Know your Bipolar
- Know everything about Bipolar.
Read, as much as you can, learn about your illness. You are Diagnosed probably after an episode, being unwell. Episodes may include times of mania and depression. You’re either in hospital or just got discharged. You may have thoughts of being doomed to a life with bipolar. (I looked at it this way for a long time). You’ve possibly have lost your job or dropped your studies, now what do you do with your life? You’ve been wondering for years why you are different. You don’t understand what you are going through and sometimes in denial that you have Bipolar.
Mostly you just need some sort of validation that you’re suffering from Bipolar Disorder. The internet can provide you with that. So yes, feel free to Google what you’re going through. There are numerous sites which provide what you need to start on: E.g. lists of symptoms and as well as forums where you can read up on challenges you may face. Health sites to visit include are those who focus on Bipolar.
Doing research is an important first step as it validates what you are going through. This is important to understand. You need to go through the acceptance phase of yes, I experience these symptoms. It also helps to take time to process what you are going through- Understand your diagnosed and what is to come. More importantly what can you do to cope in the best way.
Your medical practitioner is also a great source of information. Tap into this resource as much as possible. Ask for brochures and study them. Make a few notes that you can refer to and know your experience.
This is something to do each day to monitor how you are feeling and a good gage as to when your moods are changing, this will enable you to make changes early on and not slip into depression. Today one can download many different apps to help you. There is Brainwave Tuner, Daylio where each day you will mark down how your day went. There is an app called Sound Sleep that plays music to help you get to sleep. Have fun with the different apps and decide which you like.
- Find virtual friends
So, now that you know what you’re going through, you may want to find some people who share what you experience. There are millions of sufferers so be sure to find comfort in knowing that you do not suffer alone. This alone will make you feel better.
In the same breath, it’s important to note that not all sufferers are the same. They are unique, just like you and so it can take a while before you gel with a group who you identify with. You know that special group of friends who know exactly what you’re going through, get all of you. You may not all be on the same medication or have the same backgrounds, especially because most of them will be bloggers from all over the world but will bring you together through your illness this illness.
Your virtual friends will encourage you to write either by commenting on their blogs or forums or encouraging you to write about your own experience. Writing is therapy and you don’t need to be a professional writer to express how you feel. There is a place where you can share without you having to share in a physical group, so there is less stress.
- Join support groups This one may take some time.
This may be a little more daunting to do. So, take your time with this step if you need to. Going to a support group adds a local context to your illness. You may find that speaking about your life is a bit much to handle, so request that you just listen in for a little while. You may be surprised how easily the urge to speak comes when you hear how you can relate to almost everyone’s stories at the meeting.
Local context will make it easier for you to learn about things like medications, medical practitioners and psychiatric facilities in your area. As a bonus, they’ll be able to relate to other topics besides mental illness, like politics and other things happening in your area perhaps. We don’t only need to relate to mental illness to connect at a support group.
- Decide whether to Tell family and friends or not. (be Comfortable in your skin)
This is a big one: to disclose or not. It’s really a personal decision which focuses on who you are as a person and whether you are ready to deal with the consequences of disclosing or not disclosing. There are consequences to both!
People who need to know are your supporters. They are the people who you see daily, and you help support you to function well. These are people like your parents, your partner or a very close friend. They need to be educated on the illness as well, so they can help you.
Their job is to understand your experience and support you making sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes, but is also not limited to, ensuring you take your medication, trying to alleviate stress for you and being able to identify the signs that caution your next episode. These are the people who know, possibly before you are even aware of it, that you are unwell. Steps can then be taken to adjust your medication etc.
Socially, your life may change after your diagnosis. You should be staying away from alcohol and maintaining a good sleep cycle, so social gatherings can be a challenge. This is especially true if maybe you were the ‘life’ of the party. This is where part of the challenge of disclosure comes in.Do you give reasons for abstaining from alcohol or do you vanish socially. Do you worry that they will not understand? Does having a mental illness worry you as people might not understand. Do you fear losing them? This is the one that troubled all people diagnosed in the eighties as the stigma of having Bipolar was hard to deal with for anyone?
These are all things that you’d need to think about and decide for yourself. Regardless of these questions, your health and well-being take priority. This may mean setting boundaries, both for you and for others, regarding your health. An important question to ask is, why should I keep my illness a secret, its an illness it’s not who I am. That’s why I called my book I have Bipolar, Bipolar isn’t me.
- Find yourself without illness.
This part of the guideline can happen at any point of the above steps. When your start redefining your boundaries, you’re creating a new version of yourself. Besides that, you need to redefine who you are separate to the illness. This part of the journey may take the longest and all depends on you. As someone with experience in achieving a lot when manic, it may take you years to separate who you are other than the illness. You may discover parts of your character while writing or interacting with others at a support group. Or just have conversations with your supporters or carers. They see who you are beyond your illness.
If you know who YOU are, minus the illness, you’re likely to feel more in control and be better equipped to manage your illness.