Testimony – I am Bipolar: A Sufferers advice!
Practical Coping Skills For Living With Bipolar Disorder:
I have been living with bipolar disorder for a few years now. I keep telling myself it is just in my head. “I am not really bipolar”, they USED to call it manic depression. Something I honestly think sounds better than bipolar. Manic depression explains it much better, don’t ya think?
Anyway, I have learned a few things along the way. I have learned that yes, I am bipolar. And a big resounding yes, it is in my head, more specifically it is a chemical imbalance in my brain. Or your brain if you happen to be bipolar. So over the last several years after wildly dancing with the dirty devil, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot escape the diagnosis. As much as I really wanted to be normal and not touched by the madness of mental illness, that wasn’t going to be my lot in life. So here I am, almost normal, bitten by the bipolar bug, felicitously medicated, and fortunately on disability devoting my time to writing, photography, art and overcoming the stigma of mental illness.
I do have some excellent coping skills that work for me most of the time. There are times that my coping skills fail me and I have to be re-medicated, possibly hospitalized to get myself back on track. Not everything is a sure thing. These coping skills are best used when you are in the vicinity of stable and not hanging from a vine or digging your way out of a deep pit.
Because as you have probably noticed we bipolar folks are not exactly perfect. And if your a newbie, you’ll soon find out. The first thing to remember is that bipolar disorder can be treated. You are the one who has to choose your treatment plan. Do you want a natural/herb approach, a no medication approach, a bio feedback approach, or a more popular get on the band wagon medication, psychotherapy approach?For me I have jumped on the medication psychotherapy approach. I have dabbled briefly with the herbs and vitamins but it to expensive for one thing very involved for another. If you have the time to do research involved and the money this is a decidedly viable option to try. Of course the no medication option is of going strictly mood to mood is radical but I know people who do it. They ride out their cycles, going in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. They self medicate to keep the episodes on a more even keel, eventually plunging headlong into a dark abyss. Not the best way if you ask me.Some bipolar folks have claimed they trained themselves to be better altogether. I am not so sure it can be done. If so, then that is a very special person. With the severity of my bipolar 1, there is no way in hell I could cure it by myself. I leave enough debris behind with treatment, without, I’d be jailed for life. I reiterate, choose your own treatment plan. Work it, live by it,
I will list what has worked for me. Be aware it may not work for you. You can only explore those options to find out. The list below are things I do myself. I try to stick to this routine as closely as possible. Otherwise I am goose poop. When I do have an episode disrupt my routine I keep going, kicking and screaming.
Sometimes my medications stop working, sometimes I have things going on in my life that suck and I have bad days, sometimes I can’t fight it and end up in the hospital. I am not always stable. I fight everyday to stay well and healthy. I work at it very hard. I drive the people around me crazy, they are the ones who let me know what mood I am in, “why are you talking so fast”? “you just moved last week” “Didn’t you max out all your credit cards”? ” Boo do you realise it is 3 am” “Don’t you think you should bath” ” You look like crap” Thank you for those people. A little nagging hurt anybody.
My tips are as follows
- Taking my medications as prescribed. Have a set time to take the medications helps me avoid forgetting to take them. It is important for me to remain on a set schedule. If they work, don’t stop taking them. That is the downfall some people make. The medications make you feel good so you stop taking them. And then sooner or later you start cycling. I have learned over the years if it works, it doesn’t need fixing. In the past I took them sometimes. Only when I felt bad. Couldn’t figure out why I was always going in circles. Because I was always missing doses. Take them ALL THE TIME.
- Setting a time to go to bed and waking at the same time helps me get into a set routine. Getting enough sleep helps stabilize moods for the better. Being consistent is crucial to getting enough sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep I tend to get manic/mixed episodes. and turn into a raving mad lunatic Taking my nighttime medications at 9/10 PM and going to bed at 10/11PM and getting up at 6/7 am. I try to MAINTAIN structure to stay stable. I use my DVD recorder so I can record shows so I don’t miss the ones I like.
- Exercise is important to me, exercising at least 3-4 times a week. If I am not in the mood to do a work-out just a small walk around the block or a quick bike ride. I try to swim at least 3 days a week as well. If I don’t feel like doing anything because of energy issues or depression, I will try to at least take a bike ride. I have trouble with motivation because of the medications, the best I can do is to remember to move, a bike ride, a brisk walk, shoot baskets, just pick a physical activity you like.
- Keeping a journal or mood chart to recognize when moods are changing. What your triggers might be, which might include: stress, financial difficulties, arguments with your loved ones, problems at school or work, seasonal changes, and lack of sleep. Journaling also gives you the opportunity to express feelings and emotions you might not be able to express with a therapist or a close friend and family. Keeping a mood chart is a daily log of your emotions, things that perhaps disrupt your daily life, stress that changes your mood, how much sleep your getting, medication updates, or if your abusing drugs or alcohol.
- I keep art journals and writing journals. These are different from the ones mentioned above. In the art journals I draw and paste things I find interesting or things people give me like cards or drawings or just about anything that I can paste or glue into a notebook. The writing journal is for my writing ideas, feelings, thoughts, dreams and just general fiction or non-fiction writing minus the art. You can do whatever makes you feel creative.
- If I don’t keep track of my early warning signs, it won’t do me any good if I don’t keep a close check on how I am feeling. By checking in with myself through regular mood monitoring, I can catch a cycle before it spirals out of control I can seek out my therapist or my doctor and get a med adjustment or find out what is bothering me.
- Goals help give you something to work toward. It can be as simple or difficult as long as it is realistic to achieve. Making myself work toward stabilization is what I am trying to do. A goal gives give you hope and a reason to keep going when you are not at your best. I have to admit this is one of my biggest shortcomings. I have never been able to make nor keep goals more than a few days into the future. I do however try. I suggest starting small and working toward bigger ones. Once I accomplished the smaller ones I am able to work toward the ones that are a bit harder to reach.
- Taking personal responsibility for my actions. I don’t blame my illness for the things I do that get me into trouble. Yes at times I have little control over my conduct, but it is up to me to take action to keep my moods stabilized. This includes asking for help from others when I need it, taking my medication as prescribed and keeping appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist. I think we have a tendency to blame everything we do on our illness. Learning to accept that we can’t always do that is one step further to understanding our disorder.
- Seeking out psychotherapy. Medication may be able to manage some of symptoms of my bipolar disorder, but therapy teaches me some skills I might be able to use in all areas of my life. Therapy can help me learn how to deal with my bipolar disorder, cope with problems that occur in my life, monitor my moods, change any negative thoughts I might have, and improve my personal relationships. I don’t always like going to therapy, but find that talking sometimes puts me in a better mood. If I am having some stress or not sleeping, discussing this with my therapist is most times helpful.
- Eating a balanced diet. For me that means no junk food, no sugar, and light on carbohydrates, which can cause mood crashes. Lots of vegetables, I like salads, so I tend to eat a lot of them. I rarely eat junk food. I try not to overdo the caffeine, but drink a few diet soda’s a day. At this point I have no desire to give them up. I try to shy away from processed food as well. If you watch your portion size you have a good beginning.
- And lastly avoiding alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs can trigger depressive episodes, so I do not use them at all. Even moderate social drinking can agitate your emotional balance. I have learned this the hard way over and over. Substance usage also interferes with sleep and may cause dangerous interactions with your medications.
- Attempts to self-medicate, or treat your mood symptoms, with drugs and alcohol only causes more problems. I can’t tell you how many times I have ended up in the Emergency room for a drug overdose, or an alcohol overdose because I mixed my bipolar medications with other drugs and alcohol. I often wondered just how I actually survived all those close Emergency visits.
So I have lived hard, and learned how to take care of myself the hard way. And I struggle still to remain intact as one with the human race. These excellent tips are not for everyone . But they may be helpful to just one person, and that is enough. So to all the people who are bipolar, or those that know someone, take the time to learn wellness, trying is one step closer to getting well.
These are a few small tips to help you gain control of your mental illness. I hope they work for you. That you are able to incorporate them into your daily routine.– A Fellow Bipolar Sufferer