A few months ago I found out that I’ve probably had Mixed State Bipolar disorder most of my life. I was relieved to hear the news. Mental health is a tricky subject and I grew up in a home where we didn’t address our thoughts and feelings either at all or not in the most productive way. Now that I’m older and have control over decisions regarding my well-being, I have spent a wealth of time becoming more in tune to my mental state on a daily basis through rituals, practicing mindfulness, therapy and seeing my psychiatrist on a routine basis.
- We all need sleep. I tend to be manic most of time which meant I spent more of my young adult years moonlight as a sleepless workaholic. I can weeks at time without sleep with little to no effort. While I used to pride myself on this fact, this is actually a horrible, fruitless way to live and I do not recommend it. Sleep directly affects your ability to accomplish work and enjoy life. Take advantage of sleeping in, waking up late and going to be early when you can. I’m envious of most people who can sleep more than two to three hours at time. Be thankful that you can! I have to take medication every night just to get a handful of hours, which is miles ahead of those weeks where I would stay up for nights on end.
- You can’t pray everything away. Now, this is not a slight against religion. I used to be quite religious for a period of time growing up and I now turning back to religion as a part of my wellness routine. When I told my mother I have Bipolar Disorder she told me pray it away. I immediately told her this would not work. We need to get real about mental health. It’s a legitimate topic that most people are in some way shape or form affected by. Being aware of issues that may be going on and being open to talk about them is the first step to feeling better and getting things under control. Deep down, we all just want to feel ok.
- Your well-being probably makes other people uncomfortable. Let it. This is not to say that others do not care about how you are doing, but once you really start to tune into how you are really doing and feeling, expressing that to others who are not on similar journeys often times feel uncomfortable to them. I’m a very vocal and open person and mental health isn’t a widely accepted topic for a lot of people. We aren’t all comfortable talking about our feelings and how we are feeling in various moments… and that’s ok! I have had to learn to pick and choose who I share my experience with and just be proud of me for all the healthy changes I have had to make. You cannot and should not include everyone on your path to mental wellness.
- Taking medication/ taking care of yourself affects all other areas of your life. This is similar to my tip about sleeping. It’s actually insane how much better I feel as a result of taking my medication. I can’t describe to you all the positive changes I’ve been able to make over the past few months. I honestly am an entirely different person. It’s hard to provide more perspective because it’s such a personal experience. If you struggle to make it through daily basic habits, challenge yourself to pick a day and make sure you get that done. On days where I don’t want to get out of bed, I still try to do my best and get up at least once and wash my face.
- Labels can be good. Without knowing I have this disorder, I would not be able to receive the treatment I need. It simply would not have happened. Take back terms that you might feel self-conscience about if you can use them to get the help that you need.
- Most things aren’t that big of a deal. This may be a tough one to take in because I know in the moment it doesn’t feel that way, but it’s true. Being told I had this disorder was a bigger pill to swallow than actually living with it just because it was new information. I am lucky that I have been to figure out a way to manage this one my own all these years and that I do respond well to medication. Because of my mood swings, I would blow everything out of proportion. With a little perspective, I was able to start seeing that most things weren’t worth the mental and emotional energy I was spending on them. I would waste hours sitting up all night and seething during the day about stuff that I don’t even waste 5 minutes on now! Getting that time back means I can focus on other, actually important things.
- Material things cannot mask how you are feeling. I used to be an impulse shopper. Man, could I blow through a few hundred dollars on makeup, food or clothes without thinking about it or really even knowing what I bought. As soon as started to take the right dosage of medication, those habits no longer became of interest to me. Why? I needed to address the root of the issue, which wasn’t my need to buy things. It was the anxiety that I was feeling that made me feel extremely impulsive. I share this to say that it’s quite possible that if you find yourself engaging in habits you don’t like, you maybe wrestling with something emotionally or spiritually that’s not giving you peace of mind. Try to lean into what’s actually bothering you instead of shopping or eating.
- Be kind to yourself. Life is hard. It honestly is. I am incredibly lucky to have been able to get the help and assistance I need as quickly as it happened. Do I wish I received treatment earlier? As a child? You bet I do, but everything happens for a reason. You are stronger than you know and if you can just try to hold on to the fact that things eventually work themselves out, you can find the strength and courage to keep working through the challenges that life is throwing at you. Being kind to myself is probably that toughest thing I have had to learn as it does not come naturally to me. It’s something I have to practice every day and find new ways to deal with things that bother me.