Staying Well with Bipolar
My experience of bipolar
Living with bipolar can indeed be like not living at all if you don't take the right steps to stay well as I have learned the hard way.The focus of this hub is to outline the mistakes I have made and the steps I have taken to recover and live as normal a life as possible with this condition.
The first thing I will say is that I do not refer to the condition as bipolar disorder but simply as bipolar.Adding the word disorder implies it is not treatable when in actual fact one can live a normal life with bipolar.
Using the label is important for me as for many years I did not accept the condition and nearly lost my family because of it.Bipolar behaviour can cause havoc in one's life and has a negative ripple effect on one's nuclear family and one's life in general.
In this context,I will continue this article outlining the basis of living well with bipolar.The points made are in order of priority for managing to live with and control this illness.
Accept the diagnosis
This is so basic and something I have had a lot of difficulty doing.It is most important to do this in order to recover and live a healthy lifestyle.
I use the following mantra to gain this acceptance of my condition:
I own bipolar=I take responsibility of it.I don't own bipolar=it owns me.
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar,save yourself a lot of time and trouble by focussing on this and accepting your diagnosis.It is a very treatable condition but is potentially dangerous and always debilitating when left untreated.
Take prescribed medication regularly
One of the hallmarks of bipolar is the refusal to take medication.This is a bad mistake to make.
For example,I am now on twice the dose of lithium along with another drug than I was when I was first diagnosed seven years ago.This is because I refused to be consistent about taking the medication.I am actually lucky that lithium still works well for me despite my lack of cooperation but I have now made a commitment to continue taking it regularly with a view to a healthier lifestyle and a better quality of life for myself and my family
Maintain a healthy daily routine
This is paramount in managing the condition.It is important to go to bed and get up at a regular time as well as eating at regular intervals during the day.Although there will always be times when one's daily routine is disrupted by life events,it is essential for mood stability to have as much routine as possible.This can be flexible but not too much so.Avoid becoming too busy which can trigger a manic episode.Set achievable daily goals to avoid becoming stressed or overwhelmed by work or life events.
Become aware of triggers that are warning signs of an episode
These are many and varied.Becoming too talkative(otherwise known as "pressure of speech") and/or being unable to maintain a topic of conversation ("flight of ideas") for example are two of my warning signs that I am becoming manic .Other symtoms which are warning signs for me are an increase in checking things in an obsessive-compulsive way and feelings of anger/negative thoughts.
A good term I have heard recently from a mental health professional is "automatic thoughts".
It is worth monitoring oneself to see if one's automatic thoughts are positive or negative and then taking appropriate action to deal with them if they are negative.For example,using positive affirmations ("All is well in my world" or "Be careful.Strive to be happy")is something I find useful to do if my automatic thoughts become negative.
Have a look at the following short video to learn more about bipolar and then read on for further insight into this condition.
Bipolar,what it is and how to handle it
It is worth pointing out that bipolar indiviudals are on the same continuum as "normal" indviduals who experience highs and lows in the course of their daily lives.The difference is that the highs and lows of bipolar are more extreme,more debilitating and potentially dangerous unlike those of the normal population.
I prefer to refer to bipolar as a condition rather than a disease or a disorder.Describing it as a condition empowers those who have it to take responsibility for managing it rather than having no control over it if it is referred to as a disease or a disorder.
Alcohol abuse and self-medicating are common symtoms in bipolar individuals. However,alcoholism is a disease and a behaviour whereas bipolar is a disease and a condition albeit a manageable, treatable one.
Perhaps the five most important points made in this article are as follows:
1. Don't be afraid of it.
First and foremost,bipolar is manageable and treatable.Some of the best people are bipolar and live normal, happy lives. You can do that too.
2. Talk about it to trusted family and friends.
You may find it hard to do this but it is well worth doing it because it stops one ruminating and overthinking. Telling someone how you feel will make you feel better and the person you talk to will be glad to help if they have your best interests at heart. Don't go it alone.
3.Accept the diagnosis
The implications of not accepting one has bipolar means that it controls your life and can cause major problems for yourself and those around you.Coming to accept your diagnosis is the first step in liberating yourself from this chronic condition and avoiding relapse
4.Take responsibility for it.
Bipolar can be managed by the individual through compliance with prescribed medication and adopting healthy lifestyle changes.A normal life is possible for people living with bipolar if one accepts the challenge of taking responsibility for it.
5. Take an interest in other people and their lives.
This will keep you right by distracting you from yourself. Fill your head with good stuff and cultivate a sense of humour.
I hope you find this article useful and helpful. The last thing to say is perhaps the most important- if you are living with bipolar be sure to maintain a healthy flexible routine. Nobody thrives on chaos and routine is especially healthy for those with bipolar.
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