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What Helps Me the Most in Striving for Stability With Bipolar

Yesterday, I started writing at 3:30 a.m. I’d slept from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. after getting drunk alone. Seems I’m still in a manic episode that has been going on for almost two weeks.

I wrote about how I’ve thrown caution and self-care out the window for the past year. How I suddenly realized that I didn’t need to hold myself together for self-preservation. I’m finally in a safe space, where I can just spill my guts all over the floor and I won’t die in a pool of my own blood.

I can see now how this has led to more frequent and severe cycles. I started medication again this year, and have repeatedly blamed my mood stabilizer for my cycles or the new severity.

When really, it’s because I’ve done nothing else to help myself. So what am I going to do about it?

I feel really blessed to be in a life where I have the resources for stability. I have a supportive husband. A mom who has battled her own bipolar disorder. A great therapist. Two friends I care dearly about and confide in. And two wonderful children.

I live my dream of homeschooling. I keep my kids home with me where we can learn math, phonics, and the mysteries of the solar system together. We go to homeschool meetups, libraries, museums, and parks. We have the freedom and flexibility to run. And freedom and flexibility to lean into tablet time and long naps on days when I can’t manage much else.

My husband has a good-paying job with excellent benefits (except for prescription coverage, which is absolutely abysmal). They pay for us to go to conferences in beautiful resorts. I’m afforded the opportunity to see places I’d never see otherwise. Experience things I never thought I’d experience.

I live in the country with acreage. I delight in watching my chickens peck around for bugs in the warm summer sun. We go for walks down our long driveway. I spend hours at a time soaking up the heat as I mow the yard.

I scream privilege.

So some of the tools I’ll be using might not be accessible to everyone. It’s shitty and I’m sorry if you’re in that boat.

This is what helps me:

Psychiatry

I denied psychiatric help from 2012 until 2021, despite having been diagnosed in 2010. It was only through very strict lifestyle management that I was able to survive those years. And tight lips about my paranoid delusions kept me out of the hospital. Nonetheless, they are mostly years devoid of true happiness.

Now, I see that medication is integral to my stability. I actually saw my psychiatrist yesterday, were we tacked on another mood stabilizer and an as-needed sleep medication.

This brings me to my next point.

Limited Medication Access

I’m one of the lucky ones who have nearly constant passive suicidality. I know how I’d do it. I don’t want to when I’m stable, but I know that I’m an emotionally reactive and impulsive person.

Currently, my husband has my meds in a lockbox with two hidden keys. I get a week’s supply of my medication. With two emergencies doses in my car.

Sometimes, seven days’ worth of medication still feels dangerous. So we’re trying…

Hero Medication Dispenser

I ordered this nifty device last night. It is a medication dispenser that holds a 90-day-supply of up to 10 medications and alerts you when it’s time to take them each day. The main point is that my husband can add a lock code, so I’m not allowed to dispense more than my daily dosage. This serves a few purposes.

I’m nervous about having access to a week’s worth of medication. I don’t want to traumatize my family on impulse. I don’t like that my husband is so acutely aware of how close I may be to the edge. I don’t like him regularly dispensing my medication to be a part of our lives as often as it is. And, given my fears about how much medication I currently have on hand, we need to give me even more restricted access. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that having a flashy machine dispense my medication like a live-in nurse sounds like it’ll add a little spice to my medication routine.

There are often deals where the machine is free using a coupon code. If you pay for a year in advance, it comes out to $300 for the app service. Which is definitely something we can swing. There is a 90-day return policy, and they pay for return shipping.

Sleep Hygiene

The severity of my episodes has made this particularly difficult. I’ve been alternating between a few hours of sleep and staying awake for 48-ish hours for almost two weeks. Some nights I take a heavy dose of Unisom and melatonin, just to spend the nights shaking but wide awake. There are a few days to help this though.

  • Consistent sleep and wake times
  • A solid bedtime routine
  • A dark bedroom
  • Light exercise early in the day
  • Using things like Unisom, melatonin, and anti-depressants as needed.

Blue Light Glasses

As spring approaches, this will be extra important for me. Dr. Tracey Marks is a fantastic source on YouTube. But, basically, you wear blue-light-blocking glasses a few hours in the morning, and a few hours in the evening while actively manic. You wear them for a few hours (but slightly less), when stable as a preventative factor. Spring mania is real for me, so I have to order a pair this year.

Diet

I’ve recently read “The Fuck It Diet” by Caroline Dooner. I’d gained weight this year and needed a way to remind myself that my body is OK as it is. This book was freeing. So as I worked towards food neutrality, I was eating a lot of foods that are lovely and nutritious but don’t make me feel as good.
I’m feeling ready to eat a more balanced diet, with an emphasis on pleasurable eating experiences without rules.

Staying Sober

This is a big one that I’ve been struggling with. I’ve made sure to be no less than tipsy most days in the past two weeks. Sometimes it’s a bottle of Prosecco mixed with lemonade, followed by two bottles of Angry Orchard. Some nights it’s a mix of lemonade and half a bottle of cherry Smirnoff vodka. Alcohol slows the bees.

Truth be told, I’d rather just evict the bees. And alcohol + bipolar + bipolar meds = bad news. Part of my problem is that one drink always leads to four. And four drinks always leads to a crushing headache and equally crushing regret. I’m not an angry drunk, but I act extremely out of character.

So I dumped my remaining two bottles of Angry Orchard yesterday morning. There is a bottle of whiskey in the freezer, but my body has instantly purged itself of dark liquor since I began drinking 11 years ago.

This will include a few awkward conversations with friends and family. A minimum, I’ll just be saying I’m not drinking. Then I’ll choose between saying I’m on a medication that interacts with alcohol (true), or that I’m on something for depression.

I’ve spiraled a lot in the past 12 months. I think this has been the worst year since I struggled with postpartum psychosis in 2016. And I have to take responsibility for my part in my own unraveling.

Here’s to a new year of learning to care for me again.

Photo by Lawton Cook on Unsplash

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