Triggers and Stress

My therapist made an insightful observation that I had never really thought about before. In my 37 years of life, I’ve only lived approximately the last 7 years of my life with no abuse or major trauma. As a child my younger brother and I lived with physically, verbally, emotionally, and mentally abusive parents. At the age of 17 I met a sexually, physically, verbally, emotionally, and mentally abusive man and then married him when I was 19. I was in that marriage for 7 years but endured 5 years of harassment, verbal, mental, and emotional abuse by him.

I believe it was 2008 when my younger brother was shot and killed-murdered. I tried everything to stay strong for my kids, for myself, but I was breaking. I spent the next 4 years in a zombie like state. I was drinking to wake up in the morning, drinking to make it through the day, and drinking to go to sleep at night. I mean I literally would open my eyes, roll over, and pick up a bottle of wine from the side of my bed. I didn’t want to to deal with any more pain. It got to a place where I was totally unable to function in any way shape or form. I became suicidal and almost accidentally succeeded. I went to visit the therapist I was seeing at the time and she suggested I check into a psychiatric hospital.

Life had had its tole on me, however it was my brother’s death that broke me. Yeah, my childhood and first marriage caused a lot of unresolved pain, but as a woman, a black woman-you naturally just keep going no matter the trauma. You have to. If you don’t the kids don’t get raised or cared for and the bills don’t get paid. I didn’t have time to deal with all of that. I was a single mother of three with no help from their father. My financial problems were absurd but in all truthfulness, it got to a point where I didn’t want his help. I just wanted him to leave us the hell alone so I could focus on how to manage, how to live.

I knew something with me was wrong. I knew my life was spiraling. I didn’t know how to deal with it all so I started to see a therapist. Now that I think about it, coming to the conclusion to go see a therapist is pretty uncommon and random for a black woman just out the blue. I did seek help and relief though the typical channels we as black people explore. I was in church DEEP, which helped but something was still not right. I actually started seeing a counselor at church as my first means of therapy. Faith based counseling helped me spiritually but it never tapped into what was going on with me mentally. My faith was increasing but my behaviors were worsening. I tried reaching out to some family members and found that to be the worst decision in seeking help I have ever made. It did absolutely more harm than good.

(An example of how God works) I auditioned and got a part in a local play. This became therapeutic for me in a way. I was able to tap into my creativity while at the same time meeting some new people. I befriended this one young lady whose spirit was enchanting. She was the happiest and most positive person I had ever met and I just wanted to be around her. In conversation I found out her mom was a life coach and therapist and that’s how I came to seeing my first actual clinical therapist. I don’t even want to think about where I would be today, if I would be here today, had I not met V which lead me to meet her mother. My brother’s death had triggered a major episode of depression in me that had been going on for years that point. There wasn’t enough creative outlets, wine, or sex on the planet to ease the pain. Keep in mind on top of the depression I was still being constantly harassed by my ex-husband and my mother during this time.

The environment I grew up in along with my biological make-up, mental illness runs in my family, were in fact factors that had a lot to do with my diagnosis. However, the stress I was going through with my ex-husband and mother, on top of losing my brother, definitely contributed to my diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Stress is a major trigger in bipolar disorder. Due to the likeliness of stress occurring in life we, people who have been diagnosed or experience symptoms of bipolar disorder, have to be cautious of stressful situations and learn to manage behaviors when stress arises. I was reading an article in Everyday Health that talked about the 9 most common triggers for a bipolar mood episode; rather it be manic or depression. While reading the article I could personally relate my own experiences with bipolar episodes to the majority, if not all of the 9 most common triggers.

  1. Changes in Sleep Patterns ( Whenever I don’t get enough sleep my mood is beyond irritable and quite uncomfortable. I try to be in bed by 9:30 pm every night to make sure I get enough sleep. It has worked for the most part, however lately I have been unable to sleep throughout the night. It seems like I wake up around 2:24 am every morning and can’t go back to sleep. I’ve been experiencing episodes of mania lately as I have shared in other journal post.)
  2. Arguments with Partners, Coworkers, & Friends (I try to avoid conflict like a deadbeat dad avoiding child support payments. When I’m angry it’s really hard to come down from. I’m shaking, I’ve more than likely said something I shouldn’t have said and/or don’t mean, my head hurts from all the thoughts that are going through my mind, and my mood overall is on 1200.)
  3. Stress of a bad Breakup/Marriage (What I went through in my first marriage is a whole other post, so yeah…that too)
  4. Alcohol/Substance Abuse (At first I was drinking to soothe my pain, but it soon intensified whatever mood I was experiencing as I became a seasoned drinker. If I was angry I became angrier, if I was sad I became sadder. It was counter productive)
  5. Antidepressants/Medications (I shared in a post about medications how I experienced the worst manic and depressive episode I have ever gone through that resulted in me being hospitalized.)
  6. Seasons (I love the fall, I mean it gives me LIFE. I noticed a few years ago though that I seemed to always get really depressed in the spring. The first time I was hospitalized was actually during the spring season.)
  7. Expecting a Baby/Changes in Hormones and Sleep (I had a mental breakdown when I was pregnant with my first child. I can’t directly tie it to an episode associated to bipolar disorder because I wasn’t diagnosed until my early 30’s. I recall sitting in my room for days in a panic. I was so scared of the possibility of my child being sexually abused as I was when I was a little girl. I couldn’t control the thoughts nor the tears. I tried reaching out to my mother about what I was going through and her response to me was,”well it happened to me”.)
  8. Financial and Emotional Strain (This too, like discussing what I went through with my ex-husband is a whole other post within itself, but yeah this definitely is a trigger.)
  9. Death of a Loved One/Bereavement (My brother’s death was my breaking point.)

It’s no secret that life happens. We lose jobs, kids are misbehaving, money is scarce, relationships are bad and unhealthy, illnesses happen, and we lose loved ones. There is no stopping the highs and lows, ups and downs of life. However, when you are living with bipolar disorder these everyday typical moments can have a lasting affect on your mental health which can ail you physically too. It’s a must that we, survivors living with bipolar disorder, are cognizant of the people and environments we connect with in terms of minimizing and being able to effectively deal with stress.

Let’s keep in touch. I enjoy having someone to talk to and share 🙂 #LiveLaughLove

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