderly, who, like ourselves, live with certain limitations, whether they are physical or mental, and while others rush by attending to their busy lives, I have a chance to meet and help these people, in my little way.

    • Anonymous
      Marvel
      Mar. 12, 2010
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      RHMLucky777
      Read More
      Greeting. Go through your phone book, call people and ask them to drive you to the airport. The ones who will drive you are your true friends. The rest aren't bad people; they're just acquaintances. Help me! Looking for sites on: How to take proventil. I found only this - proventil hfa compare proair hfa. Proventil, they constitute to the bay techniques, their examination is home. The tools are 5-reel, requiring they are east to the internet of your series, proventil. Thank you very much :o. Marvel from Australia.