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The Moment I Knew I Needed a Lifestyle Shift With Bipolar Disorder

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The night went by so fast, but the fall on the concrete floor happened in slow motion. Intoxication is a cruel pleasure. I found myself being pulled by my friends from the ground where I hit my head. Before I knew it, we were in a speeding car. It was chaos. I was bawling, screaming for my doctor’s name. My friends were trying to calm me down. Then, it all went dark.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I awoke in the emergency room as the nurse pressed her knuckles on my chest to keep me awake. The long sleeve of my shirt was cut up to my shoulder. Vision blurry and speech slurred. The nurses kept asking me if I could hear voices other than theirs. No one could have made out the noises coming from my mouth. To this day, neither could I. After several hours of tests and waiting, and a CT scan I do not recall, the nurse made me sign a waiver because I apparently refused to be admitted. I woke up in my own bed the following day. Exhausted and empty, I could still feel her pressing knuckles on my chest, but all I could think of was how I lost a really good long-sleeved shirt.

“What happened?” was the first question my doctor asked me when I finally sobered up. Well, to put it simply, I got drunk, made a fool of myself, passed out several times and hit my head on the concrete road in the middle of Makati City. But, you see, all stories have an “as it turns out.” And as it turns out, my story wasn’t as simple as I thought. Like I said, intoxication is a cruel pleasure. One that could harm you in more ways than you know. One that you might choose to harm you.

Self-harm is not just cutting. As it turns out, self-harm is a choice to not take care of yourself because you feel you’re not worthy to be taken care of. Self-harm is an escape from the responsibility that comes with your diagnosis. Not taking a bath, not eating properly and on time, not exercising, not going to the doctor, not taking your medications, not going to sleep early enough or not getting enough sleep are all forms of self-harm, among others, especially when you intentionally do them. Having bipolar disorder or any mood condition is not simply resolved by therapy or medications alone, in my opinion. I believe it’s also a commitment to live a healthier life. It’s choosing to live a healthier life. And, obviously, that means no booze or falling face-first in the middle of the road.

I knew from then on I had to make sufficient and significant changes in my lifestyle — changes I have to commit to. As of writing, I am now one year and three months sober. I am proud of and celebrate my sobriety. I am constantly working on creating a better version of myself by following proper hygiene, eating and sleeping well and exercising enough, and of course staying away from things that could possibly harm my well-being. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I fall short on some of these things or when I’m in a depressive mood, taking a bath feels like an uphill battle. But that’s OK. There will always be bad days. Choosing to try again the next day is what matters.

Before learning about self-care methods, my mantra was, “What’s the point? We’re all going to die anyway.” I know, how horrific. But it’s a very real dialogue we might have in our heads. After proving lifestyle choices can make significant effects in one’s mood and well-being though, it became easier to answer my old mantra. Yes, we are all going to die eventually. And yes, there will be days where our choices will not seem to matter. But the point is choosing to live those days, and choosing to live them well.

Getty image by Ranta Images

Originally published: January 30, 2021
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