unmade bed in the morning

Why Mornings Are Hard When I'm Hypomanic

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Yawning, stretching and throwing back my comforter are the three ways I prepare myself to get out of bed when I’m stable. Those things are easy to do, and my mornings are calm, pleasant and productive. When I’m hypomanic, getting out of bed is a different experience, and my mornings are hard.

Hypomania is part of my bipolar disorder, and it comes and goes in waves. These waves aren’t calm though. They crash into me and knock me over. When I don’t pay attention to the warning signs of a hypomanic episode and ignore the onset of its symptoms, I’m vulnerable and unprepared for when hypomania hits me.

Hypomania is a mild form of mania that makes me intermittently irritable, hyper, impulsive and unable to sleep. It takes away my calm demeanor and replaces it with excessive energy and misplaced motivation. When I’m hypomanic, I acknowledge my symptoms, but sometimes forget to manage them properly. Neglecting to manage my symptoms makes my days difficult to get through and makes my morning especially hard.

During a hypomanic episode, I don’t get out of bed in a calm way, ready to start the day. Instead, I leap out of bed, leave it unmade and race around as fast as the thoughts in my head. From the moment I wake up, my heart is pounding, my thoughts are racing and I can’t think straight.

As soon as my feet hit the bedroom floor, I mentally make a list of everything I have to accomplish. As I do this, I become quickly overwhelmed and irritable because even though I’ll start all the tasks on my list, I know I won’t finish them. I know I’ll be too easily distracted and unable to focus because of my hypomania.

Sometimes, there is no waking up because at times when I’m hypomanic, I can’t sleep. When this happens, I start my day feeling irritable because I’m tired. When there is no waking up because I’ve been up all night, my thoughts are scattered and confusing, which contributes to my irritability.

When I do sleep, I wake up hyper and overzealous about the day. I immediately make goals for the next five years that aren’t realistic or attainable. I start obsessively cleaning my house, but don’t complete any chore I start. I decide to go out to shop and spend money I don’t have.

Mornings are hard when I’m experiencing hypomania because mornings lead to the rest of the day. I get out of bed feeling irritable due to lack of sleep or racing thoughts and that irritability follows me all day. Mornings are a gateway to hypomanic behaviors that leave me broke, disappointed in myself and angry.

Hypomania makes my mornings difficult because it prevents me from being mindful, appreciating each moment of a calmness and serenity. Mornings are difficult when I haven’t slept. Climbing out of bed irritable is not a good way to start the day.

Hypomania makes it impossible to have a pleasant morning, which leads to an even more unpleasant day. Mornings are a new beginning, but when I’m hypomanic, mornings are the start of a fast paced, unpleasant and complicated day. Mornings are not my favorite when I’m hypomanic. If I could fast forward through them during an episode, then I would.

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Why I Use Prayer to Cope With Bipolar Depression

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I’ve learned a variety of coping skills throughout my time spent in therapy, but the one that works best for me is one I learned as a small child in Sunday school.

When I’m hit with bipolar depression, the first thing I do is shut down. I lock myself in my room and cocoon myself in the blankets on my bed in complete isolation.

I know isolating myself isn’t healthy. I know when I experience bipolar depression, holding in my thoughts and emotions makes it worse. But even though I know my silence is unhealthy, I can’t bring myself to open up to those close to me – even my therapist.

Talking through bipolar depression is helpful and therapeutic for many people, but I can’t do it. So instead, I pray.

Praying helps me cope with bipolar depression for many different reasons. It’s my favorite coping mechanism because it’s easy, it’s comforting and it’s private.

Talking about my negative thoughts and unpleasant emotions is hard for me, but praying about them is easy. I simply close my eyes and mentally let go of everything that is bothering me. When I pray, I don’t have to explain how I’m feeling to someone who doesn’t understand my bipolar disorder. When I pray, I just talk to God, and I’d like to think He gets it and doesn’t need an explanation.

Prayer brings me comfort because I know when I pray, God is listening and really hearing me. It’s comforting to know my struggling is important to Him when it may not be to anyone else. I feel comforted when I pray and consoled when I’m at my saddest and weakest point.

One of the reasons I can’t open up to my friends and family is because I’m afraid they won’t keep our conversation to themselves. I’m also afraid to be criticized for how I’m feeling. But with prayer, I know the conversation is private, so I feel safe enough to share my darkest thoughts and feelings. I know when I pray, there will be no criticism or gossip. Praying is private; it’s a safe way to rid myself of my innermost negativity.

During a depressive episode, I am full of negativity and sadness. I know not to bottle those things up because of what they might turn into, but I have a hard time uncorking that bottle.

I know I need to work on communicating with others about my bipolar depression, and I am actively trying. But in the meantime, and until I’m ready to talk, I will pray. I will pray about my bipolar depression and everything it brings because it helps me – more than than any other coping skill I’ve learned so far.

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10 Ways I Soften the Blow of a Depressive Episode Before It Hits

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Because I have bipolar disorder, I also have bouts of depression. I have help for my depression in the form of medication, therapy and a variety of coping skills, which all make it easier to deal when depression hits. However, as depression winds itself up, almost ready to strike, I’ve learned to do these 10 things to lessen the blow.

1. Put on makeup.

When I’m depressed, I have lower confidence and don’t like myself as much. I put on makeup because it boosts my confidence and makes me feel better about myself.

2. Treat myself.

Sometimes I paint my nails, make s’mores in the microwave or buy something for myself I want but don’t really need. These small and seemingly unimportant things are actually really important at the start of a depressive episode because doing something special for myself reminds me I am special, especially when I’m not really feeling that way.

3. Pin positive messages.

Pinterest is my favorite place to go when I start to feel down. I usually search for “uplifting quotes” or “encouraging Bible verses” and find a plethora of messages and phrases that remind me to be kind to myself.

4. Enjoy the weather.

Whether it’s sunny, cloudy, raining or storming, I try to find the benefits of each type of weather. At the start of another “down,” I like to step outside for a few minutes or take a walk solely to focus on the weather around me. I try to remain mindful by watching the breeze, listening to the birds in the trees, by standing barefoot in the grass and concentrating on how it feels between my toes.

5. Clean my room.

During a depressive episode, I turn into a slob and feel even more like a slob when my space is a mess. I clean my room when I feel depression coming on so I don’t feel so sluggish, and so I don’t feel like my space is small and suffocating. I believe a clean room leaves room for a clear mind, which is what I need before depression hits.

6. Play with my cats.

My cats are silly and get excited over things as simple as a string or jingly ball. Playing with them lightens my heart and makes me laugh when my heart begins to feel heavy and when I know I won’t feel like laughing. The little things they go crazy over give me a slight feeling of joy when I’m depressed. Even that slight feeling is enough to help me combat the beginning of a depressive episode.

7. Eat breakfast.

Depression sucks the energy from my body and my mind. When I feel depression creeping in, I eat a better breakfast so I have a good amount of energy to start the day with. Eating a good breakfast makes me feel like I’m fueling up for the day, and I am prepared for anything my depression could throw at me.

8. Call my grandma.

My grandma’s stories of years past always make me laugh. I call her when I’m starting to feel depressed so she can lift my spirits, even if she doesn’t mean to. Calling a friend or loved one reminds me I’m not alone, and encourages me not to isolate myself as depression hits. I may not tell my grandma what I’m thinking or feeling, but whatever she says to me distracts me from my depressed thoughts and uplifts my mood.

9. Bake something.

Baking is a tasty, time consuming distraction and is something I enjoy, which is why I choose to do it when I start to feel depressed. Doing things I enjoy doesn’t really happen when I’m in the midst of a depressive episode, which is why I often bake before my depression gets too bad. It’s a reminder that even though I’m depressed, I do still enjoy things.

10. Watch “The Best of Will Ferrell on SNL.”

I’ll do this when my only goal is to cheer myself up through uncontrollable laughter. Watching comedy takes my mind off of my impending depression and rids my mind of negative thoughts. Laughter is said to be the best medicine, and when I’m watching Will Ferrell, that sentiment is definitely true.

What works for me may not work for everyone, but I encourage anyone who suffers from bipolar depression to find what works to keep their depression at bay. Soften the blow of a depressive episode by combating it with a joyful distraction, and by doing what is necessary to eliminate negativity from your mood. Find your list of 10 things, and do them before your depression turns into a full blown depressive episode.

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When Someone Made a Joke About My Mental Illness

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Many things in life are funny and are meant to make people laugh. Funny Vines can be hilarious. YouTube videos and SNL are all meant to have their viewers holding their sides as they crack up laughing. There are even things in life that are in poor taste, but still make some people laugh. But the people who aren’t laughing are hurt or offended, and find nothing funny about whatever tasteless joke was just made.

That’s how I felt recently while reconnecting with an old friend from high school. As we exchanged messages on Facebook in attempt to get to know each other again, I decided to be up-front and honest about my mental illness. I told my old friend about my bipolar disorder because I believe educating others about my mental illness is the best way to get them to understand me.

Advocating for mental health is a big part of my life because of my bipolar disorder, and it’s a part of my life that I believe people need to know first, before what my favorite color is or what I like to eat.

His response was surprisingly accepting, and I felt good about the direction the conversation was going. That was, until he said something that shocked me, and hurt my feelings. His comment left such a bad taste in my mouth, and utterly shocked me because of his kind response when I told him about my bipolar disorder. But that kind response meant nothing once his insensitive comment followed.

We were in the process of making dinner plans when he said, “But I only want to go with one of you.”

He said it was a joke, but it wasn’t funny to me. I thought about letting it go and convincing myself it was no big deal. But then, I realized that if I didn’t tell him that I was offended, he might think it’s OK to joke about my mental illness in the future.

It was clear when he made that comment that he has no understanding or knowledge of bipolar disorder. So, I took the opportunity to explain to him that having bipolar disorder does not make me into two people. I explained that I am not my illness, and I am one person who just happens to have a mood disorder. It affects my moods, not the person I truly am.

I went on to explain that cracking jokes about mental illness only fuels the stigma that surrounds it, no matter innocent the joke may be. I told him the joke he made would make the ignorance of mental health worse had he not said it to someone who has a mental illness. I expressed how offended I was and stood up for myself instead of ignoring his insensitive comment and dwelling on how it made me feel.

Mental illness is one of those things you just don’t joke about. It is not something to be taken lightly or in fun. Mental illness affects many people in detrimental and heartbreaking ways every day, and there is absolutely no humor in that.

Mental illness is gravely misunderstood, and that is why people make uneducated, insensitive statements about it. Being open and starting the conversation about mental illness like I did will help silence the insensitivity and stop stigma. People need to know that mental illness is a serious topic of conversation, not a humorous one.

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The Best Way I Can Describe What It’s Like to Live With Bipolar Disorder

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How do I explain what living with bipolar disorder feels like? I say, “It’s cyclical,” and you say, “So you have good days and bad.” Yes. Yes and no. I’ve tried to explain, searching for the right words, but I never quite hit the jackpot.

So let me try to explain in the best way I know how, as a writer.

Through metaphor.

I’d like to take you somewhere — an adventure if you will. No? Not an adventure. Maybe just a little walk. Yes, a nice stroll. Nothing too committal. Just a walk through a park, through the viridian sea of foliage, hearing the laughter of a child. Do you see that young couple? Kissing? Over there on the bench? I can feel the heat coming from their passion. My fingers tingle at the sensation. You and I walk along the cobblestones, hearing the gentle click of our shoes on the stone; glance at the cyclists as they ride by, chrome glinting in the watery sunlight.

It’s lovely. It’s calming. It feels… real. Normal. This is life, no? This is what life is about?

But it’s such a short moment. I need it to be longer, draw it out.

The clipped-ness of it overwhelms me. I smell the cinnamon scent of chestnuts being roasted and I grasp for that scent. Desperately, my senses drink it in and I can almost taste it… almost. It’s infuriating how much I need to taste it. Urgently. Do you feel it?

Do you smell the scent of the roses, the leaves, freshly mown grass, hear the cicadas in the summer afternoon, lazy, piercing? Doesn’t it throw you back to your childhood? Aren’t you young again? Why can’t you feel it? The morning dew burnt off by the sun as she streaks across the sky in all her naked glory. She really is tantalizing, isn’t she? I think I might catch her.

The energy is unbounded, exhilarating, profound. Don’t you see? Doesn’t it mean something to you? All of this glory we call Earth, we call home? The crusted bark of the trees, stories older than you or me. The children dodging their helicopter parents. Swoosh, zoom, duck. That one, over there, the young mother in the dress so lilac I can’t think straight, talking into her mobile phone as she gestures to her young offspring.

I need to chase it. I need to capture it. Capture its meaning.

It’s almost too much. It is too much. My eyes rapidly take it all in, the images, the scents, the sounds, all get processed in my higher cortices, the moment overwhelms me. Back and forth, focus, attention, process, storage. Repeat. Over and over and over. It rushes through me. Faster, faster, no wait it’s too fast too fast too fast! Stop, I can’t keep up, it’s too green, the children are too loud, the scent is nauseating! I can’t keep up with myself.

The rain falls.

The storm barrels in, the clouds, lethargic, monstrous, ugly, incapable of doing anything but raining the shit storm of the century. It’s horrible. It’s all horrible. Each drop squeezed out in anticipation of contact with my miserable skin. My flayed being. I can’t. It hurts too much. The rain torments me, the thunder laughs at me, the hairs on my arm stand straight at attention. Like little soldiers ready to march to their death.

Like the little white pills, lined up in a row. Little soldiers with their little mission to end the littleness of myself. Down the chute they go. One by one they go marching, marching, marching. Slicing away at the agony. Like raindrops, they go down.

It’s dark. All is dark. Not even dark — void of darkness. Void of anything. A black hole and I teeter on the event horizon. Can you reach for me? Do you see me here, grasping, my fingernails ripped off, bloody stubs clawing at something to keep me from plummeting? Please, please, please….

I can’t remember the color green anymore. I can’t remember the taste of food. I can’t remember the feeling of feeling. The only thing I hear is the gurgling sound of me getting sucked down the drain. Down the drain with the rain.

Do you see me? Can you see me?

No, maybe you can’t.

The rain stops… eventually. The yellow sun breaks through, anxious, filled with trepidation. Even she doesn’t want to expose what’s happened here. But I still see her, distant and foggy, behind the breaking clouds.

I can’t follow her though, I can’t follow her too far. Or she will be too bright. And I will fall again.

Do you see?

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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3 Ways I Know I'm Loved When Bipolar Disorder Makes It Hard to Love Myself

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I have bipolar II. It seems like it can make it hard for people to like me, especially in moments when I don’t like myself. I have lost so many friends throughout my life. I have very few constants. I find people seem to have more trouble “dealing” with me because of my bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder can cloud my vision. It makes me question myself, and it makes me so insecure. People who don’t have bipolar might think it’s just mood swings, but it is so much more. It’s definitely mood swings, but they are not just happy or sad. They are happy, angry, numb, furious, sad, depressed, suicidal, anxious and jealous. The list goes on and on.

My point is, it can be challenging to love me. I am only speaking for myself, but I find there are three things that show me people do love me, even when I feel like they don’t:

1. They are patient.

Patience is a virtue not everyone has, but I think people who care will make sure they have it. When I say patience, I mean a lot. I know someone cares when I have said something I don’t mean and they don’t walk away. They don’t get up and say, “She’s not worth it.” They don’t leave. I know someone cares when they sit there and listen to me talk, without getting frustrated with me. The people who are close to me know when I get in a bad place, I say things on a whim and get myself in trouble a lot. Then, I start panicking, thinking I’ve ruined a friendship. But they always tell me, “It’s OK. I’m not going to not be your friend because you were in a bad mood.” Patience is necessary.

2. They reassure me.

When I’m in a low mood, I think horrible things about myself. I tell myself I’m not pretty and that I’m worthless and stupid. It’s hard to explain because I know I’m not any of those things but when my mind is bogged down and I’m not thinking logically, I do believe those thoughts.

This is when I need someone to grab my hand and pull me out of this hole I’ve found myself in. It’s so easy to reassure someone of how great they are. It can just be a nice text. It doesn’t have to be a present or anything extravagant — a note, a text or just a smile and a hug. I need someone to tell me that everything will be OK. This also comes in when I am questioning any kind of relationship. I need those people to reassure me we are still OK, especially if I feel that I’ve messed up.

3. They give me their time.

I am a person who loves to spend time with other people. It is so important I do because it can lift a bad mood almost instantly. If someone is willing to carve time out of their day to spend time with me, then I’m on the road to being happy. I need people to want to spend time with me. I know I can be a pain and I can be a downer, but when people are willing to put time aside, I feel loved. We don’t have to go out to a restaurant or a club. We can sit in sweats and a t-shirt and watch movies at someone’s house. I don’t require much. I feel like most people are that way. To me and others, time, no matter how it is spent, is a huge sign that people care.

Patience, reassurance and time. These are the three things that show me someone truly cares about me. That’s all I’m looking for, as someone with a bipolar disorder. I am not hard to love.

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