If you have been diagnosed with bipolar, the first thing which may spring to my mind is that your life is over. You will never have a normal life again. But you will. Bipolar a mental illness, will impact your life, but you will learn how to manage it, and it takes time.
I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder since 2002, and over the years, I have learned how to handle it. I still need treatment. This does not go away, but I can spot signs and symptoms of when my illness is either heading downwards towards depression or skywards to mania.
You will learn the signs too, but it takes time, and you can still have a normal life. Since I was diagnosed, I have raised a son, been in a couple of long-term relationships, met a prime minister, had stories published. I was a marketing manager and tried to study for a degree, it didn’t work out, but I tried and plenty of other things that others would deem successful. I did it all with bipolar.
If you are being diagnosed at a young age, please don’t view it as a life sentence of despair; it is not. Many times you are in between stages and these are when you carry on as normal, go to work, do a bit of shopping train at the gym or park, you the know the stuff other people do.
When You Are Different
However, there are times when your illness will come out of hiding, and you will experience the darkest of the moment or the highest of moments, and both of these could land you in hospital if you are not aware of the signs before they actually start.
I can tell you what my signs are, and they will probably be different to yours. But when I’m getting depressed, I start sighing a lot, and when I’m starting to go hypomanic, I stop eating, sleeping and start spending money like it is water.
Bipolar a mental illness of two halves, but there is also rapid cycling, where you fluctuate between states in a single hour or day. This is a perilous phase of the illness, and you seek medical attention as soon as possible to get some medication in your system.
I know I need emergency services when I am like this, as I am likely to try and do myself in. But if I’m too far gone, I just hope my family recognise the symptoms. This brings me to the point you need to tell people about your diagnosis because you need them to look out for you when you are incapable.
Tell your family and tell your friends. It is tricky when you are newly diagnosed as you will not know your mental illness signals, but as your illness progresses, you will learn. Write a list of everything you can remember you did before you were diagnosed. Did you sleep around, spend copious amounts of money, take ridiculous risks with your life? Did you have suicidal thoughts, was your sleep lacking and were you suffering insomnia? Did your appetite change or increase?
These questions need to be answered so you can work out your own mental health plan. Yes, our brain is unhealthy compared to the average person, but they probably have problems we don’t know about. Everyone has mental health; it’s just ours has moments of unhealthiness.
If you are unsure what the symptoms of bipolar are, check out the list, I have provided. Work through this and see if you can find any signals which lead to your diagnosis. Maybe you started depressed and took anti-depressants and then went into a manic phase. If this is the case, then you are not alone; this happens to me with anti-depressants.
Bipolar a Mental Illness Needs Meds
Bipolar needs a stabiliser medication, and they are all trial and error. I have had to go through countless medications to get the combination right; in fact, I think I have been on most of them. But your psychiatrist or doctor will prescribe a mood stabiliser or an antipsychotic, the latter is not the best of names, and whenever I learn I am on one of these, it always makes me feel as though they think I am a crazed loon; it is what it is though an unfortunate name.
You can thrive with bipolar a mental illness that is full of opportunity. There is no one like a hypomanic person for getting a job done quickly and with enthusiasm. In fact, when I am hypomanic, it is when I am most productive as a writer.
The downside is my bank balance, and I don’t think I have ever been out of debt for the whole of my life. I’m always paying back what I have overspent on. But I’d rather be spending money than risking my body, which is what I used to do in my late twenties before diagnosis. I was a bit of a wild child. I have no regrets as it was my illness that made me behave in dangerous ways.
But the good news is, life does still go on, and with various therapies, you can learn to live a full life. Yes, you have to take precautions and know your limits, but by going through your history and looking for the signs, you can take the blinkers off your condition and progress quicker than I did.
I hope you see it is not the end of the world; you will be living life in a different lane to others, occasionally joining them at a roundabout and then taking new adventures. You can lead a pretty normal life with medication, and eventually, the highs will become less, and the lows will lessen; they won’t disappear altogether. Still, the older I get, the easier it is to deal with them. Instead of when I was younger, trying to take my life or self-harm seemed to be the answer. It is not anymore; I know it will pass.
What Is My Life Like Now
I still get unwell, and at the time of writing, I am just starting to come out of a hypomanic phase that has lasted on and off for about four months. In that time, I have created several more websites, wrote a copious amount of content, started a magazine, and spent a lot of money, namely, on a laptop and a new bed for my son, which does not sound a lot. Still, I do not have a lot of money, and I had to get them on credit.
Which means I now have to pay it back. It is always the same; I go hypomanic and then spend the next few years repaying the episode.
Aside from this, I am doing OK; my productivity levels have gone down, which means my new medication, Aripiprazole, is starting to affect my manic phase. Although not a true mania, hypomania is when I am most productive, as everything is super-clear and achievable. This is a nice feeling, but I am also aware it can lead to full mania, so I have to ask for an increase in medication to avoid this.
My daily life consists of writing, housework (occasionally), reading and watching formula 1, football and Columbo, maybe a film. I draw the occasional sketch and design t-shirts. I also knit. Not that I’m perfect at knitting, scarves are my limit. I meditate, go for walks, stretch and use aromatherapy carefully to lift brain fog.
I have to have various lists to remind me to do things as I have memory problems, and this also includes self-care checklists to remind me to have a bath etc.
I still have goals and aspirations, the main one being to help people who experience the same as I do, and I hope that my writing will help at least one person in the world. I hope to write a book; I’m in the process now. I hope my son has a long and healthy life. I have a dog also, and he has a lot of my time spent playing various ball games.
I cannot work for another, so I have to rely on myself, and thankfully, I live in the UK, where if I’m too ill, then I can get financial support. As a self-employed writer, most of my days are spent on the laptop, but I have various filters on there to stop the screen from over-stimulating me late at night.
What else can I tell you? Before I became unwell all those years ago, I would have dreamed of having a writing lifestyle, but I would have been too scared to jack my job in, now I have no choice, and the dream I had is now a reality. Every cloud does have a silver lining.
Your silver lining will appear as you grow in experience with bipolar. I hope my experience will show you life goes on, not as you expected, but it will sort itself out, and you can learn to live with the illness rather than have it control you.
Peace & Blessings x