I think by the time a person receives their diagnosis of being bipolar they might be feeling overwhelmed. Figuring out what has been the cause of their experiences can be a relief, but there must be a million questions exploding in their head on how to proceed. How to live with it can be a concern. It is a life long condition they are going to have to make friends with to be successful in living their life to the fullest. Here are some thoughts, from a personal perspective,that might answer some questions and provide hope in figuring out a life long plan. No two cases are alike, but they all have some similarities. What works for one person may not work for others. I consider this disorder to be a combination of flaws in wiring in my brain and a chemical dysfunction. Many experience no filter for their emotions, so feelings and experiences seems to swing out of proportion compared to what others seem to experience. The goal might be to figure out how to try to minimize or limit the huge swings, if at all possible. Many times I have had to ” White knuckle it”, when an episode occurs.
The first recommendation I would offer would be, to love yourself unconditionally, at all times, even when you are struggling. I had an amazing teacher who once said that everyone should stand in front of a mirror, completely naked, and say “I love you”, at least ten times, everyday, even if you didn’t believe it. The reason for this exercise highlighted his belief that attitude is a habit, and a habit happens when an action or thought is repeated. No one asks for this condition and can carry no blame. Self talk is crucial. Never put yourself down, but instead say to yourself things like, “I feel lost but am trying hard to find my way”. Learning to re-state thoughts can make a difference as they are powerful.
My second thought is to understand what support system is available. There are four groups of people who care about most subjects, including mental disorders. ONE..the person affected, TWO..their family, friends, and others affected with the same disorder, THREE.. the Professionals including Physicians, Psychologists and mental health therapist and councilors who treat mental issues, and FOUR.. pharmaceutical companies who make money from this segment of society.
I think doing research on the web is valuable. Talking to others who have the same diagnosis can be educational. Reading personal accounts of other people’s experiences is also a great resource. All have experienced successes and failures. Finding a mentor is extremely helpful. I have at least three. Yes, I am bipolar, with an official diagnosis since I was 45, 33 years ago, but had symptoms that surfaced when I was 28 when I had my first major episode. Mentors can be friends, family, or others with or without mental problems. They only need to be good listeners without judgemental attitudes. Mine all have no mental issues. There are many bloggers who write about their struggles and have comment sections attached to their blogs. Many seem open to an ongoing dialog. I would welcome anyone who needed a “friend” to have an ongoing discussion on my blog or under either of my menu items called ,”About” or “Marty’s Bipolar Trek”, or in the comment section under any of my blogs. Skype messaging is also a great place to have a private conservation, and group discussions are also available. Here is how I would envision a conservation with someone. I would ask them to share their stories and ask if they had any questions for me. If they were interested in my journey I would openly share my story. Some of the things I would share about would be what has helped me keep level and how I handle my ups and downs. I am not suggesting anyone follow what I have tried, but some ideas might be helpful.
1. I try not to get involved in things I have no control over.
2. When I feel like I am going up or down I sometimes take a nap and say “Let’s reset the clock”. Getting overly tired sometimes is a trigger.
3. I would share my belief that my disorder is both a flaw in my wiring and Chemistry.
4. I try to eat healthy, choosing Organic, avoid GMO foods, avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners, and avoid as much processed foods as possible. I do believe we are what we eat and drink. I never drink alcohol or take recreational drugs.
5. I have an agreement with 3 people in case I get feelings or thoughts of harming myself.
6. Having a daily schedule or plan helps even if it needs to be changed occasionally.
7. I avoid toxic people, news, and stories.
8. I have found writing, blogging, and journeying to be helpful. Journeying is great for figuring out triggers which has become valuable in avoiding severe ups or downs. There have been far more downs than ups in my life. Plus, thoughts have energy and power. So when I write about what I am experiencing some of that excess energy or emotion is left on paper.
9. I am creative and funnel my energies as a quitter as well. I can often pull myself up by just starting a new project or finishing an old one. Sometimes I have to force myself to make the move to my sewing room, but within a short time I find myself lost in my activity and forget I am depressed. The same goes for blogging.
10. One day I was having a conversation with one of my mentors on Skype messaging and I mentioned I was down. We tried to figure out what triggered the down, as I had been level for some time. In 90 minute of talking I was level again. Another mentor calls at least once a week just to check in with me. Just knowing I have someone in the wings at all times is comforting. Mentoring doesn’t take a lot of time. Having my three has been a great tool in dealing with my disorder.
11. And this is the most important, in my opinion. I work on loving and accepting myself all of the time, warts and all.
12. I remind myself that since I have no filter on my emotions I have to step back and look at situations to make sure I am responding appropriately. I am probably on target but with too much emotion attached.
13. I have to deal with conflict and not bury it or it will raise its ugly head and eventually trigger depression.
I hope what I have shared has planted some seeds of hope for anyone dealing with being Bipolar. I think being our own advocate is where most successful help lies. Those, like us, understand in a way no one else can. I think we can make a difference if we are willing to reach out and mentor each other.
I will end with two quotes that are worth thinking about.
One is by Robert Frost.
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life. Define yourself”.
The second is from a site called Word Porn.
“I used to dislike being sensitive. I thought it made me weak. But take away that single trait, and you take the very essence of who I am. You take away my conscience, my ability to empathize, my intuition, my creativity, my deep appreciation of the little things, my vivid inner life, my keen awareness to others pain and my passion for it all”.
I identify with both sayings, and hope many are encouraged by the message they present. Many people with Bipolar Disorder have many unique gifts that many others do not possess. Trust me, you do.