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Living with Bipolar Disorder

Updated on July 25, 2013

I Have Bipolar Disorder

I have Bipolar Disorder. I was diagnosed about ten years ago, and hope that my experience and knowledge will help you understand this difficult disorder.

In my opinion, there are three things that are crucial to treating Bipolar Disorder:

1) Medication

2) Awareness of Symptoms

3) Maintaining a Low-Stress Environment

"In order to reach the highest mountains, you shouldn't be afraid of the deepest valleys."
"In order to reach the highest mountains, you shouldn't be afraid of the deepest valleys."

Depressed Days

The Unpredictability of Bipolar Disorder

Sometimes, no matter what I do, my brain decides to be depressed.

It doesn't matter if my medicine was working great last week, or if I have many things to be grateful for.

My brain chemicals just mess up sometimes, and depression ensues.

My depressed symptoms: Negative thoughts, no motivation, no enjoyment, low self esteem.

Depression is hard to get out of, but I try to work my way through it. I try to still do somewhat normal things, and I do a lot of self-talk and tell myself that it's the depression that makes me think these negative thoughts. I try to remind myself of what feeling positive is like.

I also try to take medicine to make my depression get better. Sometimes vitamin B-12 helps me feel a bit better.

Check out this page for more information on how I cope with depression.

A picture I took at Cannon Beach
A picture I took at Cannon Beach

Manic Days...

Sometimes stress causes my brain to go manic instead of becoming depressed.

Sometimes my brain just starts feeling manic for an unknown reason. Maybe it's a change of the seasons, change in my environment, or just some strange neural wiring glitch.

This can happen, even if I've been taking my medicine faithfully.

My first symptoms are usually fast thoughts, talking loudly and excitedly, feeling absolutely wonderful, things look glowy or bright, having strange thoughts......... Impulsive thoughts.

If it gets worse, I might get really scattered... If I don't stop myself, I might act on my impulsive thoughts...

Fortunately, I generally am aware enough to tell my husband that this is happening, and we work together to make the episode go away. Maybe take more/different medicine, lay down in a dark room, or do something else to try to slow myself down.

Why Me? - Why do I have this Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is annoying because the symptoms come and go.....

The hypomanic side (being mildly "up") is a creative mood that I often enjoy. I am full of ideas, hope, aspirations, dreams, creativity. There must be a positive side of bipolar disorder, and I think that learning to control and live in this hypomanic world is it.

Yet there are so many difficulties. It can go too far. The brain can go from creative and happy to obsessed, paranoid, scattered, or suicidal.

Why do I have a smart yet troubled brain? Don't you ask that same question about yourself (or about the one you love)? So many intelligent people have this disorder.

I see people who appear to have the ambition, drive, creativity that is associated with hypomania but who are not Bipolar. Their mood doesn't go too far........ Or does it?

Medicine for Bipolar Disorder (random picture of pills)
Medicine for Bipolar Disorder (random picture of pills)

Medicine for Bipolar Disorder

#1 Most Important Thing

Every day I take medicine. Without it, I wouldn't be doing nearly as well.

Bipolar Disorder is a brain disorder. Neurotransmitters (and probably other chemicals) in your brain cause your moods.

If you're like most people, there will likely be a lot of trial and error... The first medicine you try might not work at all, or the dosage may have to be adjusted before it works. It is also possible that it works initially and then stops working. Medication combinations are common.

It is also possible that it might take awhile before you find the right doctor for you.

Bipolar Disorder is usually first treated with a Mood Stabilizer, such as a Lithium or Depakote, which are common first line drugs for it. Other drugs that your doctor may try are Carbamazepine, Seroquel, Risperidone, and Geodone, just to name a few. There are many to choose from, and your doctor will decide what to try based on your symptoms and how you respond to medication.

If you are suffering from depression, you also may be described an anti-depressant. There are dozens of antidepressant medications to choose from. Most of these change the level of Serotonin in your brain, and some of them also change the other neurotransmitters like Dopamine and Norepinephrine.

Often people with Bipolar Disorder also have anxiety, and if that's the case, you may be prescribed something for anxiety. However, sometimes the antidepressants and mood stabilizers also help with that.

Doctors generally don't prescribe antidepressants by themselves if you have Bipolar Disorder because antidepressants can cause mania and rapid cycling - which means faster mood changes!

Awareness of Symptoms - #2 Most Important Thing

I constantly monitor how I'm feeling and I adjust my meds and activities based on how I'm feeling.

The trick to controlling Bipolar Disorder is to recognize when a mood episode is starting up and to do something early to try to stop it from getting worse.

Since each person is different, your symptoms aren't going to be the same as everyone. There are many books that will help you to understand Bipolar Disorder, but this one below is one of my top recommendations.

The Bipolar Workbook, First Edition: Tools for Controlling Your Mood Swings
The Bipolar Workbook, First Edition: Tools for Controlling Your Mood Swings

"Invaluable for people with bipolar disorder. Dr. Basco clearly lays out the 4-step plan to See It Coming, Take Precaution, Reduce Your Symptoms, and Check Your Progress. There is an excellent discussion of the issues that people face in coming to terms with the diagnosis. This excellent book will help people understand that getting the correct diagnosis is an opportunity to make sense of the past and prepare for the future. The Workbook is filled with excellent and easy-to-use forms that will be helpful in recognizing mood shifts, developing a plan of action, challenging unrealistically positive and negative thinking, and reducing the risk of acting out. People with bipolar disorder will find this to be a daily reminder of how much they can effectively help themselves live happier and more productive lives."--Robert L. Leahy, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Weill Medical College of Cornell University

 
Picture I took at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Picture I took at Cannon Beach, Oregon

Create a Low Stress Environment for Yourself

#3 Most Important Thing

I know this may be easier said than done. There will always be bills to pay, people you don't get along with, and the unexpected turn of events from time to time.

However, you can do things to cushion yourself a bit and protect yourself from stress. Stress is the biggest de-stabilizer. Even if you've found the right medicine, a stressful time can cause breakthrough symptoms and might require a med adjustment.

Here's what I've found about HOW to create a low stress environment:

1. Pick your battles wisely. Think about the importance of the battle, and about your emotional state before getting involved in a situation that may take up your emotional energy.

2. Create a routine for yourself. Do some of the same things every day, in the same order. It helps make life less predictable. Knowing what's coming next will help you to control your moods.

3. Sleep and eat regularly. Not sleeping can induce mania. Not eating can cause mood problems related to blood sugar.

4. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and drugs. This differs from person to person. For me, avoiding caffeine is especially important.

5. Save up money so that you can get through rough times. Financial stress is one of the biggest stresses. Figure out a way to save some money. Putting your change in a jar is one way. It might not seem like much but it can really add up.

6. Have positive relationships. If you are having relationship trouble, see a therapist to work through it. If there are toxic people in your life, consider limiting their contact with you. Develop friendships with people who understand your Bipolar disorder and who will look out for you.

7.Be Honest about Bipolar Disorder. Some days I think that my bipolar disorder is cured, and now I can go back to school and become an emergency room doctor. I think I would love the thrill of making life saving decisions...... But wait a moment. I have bipolar disorder and stress makes things worse, not better! So as I consider my career, I have to be honest about what kind of work is low stress. If I didn't have bipolar disorder, I might go for a stressful job, but I know that would make my disorder flare up. It's hard because I know that I am smart enough to do some jobs but my brain isn't well enough.

The Best Website on Bipolar II - Bipolar II is Mood Swings without Mania

Your Turn - Tell me about your experiences or thoughts....

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    • rwoman profile image

      rwoman 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your story and the great advice! Best wishes!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 6 years ago

      I hung off of every word. I love what you say about 'controlled mania'- which is exactly where I am as well, or perhaps, that is what is sought. For me, sleep is the biggest component, and not just any sleep but quality sleep. For the first time in 7 years I am having consistent quality sleep just on cymbalta, and I am hypomanic during the day. I'm highly creative and productive during the day, sleeping at night, finally! I just spent 7 years AWARE all night going crazy quietly (actually I was beyond that even, was on autopilot) while the world slept and recovered. In hindsight, I can't believe I didn't 'lose' it, beyond one day not too long ago laying down and basically not getting up. That's when the cymbalta was absolutely necessary- the body was literally dying from sleep loss. LOve what you say about living with bipolar- you're leading the way. Angel blessed.

    • ChemKnitsBlog2 profile image

      ChemKnitsBlog2 6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this very personal story. *Blessed :)

    • AWildDog profile image

      AWildDog 6 years ago

      What a great informative lens!

    • MomwithAHook LM profile image

      Sara Duggan 6 years ago from California

      Wow, Found this lens via @LizMac60's Angel lens - had to stop by because I am BiPolar and had to read what another thinks of it - You are so right on - almost as if I wrote this. I hardly ever talk about this part of me as it is a weakness and I don't like showing my weaknesses. The way you describe hypomania - it could actually be a strength. (Never thought about it that way) I must follow your blog. Thanks for being so open and honest. I too have a super wonderful husband and if it weren't for his support I wouldn't be doing half as well as I do.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      My son's first serious girlfriend was bipolar and what a roller coaster ride that was. She often decided to stop taking her medicine. We still love her but just as a friend (she dumped him during one of her down periods). Thanks for this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great Lens! I feel like I have just read one of my own! Thank you for sharing, there needs to be more people to support those who have not yet been diagnosed and may stumble across this information and realize that something more may be wrong!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I have added this lens to my Lensroll. Thanks again.

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 6 years ago

      I have ADHD and depression. What you said about knowing that your brain is smart enough to do certain jobs, but that you just can't tolerate the stress level, really hit home. In the last few months I've come to the realization that no matter how "normally" I may be functioning, if I let my stress levels get too high, I will crash and crash hard. I'm still trying to work out what that means for me professionally.

      Thanks for a valuable lens. I'm 'rolling it to my own mental health lenses.

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 6 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @Addy Bell: Thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments!

    • profile image

      Member123 6 years ago

      Your lens are very informative. Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      GrowWear 6 years ago

      Excellent resource here for those dealing with bipolar disorder.

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 6 years ago

      Stopped back to Bless this lens. Thanks for sharing this helpful information with the world :)

    • pheonix76 profile image

      pheonix76 5 years ago from WNY

      This is a great page about bipolar disorder. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. Well written and very informative. All the best to you.

    • HeartBroken62 profile image

      HeartBroken62 5 years ago

      Great lens! My mother (R.I.P.)had Bi-polar which was diagnosed when I was in my 20's (this was when they finally had a name for it), but the first signs of it started when I was about 8. She was a beautiful and very intelligent woman (same as you appear to be) and dearly missed. Thank You so very much for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have Bi-polar type I along with others. I appreciate the time you took for us. I find myself racing the anxiety and trying to finish everything like this, before it passes me and wins the race, if that makes any sense. It's so hard to find help, in any form: online, library. So much is unknown about this disease, but i'm starting to realize like you have, I just can't do everything at the same pace as others, and hey, that's okay. Also, I'm finally weeding out those who don't and have no desire to understand the process, thanks again, Clinton Bradley, you can find my music albums and more about me on facebook, myspace, etc... Email: DjClintonBradley@yahoo.com

    • modernchakra profile image

      modernchakra 5 years ago

      Thank you. I am in the same, wonderfully creative/chaotic, boat. I am so grateful for you speaking up about bi-polar disorder and explaining things exactly as they are. No psycho babble, no sugar coating... simply sometimes the brain chemicals go haywire, it takes a lot of work to control, but with this comes some of the most creative and wonderful things.... Take care.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Thanks so much for this wonderful lens. I hope that as time goes on we will understand more about this condition and the world will be a kinder place to those who suffer. Your suggestions about creating a peaceful life are very wise.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens

    • Zodiacimmortal profile image

      Kim 5 years ago from Yonkers, NY

      I've skimmed over your lens & have included it in my Favorite lenses lens (under health & same goes for my Beauty Blam lens

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 5 years ago from PA

      Excellent lens. I have one about Bipolar Disorder II myself, and have written a lens about it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I felt like we were sitting together while you told me about bipolar disorder, an excellent teaching that is from the heart. You presented a lot of information very efficiently and effectively, may many be brought to better understanding. You have been blessed by an impressed Squid angel.

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 5 years ago

      I, also, am affected by Bipolar Disorder (as well as panic/anxiety disorder) and I always appreciate seeing someone putting together a good lens or site about it. You've been very informative as well as giving us a true feeling of your struggles. Angel Blessings to you my comrade in arms!

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Thank you for bringing to light an important subject.

    • NatureLuver profile image

      NatureLuver 5 years ago

      Nicely done.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this. I'll be passing it on.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image

      girlfriendfactory 5 years ago

      I feel you! I was dx in 1996 and it's an adventure. I write a lot and it helps. I have a lens that I did recently on it (I almost didn't do one here since I wrote so much about it for so many years): What if Bipolar, in case you want to look. I will add yours to my featured list on the side. :)

      This terrific lens is more than worthy of a Flyby Winging and it can be found among the other blessed lenses for today at Have Wings Will Bless!

      They may call me an aimless wanderer, but not all who wander are aimless and I'm glad my aim was good when I wandered upon this. ~Ren

    • wheresthekarma profile image

      wheresthekarma 5 years ago

      THank you for helping to educate others about Bipolar! I am sure you are helping lots of people with this.

    • joykennel profile image

      joykennel 5 years ago

      I have friends with bipolar so this is helpful to read--thanks for sharing!

    • DeniseDurham2011 profile image

      DeniseDurham2011 5 years ago

      Good lens :) You said you change your dosage when you feel certain ways, or know a swing is coming. The meds I take don't take effect for a few days (if I miss a dosage, I suffer the consequences in a couple of days). I also cycle in a random order. Sometimes it will be weeks, sometimes I will rapid cycle every few minutes. How do you change the dosage & what are you taking?

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @DeniseDurham2011: Well, I have one medication that I take continually, at the same dose all of the time, and that's a mood stabilizer called Lithium Orotate. That's my main medication.

      However, if I am getting depressed or manic, then I try other medications or supplements. For depression, I've tried inositol & choline, zinc, aniracetam, and magnesium. For a manic swing, I might try something to help with sleep.. For example, in the past, my doctor has prescribed seroquel, which can be used as needed. I also try to avoid caffeine if I'm feeling on the "up" side.

      I sometimes take medication for anxiety, and that helps with the moods too, as anxiety is often a component of the mood swings. There's so many variables that come into play.. I think that's why medication for bipolar disorder can be a real challenge! Hope this helps!

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @joykennel: You're welcome!

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @wheresthekarma: I have been quite surprised about the amount of traffic and feedback I've received since being on the home page of Squidoo. It's really encouraging! I'm glad if I'm able to help.

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @girlfriendfactory: Thanks. I'll check out your lens!

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      Bipolar Disorder is a truly devastating illness. I have a friend who has it and people keep pushing him away simply because they don't want to put in the effort to understand him or help him out! It's very sad. He's a brilliant individual who's a lot of fun to be around. It's really too bad that there's so much ignorance in this world and people treat individuals with mental health issues as if they could control them!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you for talking about this subject and writing about it ... *blessed*

    • PoeticChristian profile image

      PoeticChristian 5 years ago

      As a Veteran, my PTSD and Bi-polar go hand in hand, but I have recently gotten some awesome information and there are places where you can get great group support. I wondered if I should create a lens about this but someone beat me to it,lol. Great job, btw. I recently found a great book to read Titled: An Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison and some others. I am so glad that I am not alone in dealing with this illness.

    • CraftaholicVete profile image

      CraftaholicVete 5 years ago

      Great job and information within this lens. I am proud of you for admitting you have Bi-polar and that you aren't going to allow it to define you. Hooah! A great inspiration for others to come forth and get lots of resources.

    • Rock Artist profile image

      Rock Artist 5 years ago

      You ask a lot of good questions in your lens, like, "why is this happening to me and my brain?" and as I read through your lens I am wondering if you have taken a good hard look at what kind of food you are putting into your body and not only the kind of foods you are avoiding like caffeine and alcohol. It could be a very simple answer to a what seems like a complex health problem, but nevertheless I think it's worth looking into because I am sure it's very distressing to have such a problem as bipolar disorder. "The Cure" is a book written by Timothy Brantley and it is an absolutely amazing book about how he uses detoxification to cure people of an array of illnesses - his own personal journey to health is included in this book. In addition, I just wanted to tell you that perhaps there are chemicals (namely MSG and Aspartame) in the food that you are eating that you have become sensitive to that are causing health issues for you, I know I had to do my own investigating to find out that I had become highly sensitive to MSG and since eliminating it from my diet and I feel better now than I did when I was 30 (I'm 48). I wrote a lens about it and wanted to share it with you, it's called "The Dangers of MSG and Aspartame" in Squidoo. So many people are consuming these two dangerous excitotoxins without their knowledge of knowing what they can do to their health. In any case, I hope you find help for your situation. If you are interested, Here is the link but I'm not sure it will work

      https://hubpages.com/health/the-dangers-of-msg-in-...

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @Rock Artist: I do avoid MSG and Aspartame... I also avoid foods high in nitrates. I do feel better if I eat more protein, and more vegetables. I think variable sugar levels can account for mood swings and I've been feeling better since eating a low glycemic index diet and taking chromium supplement. However, it doesn't cure bipolar disorder (not for me anyhow)... it just helps. I think bipolar disorder likely has a genetic basis and although nutrition changes can help, to suggest that that's all that needs to be done, just isn't likely to be a total solution for most people with it.

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @CraftaholicVete: Thanks! My aim is to inspire and teach! If more people talk about it, it'll be easier for everyone! One good thing about taking medication for bipolar, is that the medication frees me of some of the struggles and allows me to be myself! It's not perfect, but a big improvement for me. Some people aren't as fortunate to have found medicine that works well for them... It takes a lot of trial and error. And the low stress environment is also very important!

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @PoeticChristian: There's plenty of room on Squidoo to create your own lens about it! :)

      An Unquiet Mind is a great book!

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @MelonyVaughan: I find bipolar disorder to be difficult, but not devastating... Most people have some health struggle in life and for me it's bipolar. Not too different from any other health problem. Except for maybe the stigma.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      Thank you for sharing this very important information.

    • Darkskeleton LM profile image

      Chris 5 years ago

      The link for medical information for treatment of Bipolar Disorder stopped working. Also, can you be depressed with ups/excited days and downs/miserable days and not necessarily be bipolar? Is bipolar only when it's in extreme uncontrollable levels?

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      @Darkskeleton LM: Ahh.. This is a good question. If you look up DSM criteria for hypomania, mania, depression, etc, you will probably see your answer... Basically it's two things, one that the symptoms are severe enough to impact your daily functioning, relationships, work, etc.. and as for hypomania, it has to be unusual for you as a person, which is a tricky criteria... here's a quote from the DSM manual: "The episode is associated with an unequivocal change in functioning that is uncharacteristic of the person when not symptomatic." Many people are hypomanic but do not seek treatment until the depression episode. Thanks for the heads up on the broken link and I will try to add more links to help answer your questions.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I've also dealt with this for about ten years, and it is definitely difficult to deal with. Keeping the stress level low can be so hard. I do have times that I enjoy my more manic side. I get a lot done, but a low often follows. Thanks for sharing your information. I'm going to check out some of your other lenses. Great lens.

    • serendipity831 profile image

      Drake McSherry 5 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      Wonderful lens, thank you for sharing all the information on this disorder.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @hotbrain: I too suffer from this horrendous disease. Yesterday I was severely depressed and very uncomfortable in my skin (I hate that feeling) I feel on the manic side today which scares me. Because there is always the "down" side. When I read your article I felt that you were writing about me. Not that I am happy other people go through this (I truly would not wish this on my worst enemy) but it is comforting to know I am not the only one. Thanks for writing it really helped me today! Age 58 Female BPII, ADD, GAD. Lamictal, Trazedone, on SSDI since 2008.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Congratulations for your candor and courage. I admire what you're doing. Thank you for publishing this lens.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      I admire you so much for talking about this troubling illness. I have been hospitalized twice - once for post-partum psychosis, which I now think was related to the undiagnosed bipolar illness, and also once where I finally received my diagnosis of bipolar illness. I have been stable now on meds, although that is certainly not all of the story: I was in therapy for years, use techniques like EFT and Silva to create a better life for myself, and live a caring life, which by itself keeps me balanced. Pinned to my board "Mental Health and Mental Illness," Squid Angel Blessed and added this to my own lens Squidoo Lenses I Wish I'd Written for bravery, helpfulness and excellent writing.

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 4 years ago

      Great lens. Blessed!

    • bilafond lm profile image

      bilafond lm 4 years ago

      You are doing a great service to the people who are connected with Bipolar in one way or the other. My son passed away and and at that time I had no idea about this disorder and it was to late. I have written his story and also his writings on Wisdom. Some thing which shows what goes inside a Bipolar's mind. Very good Lens

    • profile image

      Anna2of5 4 years ago

      I too am BiPolar. I have had two manic episodes after not sleeping for a week straight each time. It wasn't on purpose, I simply forgot how to go to sleep. Weird, I know. Refreshing to see such honesty about it. I had an episode that the shrink at the time labled "Childhood PTSD" Looking back it was prob. a trauma induced teen/1st appearance of this. I've been in therapy and working with a Psyciatrist for about 15 years now. (I'm 42 right now). Life does go on. I've been dealing with a major depression for the last 4 years or so, it seems to be getting better. Keep writing, it looks like you've found a safe place to talk about this topic. :D I remember you commented on one of my lenses, thank you. i hope I thanked, you earlier than this for that. :).

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I think it is so awesome that you're willing to openly share your story. We have always encouraged our children to do the same (our oldest has Bipolar Disorder, NOS), because if no knows it's 'broken', for lack of a better term, no one can fix it. He is now very open about his needs and his feelings and he is proud to call himself an advocate- and he is only 10! People like yourself are the ones who help remove the negative stigma that surrounds so many diagnoses today. THANK YOU!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Great article. Many thanks. I was wondering if you could maybe go into more detail about what you said about caffeine? Unless you or someone could link me to an article where you might have gone into more detail. I have recently gotten back into the world of employment and have become quite the coffee addict now I have longer days and use more energy. So far I haven't noticed any adverse reactions and I drink 4-5 cups a day. I also smoke cannabis on a regular basis which I know is wrong but it makes me so happy.

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