Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood
People share their experiences living with bipolar disorder and what they wish people understood about the mental illness.
A couple of weeks ago I wound up in the ER for my bipolar disorder– I was experiencing a mixed episode, filled with mania, anxiety, depression and urges to self-harm or do drugs. I even felt delusional about the limitless possibilities in my life, all the while feeling hopeless and empty.
What led me to this moment? My antidepressant — after being on the highest dose for more than two years, had finally crashed and burned. It was deemed ineffective. I also had gone off a drug that helped me with mania a couple months prior because I irrationally feared it made me gain weight (it didn’t… this was simply my eating disorder speaking). No wonder my mood was constantly swinging from severe depression to hypomania and intense mixed states!
What I learned after being stabilized in the psychiatric unit for a few days, is how crucial medication is for bipolar, and in my case, also anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Bipolar disorder, I finally understand, is a truly an illness of the brain. If I’m on the right meds I can function. If I’m not, I cannot. While therapy certainly helps me cope, as well as with my other disorders, bipolar disorder is best managed through the proper medication.
I’m happy I’m now on my proper medication cocktail — a new anti-depressant and mood stabilizer. I learned that medication, in some cases, especially with bipolar, may very well be the main key to being healthy.
Editor’s note: This piece is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Consult your doctor before starting and stopping medication.
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I am trapped inside my mind. I shout. I rebel. I long for expression. Yet, I sit silent. My words, my connection, with you is severed. I don’t think this is my fault. You see, I need you to hear me. My voice, well, has “left the building.” My bipolar depression has wrapped itself around me. I am muffled at best.
The world spins. Days rise and set. I sit. Staring at the wall. Resting.
Movement is slow and overwhelming. Getting out of bed is an accomplishment. Brushing my teeth over the top. Accolades do not resonate. Guilt hangs on my chest.
Why can’t I do more? Go to work? Cook a simple meal? Even think about making coffee? I’m so exhausted. Yet, I haven’t actually moved in days.
I left messages with my boss, with my therapist, with my psychiatrist. Not necessarily in that order. Explaining. Maybe it mostly sounded like excuses. The honesty I exuded was painful then. Admitting my cognition, stamina and memory was compromised took all I had.
However, really looking back, it was probably obvious to others. I was barely hanging on. My face often flush, looking hung over. Raw. Fragile. The hangover was from emotion, floods of tears and uncertainty. White knuckling a mood disorder.
The darkness has moved in. Rented space without a lease. I didn’t know it was coming, and I don’t know when it would leave. Scary synopsis for a person with bipolar disorder. The reality of daylight savings time has me quivering. Bold black night greeting me at 5 p.m. It affects me, deeply.
My action plan, if I can muster the energy? Walk in the midday sunlight. Big cleansing breaths with sun on my face. Quiet time in the holiday craze. If that’s not possible, then I steal just five minutes here and there. I have a Youtube video with a song called “Breathe” I listen to in headphones. Just me and the music. It’s a reminder and a reprieve at the same time.
Fall is a time of beauty. A cleansing as the rains come. For me personally, it’s a time to really take notice of my internal clock. My tolerance or intolerance of noise, light and crowds. As the leaves change, so does my mood. Historically speaking, I’m vulnerable this time of year. Armed with this information, I can do my best to manage all that comes.
Although a quote itself can’t lift you up from a dark depression or keep you steady during a bad episode of mania, words do have the power to keep us grounded — if only for a moment — and at the very least offer us some hope. To find out what quotes helped people who live with bipolar disorder, we asked people in our mental health community tell us one quote that helps them get through tough times.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Happiness can be found in e the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”– Albus Dumbledore from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Submitted by Alexis D.: “I know it is difficult to see the good in the bad, but it helps to try.”
2. “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” — from Les Misérables
Submitted by Kaitlin C: “I got these lyrics tattooed on my arm as a constant reminder that it will get better.”
3. “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” — Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Submitted by Rebekah B.
4. “You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love, is bravery.” — Quietly I Will Not Tumblr page
Submitted by Sara K.
5. “This pain is part of being human… the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength.” –Albus Dumbledore from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
Submitted by Gates P.
6. “You don’t have to feel like a waste of space. You’re original, cannot be replaced. If you only knew what the future holds. After a hurricane comes a rainbow” – “Firework” by Katy Perry
Submitted by Heather B.
7. “You’re a hurricane of a girl; remember to breathe every once and a while. Do not drown within your own storm.” – Emma Bleker
Submitted by Loren N.
8. “The devil whispered in my ear, ‘You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.’ Today I whispered in the devils ear, ‘I am the storm.’ — Unknown
Submitted by Camila A.
9. “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” — Sam from “The Two Towers”
Submitted by Adrianna S.
10. “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” — Albus Dumbledore from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Submitted by Jenn R.
11. “Oh be calm. Be calm. I know you feel like you are breaking down. Oh I know that it gets so hard sometimes, Be calm. Take it from me, I’ve been there a thousand times. You hate your pulse because it still thinks you’re alive And everything’s wrong. It just gets so hard sometimes. Be calm. — “Be Calm” by fun.
Submitted by Amanda M.
12. “I know this transformation is painful, but you’re not falling apart; you’re just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful.” — William C. Hannan
Submitted by Heather L.
13. “Fight it / Take the pain ignite it / Tie a noose around your mind / Loose enough to breathe fine / And tie it to a tree / Tell it you belong to me / This ain’t a noose this is a leash and I have news for you you must obey me.” — “Holding on to You” by twenty one pilots
Submitted by Rachel M.: “I’ve always loved these twenty one pilots’ lyrics. When I’m in my darkest of places it gives me power to fight and live another day.”
14. “Nothing hurt, and everything was beautiful.” — “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
Submitted by Chantel P.: “It reminds me to fight for the times where everything is beautiful, even if it’s only for a moment.”
15. “This too shall pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it’ll pass.” — Unknown
Submitted by Allison V.
16. “I see the sun, and if I don’t see the sun, I know it’s there. And there’s a whole life in that, in knowing that the sun is there.” — Froyder Dostoyevsky
Submitted by Selena G.
17. “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
Submitted by Christan A.
18. “Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forgot, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim” — Tyler Knott Gregson
Submitted by Nicole B.
19. “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” — “Shake It Off” by Florence & the Machine
Submitted by Jelena V.
What you you add?
I’ve wanted to share my story for quite some time, but I’ve been super nervous. I’ve been second guessing myself (it’s what I do best) because part of me feels like my story isn’t going to be good enough to be seen by other people, and then the other part of me is like “heck yes! I can do this!” So here it goes!
Being diagnosed with ADHD when I was 12, and then years later being diagnosed with anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression, finally helped me understand the war I was battling. That war I battle is in my own mind. Sometimes I come out on top, and other times I lose to the depression, anxiety and bipolar. Just because I sometimes “lose” to my illnesses doesn’t mean I am a weak person, it just means my armor wasn’t all the way protective against certain aspects. Even though I take medication and try my best to be proactive in defeating the war that is my mental illness, some days are bad days and some are good days. Medication doesn’t magically rewire my thought process, but it helps “knock off the edge.”
Medication has always had a bad rep when it comes to mental illness. People refer to it as “crazy pills” and sometimes I joke back with them, depending on who they are, because I can do that. Sometimes I snap at people and tell them, no, you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. But without my medication, I don’t feel “normal.” Without it my brain runs 100 miles a minute, I get super pissy and even more emotional than usual. I don’t like the person I am when I’m off it. And plus, it’s not healthy for me to not have it, or skip doses. I let my mental illnesses control me and it’s scary.
When I was younger, it was hard coping with my mind because I didn’t know a lot about the type of mental illnesses I was diagnosed with. But as I’ve gotten older, I have learned a lot through researching, reading and experiencing a lot of things. Like when I was younger, I turned to self-harm. I can honestly say I never wanted to cut to kill myself (although I thought about dying every day), I just wanted the numbness to go away. I wanted to feel something other than “nothing.” It’s been a couple of years since I actually self-harmed, but I still crave the feeling sometimes. I crave to feel something when I feel nothing at all. For me, it’s an addiction. That’s what your mind wants you to think. It wants you to think you need to self-harm because no one loves you, you’re not good enough, you’re a failure. But that’s not true.
I know what is true, though. I know I am loved, I am not a failure and that I am good enough. I know I can and will get through my bad days. And I will cherish my good days. Everything will fall into place and make sense one day, and I just need to keep trucking along. And here’s something else too. It’s OK to talk about mental illness. It’s OK to talk about the scary stuff, the good, bad and ugly stuff when it comes to mental illness.
Here’s my advice: It’s OK to be afraid to talk about what’s going on in one’s mind, but nonetheless people need to talk about it. Find someone who you trust wholeheartedly, and tell them what’s going on. Or you can even go to online to a crisis hotline and tell them if you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone else. Someone is always always going to be there for you. And in the end you will feel better about it, and you will be glad you did.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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