Posted in All Posts, Bipolar Diaries, Uncategorized

Coping Strategy: #1 Fag Ash Lil

I thought I’d start with one that may be controversial, quite simply because smoking is not good for you. In fact smoking is indeed very bad for you. It’s not big, it’s not clever, I am an idiot…however…


For me smoking is a coping strategy. I am not recommending that you take up smoking for one instant. I have smoked all my life from a very young age. I could quit if I wanted too but quite frankly I do not see it happening anytime soon.


You often get asked on  questionnaires, by doctors, dentist etc how many per week you smoke. Well for me that is entirely dependant on what kind of week I am having. If I am having a low anxiety week with a relatively stable mood then it is quite possible that 20 cigarettes could stretch as far as the entire week.


Take this week, it has been a 30 a week…week.


Now throw a social occasion into the week, perhaps a wedding or party. It is possible that on such an occasion I may smoke 20 in one day, perhaps if the anxiety levels are particularly high, I may Dot Cotton my way nearer to 40 in one day.


So other than risk of lung cancer, gum disease and no body wanting to sit next to me because I smell like an ash tray, what do I get from smoking that I see as a coping strategy?


Well it’s quite simple and obvious really…headspace.


Being a smoker gives me the perfect excuse to get up and walk out of a room, building,  party, conversation. I  can depart with confidence, politely and grab a few moments peace. I don’t need to make laborious excuses as to why I need to nip outside, several times in one evening. I can quite simply say “Just nipping for a quick smoke” and I needn’t explain myself anymore than that.

When I am around others, I can feel very, very claustrophobic. Sometimes this is worse when I’m surrounded by good friends and loved ones as opposed to strangers. I get very anxious and panicky. Heart racing, palms sweating, very conscious on the sound and feeling of your beating pulse. Says it’s a wedding reception. You arrive and the party is already in full swing, has been all day. You walk up to the venue and the anxiety levels increase. You get inside and make you way to the room that the reception is being held. This disco has already begun. Therefore the room is poorly lit, lots of shadows. The music is louder so you are unable to hear what people are saying and the likelihood is most of the people are drinking and have been all day, therefore on a totally different wave length to you. It is at this point that I would tend to go to the bar and get myself a drink. Perhaps before I have even spoken to anyone else at the function, even the bride and groom.


As soon as I have my drink it’s time to pop out for cigarette number one. I may see others out there smoking that I know and use them to talk to in order to gradually settle in to the party atmosphere. It may be that I have cigarette number two before I go back in. It has been known before now where there has been many smokers I know that I would stay outside all night.


If I do go back in doors, then I will usually find the Bride and Groom next, ask if they’ve had a decent day, offer to get them a drink. Fundamentally I am letting them know that I have arrived, depending on how long I am able to stick it out, the next time they may see me could be when I come over to say good bye. Which could in some cases only be an hour later.


It all sounds really pathetic doesn’t it? The time I spend at a function, wedding, party, is no reflection of how I feel about the host. Just more a reflection of how well I am handling my emotions and mood. By smoking, I tend to manage better, particularly if I am attending somewhere alone.


The only way to combat mental health stigma is to talk openly about mental health illness and educate ignorance. Let's see if we can do our bit and share our experiences...

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