is never easy, especially if that illness is invisible to everyone around you. I think that the biggest struggle I have had with bipolar is misconceptions. Everyone has an idea of what it is and how to deal with it and often the advise has been less than helpful. I understand that people mean well so I take it with a smile and a grain of salt and go my way; because of this I don’t like to lead people by the hand. What works for me may not work for you, I just want you to realize that you aren’t alone in your struggle.
I think since we are all different it is best that we realize what works for us and proceed accordingly. My stories here are not a “must do” they are to make you think and try things until you find what works for you. My past 10 or so years has been a series of trial and error scenarios. I kept what worked for me and discarded those things that didn’t and I didn’t rigidly hold onto those things that did work. An illness, just like the rest of your life, is going to be in a constant state of change and so you need to be willing to change things when it is necessary.
First and foremost…take your meds, keep your doctor appointments, and follow doctors orders. It is imperative that you do so. They are not the enemy, they have your best interest at heart, and if you find that it isn’t a good match (whether it be a personality conflict or just your gut instinct telling you something is off) then find a new healthcare provider. I have gone through several and finding the right fit can make a world of difference.
Secondly…help your doctor help you. Be pro-active and educate yourself on your condition. Ask questions, ask for material on your illness, ask if there is a support group; gathering information and support is crucial to success. Make friends with the nurses. They spend more time with you and other patients than the doctors can and they are a veritable cornucopia of information because of this. They may know of a patient that started a support group or comes to the doctor on the same day as you and is looking to carpool on appointment days. They can also help with medication questions that we may have forgotten to ask the doctor or pharmacist.
Third point…know yourself. I am aware that there are people out there that come out of the womb knowing exactly who they are, and what they want out of life but they tend to be the exception and not the rule. Take a personality test, not the fun ones that are floating around FaceBook but an actual personality test like Myers-Briggs or Enneagram. You can find free tests by doing a Google or Chrome search. Just a hint…take these tests on a day when you are stressed or not feeling well. Your results will be more accurate and please do not answer the questions with anyone in mind but you. That means no to pondering, “How would so and so want me to answer this,” or some variation thereof.
Last but not least…do not judge yourself harshly. You are fighting a battle that many don’t have to, and there will be some very stressful times…which is why I found knowing my personality type helpful. Knowing how you tick (and what ticks you off), and why is amazing information to have, if you can understand your strengths and weaknesses you can come up with a game plan on how to deal with anything. It was also nice, for me, to understand that some of my personality quirks that others deemed part of my bipolar disorder were actually just me and allowed me to put “fixing them” on the back burner…if at all. Sometimes what others may think and try to convince us is a weakness in ourselves is often our greatest strengths.
For those of you that are dealing with Bipolar or you are a friend or family member of someone with this diagnosis here is a list of books I found helpful:
1). the Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide by David J. Miklowitz, PhD
2). An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
3). Mindfulness for Bipolar Disorder by William R. Marchand, MD
4). Bipolar Disorder Demystified by Lana R. Castle
5). The Pill Book by Harold M. Silverman
Remember that You have the Power to successfully deal with anything that Life can throw at you!
Photo taken by Pamela with Nikon 5300 DSLR. Lotus, lotus pond at Kesar Bhagh, Rajasthan, India.