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What Helps Emily, 45, With Bipolar II Disorder

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

With our ongoing “What Helps Me” series, The Mighty is leaning into what sets us apart from other health sites: We aim to provide real health advice from real people who live it.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

In this spirit, we asked our community for the best insights and tips they’ve developed for managing their conditions. As always, they responded with their unique health stories and we are happy to pass along their well-tested resources to you.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Today, we meet Mighty member Emily. She is 45 years old and lives with bipolar II disorder.

Emily, what helps you?

A woman with short brown hair in an undercut and glasses who is wearing a gray knit top looks seriously into the camera.

THE MIGHTY: What helps you most when your condition affects your physical health?

EMILY: When I am in a “low,” the only thing that really helps the physical health is rest. Rest, sleep, and cold washcloths (because migraine sometimes accompany a low). Rest, sleep, and time all help me.

What helps you most when your condition affects your mental health?

In a “low,” I need sleep. I need to feel all the feelings alone with my cat, rest on the sofa, and watch wholesome TV — like Kids Baking Championship. I need to be surrounded by warmth and care — but alone. It doesn’t [always] make much sense, but having a full day completely to myself is very helpful. I have spent six hours in the same spot on the couch either watching TV or sleeping, and usually it only takes that one day to be able to function again. Visitors coming over is not helpful for me. I understand they care about me, but having people in the house really increases my stress and anxiety, so working through it alone feels more comfortable. I don’t have to worry about what other people are doing — I can just focus on myself and work my way through the low. Sometimes talk therapy helps in these moments, but really, being alone and just existing feels safer.

How do you cope when your normal self-care isn’t working?

I have to be honest — when “normal” self-care doesn’t work, that’s when the risky behavior is more apt to happen. Alcohol, sex, insomnia… my body goes into survival mode, so it wants to do almost anything to avoid stressors and symptoms. This doesn’t happen often anymore, but it does happen.

When I start feeling the urge to engage in risky behavior, I do my best to stay put in my apartment, which helps some. I was diagnosed with bipolar II when I was 29, but I exhibited symptoms as early as my early teens. Stress and anxiety increase the symptoms, so I do my best to keep those under control, but everybody has bad days now and then. Unfortunately, my “bad days” have ended in shopping sprees or random sex. The risky behavior has lessened quite a bit since I have a pretty good handle on my disorder and stressors, but it would still be so refreshing not to have to worry about what today will look like.

Thank you to Emily for her contributions to our community. Did you find this helpful? Add your gratitude in the comments.

If you want to tell us what helps you, you can complete our survey here.

Image via contributor.

Originally published: May 4, 2022
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