It’s the week before Christmas and all through the house,
the bipolar is stirring, ready to douse
all of the progress, all of the strength
gained through hard work
and too many hospitalizations.
Yes, it’s that time of year when my illness is triggered just by breathing in the air that there is a holiday. I’ve moved past being highly triggered by memories of planning, leading, singing worship during Advent and Christmas. It’s a memory I don’t relish but it doesn’t cause debilitating pain anymore.
Through the year, I’ve been working with my care team to make it through the year, to identify triggers and work to avoid them, and to develop schedules and habits and skills to provide resilience. We’ve worked HARD. I’VE worked hard.
And then it’s December. Or even the last week of November in preparation for December. We uncovered that it’s not just anticipatory anxiety that makes this month so very difficult. My mental stability is at risk. For approximately 30 years, I’ve associated this time with manic experiences of magic, mystery and mysticism. Nothing to do with Santa and children’s magic. Primarily it was religious mysticism in touch with mystery.
Of course, now I’m medicated and haven’t had those experiences in 3 Decembers. And, as most bipolar persons say, I Miss those Manic experiences. They felt good. I felt connected to the world in a deep way and able to see things that other people could not. I felt like there was meaning in life. Fortunately I never did anything foolish while in these manic phases. Surprising for a bipolar person! But I miss the experiences deeply, especially because they were a part of how I experienced my spirituality.
Religious symbolism – all of it, whatever the religion – triggers my illness. It reminds me of my experiences. And can push me toward mania if my meds are not adjusted properly. And that next time, I might not be so lucky not to do anything foolish, since the illness is in full bloom now. The last manic experience led to much foolishness, religious foolishness, and it hurt people. So, mania is not the right thing for me.
And reminding me of what I had triggers anxiety that has led to suicidal depression. It would be nice to feel that I was under control, scheduled, with coping skills and resilience so that I don’t end up in the hospital ever again!
Now I can identify that religious symbolism and rituals trigger my illness. This is a huge sign of recovery!
It’s a sign of health if I stay away from the triggers.
Which I suppose means my spirituality is on hold. Even though spirituality is a part of every person’s humanity. If ignoring and avoiding religious things means not being tormented, I will gladly give them up.
The torment of this week so far is enough to warn me off from anything else that remotely resembles anything religious – and I’m in a pretty healthy place!
Let’s hope for a hospital-free end-of-the-year.