I’m very open about having Bipolar Disorder and feel no shame. It’s a serious medical condition that has to be managed daily in order to stay healthy. I’ve been doing very well for several years but had a rough patch a few years ago that took 8 months to find a medication that would work.
That is one of the biggest challenges. Medication will stop working after some period of time and there is no standard handbook on what drugs to prescribe. At that time I was in bad shape, not suicidal but very dark. It took four different medications before he found one that worked.
I’m very lucky to have had the same doctor for over 30 years and it makes all the difference. He knows me, knows my limits, and knows when I can make decisions on my own with medication.
As an example, for the past two months, I’ve been having a problem with tongue thrusting, it was driving me crazy and making my teeth hurt. It didn’t occur to me that it might be medication but I contacted him anyway. He had me stop one of my stimulant medications and I’m doing better. I also take three stimulants a day so I cut it back to two a day just for now to see if that helps speed things along. I only did this after research that said that stimulant medication can cause this problem. I can’t go without that extra pill for long but for a week or so I will deal with the sluggishness to see if it helps. He trusts me to know my limits and will be ok with me skipping for a week or so. I can only do this because I’m healthy, if I were in bad shape I would not make this decision.
I’ve had my hard years, many hard years, multiple times. I’ve had 21 Electroconvulsive Treatments and have stayed in-patient at a Psychiatric hospital several times for up to three weeks at a time. Those were hard times and I’m so thankful for my healthy years.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 19 years old but didn’t take it seriously until my father committed suicide. When I started doing research I found that 75% of children of parents with Bipolar Disorder who committed suicide would commit suicide themselves I took action.
Staying healthy with a serious mental illness is a full-time job requiring patience, determination, and self-love. I say self-love because that is what you have to have to make sure you’re doing your daily routine and you forgive yourself when you don’t. You have to give yourself a pass and get back on track with your regimen.
Mine consists of nine medications for a total of 15 pills a day, this is not counting medication for other chronic conditions. If I don’t take my medication it causes problems because several of them are addictive drugs and you feel the withdrawal effects right away. I can skip a day, maybe two then my mood begins to spiral down and the withdrawal symptoms start to make me crazy.
I have found that keeping medication in an AM/PM case and close to the bed for bedtime medication is the best way to stay in sync. I try to take all medication at the same time a day and have my medication case right by my chair where I always sit. For me, habits are the best way to manage my medication.
Having a serious medical condition requires you to be honest with the people around you, your loved ones, and close friends. With mental illness, it’s important because oftentimes we can’t see the changes in our mood, and someone else can pick up on the changes.
I know it can be hard to talk about your illness with family and friends, I’ve had the same problem. My Granny couldn’t understand why I couldn’t come over or why I had to go to the hospital. I did the best I could to help her understand that it was the illness, not me.
I told my husband when we first started dating because my ex-husband didn’t believe anything was wrong with me and it caused many problems, ending in divorce. I wanted him to know what he was getting into and if he wasn’t able to take that on we could get it out upfront not a year down the road.
It can be very frustrating and limiting at times but try to embrace your illness like any other chronic health condition by taking your medication, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and not over-focusing on the negative or hard aspects of the illness.
I feel it’s critical to set up an environment conducive to being healthy. You have to be honest with yourself and cut out the aspects of your life that are holding you back. Negative talk is a big one, if you think negatively about your illness, you will think negatively about yourself.
You are not your illness!