I was reading a Bipolar blog on the WordPress site the other day. It had a list of issues to be aware of that can trigger people with Bipolar. Top of the list, I was somewhat surprised to see, was ‘Noise’.
This rang a bell with me. Lately I seem to be more sensitive to the ambient noise of my surroundings and it’s been really driving me nuts. I was trying to work out why this suddenly seems to be an issue. The only thing I could come up with is that I’ve been spending more time in my flat.
It starts in the morning with the woman upstairs getting up to go to work. Every morning I hear loud thudding and banging. It’s horrible being woken up by this sound first thing. It’s not nice to wake up angry every morning. Then, after she’s gone out, the woman in the shop below my flat starts playing cheery ‘Ratpack’ tunes. Sometimes the same songs over and over.
I’ve been repeatedly complaining to these two older middle-aged women about the disturbance, and how it’s effecting me. Even threatening to move out if there is no improvement. I figured that these women probably don’t like change; who knows who would move in if I leave. They seemed quite pleased when I moved in, “Ooh, good,” The woman in the shop said. “A woman!” But my strategy does not seem to have paid off. After issuing my complaints the volume lowers for a couple of days, and then they seem to forget, or not worry anymore, and we’re back to the same old blood-curdling tunes and herd of elephants above me. And I’m finding it increasingly difficult to deal with my anger and irritation.
I get angry because having to listen to someone else’s music is really horrible. I feel completely invaded and intruded upon, and then have to deal with the hatred I feel for my neighbour. Sometimes, after she leaves, either for lunch, or at the end of the day, I still have her tunes ringing in my head! I would really like to move out, but just can’t afford all that upheaval at the moment; both financially and emotionally.
FEELING LESS DEPRESSED
I went for a run along the nature reserve yesterday. I keep reading about the mental health benefits of exercise and being in nature. A constant reminder about what I’m failing to do in terms of self care. Yesterday, with the music from downstairs assailing my senses, I decided to get out the house and do a jog/walk.
To say I went “running” would be an exaggeration. I’m definetly a lot less fit than I was. I had to continually slow down to a walk, but by the end of my 30 minute stretch along the river, I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I’ve decided to try and aim for an every other day routine. Get those endorphins whirring round my system.
I try to write about stuff that’s on my mind here in my blog. This is the same principle I used to exercise when I kept a diary. This is another tool that I was reading about in Catherine Day’s The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. Apparently there is research to support the claim that writing a journal is good for your health. I’ve always experienced this. I do get overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings, and I find that having a space to air these, gives me a bit of clarity I wouldn’t have if I left my thoughts buzzing inside my head. But I never realised there was scientific research confirming the health benefits of journaling.
There was also a lot about the value of being grateful. But I knew about the studies that show how writing down things you’re grateful for improves mood. This strategy aims to harpoon the tendency I think a lot of people have; that of comparing our lives with people we think have it a lot better than us.
When I woke up today I found myself thinking about my last AA sponsor, over my morning tea. “A” had just the sort of life I wanted for myself: huge house, three kids, successful actor husband, she was a long time sober, my age, lots of friends and sponsee’s. This morning I was thinking about her beautiful life, comparing my lot with hers, and wondering — what went wrong?
I didn’t write a gratitude list, but thought: maybe I should write on it. Maybe I was thinking about her because I went to my weekly AA meeting last night and talked about the last time I went through the twelve steps. A sponsored me through this process. She was a nice woman, could be nice, but she could also be quite unkind and difficult. For example, she didn’t like it if I asked her questions. My feeling was she thought I was challenging her authority for the sake of being difficult. She was incredibly bossy; she was of the view that an AA sponsee should do exactly what their sponsor tells them to do, like hers a sort of adjunct brain. I guess we quite quickly came into conflict about her way of working.
Working through the twelve steps with A wasn’t always a good experience. It was a bit of an ordeal. Afterwards, I swore I would never get another sponsor, or work through the steps again. A promise to myself I’ve kept. I’ve had a lot of experiences my sponsor hadn’t. I never really felt understood by her. The main thing I felt, after completing the steps with her, was profound relief the ordeal was over. Probably she thought I was a pain in the arse; she often hinted that she thought I was “entitled”. But she could also be supportive and kind. I suppose that at the end of the day we were just too different for our relationship to weather the storms. Sometimes I feel sad about that.
I’d asked her for help after one of my cataclysmic Bipolar episodes. My third hospitalisation, which completely floored me and left me very unpopular. I ended up wrestling with a number of police in my flat after someone in AA called the police because the local AA crew had bandied together following my erratic behaviour. I hadn’t drank any booze, but ended up getting this sponsor because I felt so utterly wrecked. In a way, looking back on it, we worked through the steps on my Bipolar, not my alcoholism.
I often wonder if this was a good idea. Pretty soon I stopped taking my meds again — my relapse was obviously (I thought) a case of ‘dry drunkenness’ and I would be fine now that I was doing all the right AA things again. Had I just accepted I am not like other alcoholics because I have this medical diagnosis, I might have saved myself a lot of trouble. A few years later I ended up trying to take my own life, and nearly succeeded. But I just have to accept that I obviously wasn’t ready to accept my Bipolar, to believe I absolutely have to take meds.
When I go to an AA meeting and hear people share that they had this diagnosis, and that diagnosis, and the steps were enough for them, I find myself feeling like maybe I failed in some way. Maybe I just didn’t work the steps hard enough. Were I an obedient alcoholic I would have been okay. I feel conflicted. It’s hard for me to assert my experience as different, and equally valid. I guess I have a bit of an inferiority complex. That means going to an AA meeting is often a bit of an ordeal for me. I don’t particular enjoy it and am relieved when I can go home again and get away from all these grateful alcoholics going on about how the steps have changed their lives. Maybe one day it will get easier, but I’m not holding my breathe. I keep going because there is no way I want to start drinking again, that is definetly not the answer.
I’m not really sure how to round up today’s enquiry into my inner world. Am I still jealous of my ex sponsor? I guess I am if I’m really honest. I’m never going to have a life like hers. But I can be grateful for the things I do enjoy today: reading, writing, exercise, watching TV. That I have a stability now that I never had before, both in AA and because of the support I am lucky to get with my mental health problems. Here in Wales the resources for someone living with my condition are a lot better than in London. The AA community is also a nice group of people, in the main. If I suddenly stopped attending my local meeting I know I would be missed, and I think they do accept me as I am. Maybe everything is now how it should have been all along; I am in recovery finally, after years and years of failed attempts. I think that is something I can feel grateful for even though I don’t have that life beyond my wildest dreams, though working the steps we so often hear about. And I am grateful to be sober and stable.