Carolyn turns to the topic of anxiety and gives some tips on how to manage the symptoms.

Managing bipolar and anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety to a certain degree. Did I leave the heating on? Have I paid my council tax? Does so-and-so like me? But when does it tip over into the anxiety typified by crippling inertia?

When you're so anxious that you can't use public transport or open your post even when the handwritten envelopes are clearly from loved ones. When your comfort blanket is wafer thin and you personally feel every slight - imagined or otherwise - that occurs in everyday life.

The difference between  anxiety and depression

With bipolar, anxiety often stems from a depressive episode and it's difficult to untangle it and see it as distinct from the depression. Your thinking is jumbled but in your mind you rationalise behaviour; yours and other people's.

The natural response to anxiety is to withdraw physically and mentally from people, including family and friends. In my case, this made the anxiety more acute as I didn't have anyone to ameliorate my feelings and emotions.

What helped me come through the anxiety? Opening up to family, in particular my two brothers and close friends. They may not have been able to grasp the full extent of my anxiety but by listing the different things that were distressing me, they were able to help.

I was scared of taking public transport. I live in London and the amount of people, noise and general bustle made me feel unsafe so I shunned it. As for my post, a very good friend came round and went through it to sort urgent bills, personal letters and cards, and filing. This was a life saver. It's scary asking for help (I won't lie) but I was surprised by how ready people were to support me.

Anxiety can be managed

In terms of personal interactions, anxiety dulls your normal emotional intelligence so you find that you can't just talk to someone without an internal voice chirruping in your head that the other person isn't listening, is bored or wants to talk to someone else. Like any skill, you need to keep using your interpersonal skills for them to work. Build up gradually - talk to family and friends on the phone as a first step. The next step could be going out for a coffee. The natural progression after that could be going out for a meal. By controlling interactions and building up slowly you will regain confidence and rediscover your conversational style.

Anxiety is no walk in the park but it can be managed. I can't promise it will go away completely but I recommend taking baby steps and staying in touch with people who can help you. If you feel unable to confide in loved ones, try Bipolar UK's Support Line, which is answered by people who are sensitive to the issues you're facing and can help you get back on track.

Find out more about our Peer Support Line

Read Carolyn's previous article on bipolar and managing spending.