Risa has an MSW from Fordham University and a BA from Columbia University. She has spoken of living with mental illness for the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and was featured in Women’s Health Magazine’s May 2016 issue regarding mental health. Risa was also a panelist on AOL Build discussing the effects of stigma on those with mental illness. In 2017, Risa was also featured in an episode of Dr. Oz discussing her success with ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and was a featured speaker at Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford’s first annual event: Embracing Possibility for Mental Health Awareness and was awarded the 2018 Humanitarian Award at the second annual event. She has written for OC87 Recovery Diaries, Huffpost, Psychcentral, Kveller, Keshet, The Mighty, Bring Change 2 Mind and was published in the 2nd and 3rd volumes of Stigma Fighters Anthology. Risa lives in central Connecticut with her husband and their 10 year old daughter.
Here is an update of how I have been managing, emotionally, with my Bipolar Disorder.
In this piece I write about having racing thoughts and how they can interrupt me in different ways. My writing here does not always flow. My thoughts go one way and then another and is written as such. My husband pointed this out to me and it would be a disservice not to publish it in order to truly demonstrate how my bipolar mind works.
I feel most feelings very intensely. When I am sad, it can feel like the world around me is crumbling and this is similar when I feel angry. For me, anger is not simply anger. When I feel angry, I can feel irritable. But these days, I have surpassed feeling irritable. What I feel now is agitation and it is a strong, sick feeling of anger on steroids. To me, feeling irritable is definitely not a good feeling, but agitation, for me, can feel like a living hell where I literally feel as if my body will either implode or explode.
Irritable: easily annoyed, impatient, upset or angry (dictionary.com)
Agitation: psychological and physical restlessness, inner unrest, turbulence, inner conflicts and upheaval (dictionary.com)
When I feel irritable, I feel on edge, annoyed and impatient. When I feel agitated, I feel emotional and physical restlessness where I need to move my body. I also have inner conflicts between my voice and the worst part of my inner psyche: my self-hatred voice which is the darkest part of me and often takes over. My body can feel rigid and my filter is completely gone. I can make snide remarks, one after another, under my breath, and many times they are geared toward my husband, who does not deserve any of it, but it’s always those closest to us that bear the brunt of our emotions. When my husband calls me on it, I either feel justified in my obnoxious remarks, if I am still too far into the agitated state or I feel such severe remorse that my self-hatred voice barges in and says the cruelest things to me and about me. Those statements are so inappropriate and not realistic, yet I go along with it as I believe I deserve it as punishment. This is most definitely a type of self-harm: saying to myself, I’m a fucking moron, I am stupid, can’t control myself, a terrible wife, a terrible mother, a terrible friend, etc.
This is where it is extremely important to have a plan with loved ones. My husband needs to let me know when I am being a bitch to him, or in general. Sometimes I am already aware of it, while other times I need more time to process or simply have no awareness of it. What is essential, though, is that we talk about it and I do not mean only apologizing to him. I mean that with an apology, I try to talk about what was going on for me. I could’ve been triggered while taking a walk and seeing too many people without masks on or I could’ve been cut off while driving. Sometimes, I am not aware of any trigger which also must be communicated to him and is part of the Bipolar experience. It’s a work in progress for us but it’s an important aspect of our relationship that only benefits our communication with one another, as difficult as it is.
My “bipolar agitation” also takes form with my racing thoughts, as when, for example, I am having a conversation with my therapist, I can misunderstand something she says or feel angry about something she says, as I can have difficulty processing so many thoughts at the same time. I can feel such intense agitation, as if whatever she said is a catastrophe that brings me to confusing conclusions that feel terrible. I end up feeling rage and intense anger that can bring on a panic attack, as my mind tries to substitute those intense feelings with more intense feelings of terror. I do not like feeling angry and have always had difficulty with this feeling. This is another work in progress, in terms of allowing myself to feel the anger while also dealing with it in a healthier way.
So much of my agitation and anger is about control. I often feel out of control, in terms of my emotions. On Saturday, after weeks of only feeling bits and pieces of hypomania, I really experienced it at a higher level. I was so happy and prayed that it would continue for at least a few days. I was realistic in knowing it would not last forever. When I am hypomanic, the world feels and appears differently to me and it is truly awesome. It lasted a little over a day and then I sank quickly into feeling depressed, tired, not wanting to see anyone or do anything. It happened so fast and there was nothing I could do about it. I was unable to control it. I sometimes have this belief that I should be able to completely control my emotions and then become angry with myself that I cannot do so. I am able, at times, to see that it’s unrealistic, given that there is organic biology involved that I, literally, cannot control on my own. Another work in progress.
I like to think that feeling feelings intensely can be a good thing, certainly when feeling happy or excited. My difficulty is that I feel and experience most feelings intensely and it is exhausting when they are not “good” feelings. This is part of my experience and matches what many people with bipolar disorder experience. Feeling agitation and anger is very difficult for me but I plan to continue to work on coping with these feelings in healthier ways. Again, another work in progress.