Today it’s March 30th and World Bipolar Day. I am going to talk about Bipolar Disorder and why I am celebrating today and sharing my story with you. I love my brain, my creativity, and my hyperactive personality, but I didn’t always. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 when I was 18. If you had asked any therapist back then what I’d be doing with my life, they would likely say I’d be living in a one-bedroom apartment collecting food stamps and disability. Yet here I am at 45 and doing quite well in spite of their low expectations for me. I want to give hope to people with Bipolar Disorder. I no longer consider my brain a curse, but rather a gift. Bipolar Disorder is manageable with a good attitude, medication (when necessary), and support from family, therapists and friends.
Let’s end the stigma
I didn’t talk openly about having Bipolar Disorder until about five years ago. We have come a long way.Most people are afraid to share their diagnosis because of what other people think. But, you would be surprised to know how many people I know with Bipolar Disorder. People with Bipolar Disorder are not unstable weaklings. They are moms, dads, your sister, your neighbor, your friend. If you are reading this, there is a high chance you know someone with Bipolar Disorder.
Supporting someone who has Bipolar Disorder
Being a friend to someone with Bipolar Disorder means understanding their ups and downs. You don’t have to cheer them up, nor can you. Depression isn’t something people do on purpose. For me the best way to get through a depression cycle is to understand that the feelings are temporary and will pass eventually. Resting and regrouping my energy often get me through a low spell.
If you have a friend with depression talk to them! People don’t actually like to deal with depression. When someone is depressed, people say they will be there. But the truth is, it is hard to be around someone who is depressed. The natural reaction for loved ones is to stop listening. Listening and being there for someone is an act of love. People with a mental illness need a lot of love, reassurance, and support.
You will never see me sharing copy and pastes or suicide numbers. (**This is my personal opinion.) Although I see the value in them, I have never ever, not ever, called a suicide hotline. When I have felt suicidal, the last thing I am doing is thinking clearly enough to talk to someone about it, and I certainly am not googling a hotline number. If you have a loved one with a mental illness, pay attention for signs of depression. Have they suddenly gotten quieter? Reach out to them. You don’t have to give advice, pep talks, or do anything other than let them know you care. The littlest thing can get someone through a bad night or day.
Differences between Bipolar 1 and Biplar 2
Even though Bipolar 1 is less common and the more severe form of Bipolar, I believe Bipolar 2 is often harder to cope with. People with Bipolar 2 have longer episodes of depression and the hypomania episodes are much briefer. If you read the infographic below, you will see that people with Bipolar 2 are more likely to attempt suicide. I believe this is because the depression episodes last so long. My moods rapid cycle, which for me helps. If you know me, you can easily pick up on how quickly my moods change. This makes it easier for me to manage because I know the depression will pass quickly.
How I manage my Bipolar Disorder
What works for me may not work for other people. I started following the ketogenic diet in June 2017. I started the diet out of pure desparation. I have taken nearly every medication for Bipolar Disorder. Lithium is the only medication that helped at all, but my moods still swing on Lithium. Plus, Lithium has a lot of scary side effects including involuntary muscle twitches, hand tremors, hair loss, and sudden kidney failure. Because I have Bipolar 1, I can’t take antidepressants (see infographic below: RE: antidpepressant-induced mania). So this left me with medication that semi-controlled the mania, but did nothing for the depression. The ketogenic diet and therapy have made an enormous difference in my life. That’s why I talk about it so much! I worked with a doctor to wean off my medications, so if you considering this it is imperative you work with a doctor.
So that’s a little about me and Bipolar Disorder. I love my creative energy and drive. I would not be the person I am without the Bipolar Disorder. My oldest son once told me that mania is another word for passion. I love that boy. My energy isn’t something I want killed. I manage my mood disorder with the help of diet, exercise, journaling, blogging, and am amazing support system.