an open road leading to mountains

It’s inevitable at times for something to happen that can shatter the beautiful recovery we’ve worked so hard to maintain. This is life. Reclaiming that recovery after a crisis can happen, but it may take some time. I recently had to deal with a few crises that happened all at once, which almost broke me. Here is a list of some tips that helped me and may help you get back on the road to recovery.

1. Focus on getting sleep.

There is so much to say about sleep therapy, especially with an illness like bipolar disorder. Make sure both during and after the crisis you get enough sleep. I know that depending on the severity of the crisis, you may not be able to sleep. However, bipolar disorder is one of those illnesses that can require you to maintain a routine. If you are able to, make sure you at least go to bed at the same time every night, even if it is just to close your eyes and rest your body.

One of the events that happened to me recently was that my son had unexpected surgery, and I stayed with him in the hospital every night. I made sure to go to sleep on my regular schedule, which helped me get through this tough situation more smoothly. If you are unable to maintain your normal sleep routine during a given crisis, when the crisis is resolved, try to get back into your sleep routine as soon as possible. Here is an article that may be beneficial for you in your quest to get back into a sleep routine.

2. Make sure to take your medication.

Another thing that helped me through these crises was being sure to take my medication regularly. Taking my medication helped prevent an even bigger crisis from unfolding: a relapse. So even though I was going through tough situations and dealing with a tsunami of emotions, I knew I would be in a better state after it was all over than I would have been if I stopped taking my medication.

3. Lean on others when you need help.

I tend to try to tackle everything on my own. I hold back from asking others for help because I am extremely independent and feel like asking for help shows weakness. However, when the load is just too much to bear, it’s OK for you to ask for help. Your loved ones would probably rather you ask for help than see you overwhelmed or get hurt. At one point during these crises, I reached my breaking point. I called family members who would make my work load more bearable, and it was the best decision I ever made. You never have to struggle or face things alone.

4. Prioritize.

Trying to get back to the way life was before a crisis can be a difficult journey. My life was flipped upside-down, so the best thing for me was to prioritize my life. Basically, I tackled situations and tasks that needed my immediate attention while less important tasks that were not as relevant were put on hold for the time being. This helped me feel less overwhelmed and not like I was drowning in all of my responsibilities.

5. Be kind and patient with yourself.

It can take time for you to get back to the way you were before your life took this twist. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to be back to normal overnight. There will likely be meltdowns, crying spells, and thoughts of giving up. During these times, be kind to yourself and do something for you. Self-care is one of the most important parts of recovery with any mental illness. Do something fun: go for a walk, eat your favorite food, meet up with a good friend, watch a movie, drink some coffee, or get a pedicure. You only live once, so take care of yourself and know that in time, recovery will happen.

These twists and turns in life can be challenging for a person living with bipolar disorder, but the tips I just listed and discussed can help you through a crisis and help you get back on your feet afterwards. Life is not easy, nor is it linear — so we just have to make sure we have the tools we need to recover from whatever life presents us with. If I can do it, I know you can, too.

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A version of this post originally appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation.

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Dear my younger self,

I wish I could tell you everything works out in the end. I know growing up in a home that was always in shambles was scary. It shaped your outlook, and made it seem like the the world is a scary place because you’ve never known safety. I know growing up with anxiety and never learning coping mechanisms was exhausting. You’ve questioned your worth so many times, resorting to self-harming at the young age of 7.

It seemed like there was no place for you in the world, where your qualities could shine. The world was a cold, dark place and all you felt was sadness and pain. The sadness consumed you at age 12, with your first attempt at suicide. I wish I could tell you that you are worth more than people are willing to see. After being hospitalized for my first suicide attempt, you had a great support community, and you began to recover successfully.

Entering high school changed everything. I am sorry I have caused you so much pain. I know it was easy to bury the pain from the past and continue like nothing ever happened, but then it happened again. The sadness consumed you, and the self-harming began.

Yet, this time was different. The colors seemed brighter, and you were flying close to the sun. I wish I had caught this manic episode when it first happened, and I am sorry I didn’t. I did not understand my feelings, and there was no safe environment for me.

During manic episodes, I engaged in so much risky behavior that ended up leaving more scars. These scars would be buried so deep in hope that I would never have to face them again. It is hard to talk to someone about what happened, but I wish you did because that post-traumatic stress has caused so many problems in your life.

Despite having great friends who were always there to support you, you should have told them what was really going on. I know withdrawing from society is all you know, but you can learn how to cope properly with the help of friends and family. I know you have a fear that they will judge you or not understand, but that is OK. I wish I could tell you if your friends judge you or don’t understand, then they aren’t worth your time. There are good people in the world, I promise. You just need to give people a chance.

I know there will be days when you sit and contemplate suicide. Please, remember you have held on this long because it’s not your time yet. You still have much to do in this world, and one day you will have a fiance who loves you very much. You will have the ability to be in a safe environment where you can have bipolar episodes that do not have quite as terrible consequences. You will be able to find yourself. You just need to hang on.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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I am currently in a mixed episode. I am primarily in a hypomanic state whilst showing symptoms of mild depression. Mixed states are in a league of their own. I cannot keep up with my moods.

Earlier tonight, I was feeling depressed. I didn’t want to talk, move or do anything. An hour later and I am extremely irritable and restless, a downside to being hypomanic. I want to go out. I want to socialize. I want to drink, have sex, whatever! Anything just to be out of this apartment or to be doing something at all!

It is so hard to keep up with the mood changes. Normally, I cycle through moods every few days, weeks or months, but very rarely do I go through several mood changes in a day. These aren’t just the slight mood swings we used to get as teenagers. These are drastic shifts in mood. It is exhausting.

Right now, I am angry, angry because I am restless. Why did I have to sit around at home all night? Why didn’t I make plans to do something? Why didn’t I go and get myself a bottle of wine?

When these moods come, I get urges to do things that don’t make sense, break things and bang my head out of frustration. All senseless ways of releasing energy. If it wasn’t 10 p.m., then I would be going for a walk or something to ease the restlessness. Yet, years of insight gained has taught me to sit and ride out these moods as best I can.

It’s hard to explain, especially to people like my husband who like being homebodies, especially when I like being a homebody too. It’s hard to explain this sudden urge to want to do something, anything. Boredom quickly turns into frustration which turns into anger. I feel like screaming or literally pulling out my hair, punching the wall, banging my head on the wall or even throwing this laptop out the window.

Medication eases this feeling a little bit, and I am due for my daily dose soon. Hopefully, this feeling will subside. I’m emotionally and mentally tired of playing catch up with my moods. I need relief, something just to quiet the racing thoughts. They’re so fast they don’t even make sense. I can’t even grasp a thought long enough to figure out what is on my mind.

You may think to yourself, “This doesn’t sound too bad. Stop being a sook,” but it is bad. It’s so draining. In this state of mind, I haven’t the eloquence of words to properly explain to you just how tiresome and troubling these moods really are.

Yes, I am much more elated or hypomanic, but not in the sense of happiness. There’s a surge of energy going through me. It feels like fire or electricity. My whole body is tingling from it, but there’s also this burning anger and the urge to hurt myself just to release all these feelings.

It’s time to take my medication. Hopefully, this feeling becomes less intense and the medication dulls it down a bit.

Follow this journey on Manic Memoir

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My name is Don Lane. I am a filmmaker, a husband and a soon-to-be father. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and I can say that I have recovered.

I did everything I could not to drift away helplessly into space. I asked my then girlfriend to chain me to the ground as I placed a couch on my chest. In my psychosis, the sun caused my skin to melt, and I could only communicate via cryptic words written on a notepad. Although this sounds like an excerpt from a science fiction novel, to me this was reality, and my mind was shutting down.

I remember glimpses of feet passing by as we walked toward the hospital on Oahu, Hawaii. After being admitted, I was given medication that helped correct my distorted reality, delusions and hallucinations.

Although I have experienced severe episodes multiple times in my life, I am currently stable and an active part of society. Recovery is not to be confused with the word “cured.” I will always have bipolar disorder; however, I am convinced I will always be able to overcome it.

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Well, I said that I would write an article on hospitalization, and this happens to be a perfect time to do so.

On Friday Oct. 7, 2016, I was admitted to the emergency room for a mental health crisis. I had been in the midst of a severe bipolar episode; the worst I’d had in about eight years. As I wrote this article, I was inside a facility, separated from technology, writing on old-school notebook paper.

This particular hospitalization was a voluntary one, although now I am on the protocol 72-hour hold. It is important to note that being in a hospital voluntarily is a very different experience than being admitted against your will. When I came in voluntarily, I wanted to get help. It made me more cooperative, and resulted in an experience that was extremely productive. Because of my time there, I left feeling ready to go back into the world.

Alternatively, there are situations of involuntary admission. In this situation, you have an entirely different reality. I had a much harder time reaching a better state when in a place that is intended for your benefit, but not on your terms. The two times I was involuntarily committed I was unprepared, and couldn’t speak with my my support system beforehand, aside from a single rushed text. This is just as hard on me as it is on them. The way I look at it is this: when you walk into the hospital, you’re either there because you want to get better, or you need a location with the ability and resources to keep you safe. However, in my experience, if you’re there involuntarily, the options become blurred and it becomes less about getting better and more about getting out.

I remember being so angry when I was sent to a facility that was miles away from home and my support group. I felt isolated and my friends struggled to visit because of the travel time and limited visiting hours. This was extremely disheartening for me, and hard on them as well. While my parents visited every day, watching the time tick by on the clock during those hours was heartbreaking. I understood the circumstances and worked through them, however, ensuring that policy provides funding and support for local facilities is important. Patients deserve to have a say in their facility, and this starts with ensuring these places have their best interests at heart.

There’s an old saying, “I am strong, but I am weary,” and when you’re hospitalized, those words ring true. After four months of extreme depression, pain and suicidal ideation, I can truly say I am weary. I have been fighting this battle for years, which has undoubtedly taken its toll. Despite this, I try to reframe this saying. My best friend and I tell each other, “I am the storm” from a poem: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You can’t withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”

I was released on Wednesday, Oct. 11. A sad reality, too, is that even though you feel like you’re fighting a huge and ponderous enemy, the world continues to move forward. There isn’t a whole lot of fanfare when you walk out of those doors, but you need to remember that you just won a battle. I still have a hard time dealing with some of those feelings, but I walked out the victor, and nothing can take that away from me.

Scientifically, we know that language is culturally, historically and even mentally important. Instead of focusing on the negativity my brain attempts to convince itself of, I try to change my mindset, repeating to myself, “I am the storm.” This simple change keeps me going, even when life throws me everything I can handle and more. Even when it seems like there is no hope our strength left, it keeps me going.

My point is that in my experience, hospitalization, even when involuntary, is not always a bad thing. I believe that if more people decided to take steps in the direction of active self-care, we all could lead lives with a little less misery. The world can hurt us, the world can beat us down, the world can even break us, but that doesn’t mean it would better without us. Goodness knows we could all use a life like that. If you need help, I encourage you to ask for it. If you are forced into a situation, try to make the best of it. Help is all around you, but can’t do any good when you keep your struggles to yourself. Too many people in this world skip the step of opening up about what they are having trouble with and feeling. In far too many cases, this leads to taking their life instead. Please remember that you are strong and even stronger to admit when you need help, try to allow loved ones into your life.

One last thing for you all, stay strong, stay with us and reach out when you need it. This doesn’t have to be a big step, a simple car ride to talk or a text to a friend saying, “I’m having a hard day, send a little extra love” goes a long way. Loved ones always care and professionals are only a phone call away. You are not alone, and I say this to each and every one of you regardless of where you’re at: “You are the storm.”

Written with the help and steadfast support of my best friend Savanna Inman.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Although I’ve experienced the symptoms of bipolar since preschool, it was only this year, at 18 years old, that I’ve began to apply clinical terminology to my experiences. I am forced to reconcile that negative and positive events in my life can be explained by words such as mania, paranoia, psychotic traits and bipolar itself.

Since I was young, all I knew was that I was an artist. I had periods of energy as early as preschool, which led me to draw picture after picture. Although my classmates teased that compared to the professionals I was pretty bad, my reputation as the girl who could draw was intact. I felt as if I was getting hugged by the world at such moments.

However, preschool and elementary school were also the times I began to feel unnecessarily suspicious of those same classmates and teachers who took notice of my work. I thought they were reading into my thoughts and could see the ugly truth of my brain simply through being in my presence. This was at just 5 years old.

First grade was when my first depressive episode took place. I found myself too exhausted and dull in the head to engage with my school work. Nothing was fun, and even drawing felt too difficult to be worth the time. I would beg my parents to not to take me to school. I saw no point when there was no joy. Joy only came in the form of sleeping, eating and watching television.

By middle school, my passion for visual arts had morphed into a love of the written word. There was no doubt my poems and stories were derived from my intense emotions and detailed inner world. I became a philosopher, spewing out wise words in rapid succession. I gave advice to those much older than me, about which I had no authority. I easily became overwhelmed by racing thoughts, causing me to cling on for dear life.

Middle school was also when I began to have auditory hallucinations. I heard music and crashes in my ears. I went around the house, asking my parents if they could hear anything, unable to reach the source. It happened mostly when I was alone, stressed or in a depressive episode.

It wasn’t until last year, my senior year of high school, that I began having experiences that would qualify as true mania. I had boundless energy to achieve fantastic grades and get in my college applications. Yet, my mind was in complete pandemonium. My brain felt like a spinning room, with objects flying everywhere. This led to panic attacks, in which I felt as if the world was swallowing me up. I was convinced I was dying. This episode was subsequently followed by a numbing depression, which required hospitalization.

Although my strength and humility returned, I found myself in the hospital again for slightly different reasons. I’d began making grand statements about traveling the world now that I am old enough. I sold a bunch of items on eBay to go toward a plane ticket without following through on shipping them. I was vacillating between euphoria, paranoia and extreme and anger.

Being looked at or spoken to the wrong way could set me off. I was also experiencing the textbook symptoms of pressured speech and spending money unnecessarily. I’d been self-harming due to intense restlessness and pacing around the house.

My body could not be still. One week, I took some of my old medication for fun. The next week, I took a bunch of over-the-counter meds. These were not suicide attempts, but experiments that could have very well cost me my life. My parents took me to the emergency room after that one.

I wish those in my life had the tools to pick up on my mood cycles earlier on. They did not want to believe I was living with a severe mental illness. I, myself, thought bipolar disorder only happened to other people. Never me.

My story, as of now, does have a happy ending. In the hospital, I was referred to an intensive outpatient program, which happens to be a good fit. I’m finding the combination of medications that work for me. I’ve even met others with similar struggles to mine. When the state of my brain is uncertain, catharsis pushes me onward. I’m still creating stories and poetry.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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