Steps for living with manic depressive illness
I am 49 years old. I have Manic Depressive Illness, Clinical Depression and Severe Panic Disorder. I have been disabled now for over 10 years. Despite my disability I learned to deal with ups and downs and have had and still feel that I have a fullfilled life. I worked for 25 years for the Department of Corrections and the 83rd Judicial District. I have been a Translator/Interpreter, an over the road truck driver and a paralegal. Before the illness became so disabilitating I was in my second year of law school. I knew what direction I wanted my life to go in and how I planned to get there. Then the mood swings, accompanied by 4 suicide attempts, became so severe I could no longer function. By now I was on my third marriage. When my husband took me to the hospital I was seen by a psychiatrist and diagnosed with Manic-depressive illness. For the first two years I refused to leave my home, was afraid to be alone, went through at least 15 different medication changes. I thought that life would never again have meaning for me. I felt totally useless. like the rug had been jerked out from under me. My husband was wonderful and kept a close watch on me, giving me my meds, combing my hair, making sure I had the right diet and keeping up our home. Finally to get me out of the house He would go with me to support groups, he became a peer specialist to better understand my illness. Little by little I began to respond as I understood that what I had was an illness like any other and that with help I could still have a life. I have learned to work around the down days. By the beginning of the third year I was facilitating the support groups. I attended all the mental health seminars, became certified as a master trainer, peer to peer counselor, Mental Heath Rehabilitatinon Specialist and now in 2009 I became a Licensed Family Advocate Intervention Specialist. My job is to intervene for the family or the client in matters with school, juvenile, CPS, and also connect the family with needed social services, since mental illness can also stress the family finances. The person with the illness is not the only one who suffers. Their family members and loved ones also live with the illness. I am a rapid cycler, meaning that my moods change very rapidly, often several times a day. I know the time in which I did not have the tools to deal with my illness, I was not a nice person to live with. In this article I would like to share with you the tools I was taught to use to help me stop being a victim and become friends with my illness.
Mood disorders primarily involve extreme changes in moods.
MANIA AND HYPOMANIA: There are periods of extreme energy when very little sleep is needed and the person is very goal oriented, they may have many projects going at once. Their speech may be rapid and pressured, their thoughts although confused are grandiose and accomplishing anything may seem possible to them. They may go on very expensive spending sprees, become very hypersexual, aggressive, irritable or europhoic. In this stage it is difficult for the person to slow down. They can talk for hours on the phone, have little or no appetite. Even though this can be a very productive time in the persons cycles, it can often have disasterous outcomes. A person who reaches the full blown stage of mania often requires hospitalization. When in this stage there are certain safeguards you can put into place to protect the person.
1. First learn to notice the signs you are becoming more active than is normal for you.
2. Dim the lighting and turn on something calming to you. Avoid too much stimulation. Avoid caffine, sugar or other items that can cause more hyperactivity. Try meditation, slow deep breathing or just closing your eyes and being in the moment.
3.Do not make any major decisions. Do not over-commit yourself. Go slow and take it easy.
4. Use Pre-paid credit cards and have a savings accounts instead of checking to avoid spree spending.
5. Try not to be alone in this period if possible to avoid inappropiate situations. Many relationships have been destroyed by affairs that occured during a hypomanic or manic episode.
6. Be careful with thoughts of self esteem and decisions. They can become blown out of proportion.
7. If you feel you are losing control or beginning to lose touch with reality. Call 911 or the crisis center. Your safe person ( a person whom you trust judgement) can be helpful during this time.
8. Try to sleep. Try an herbal tea or maybe a mild sedative if your doctor recommends it. Be sure to take time out to eat and do some exercise. Yoga and stretching are great and can help slow you down.
9. Stay on your medications. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!! This stage can last for days, weeks, or sometimes months.
DEPRESSION: During this phase you may feel slowed down to the point of not being able to move. You may want to lie in bed for days or weeks on end. You may become tearful or extremely emotional. Not being able to dress, bathe or eat is normal in this phase. You may experience feelings of despondency, saddness, or numbness. Inability to feel is also possible in this stage. You do not want company, to be around others, be unable to work and lose interest in everything that you usually enjoy. You may entertain or seriously think of harming yourself. Try these steps to help you get through :
1. Make yourself get up at your regular time and go to sleep at your regular time.
2. Remember that your thoughts and emotions are very subject to compulsive feelings at this time and don't self abuse yourself mentally.
3. Get plenty of rest. If you work, be sure to have an arrangement with your boss to work from home or take time off during this period.
4. Try to read, meditate or do something to lift your spirits.
5. Get some type of exercise as this releases endorphins in the brain. Again Yoga or Stretching is good.
6. Have a friend or family member help you with dressing and bathing if necessary. Talking can also help you get through this phase.
7. Eat a diet high in carbohydrates. They increase energy.
8. Have a crisis plan written and in place. If the thought of harming yourself even crosses you mind, call 911 or someone else to get to you IMMEDIATELY.
9. TAKE YOUR MEDS!!!
I hope these steps will help you. They have gotten me through the past 10 years without being hospitalized. I am enjoying my life and work in mental health. When i feel the "why me" coming on I remember all I have to be grateful for and that maybe God needed me in this kind of work instead of my plans. Also remember that we are a special group that are usually very creative, so find your muse and GO FOR IT!!
BEST WISHES FOR A HEALTY AND FULLFILLING LIFE!!