Being Bipolar And Making Choices
Being Bipolar-It Is A Fact
I have been diagnosed with bipolar for several years now, I have traveled the world unexpectedly, hoping to find a dream. A dream I did not find. I did however along my travels find many adventures, handfuls of wonderful friends, strangers wandering aimlessly, and happiness in places I will probably never see again. Despair, hopelessness and enough crazy behaviors to last my entire lifetime.
I have been diagnosed about a dozen times, quite possibly more. The reason being every time I moved I had to find a new psychiatrist and therapist. So ultimately I ended up going through the entire process each and every time. So that tells me, I finally had to come to believe I was mentally ill, like it or not. "Get over yourself." I had been fighting the diagnosis from day one. There was no way I was bipolar. I just could not accept it. I began the journey of the inner workings of bipolar disorder, and how I came to believe. Whether I liked it or not.
I had choices, find a way to live with it. Or let it destroy me. I did not make the right ones for a very long time. I became a substance abuser, any substance was fine. Hard liquor, and pain killers being my number one drugs of choice. I have lived in the mental hospital, rehab, and a halfway-house. I eventually ended up on disability after going through more jobs than I can count. Never remaining stable long enough to stay in one place, or having an episode and calling in sick way to often. Causing misadventure at work during a manic episode resulting in insubordination. And eventually getting fired.
So here I am today still on disability, fairly stable most of the time. I say fairly because I have OCD as well, and I still have break-through bipolar episodes. I still struggle with believing I am bipolar. Fighting the stigma along the way. It has always been my goal to fit in from the first day I was diagnosed. I have never felt normal since K-5 when I decided talking was overestimated. From that time on I would not speak until third grade. But these days having been through so much it is to the point it doesn't matter what people think. It is their perception, not mine. But in reality it is far deeper than that.
I never wanted to be different, but I always thought that way. So I acted like I felt, imagine that? If I acted small enough no one could see me, or notice what I was doing. I would actually pretend I was an object all through my childhood. That is how I survived my unpleasant young adult life as well. As long as it was not me I made it through. All this among whatever bipolar episode I was having. If I was not manic, I was depressed. If I was not either of those I was mixed, that being manic and depressed at the same time. A real pleasure to say the least. Especially for people around me. I am sure they wanted to disown me, or lock me away forever.
So all this brings me to now, believing my diagnosis. Do I know I am bipolar? Yes - because I learned the hard way. Ironically to this day I cannot bypass the wild card. What If? Well maybe this time nothing will happen. I always have that in the back of my head. I use to think I was pretending that too. Because I was told to get over it. It was just for attention. Well if this were true, than sweet Jesus give me some attention.
Please! The sad part being I only obviously wanted the most attention when I was not taking my medications. So I apparently was a non medicated attention monger seeking cannot get off the crazy train goofwad. It has always been excessively difficult for me to accept this diagnosis. You have bipolar 1 with mixed episodes. And your obviously OCD. I can almost remember each time I was diagnosed, each doctor's name. Almost but not quite. I remember the third psychiatrist I saw, I was in one of my long hospital stays, he told me I was a perfect textbook case of bipolar 1 he ever observed. Am I supposed to be proud of that? Cool, I get a plaque for nut of the month and a special parking space.
This went on for a few years. Because I kept moving. Each doctor confirmed the last doctors diagnosis. I would always end up in the hospital for manic episodes, so there was no hiding it. There was so many overdoses, alcohol poisoning, suicide attempts, then the depressions were hard to hide. Suicide attempts, sorrow, and outrageous behavior prevented me from going to work. I just kept repeating the bad patterns over and over. Until I finally settled into getting serious about my illness, and taking the role of driving myself to wellness.
Some simple strategies to manage bipolar disorder
- Take your medications - All the time. Every day. Even if you feel better, because that means the medication is working.
- Get enough sleep -Try to have a routine here. Otherwise your rhythm is most likely going to be out of whack. Lack of sleep can often trigger a manic episode. Proper sleep is good for you.
- Watch your diet - Eat healthy foods. Use sugar, high in fat foods in moderation. Go easy on the caffeine, this is easier said than done. Moderation is the key.
- Exercise - As much or as little as you can tolerate. If you can get outside that is even better. Fresh air and sunshine will do wonders especially if you are feeling depressed. Shoot for some form of exercise at least once a day. Walk, gardening, take a bike ride, walk to the mailbox, whatever, just move your butt.
- Steer clear of drugs and alcohol - That is just asking for trouble. Self medicating gets you nowhere pretty fast. If you are taking bipolar medications and drinking or taking street drugs that is a huge recipe for disaster. I know, I in my stupidity apologized many times to loved ones for accidentally over dosing. It isn't worth the embarrassment to say the least.
- Therapy - Do yourself a favor and talk to a therapist. Because having bipolar there is always something you will have to talk about. The sheer magnitude of dealing with mood swings are horrendous, and a therapist can guide you through the rough patches. And it isn't really fair to your family and friends to whine to them. They have enough to deal with, so give them a break and talk to a therapist instead. If you aren't into the therapist thing, find support online, or hospitals often have support groups for people with bipolar or mental illness.
- Hobbies - Find some. You need to have something you enjoy doing. Going to movies, photography, writing, knitting, standing on your head, anything, something you enjoy doing outside of work. If you don't work you definitely need to have an outlet as well. Start scrap-booking, writing a journal, a short story about your illness, make jewelry, watch TV shows, anything that makes your heart skip a beat.
Living with bipolar disorder is not easy. Doing the above mentioned tips are not easy. Trial and error become your friend. You can live with this illness, some people can find enough stability to continue to work, and yet others cannot. They do better not under the pressure of the daily expectations of a job. So either way it is possible to live a full life, as long as you put in the work, take medications, deal with the fact you have bipolar, understanding your triggers, and continue with a healthy routine.
There is always that nagging voice inside my head, that says "just one more time, you don't need those meds, try it and see." But I have so much chaos already, I do not need more, so I learned from past mistakes and continue to stay on the medication. I just want to feel normal and not unbalanced around other people. I ask myself often, "why should it matter what other people think?" It should not. And that is where it begins, stigma no more.
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