Living with Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder
I am bipolar and suffer from various anxieties, and I was thinking recently about the effects each of these conditions has had on me throughout my life. It’s not always easy to separate the two, since anxiety and depression often go together. But I have to say that while the bipolar symptoms and their consequences have been more dramatic, it’s the anxiety that has been the biggest culprit in keeping me from doing the things I want to do. It’s the anxiety that has often kept me a prisoner in my home, afraid to go out into the world.
My bipolar hypomania, on the other hand, gives me the confidence to do things I’m not even qualified to do. That may get me into trouble at times, but at least I’m out engaging with the world. I much prefer that self to the scaredy-cat hiding in her room. Perhaps that’s why I used dangerous drugs like amphetamines when I was young’in order to enhance the manic aspects of my nature.
Another thought occurred to me as I am writing this: Perhaps the anxiety was a way to hold back my wild self from daring too much? No, I think the anxiety came first and I’ve always been trying to fight it. Since I was a little girl I was afraid of strangers, afraid of teachers, and self-conscious about my appearance. In third grade I peed in my pants in school because I was afraid to ask permission to go to the bathroom.
The terrible thing about anxiety is how it holds us back: keeps us from meeting new people, going to social events, applying for a job, speaking in public, traveling to new places, and sometimes, just leaving the house. It is this aspect of anxiety that makes me not want to give in to it. Life is too short to hold back. It might be more comfortable to give in to the anxiety and hide, but sometimes we just have to sally forth in spite of our fears. I’ve never been sorry for venturing out in spite of my anxiety, but I’ve often regretted giving in to it and staying home.
Lynne is an abstract painter and writer from Ithaca, New York. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.