Monday, May 16, 2011

Living with Bipolar Disorder, OCD, and Social Anxiety

Well it's been awhile since I lasted posted my thoughts.  My life for a few weeks was very stressful and there seemed to be no light at the end of that dark tunnel.  Well it seems I am digging out once again and in the past month I have stumbled over something about myself that I don't think I really took to heart or really understood.  I was told I have bipolar disorder years ago and I have been under treatment for many years.  While in therapy I was also told I had OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) as well as social anxiety disorder.  Being told that I had these two other mental illnesses was really no surprise as they do run in my family and I was familiar with them.  I was also told that having more than one mental illness is not that uncommon but I just thought to myself....Isn't Bipolar Disorder enough?  When will the punches stop coming.  I have since learned through a lot of hard times that they never do you just have to adapt and try to be strong and get through each moment. 

With my OCD I am a recovering checker.  This means I use to check my front door 15 times before I went to bed every night.  It meant that I would check the stove each morning and night that it was turned off.  I don't just mean one or two times I would literally have to put my hands on the burners at least 15 times each to make sure that they were not on.  This was even on days when I did not cook anything.  While I have received much therapy in this area and I do take a medication to help, there are a few days that I have a slip and I have to walk back inside to check the stove or oven.  I tried what is called cognitive-behavioral therapy which will expose you to whatever is causing your anxiety and you have to experience the anxiety of not checking the items and seeing that nothing bad happened.  On most good days I can get through each day without over checking as I call it.  Most of my checking steams from my fear that I will leave something on that will burn my place down and not just destroy my property but it could harm others in the process.  I think my fear of harming others as well as my beloved cat when she is home alone is what really is behind my checking.  I believe I think I have a good understanding of this mental illness and have it under control. 

The social anxiety was something that I thought I understood and didn't think it was much more than having panic attacks in public when I am alone.  I have now arrived to the point that I will not go out in public alone unless it is an emergency.  This has hindered my life so much but I have never paid it much attention or tried to understand why I felt this way but it makes so much sense now that I look back at my life.  I think I have spent so much time in therapy concentrating just on the bipolar disorder that I never really looked into my 3rd mental illness.  After looking up my illness further on the net after watching a show on television about anxiety disorders I was surprised at how much it described me as well as why I had overwhelming panic in pubic so paralyzing that I could not move.  You can find one of the articles I read at the following link but I will list what what struck me the most later in my post.

I was always shy as a child and I clung to my mother and hid behind her when I met new people.  I thought I had "outgrown" a lot of this shyness when I arrived at college and gained some self confidence.  Of course the one thing that I always dreaded in class was talking in front of the class and presenting to the class.  Even just answering questions in class would stress me out even though I normally knew the answer.  The night before would always be a sleepless night of dread and fear.  In my course study I had to complete 3 separate speech classes and I never thought I would see the end of them but I made it through them all with sure determination and with all A's.  I then moved on to my career and I now think I chose accounting because I felt it would be a safe career choice and I would not have to deal with people in a forum.  I could sit at my desk and crunch numbers all day and hide from the social fear.   Little did I know as I rode the ranks of promotions in companies that I would have to present reports to the CEO and Board of Directors and somehow I managed to get through that but not without many sleepless nights and fear.  So back in 2002 when I had 12 panic attacks in one day at work, I knew something had to give at the time.  My company was going through a lot of changes at this time and I need routines in my life to be stable so this is what led to my dysfunction.  This was the start of when I proceeded with applying for my disability.  I think now that I know what is the basis of a lot of anxiety.   I can try to start therapy on that area of my life.  It will not be easy but with my wonderful husband by my side I know I can get through it. 

The article opened my eyes to my distorted thinking.  I feel like everyone is judging me harshly and I am so afraid for anyone to look at my work or read my writing.  So I guess by starting this blog it was a good start to hit post and let others read my work and not feel bad about it for once.  I feel that by sharing my feelings and experiences maybe someone out there won't judge me but maybe can relate to me.  I think the one that got me the most on this list was not being able to talk on the telephone.  This is something that I have never enjoyed and friends and family often get unhappy with me because I do not enjoy talking on the telephone.  Really my mom is the only one that I ever talked to for long periods of time on the phone because for the most part I do not feel like she is judging me but just listening to me. I was never fond of eating in front of others but that never was a huge problem but now that I have gained some wait I feel that people are judging me for eating too much.  Another big one on list was not wanting to be the center of attention.  Even on my wedding day I hated that attention and most brides love it.  I like to stay in the background on most days.  This strikes me that I have a lot on this list that I will need to work through in the upcoming months.

So if I can work with my doctor on these horrible feelings that everyone is looking at me in public and thinking the worst of me I might one day be able to just walk in a grocery store by myself and not get that awful panic feeling that I have to flee and get out of there.  This may seem like a simple task to most people but it puts fear in me that I can't get out of the car.   There is only one thing that can break me from this fear and that is if someone in family is hurt or in the hospital I can snap out of for a bit and take charge and help them.  I think it is probably because I am more concerned for their well being that I forget the fear.  My husband recently had to have 3 different surgeries in short period of time and he had two surgeries one day after the next and I had to drive him there each morning and sit by myself and wait and take care of him.  I made it through but I broke down on the last day with tears and I am not sure I would have lasted one more day.  I had already called my parents that day and if I didn't sleep that night they would have to come over and help me.  This makes me feel so weak and not normal and I hate feeling so helpless when someone needs my help.  My husband is fine now and it's a great comfort that he is back to full health. 

So I have a lot to work on and maybe now that I understand why I hate going out in public so much now and can fight through it because I feel paralyzed too many days and would give anything to be carefree like a lot of people and walk right in a store all by myself.  I can go out with my family and husband but it must be their comfort that gets me through those fears.  I just want to be independent again and drive myself places without the fear taking over.  I also have a fear of driving because I am so afraid that I will hurt someone even though I am an excellent driver.  I have a graduation to attend this weekend and we will be traveling out of state for it.  It's a nephew who means a lot to me and I wouldn't want to miss it but the fear and anxiety is starting to set in about the trip and being in public.  This might be a good time to at least take stock on what scares me this weekend and makes me have the panic attacks.  I think I might keep a journal on how I feel each day to see if that would help me track my anxiety.  Here is the list of behaviors that are sometimes related to social anxiety disorder and I can relate to most on the list if not all.   It's just one list from one website so please just take it as that and seek your own doctor's advice if you have your own concerns.

  • Eating or drinking in front of others.
  • Writing or working in front of others.
  • Being the center of attention.
  • Interacting with people, including dating or going to parties.
  • Asking questions or giving reports in groups.
  • Using public toilets.
  • Talking on the telephone.
If you think you might have similar difficulties please reach out to someone and get the help you need.  I am a new journey to try and work on this disorder now as well as keeping my other two mental illnesses in check.


  1. I know this is a really old post, and I don't know if you even check anymore, But I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar II, OCD and Anxiety. I could have been reading about myself in your post. I know that I'm at the start of a long road, but it's comforting that I'm not alone in my illness. Love and light to you and yours.

  2. Thank you so much for posting and sharing your experience. I do not write as much on my blog as I once did due to my battle with deep depression at the moment. I do check comments on older post and it helps me to hear other people's stories so I know I am not alone. I

  3. I absolutely understand. You aren't alone. I look forward to reading your archives.

  4. This means I use to check my front door 15 times before I went to bed every night. It meant that I would check the stove each morning and night that it was turned off. christopher