“I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder about 13 years ago, after the birth of my youngest daughter. I had what’s called peripartum onset. The birth of my daughter triggered my bipolar symptoms.
I’m also a recovering alcoholic. Initially, I used alcohol to self-medicate. And with the help of bipolar mania, I quickly lost all control. But I just celebrated seven years of sobriety. It would have been nine, but I drank one stinking day. And guess what? One day counts. Bipolar disorder affects every aspect of my daily life. This is difﬁcult for even the most supportive person to understand. It seems that many tasks take me longer than the average person to complete. This can be extremely frustrating.
I struggle with concentration and lately, my energy levels have become unpredictable. I also struggle with transitions of every kind, season changes and even transitioning from sleep to wake and wake to sleep. Getting out of bed each morning is terribly difﬁcult, but once I make it out I’m ﬁne. Too ﬁne. In fact, I feel as though I could stay awake forever. And ever so often I allow myself to pull an all-nighter. Not smart. Lack of sleep is one of the hypomania’s biggest triggers. Getting enough sleep is the best self-care step we can take for ourselves.
Thanks to bipolar, I’m still paying for an interior design degree that I was only able to use for about four years. But four years is better than zero. Anxiety overtakes me every time I try to work. I also live with suicidal ideations and continue to battle self-injury from time-to-time. My biggest trigger for each of these is bipolar mixed states. When in a mixed state it’s difﬁcult not to allow the darkness to absorb me. As odd as it sounds, the familiarity of it can be comforting. So I have to push myself to be around positive people, rather than isolate. And also, to not listen to dark music. Or my mind goes to a dark and demented place real fast.
But what I appreciate about having bipolar disorder is the creativity. And I feel that it’s allowed me a unique perspective on life. It’s taught me not to always trust my thoughts. Not everything that crosses our minds is worthy of being entertained.
What’s helped me most since my diagnosis? Psychotherapy. I love it, it’s changed my life. Medication, I see a psychiatrist regularly and take medication, but I realize this is a very personal choice.
Build a coping toolbox, learning as many healthy coping strategies as possible, and the proper ways to implement them. Along with purging old ones that don’t serve us well, or even harm us. Build a group of supportive friends and family, I’ve had to accept that sadly, not all of my friends and family members are supportive and understanding. So I’ve selectively noted which ones are so that when I need someone, I know who to call. Ask for help when I need it.
We all need help from time-to-time, and that’s okay. The ability to ask for help when we need it is actually a sign of emotional maturity and mental strength. Adhere to a routine, bipolar disorder is thought to be a circadian rhythm disorder and those of us with bipolar disorder already have disrupted circadian rhythms. Sticking to a regular routine, especially a regular sleep/wake schedule can help us maintain mental stability.”
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