Everyone who has a mental illness experiences it differently, even if they have the exact same Dx. And each of us responds to the medications and therapies differently, even if we take the exact same treatment. Over the course of the last 15 years I’ve taken more medications than I remember (they’re written down somewhere) and had a handful of therapists who had different ways of helping me to treat my symptoms.
But there’s no cure for this. There is a kind of remission, a place we can get to where things are “as normal as normal gets” for us, but right now there’s no magic pill that just takes it all away. I think that’s ok.
I have a need for regularity and routine to keep me going in a forward direction. Some of the choices I made in the past have resulted in long term memory issues and that makes things a bit more challenging for me sometimes, but I just don’t know how to quit. I am a born fighter and let me tell you, when the time comes I’m going to go down swinging.
In the spirit of sharing what works for me because it might just help you, here’s some random stuff that seems to make my life a little easier. This is in no way meant to be taken as gospel or medical advice or anything like that. Think of it as the random sort of stuff a friend might tell you over a cup of whatever it is you like to drink.
Thing One: SLEEP. This is huge for me because a lack of sleep will bring on hypomania and potentially full on mania and that is just no damn good for someone with bipolar disorder. I have done my best to make the bedroom a very calm and quiet place. There is no TV in there, I have a black-out shade on the window, I keep the ceiling fan running year round, comfortable sheets, I play white noise on an app on my phone, and I use the bed for only sleeping and “quality” time with Lancelot. I allow myself plenty of time in which to get 8 hours of sleep knowing full well that I likely won’t get quite that much every night.
Thing Two: TREATMENT. For me this includes a psychiatrist to prescribe medication and a therapist to help with coping skills. The practice I go to includes both of those providers and they talk to each other about what’s going on with me, because they need to. My illness requires both medication management and therapy and this is something that over the last 15 years I’ve come to realize and I rely on it. I know that there are people who can manage their illnesses without medication; each of us is different. I hope that you all know that if you need help it is 100% fine to ask for it.
Thing Three: GET TO KNOW YOURSELF. Self-awareness is really just huge as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been working on this for awhile now and it’s sometimes really hard. But I know when I start craving certain things or avoiding certain things that it’s a sign from my brain that either something is really wrong, or I need to change up a routine. For example, sometimes all it takes to reboot my mood is to move things around in my office. We affectionately refer to this as “shit shifting” and it is by far my favorite way to redecorate. I also know that when my body tells me I’m too tired, I really am too tired and I need to slow down. This whole glorification of being busy and exhausted and everyone having a “side hustle” is just awful and it needs to stop. Slow down already, relaxing is not only good it’s important.
Thing Four: DO STUFF THAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. I need to make sure we all understand what this means, because it does not mean getting drunk or chemically altered or anything that is destructive, unless you’re thinking about destroying the dust bunnies under the bed or something like that. What I mean is that it’s important to have something you like you do that you feel good doing. For some people this is baking, for others it’s wood working, hell it could even be playing video games. For me it’s usually knitting. There’s value, lots of value, in taking time every day to do things that make you feel good about your skills and yourself.
Thing Five: PICK YOUR BATTLES. Not every hill is worth dying on, and sometimes it is entirely essential to surrender so that you can rest and rally the troops (that would be you) so that you’ll be ready to fight again tomorrow. There is no shame at all in calling for a time out if you need one. Take a day off work, ask your partner/spouse/friend to do a chore for you if you can’t, order delivery food, just be gentle with yourself so that tomorrow you can go back to being the amazing badass that you are.
Finally, know that even though we don’t all experience these illnesses and challenges the same way, we’ve all kind of been “there” and I for one am always happy to lend an ear to listen and a shoulder for crying on. Please don’t ever be ashamed about the fight you’re fighting.
And just so I don’t end this on a giant ol’ bummer, here is a very cute critter picture.