Mental Illness Doesn't Take a Vacation, Even When You Do

Last week I traveled to a state I had never been before.  I went with my boyfriend and we stayed with his aunt and uncle.  It was so much fun... except when it wasn't.  Why were there times it wasn't?  Because I have several mental and physical illnesses that just kept getting in the way of the fun.

When you have a mental illness (or a chronic physical one), it's best to keep learning about the illness.  Obviously it's not possible to learn everything about an illness at once - and even if you could, there's the aspect of learning how your illness affects YOU.  

So I'm learning.  And learning.  And learning more.  But it will take a while before I actually am able to practice all I'm learning.  For example, one thing that has been recommended more than once to me is that if you have bipolar, it helps to stay in a routine.  Well, the ironic thing about that is that I don't have a regular routine BECAUSE I am bipolar.  At least partially because of being bipolar, I lost my career as a teacher.  I'm not trained for anything else so it's difficult to find a job at my age, plus,  because of other health issues, I can't mentally or physically handle most regular full-time jobs.

I work several jobs as a freelancer.  When someone asks me about my regular routine I just laugh.  Usually I get up and work at my desk (editing, marketing, etc) in the morning and try to do some other types of paid work (rideshare, etc) in the afternoon.  This may depend on weather because I'm very heat intolerant and some of the work I do involves being outside.  But then there are times that I am hired for a job that starts at 8am... or is during lunch... or is a 12 hour day.  I never know what my "routine" for a week will be.

Even though I haven't been able to utilize this tip in everyday life - why did I think it would be okay to totally ignore it during vacation?  During everyday life at least my place is routine.  At least what I'm doing is mostly up to me.  At least I have some control and can take breaks if needed.

Though my mental illnesses had been showing their horrible selves all throughout my vacation, I never thought about what I could have done to prevent it. In fact, at the end of my vacation, I had a light-bulb moment: I so wanted to be "normal", especially in front of my boyfriend's family, that I tried to pretend I was normal. 

It.  Just.  Doesn't.  Work.  That. Way.

Pretending, even for a short time, that something isn't wrong doesn't make it go away.  In fact, because I wasn't up front about what I needed, I ended up having a worse time than if I had said ahead of time that I am bipolar and there are times I can't do everything everyone else does.  I wanted to not inconvenience anyone by saying I had special needs only to really inconvenience everyone when my needs came anyway.

I will never forget a breakdown I had in a cute little cheese store in Amish country.  I was expecting a few choices of cheeses and not much else and I wasn't prepared for what I saw.  It wasn't like a Walmart's amount of inventory but it was much more than I expected. Being locals, my boyfriend's aunt and uncle knew what they wanted immediately and were done.  My boyfriend had been there before (or very similar places) and knew what he wanted.  I just barely had time to look around when I realized they were all ready to go.  

At that point my anxiety jumped in full-force and it was too overwhelming.  I wanted to make sure I got something good for a couple of people in my family and something for myself - but... How much should I buy?  How much did I feel I could spend?  Would we be shopping anywhere else?  Then the doubts came in... What if they didn't like it?  Would everything I wanted keep fresh until I got back?  Would a certain thing be cheaper to get somewhere else?  Then the added pressure of getting done quickly (note that my boyfriend and his family weren't in a hurry - I just didn't want to be a burden so all the pressure was put on myself - by myself).  My brain went dead and I just could NOT remember what kinds of things they liked and what I had wanted to buy for myself.  There was no cell service so I couldn't call my daughter and ask what she would like out of the choices there.  I started spiraling.

I am very thankful for having an amazing boyfriend who realized what was happening and helped me.  He calmed me down, reassured me that we weren't in a hurry after all, and helped me make decisions (or made the decisions for me when I couldn't).  

But all that could have been prevented.  If I had just gotten more clarification of where we were going that day or where else we would be shopping, or done things like written down ideas of what I wanted to get for people and myself instead of trying to remember, the day would have gone much more smoothly.  I wouldn't have worn myself out with mental stress so that it made it that much harder to enjoy the rest of the week.  

Lesson hopefully learned - plan ahead as much as is possible and speak up... even on (or especially on) vacation.

#SpotlightOnStigma #SOS #WelcomedButNotAccepted #Stigma #MentalIllness #Bipolar #Addiction #SingleParenting #Alone #NotAlone #Depression #Anxiety #EatingDisorder #SuicidalThoughts #OCD


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