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When a Therapist Assumed I Was Manic Because I Looked Nice That Day

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My most recent therapy session left me feeling discriminated against, unfairly judged and extremely offended. My new therapist, who I had only seen a few times at this point, was the root and cause of these unsavory feelings. As soon as I walked through her door and sat on her uncomfortable red couch, she had decided on my mood. She had determined I was hypomanic, before even asking me how I was feeling, and made that determination based on my appearance.

That particular day, I had carefully chosen to wear a skirt and a blouse. I decided to do my hair and my makeup as if I were going somewhere special. I chose to do these things because I had the time. I am a single mother of a very energetic and demanding 13-month-old girl who doesn’t allow me much time in the bathroom most days to clean myself up. But on the day of this therapy session, she took a long nap, and I had time to put myself together before therapy. I was feeling good, feeling confident — and that’s not to say I don’t feel that way on a regular day. But my therapist wasn’t interested in the reason why I looked so nice, she was only interested in labeling me.

She said that in previous sessions, I must have been experiencing depression because my hair was up, my face was untouched and my clothing was plain. She was judging me when she should have been asking me what was going on, or how I was feeling. If she would have asked those things, she would have known that I had more time that morning to get ready. She would have known I had just started a new medication, and that one of the side affects was increased energy. She would have known earlier that morning, I had received a call from a perspective employer who was considering me for a job, and that I was hopeful and excited. But she didn’t ask, she just assumed. And the only reason she assumed was because I have a mental illness.

If I weren’t affected by a mental illness, she may have told me I looked nice that day. If I didn’t have a mental illness, she would have assumed during the other sessions, I was tired because I’d been up since 6 a.m. with the baby. But because mental illness is part of my life, she discriminated against me and sorely misread my hope, extra time and excitement as hypomania. I wanted to ask her, “What does it mean when my mom doesn’t do her makeup on the weekends, but does during the work week? Does that make her either depressed or hypomanic?” The answer is no, because my mom doesn’t suffer from a mental illness. She would be described as relaxed or ready for work, whereas I am described as up or down.

During that session, it was made clear to me my therapist sees my illness as black and white. She sees me as a walking, talking illness, not as a person who is afflicted by bipolar disorder. We had only seen each other a few times, and not nearly enough for her to know my hypomanic tendencies. I know it is her job to track my moods and be aware of the triggers and warning signs, but it is not her job to judge me because of how I look.

I wanted to tell her to be careful with her comments. I wanted to tell her she was doing more harm than good. But I was too upset, too offended to say anything. I felt like I couldn’t defend myself because if I did, I would be deemed argumentative, which just happens to be a text book symptom of hypomania. And that seemed to be all she was interested in knowing; the text book definition of hypomania, and not how hypomania presents itself in a case by case basis. I left the session feeling more insecure than I had felt in a long time, and feeling like I didn’t want to go back because of how I would be perceived.

If I do go back, what do I wear? Should I leave my hair up, or wear it down? Do I dare to put makeup on? These are not questions I should have to ask myself. I should feel safe with my therapist, not judged. Instead of solving problems, a new one was created. And now I feel like I’m on my own to solve this new problem of being insecure. I won’t go back, and I am terrified to try again. I’m so discouraged, so disappointed, and I don’t know how that can be repaired.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your disability, disease, or mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold this misconception? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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My 5 Steps for Getting Through a Manic Episode

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Bipolar mania can start off fun. Life takes on a heightened excitement, ideas flow, passions burn and the world ignites in a huge array of colors. It’s all great, until it is too much. The colors become too bright, the ideas are too many, the thoughts won’t slow down and my world explodes. Having the tools to assess and help your mental state, especially when in mania, is a crucial thing. These are five things I have found helpful in my own manic struggles.

1. Accept Reality

Mania is most dangerous when I don’t realize I am in it. It’s equally bad when I deny it. The first key to controlling a manic episode is to acknowledge it is happening. This is much easier said than done — who wants to talk themselves out of all their good euphoric ideas? Who wants to stop the energy, zest or bubbly feelings? I usually don’t, until it’s too late – until I have lost control and I’m flipping and falling inside my mind. It takes courage to accept reality, and to be humble enough to admit to yourself you are struggling. But, it is the first step into both stopping and recovering from a manic episode.

2. Talk

It may seem embarrassing, talking about the validity of your thoughts and actions while you’re struggling with mania. It may even be uncomfortable for you to look at yourself like you’ve fallen prey again. It can be disappointing when you’re not in control of yourself. But, I have found sitting down and discussing how I feel when I am manic with my parents, my husband and even my therapist, helps me see myself more clearly. I can then separate myself from the illness, and recognize my actions aren’t necessarily my own – my brain is simply acting up again. This is another way to get a grip on what is going on and start moving forward.

3. Sit Still

When mania makes my world catch on fire, I want to do everything all at once. My brain is firing at a million synapses a minute, and I want to keep the energy going. It is so tempting to fuel the fire by submitting to all of the impulses and racing thoughts. Don’t — it will burn you in the end. My psychiatrist always tells me stopping the mania is like putting out a wildfire. Mania is never controlled, as much as we would like to think it is when we are enjoying the high. I’ve learned one of the best things to do to calm the impulses is making myself sit still. I will sit down outside in a comfy chair by the window, sip on some decaf tea and practice staying calm. It definitely takes some control and self-discipline, because who wants to tell their euphoric mind it needs to tone it down? But it helps calm the episode for me, and that’s more important.

4. Deep Breathing

This one goes hand in hand with sitting still. When my thoughts are starting to race, I make myself sit down and breathe. Five to ten seconds on the intake, slowly, and five to ten seconds exhaling, slowly. I close my eyes, imagine calm places and practice breathing. I will do this a few times throughout the day, especially when the mania rears up particularly hard. It helps with the sense of urgency I get in manic times and tones down the impulsiveness.

5. Routine

The last thing, which is probably the most helpful for me, is staying in my routine. I go to bed, wake up, go to work, eat and workout all at the same times every day in moderation. I try hard not to overdo anything or take on more than I know I can handle. This can be tricky, especially when you think you can handle everything while you’re manic. Pace yourself. Routine is key to resetting your internal clock, which is what gets frenzied while in mania. Sleeping, especially, is a necessary way to reset this clock and help pull you from the mania.

Mania is never easy to recover from. The earlier you can catch it, the less destruction it can cause. I have found these steps lessen mania’s impact on me and help my ability to cope with it. Like the depressive side of bipolar, mania is not within your control. You can’t pick and choose when it hits, how hard or for how long. But, you can use steps to get through it, and pick yourself up when it’s done. It isn’t easy, but I promise it’s worth it.

**Editor’s note: This piece is based on an individual’s experience, and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice

The Mighty is asking the following: Coin a term to describe a symptom, characteristic, aspect, etc., of your diagnosis. Then, explain what that experience feels like for you. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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7 Ways I Stay Safe When I'm Manic

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Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.

Mania is the “up” part of bipolar disorder. When I’m experiencing a manic episode, my self-esteem is higher, my plans are more grandiose and my actions are impulsive. For a long time, I let my mania control me and got into a lot of trouble. I would be promiscuous, spend frivolously and try to accomplish tasks that were completely unrealistic. Since then, I’ve learned how to keep myself out of trouble when I’m manic by doing seven things that keep me safe.

1. Take my medication.

Often times, when I’m manic, I feel really good. And this distorted view of reality leads me to believe I don’t need my medication. So, I skip a few days, or stop taking it completely, and then suffer the consequences. Now, I take my medication because I know without it, I would be unstable and unpredictable.

2. Don’t miss or cancel psychiatric appointments.

Like my medication, when I’m experiencing a manic episode I wrongly believe I don’t need the help of my psychiatrist or counselor. I forget that without their help, I would be worse off and experience mania in a more intense and destructive way.

3. Abstain from sex.

Mania turns me into a young woman I don’t like very much. She dresses and speaks provocatively, doesn’t respect her body and doesn’t respect others. I choose not to engage in sexual activities when I’m manic for the sake of my body, mind and heart. I’ve learned to protect those assets because if I don’t, I’ll regret it when the episode ends.

4. Don’t drink alcohol.

Alcohol clouds your mind and impairs my judgment. So does mania. Combining the two would not only be foolish, but it could be dangerous. I’ve taken my past experiences with alcohol and mania and decided the temporary high I feel isn’t worth the possible trouble or dangerous situations I could get myself into.

5. Pass off my credit cards.

One of the symptoms of mania I have the most problem with is acting impulsively. Normally, this is seen in my spending. I spend money I don’t have on items I don’t need. When mania strikes, I give my credit cards and extra cash to a trusted friend or family member and ask them to monitor my spending so I don’t overspend and end up broke when the mania leaves me.

6. Get plenty of sleep.

Mania feels like a high I don’t want to come down from. I don’t want to sleep, and don’t feel like I need sleep when I’m manic. This can turn into sleep deprivation, which can cause me to make bad or foolish decisions. When I’m manic, I set alarms for specific sleep and wake up times and ask a friend to encourage me to follow them.

7. Talk through it.

I am not a good listener when I’m in a manic episode. I don’t listen to the pleas of my friends and family when they ask me to slow down. I ignore their requests to think things through. Instead, I’ve asked my friends and family not to do the talking, but to let me talk through my manic thoughts and feelings. That way, if my plans are unrealistic or I’m thinking impulsively, they know first hand and then can encourage me to slow down.

Untreated mania that is not acknowledged can be dangerous and lead to serious trouble. Had I not begun following these seven rules for staying safe, I’m not sure I wouldn’t be in jail or worse. I am not myself when I am manic, and if I don’t keep my body and my mind safe during an episode, I always regret it. My health comes first, especially when I’m manic. I protect myself when I’m manic so the me who isn’t manic doesn’t live in pain or regret when the mania is over. I owe it to myself to stay safe, and I owe it to those who care about me.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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There Were No 'Get Well Soon' Cards After My Daughter's Suicide Attempt

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From what I’ve seen, there are no hot meals when your child has an illness people cannot see — no one offers to do laundry. There are no flowers and no balloons. The kids at school don’t make “get well soon” cards to let them know they are missed. People can understand what they can see. They cannot understand what is invisible.

It was my baby, my little girl, fighting for her life. Now I was truly alone after her father and I had split, and he was not really on board with her illness at that time. That’s the thing about mental disorders — you can’t see them. So when after a year of incorrect diagnoses of depression, of health insurance telling us they couldn’t help beyond 30 minutes a week of therapy — she finally did it. My 10-year-tried to kill herself. Luckily, I had already swapped her door knob with one that did not lock — my instincts told me she might try something dangerous in the future, but what could I do? I was able to get to her before it was too late. She was hospitalized, my fifth grade child sent to stay overnight away from her own mother so she could be safe. “How could this be happening?” I remember thinking to myself. I cried and cried and my little guy wondered if Mommy was hurt so I gathered my wits and did my best to be brave.

It is easy to see children can and do die every day from illnesses, so it is easy to sympathize with these parents. When you are told your child has juvenile bipolar disorder, it seems mind-baffling because they are so young.

So, instead of asking how they can help you or your child, they ask, “Are you sure?” They make suggestions for how to parent your child because it is clearly a discipline issue. If you make the mistake of mentioning medicine, they ask, “Is that really necessary?” People forget that mental illness is just as deadly. That this very thing causes adults and yes, even children, to die by suicide every day. Because no child would do that unless they were sick — but it isn’t a sickness people can see. This was the most upsetting thing of all — my poor baby could have died and people were acting like it was nothing.

What happened? Well, I, my ex and her grandparents visited my daughter in the hospital where she received no cards from her friends, just homework from school. She also learned an excellent new vocabulary of curse words. And when she came home crying after returning to school after being out for a month and no one wanted to speak to her anymore because “she might try to kill them,” I held her in my arms and let her cry. Then I called her school and reamed them out about letting the children say such things to her.

Slowly, it is getting better as we learn different coping strategies, we adjust her medicines to better levels, we learn how to help her calm down.

But every day, I wonder — is today going to be the day that she has a relapse? Will it be fatal this time? Will the “sickness” come back, and will anyone understand her struggles if it does?

The Mighty is asking the following: Parents of children with mental illnesses – tell us a story about working within the mental health system. What barriers of treatment have you experienced? What’s a change in the system that could help your child? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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What Hypomania Feels Like to Me

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Bipolar disorder type II is diagnosed to patients who frequently feel periods of depression, followed by hypomania. It differs from bipolar disorder type I, in that the patient never reaches full-blown hypomania. In the United States alone, approximately 5.7 million people have a type of bipolar disorder, and with the proper treatment, most can live normal lives.

While someone with bipolar disorder is experiencing a hypomanic episode, they’re at times super fun to be around. WebMD refers to it as being the “life of the party” — sudden interest in people, activities, jokes and exuberantly infectious positivity. Unfortunately, a hypomanic episode can lead also to engaging in abnormal risky behavior or impulsive poor decisions. These “highs” feel pretty great for me; I’ll keep flying higher and higher, and then eventually crash into a depressive episode.

I want to share a window of how hypomania has affected my life:

Hypomania feels like you are in a room full of people, and every single one of them is trying to communicate to you.

It’s leaving bars with people you don’t know, and doing things you wouldn’t normally do.

It’s racing thoughts, it’s tossing and turning in your bed. It’s ripping your room apart at 1 in the morning.

It’s being horny.

It’s obsessing over pimples on your face.

It’s coming up with new ideas: “I want to start a business making socks!”

It feels like you’re hopped up on caffeine.

It feels like you’re limitless.

It’s saying the first thing on your mind, no matter what the cost.

It’s saying “yes” much more than saying “no.”

It’s like getting stuck in traffic and having road rage.

It’s like being in the bleachers during an intense and noisy basketball game.

It’s like having 10,000 web browsers open at once.

It’s like always feeling like you’re late for an appointment, when there is no appointment.

When I have had episodes of hypomania, I am impulsive, energetic and active. My impulsivity has lead me to engaging in risky activities that has resulted in being arrested, losing friendships and spending money I didn’t have. I’ve also written some of my best works, founded a charity foundation, stayed up all night working on events that turned out fantastic, started my own business, explored different hobbies, took healthy risks and drove for hours in the car late at night to be a good friend, daughter or sister.

Depression has given me a gift of high sensitivity for the people around me, made me more empathetic and given me the ability to talk to people also struggling with depression and anxiety.

The best people I have ever met have usually experienced some form of mental illness. The love, compassion, understanding and empathy that comes from someone who has known and experienced hard times, is irreplaceable.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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4 Ways My Bipolar Disorder Is Like Being in a Bad Relationship

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My mom always told me to guard my heart when in a relationship. She told me my heart is fragile, and if broken, would take quite some time to repair. So I grew up knowing how to take care of my heart in friendships, familial and romantic relationships, and professional relationships. What I didn’t grow up knowing was how to protect myself from something like bipolar disorder and the trouble it causes. I’ve been in my share of bad relationships, with family, friends or partners, but no relationship can compare to the four ways my bipolar disorder is like being in a bad relationship.

1. It’s controlling.

My strict parents and nosy partners always seemed to ask the same three questions. Who are you hanging out with? Where are you going? Who are you talking to? Not only would they constantly inquire, they would control the answers. Bipolar disorder may not ask the same questions, but the outcome is the same. During a manic episode, it controls what I feel, how I act and what I say, with no regard for my thoughts or feelings.

2. It enables harmful habits.

When the manic side of my bipolar disorder takes over, I am not myself, much like when I would change myself to suit my partner who actually was a negative influence on me. When I’m manic, I become impulsive and promiscuous, engaging in risky, foolish behavior without any concern for the consequences. Bipolar disorder doesn’t care about the consequences either. I make poor decisions when I’m manic because bipolar doesn’t care about what happens to me, it only cares about the self-destructive “fun” we could have.

3. It’s not supportive.

Much like an unsupportive family or friend, bipolar depression discourages me from doing what I want to do. It tells me I can’t do anything, and that includes trying to achieve my long-term goals. Bipolar depression tries to talk me out of being successful, even if it is to just succeed at getting out of bed.

4. It ruthlessly insults me.

I’ve already covered how bipolar disorder doesn’t care about my feelings. Like my sister and I when we were younger, bipolar disorder calls me names, tears me down and insults me. It tells me I’m fat, ugly and worthless. It knows exactly what to say and exactly how to say it to make it hurt the most, because it knows me so well. It strips away my confidence and makes me believe these insults are true, and I believe it, because it is a part of me.

I would never let a partner, family member or friend treat me the way my bipolar disorder does. I would stand up and assert myself, say no and leave the situation. Unfortunately, I just can’t up and leave my bipolar disorder. Instead, I can manage it, and not allow the mania or depression to control me. It’s like I’m breaking it off with a verbally abusive boyfriend, but we still work together. My bipolar disorder and I have to coexist, have to talk every once in awhile and have to be civil to one another. But I don’t have to let bipolar disorder control me, tear me down or make me doubt myself. With medication, therapy and coping skills, I can “break up” with bipolar disorder and take back control of my mind.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines

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