Bipolar Disorder is Episodic… and that’s a positive!

kitten-vampireBipolar disorder is episodic. This means that what you are going through today will not last. I remind myself of this when the mood swings are raging. I take myself back to when I was stable and remember that episodes end.

I work on myself while I am in an episode to get back to stability. It takes the majority of my time.

My work suffers. I isolate. I cry in frustration at what this illness does to me.

But, this is so much better than not helping myself. It’s so much better to know what I am up against than to wonder what is wrong with me.

There is NOTHING wrong with me. I have a physical illness called bipolar disorder and I do what I can do get back to stability when I am sick.

Then I get on with life.

Julie

BP Magazine Article: Bipolar Depression Distortion

julie-car-head-in-hands-2015It takes a lot longer to worry about getting things done than it does to actually finish a project. This is something I’ve taught myself over the years. As I work on my new book, I have to remind myself to his daily. If I let myself, I would worry more than I would write.

Isn’t amazing how this illness can distort our thoughts to the point we don’t even know who we are anymore?

Isn’t it shocking that we can be fine one day and then suddenly the world turns to black and white and all that was once joyful turns to sand?

It blows my mind that I can be someone who doesn’t worry on one day and then wake up and the worry has taken over my life.

Yes. It is amazing. It is shocking.. This illness is pretty darn powerful. This is why I manage it with my plan. I can’t do this on my own. I need a plan for when the thoughts creep in and tell me LIES. Here is an article I wrote for Bp Magazine on the topic.

Click here to read Depression Distortion: 

 

 

 

Positive Changes in Our Bipolar Disorder World

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I’m writing today to share good news about the changes I see in our mental health world. I’ve been rather despondent for years regarding the struggles we all seem to go through due to bipolar disorder. This includes those of us with the illness as well as the families, partners, friends and health care processionals who want to help us live stable and productive lives.

What is the good news?

We all know more help is needed from the outside world, especially in terms of government support and today I see it happening.  If you’re on Facebook, you know they often share old posts where you can see what you in the past. This morning, I saw a post from two years ago where I wrote:

How many more times do we have to say that our mental health system here in the United States is broken before something is done about the problem? It’s catastrophic and I don’t see any change.

We have to take charge and make change happen from our end. Julie 

Well, guess what. I see change! I see the tide turing, the sun glowing and the moon rising. I see conversations I NEVER thought possible two years ago. Here is the positive news.

pot-safety

1. Marijuana and Mental Health Disorders:  I was on the radio last week to talk about high THC marijuana and the risks it MIGHT pose for those of us with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. There was zero backlash. The conversation was moderate and loving. The audience was receptive. We educated without shaming. We offered information without judgement. We changed the world one moment at a time. Now people who have mental health disorders can say to themselves, “If I’m smoking weed to feel better and relax, I can look for a low THC, high CBD strain so I don’t get psychotic or manic.”  This is music to my ears. Bravo!

Note: I choose not to use any form of marijuana as it makes me very ill. I tried it when I broke my back in a biking accident and though it helped my pain, it caused too many bipolar disorder symptoms that I could not tolerate. I now believe in a harm reduction, moderate approach in talking about the topic. I have learned and grown in my crusade to educate the public about high THC marijuana. 

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2. Family and Partner Support Through HIPPA Reform:  HIPPA reform now!  Thanks to the people in politics who have experienced the devastation of trying to help a loved one who is psychotic and or manic get help in today’s society, HIPPA is finally going to change and parents, partners and other people who care will have ACCESS to a person’s medical needs.  (HIPPA is a privacy act that 100% limits access to medical information unless the person receiving the information signs a release. When a person is very manic or psychotic, they will rarely sign the release.)

Note: As a person with bipolar disorder, I’m not able to do advocacy work in public due to the symptoms it creates. I know. It’s a bummer to want to get out there and go political on everyone, but I have to stay stable. Thank you to the amazing people who can advocate for those of us who can’t. I can advocate with my words. I can let others do the walking and talking. 

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3. Mental Health and Violent Behavior:  Two days ago, on NPR- our national public radio station here in the United States, I heard a state governor say, “Until we fix our mental health system, we will not be able to deal with our gun violence.” This is the first time since I started writing about the SILENT majority problem of violent behavior in mental health that I have heard someone say this openly in relation to our shooting epidemic in the United States. Let’s stop trying to tell the world that people with serious mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are not violent. It’s not true. All of us who get manic and psychotic have the capacity for violence. Families should not have to suffer in silence. It’s nuanced. It’s not black and white.

Note: I have been shocked and appalled at the response I have received over the past five years when I talk about possible violent behavior in mental health. It’s as though I said we all have two heads. Many people reading this have been my coaching clients. You know there is violence in mental health because you live it. I know about it because my dysphoric mania makes me have violent thoughts and behaviors. We can tell the truth. 

There are so many positives here.

The above are just three ways I see our world changing in a positive direction. I’m a cock-eyed optimist who will never give up in my quest to educate the world on what those of us with bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders need.

Just two years ago I talked about all of these topics regularly and was bullied and shamed online. (This was rather stressful!)

Now, they are public news.

We are growing and changing. I feel good about this. Social media is working. We are joining hands and telling our reality of living with mental health disorders. People are listening.

Julie

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Bipolar, A Day in the Life of …. Me

sirinA day in the life of me…. All I want to do is write. I want to finish my books, write my Bp Magazine and Psychology Today blogs. I want to make my videos, see my friends and family and get on with life.

Bipolar disorder DOESN’T CARE about any of this.

Bipolar disorder is a very complex illness with incredibly intricate symptoms that weaves its way into every fiber of my being.

Today was a challenge and sometimes when it gets time for bed, all I can do is say thank heavens I made it through another day of this rotten illness.

I am saying thank you now simply because this is my policy. I am thankful I have a management plan that works. Otherwise, today would have been a @#$! storm.

I am thankful for my mother and nephew. They understand me.

I am thankful I have clients who can deal with my emails being a bit late. Bipolar never affects the quality of my work, but it affects my ability to answer email. Go figure!

I am thankful this kind of day isn’t every day anymore. For many years, my life was all bipolar. All of the time.

Now, my life is much better! Today was an aberration.

I can live with a day of bipolar.

Tomorrow, you better watch out because I’m going to get things done!

Julie

The Humdinger Bipolar Downswing

humdinger
My bipolar depression episode has ended. It was three weeks and it was a humdinger. Here is a picture of a humdinger. I can’t stress enough that the BEST thing about bipolar disorder is that it’s an episodic illness. Episodes end. Every day I would wake up and say,
“This is the day I get out of this horrific episode.”
Eventually it worked.
 
I spent at least four to five hours a day working on bipolar disorder management tools I know have worked in the past. Especially the strategies in Get it Done When You’re Depressed.
 
You can get better. Your loved one can get better. Your client can get better. My depressions used to last for years. They now last weeks at the most.
 
Think of reducing the length of your mood swings as a goal. This helps me find success.
 
Julie

Guest Blogger Martin Baker on Bipolar Disorder and Creating Strong Friendships

Martin_Baker_2016High Tide, Low Tide: Our Transatlantic Best Friendship

—by Martin Baker

“I know what you could do, Marty! You could write a book about what it’s like to be friends with someone with bipolar disorder.”

October 2012. The English Lake District. With those words, my American best friend Fran changed my world. Not for the first time. We’d been friends since meeting online the previous May. We would not meet in real life (as they say) until June 2013, but despite living 3,000 miles apart, we’d grown a strong, mutually supportive friendship that had weathered episodes of wild mania, depression, debilitating pain and fatigue, with suicidal thinking never far away.

Fran Houston, my best friend, lives with bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME), and fibromyalgia. These are her diagnoses. They shape her days, but they are not who she is. As we shared our lives through social media, voice, and video calls, we learned what needs to be common knowledge, but isn’t: that caring relationships between “ill ones” and “well ones” are not only possible, but can be deeply and mutually satisfying.

We also learned it doesn’t matter where you are in the world—which is great, because friends and loved ones often live far apart. In the Internet era no one is too far away to be cared for, or to care. That is our message, and it is a message of hope.

Four years on, and our book—High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder—was published. It’s been quite a journey. We hope our book will inspire and inform others who want to support a friend with mental illness. But High Tide, Low Tide is neither the only, nor the greatest, reward.

Fran is still alive. She has told me many times she would not be here if it was not for our friendship. There’s no way to know how true that might be, but I take her words at face value. To some, that might appear to put an inordinate strain on me and our relationship, but it doesn’t. We are not still friends because either of us is afraid of what might happen if we were not. We are friends because we want to be, and because—well or ill—that is how a committed friendship works.

I am more than I was. These five years have challenged me to be the best I can be. More, they’ve helped me discover who I am. I knew little about mental illness, stigma, and discrimination before I met Fran. I knew less about empathy, compassion, and caregiving. I still mess up, of course, with Fran and with other people. But I’ve grown. I am more aware than I was. I am more than I was. I am a better friend, father, and husband—a better man—than I was or would otherwise have become.

I have found my tribe. I never felt I belonged anywhere, outside of my immediate family. I found a best friend, but also the joy of connection with people at home and the world over; people who know how to live genuinely and honestly. That is joy indeed. I have found my voice and discovered I have something to say. I have found my place in the world.

Click here to read more about High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder,  (Nordland Publishing)

About the Author

Living in the north-east of England, Martin Baker is an ASIST trained Mental Health First Aider and Time to Change Champion. A member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mind, and Bipolar UK, Martin is primary caregiver and lifeline to his best friend Fran Houston. Passionate about making invisible illness visible, Fran lives in Portland, Maine.

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