Bipolar Disorder and Staying Stable During a World Crisis

 

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My motto to TREAT BIPOLAR DISORDER FIRST was put to the test recently in a way I never imagined. I currently live 20 minutes from the Nice terrorist attack in France and spent a long day of ups and downs in this beautiful country that I love so much.

I’ve noticed that people with bipolar disorder are often curious world travelers who have strong opinions on the world. This serves us well when we are stable and may be one of the reasons so many of us write books!

In exactly the opposite way, this characteristic can also be a ticket to disaster as it’s hard for us to turn off this curiosity in order to protect our bipolar disorder stability. I know all about the anxiety created by an obsessive following of the latest world disaster. My mind takes off in a way I find hard to control and this started to happen yesterday after my school in France held a meeting in our theater to discuss our safety in this country. The head teacher stressed how we all need to get on with our lives while being vigilant in the face of yet another terrorist attack in France.

I would like to share with you the plan I use to protect myself from bipolar disorder mood swings during world crises.

#1  I Turn Off the News. Being aware and knowing when your bipolar disorder has had enough is an essential bipolar disorder management tool. There is a HUGE difference between being obsessed and being informed.  You can find what works for you.

It may be a zero tolerance policy….

I care deeply about the world, but for my own stability and in honor of the people around me who need my love and attention, I turn over the management of this problem to the people who are well enough to take this on without getting sick . It is not my job to change the world, but it is my job to take care of my own world and stay well. If this means I have to stay off of my social media for a few days, I’m willing to do this for my own health. 

There is also moderation…..

I will look at the news in the morning and then limit how I talk about the situation when I’m with my friends and family.  I will remind myself that 24 hour news is not a requirement in my life and it is possible to be informed by looking at the media in a moderated way. I can also ask others for updates and then make the decision to change the subject. I am responsible for myself and as a person with bipolar, it’s not selfish or callous to limit my media intake.

Or you might have to ask someone near you to change the topic of a conversation…..

I know this is a world crisis and we need to stay informed. One part of my stability plan is limiting my anxiety around the media coverage of world events. Can we talk about this a few minutes- so that we can share how we feel- and then move on to another topic? It’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I care too much and this is a sure way to create a mood swing. I want to stay stable and enjoy your company.

My mother is always a good barometer to test my media overuse. She will say, “Julie, you just wrote a blog about limited media and you’ve been watching CNN for the past 90 minutes.”

She said this to me last year after the first terrorist attacks at the concert hall in Paris, before I moved to France. I remember exactly what I thought when she said this, “But mom!!! I have to be informed! I’m just looking for information!”  It was then that I realized I had been sucked in by our 24 hour media world once again and I turned off the TV. I am doing the same now that I’m actually in France.

#2 I Carefully Manage My Sleep. Last night I experienced what I call skim sleeping. This is how I know I was more affected by what happened in Nice than I originally thought. It’s as though I’m awake the entire time I’m asleep. I moved to France for my physical health. I came here to change my life and challenge myself to become a fully stable and happy person. A very large part of this is learning to sleep without sleep medications. It has been a success in many ways, but I made a mistake last night. I tried to sleep without medications on a night I truly needed sleep for my stability. The result was a night of under sleeping and I’m now paying the price with tiredness and a bit of anxiety. Bipolar disorder stability and healthy sleep simply can’t be separated. They go hand in hand. Sleep should have been my priority last night and it wasn’t. Tonight it will be. Here are a few ways I manage sleep:

  • Media exposure ends a few hours before I go to sleep. This is an emotional and physical need- emotionally, my brain needs to relax and calm down in order for my melatonin and serotonin process to actually work. Looking at a flickering blue light screen right before bed is a sure way to wake up my serotonin!
  • I go to sleep at the same time on as many nights as possible. I didn’t do this last night as I was talking with my family about my life here in France. I will get back to my earlier bed time tonight. It’s a conscious decision. I don’t like doing this. I would much rather stay up and hang out with friends, but that won’t help me stay stable. An early bedtime will.
  • I take medications when needed. Last night was a dumb move on my part! Talking with my family in the States was essential and we made sure our conversation was fun as everyone in my life knows I can’t do serious talk right before bed, but wow, I needed to take the meds afterwards!

And now for a strategy I use during all of my world travels:

#3 I Determine My Own World View. You decide how you see the world. Not the media, not terrorists and certainly not what your bipolar disorder wants you to believe.  Depression clouds how we see the world as does mania. Knowing who you are in the midst of a bipolar disorder mood swing is the strongest tool I know to manage this illness. I’m an abnormally optimistic person who sees the world as a beautiful place. I know this is my baseline personality. When I start to see the dirt instead of the beauty,  I always check my mood and usually find that I’m depressed. Look around you. How are the stable people in your life managing the latest world crisis? We can learn from stable people- they have boundaries and tend to understand themselves well.

It is possible to see what is happening in our world and still maintain a positive world view.

If you look at it by the numbers, there is more beauty than ugliness in this world. I see it in France every day.

I’d like to share a story on how I maintain my positive world view from the day after the attacks here in Cannes, France where I currently live.  Here is what I wrote in the moment as I posted the following picture on Facebook:

Something beautiful from the South of France. Just 20 minutes away from the tragedies of last night in Nice, beauty is happening right before my eyes. I heard horns honking as I sat in my regular outdoor cafe in Cannes and saw this beautiful image. I ran up to them and said, “My friends in the United States are worried about all of us here. Can I send them your beautiful picture?” They said yes. And look what this lovely man did with his hands!!!
Vive la France!!! We love you and support you France! Julie

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This is the image I take of my life here in France and it’s one I will return to when my mind wanders towards the dark side of our world. I hope you can hold this image in your heart as well- just as the amazing man in this picture is holding us in his hands.

Julie

Here is a bit of French for those who enjopy the language.

Je suis heureux de vivre en France.  Cette image est la vraie beauté de la France. Les gens sont la vraie France! Les habitants de #Nice sont dans mon cœur. J’aime la France! Vive la France! Julie

You can read more about my books on my website. You can follow me on Facebook at Julie A. Fast. I’m on Twitter @JulieBipolar.

Watch Out for Summer Mania in Bipolar Disorder!

 

Remember:

Depression says: I can’t do anything.

Mania says:   I can do EVERYTHING!

Mania peaks in the summer here in the USA.  That  means that hospitalizations for mania peak in the summer. Think of your past or the past of someone you care about. Is mania a concern? Do you have a plan?

It’s so important to know the signs of mania. If you have the Health Cards or Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, now is the time to get out your Mania Health Card and set up a plan before potential mania starts.
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Accepting New Family Member and Partner Coaching Clients

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(A note from Julie: I specialize in crisis coaching that eventually becomes a management plan for the whole family. My work is extremely discrete. I never share my client list and offer help even when change feels impossible. Over half of my coaching work now involves helping family members and partners understand the effects of marijuana on bipolar disorder. You are not alone. Coaching works.)

***

Many years ago, I started coaching partners and family members of people with bipolar disorder as an addition to my writing career.

I never thought I would find work that I enjoy as much as I enjoy coaching. I feel at home with the parents and partners as I have been where they are- and I remain calm during the crises that many of my clients are going through while we are working together. Bipolar disorder is like a puzzle. It’s not always easy to find the right pieces on your own. It helps to have a coach as a guide.

My coaching practice has room for new clients. I take new clients about once a month-and then help them as best I can. It’s a partnership that saves relationships and often lives.

Coaching is not for everyone, but if you are concerned about your relationship with a person with bipolar disorder, it may be a good fit for you. The following link will tell you more. I look forward to talking.

Julie Fast Family and Partner Coaching

Julie

 

PS: My work often involves custody cases, loved ones in the justice system, helping loved ones get into the hospital, problems with loved ones who have a substance abuse problem and many more situations that require extreme discretion.

 

Bipolar and Depressed?

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Signs that you might need some help for bipolar disorder depression: 
– You have not been out of the house in a few days.
– Getting out of bed is difficult and on some days impossible. 
– You’re not eating, brushing your teeth or shaving.
– The phone rings, but you CAN’T answer it.
– You’re binge watching TV shows and you feel really, really guilty about it. 
People are worried about you.
 
Your regular self leaves the house, brushes his teeth, feeds the animals, goes to work, interacts with the world and looks forward to life. That person has disappeared.
 
Depression is INSIDIOUS.  It creeps up on us and day by day sucks the life out of our lives. We must fight this by taking action. Right now, if the above describes you, please know you are not alone. Depression is a nasty, walking dead succubus that you can fight.
 
If you have bipolar disorder, it’s normal to have depression. If you have depression, it’s normal to have the above symptoms.
 
What do you need to do right now to get help? Answer that phone? Shave just to show yourself that you are human damn it and this illness will NOT take over your life for another day? Call a suicide hotline? Call a friend? Please feel free to visit me on my Facebook page at Julie A. Fast. If you ask for help here,  you will get some help from people who understand.
 
If you love someone with bipolar depression and are not sure what to do, you can visit Facebook and ask for help. You can also contact me regarding coaching through my coaching page on my JulieFast.com website. 
 
Julie
I wrote my book Get it Done When You’re Depressed to help us get out of bed and get on with our lives. We can get better.
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Dream Big and Keep Bipolar Disorder in Mind

IMG_9459My next column for Bp Magazine focuses on dreaming big within the confines of bipolar disorder. It’s not a fun topic. I want to say- Dream big and anything is possible! But I don’t think that’s true. I believe those of us with bipolar disorder have to be honest with what the illness lets us do. Then we can set goals and reach dreams in a realistic way.
 
This DOESN’T mean you can’t do great and amazing things.
 
It means that bipolar disorder needs to be a part of the process.
 
How this illness reacts to my actions determines what I can do in my life. I’ve tried to live differently. I haven’t always respected what bipolar disorder will do if I make decisions without thinking of bipolar disorder at the same time. My recent move to France for a year was built on a bipolar disorder plan. Nothing is left to chance. I have still been ill for months, but I’m here!
 
I’m using my photography to keep myself focused when the mood swings are raging. A few days ago when I was on the bus, I saw a French flag peeping out from a side street. I said to myself, “Be bold Julie! The next time you’re on the bus, go down that street and see what pictures you might find!” Here is the result. I got off the bus at a different stop!
 
Julie

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We need to talk: Violent Behavior in People with Mental Health Disorders

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Violence in Mental Health: I was just contacted by a US journalist regarding my opinion on the latest violent killing in Florida. I told her what I tell everyone. These killers have something in common- and it’s not a hate group or terrorism.
 
It’s mental health disorders.
 
I have studied violent behavior in mental health for many years including being honest with myself about my own violent mental health symptoms when I’m in a mood swing from my bipolar disorder. This is not only a gun issue- the person who did something similar in China used knives and in Sweden, a sword.
 
We have to WAKE UP and listen to what family members say about the person who committed the violent act. They speak of mental instability, drug use, problem relationships and failed psychiatric care.
 
I will speak up. I am not scared to tackle this. We have a violence in mental health problem that we are scared to address. If you look at ALL of the lone killers in the US in just the past few years, they all have something in common:
 
….failed psychiatric treatment.
 
People with mental illnesses are not inherently violent. When we are stable, we are regular people. But when our symptoms go untreated and we add drugs such as steroids or high THC marijuana to the mix, we are an internal bomb waiting to go off. That is terrorism of a very different kind.
 
There is no need to tell me that I’m wrong or that I’m painting all of us with the same brush. I’m giving an opinion from personal experience through myself and hundreds of clients. I have incredible compassion for the families who try to help people with obvious mental health concerns: families who are stopped cold by a system than no longer works. 
 
In my life, in my daily work and obviously in the news, I see a problem in MY COMMUNITY that we are not addressing correctly.
 
Mental illness needs treatment. Let’s join together and change the laws such as HIPPA and help family members get help for people who are ill and potentially dangerous. Then groups such as ISIS will not be able to recruit and perpetrate terrorism through people who are mentally unstable.
 
Julie
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