Today (March 30) is World Bipolar Day (WBD). It’s one of my favorite days of the year! Why? Because WBD is 24 hours of spreading awareness and eliminating social stigma of bipolar disorder around the entire world. Why is WBD so important to me? It’s important to me because I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder seven years ago (although I have been living with it my entire life) and I know first-hand what the other 27 million people worldwide living bipolar disorder are experiencing.
World Bipolar Day is an initiative of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD). It is celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder. The vision of WBD is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminate social stigma. Through international collaboration, the goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness.
**May involve triggers for some.
Last year was the first time I participated in WBP. I shared my story of living with bipolar disorder on my blog. I also recently shared my story of why bipolar disorder has made my life better on StigmaFighters.com. I’m super excited to participate this year as the social media manager of Instagram for the International Bipolar Foundation. It is an honor and a huge pleasure to volunteer with IBPF and to connect with so many amazing individuals through the Instagram account!
Below are a few of the steps I took (and feelings I experienced) going from diagnosis to getting help to stability. **Please note: I am not a mental health professional and do not diagnose, treat, or cure any medical conditions. I am simply offering my own opinions based on my personal experience.
| THE DIAGNOSIS |
It can be pretty scary and overwhelming being diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or any mental health condition). If you’re anything like me, you were alone, had no one to talk to, and didn’t really know what the next step was. My entire life changed during a 20 minute evaluation. Truthfully, my life had been that way for as long as I can remember. The mood swings, the anxiety, the hyperactivity, the depression, the self-harm, and mostly, how different I was from all my friends. But once that actual diagnosis came, once it was said out loud, it could never be taken back (no takesie backsies on this one!). It was time for me to figure out my next steps and get the help I needed.
| TELLING YOUR LOVED ONES |
To be honest, I don’t remember telling my family. I don’t remember what I said or their responses. Truthfully, I can’t remember if I ever officially told them. My older brother was diagnosed bipolar II five years before I was, but he did not continue with treatment. I don’t think I was necessarily worried about what my parents would think; I think I just probably forgot. Totally not the best way to go about it, but I was a mess during diagnosis. I regret not formally telling my parents and loved ones. There were many years of frustration, misunderstanding, pain, and helplessness that I now feel could have been prevented by being open, vulnerable, and honest.
If and when you are ready to share your diagnosis with your loved ones, I recommend being open with them. Don’t just talk to them, talk with them- like a conversation almost. Allow them to ask questions, and steer away from becoming defensive. One thing I always have to remember is not to get angry when they don’t understand what I’m saying. That’s going to happen. Remember, not many people know details about bipolar disorder, and even if they do, they generally have absolutely no idea what you are going through. That is not their fault, and no one wants to place blame. If the conversation becomes overwhelming or too stressful, let them know you need to take a break and remove yourself from the room. Share only what you want to share. If there are things you are uncomfortable talking about (i.e. mania can sometimes cause hyper-sexuality), then leave that out. You can always share it later if you choose. However, I recommend sharing the major bullet points so they have a good idea of what to look for and what will happen. Even if you are afraid or nervous, remember that it’s crucial to have that support, and this will help you in the long run.
I also recommend creating a WRAP Plan (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). This plan will help you to identify triggers, early warning signs, etc along with crisis planning and so on. It helps you to better manage your disorder, and it helps loved ones recognize what is happening and what to do next. Find a blank WRAP Plan here.
| GETTING HELP |
Getting help is crucial. In my opinion, it’s absolutely necessary if you want to get better. “Help” does not mean or look the same for everyone. Various ways to receive help are:
- support group
- online forums
- energy healing
There are countless other ways to reach stability, but these are ones I’ve personally tried as well as others in the community. I want to add that balanced nutrition and exercise are very important for stability. The physical body is as important as the mind, and vice versa. They are completely intertwined.
| TREATMENT IS DIFFERENT FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL |
Not everyone will follow the same path to stability. Some people refuse to take medication, so they will follow a more holistic approach (energy healing, hypnotherapy, etc). Others might not like talking with someone of “higher authority” and therefore choose to forego therapy. The most important thing to remember is that it truly is different for everyone. I cannot stress this enough. I see people on forums (be wary of the internet; opinions should not be confused with medical professional advice) telling others to never take medication and to replace it with marijuana or herbal remedies (I saw this two days ago). While those may be great options, telling someone to not take medication is unsafe.
Other times, people push medication on others by saying, “Lamictal is bad, you should take Prozac” or whatever. Firstly, “you should” shouldn’t be used at all. It’s rude and wrong to tell someone what they should or should not do. You can offer advice, but not tell someone what they must do. Secondly, each person will have a different reaction to a medication. Our brains are wired differently; none of us are the same. So our medications, therapists, healing will be completely different. For example, I do really well with Lamictal. However, for some, they develop a severe skin rash from Lamictal and cannot take it. Some people (like my brother) can take Celexa and feel better. When I take Celexa, I get nauseous and dizzy.
The point is: find a psychiatrist and a therapist. Form a support group (friends, family, online, community, etc). Work on yourself; learn how to practice self-love and care (I owe most of my stability to this). Explore all options, and if something doesn’t work for you, then move on. I never thought I’d see a hypnotherapist for healing, but now I absolutely love it. Be open, be honest, be vulnerable. It is all a part of the journey.
| STABILITY |
I can happily say that I am stable, and have been since October 2013. I’ve had a few mini depressive episodes, but they only lasted a few days. Usually my episodes last about 8 months. Once you reach stability, remember that it will not stay forever. That sounds negative, but if you’re receiving treatment, it’s okay. For example, I began experiencing severe daily mood swings, along with anger and irritability. I met with my psychiatrist and we determined that I needed to be on a mood stabilizer (I was taking only an anti-depressant, which isn’t the best choice for those with bipolar – can cause mania). I’ve had to adjust my dosages every so often. I currently take Lamictal, Zoloft, Trazodone (for insomnia), and Vyvanse (for ADHD). I see my psychiatrist once a month and my therapist once a week. Together, we are able to recognize when an episode is coming. By doing so, we are able to prevent the episode more easily and effectively.
I see my team of doctors, receive hypnotherapy and energy healing, have a support system of friends, family, and my boyfriend. I have a puppy who I am training to be my bipolar support dog, I practice yoga, I write, I get outside every day, and I take a break when I am stressed. These things as a whole have helped me reach stability.
Find what works for you & embrace it. Embrace your disorder. It will bring you creativity, passion, and empathy on a much higher level. When it becomes almost too much to bare, remember that it will pass.
You are a bipolar warrior. And you are perfect, exactly as you are in this moment.
- Have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or any form of mental health condition? What helps you find stability?
- What aspects of your disorder do you find positive and wonderful? (Don’t say ‘nothing’.. there has to be SOMEthing!)
- What would you change about the steps I provided? What would you add?
Comment below! 🙂
If you have any questions or concerns, find me on social media or use the contact form below to send me an email!