Ebo

@elissa-farmer | contributor
My name is Elissa. I’m in my thirties and I’ve battled bipolar disorder for a long time. I now have a handle on it. I believe recovery from mental illness is possible, but not in the sense that it will go away - more in the sense that one learns to manage it while still having a wonderful life. Is this hard? Yes, unbelievably so. Will it take time, time, and more time? Yes. But, most importantly, is it possible to live again despite the hell ravaging your brain and life? Yes. Absolutely. I'm living proof that it is true.
Community Voices

Once in a while, let me break

Sometimes I want to be the broken one.Often times I write from inspiration – the need to lift

others up around me and help carry their burden. mental illness is all too

familiar for me, and I often find solace in the idea that my suffering has

somehow led to other people making it through, as well. But, sometimes, I just

want to be able to break.I want to be able to have conquered this, somehow. I want to

be able to put this in my past – to be able to look upon it and say, “this is

what I was like, I made it through,

and I’m better for it. By the grace

of God, I’m cured.” If only mental illness was so kind. But, this isn’t a

broken leg and a sling around my skull won’t fix my brain. My medications have

saved my life, as have a number of things: family, doctors, and lifestyle

changes. But, the illness doesn’t leave, and that it the hardest part of it

all.It may never, ever completely go away.Most of the time, I resign myself to this fact. I sometimes,

sometimes even welcome the challenge.

But not today. Today, as I stare at walls and will myself to move, the themighty.com/depression consumes me. I feel like I am a slave to the darkness and the clouded mind, at

the mercy of the numbness and the pain.On days like these, my husband holds me, my father consoles

me, and my mother tells me not to quit. I hang onto those words like they are

my mantra. Never quit. Although they

don’t make me feel any better, they give me a focus outside of my mind. I hold

tight to those words, and welcome their distraction and their direction.I want to be the strong one, I want to feel like I’m making

a difference, I want to believe that it hasn’t all been for nothing because it

can’t have been. The world can’t be that cruel. I believe in recovery. I

believe in inspiration. And I believe I can somehow

make a difference.But, sometimes, I want to be given the freedom to break.No one can be strong for forever.So please. Once in a while, let me break. And then

help me pick up the pieces so I can start again.

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Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

Recovery From Bipolar Disorder Takes a Combination of Things

Recovery wasn’t easy for me. It wasn’t a straight line climbing higher away from the chaos. There was a lot of falling back down again and reaching to pull myself up to where I could even begin to start over. I had always wondered when, if ever, I would feel like I overcame bipolar disorder. I’d begged God to take it away — to make it all stop. I cried and yelled and fought my way through 10 years of the madness. I tried too many medications to count. I went through four psychiatrists and three counselors. I burned bridges with friends, made enemies, lost my first job and humiliated myself many times over. I spent too much money, fought with my husband and lashed out at my parents. I battled a relentless hell in my mind that only those who have been there can understand. I struggled over and over and over again. But, I am here to tell you I made it — not in the sense I merely survived (for there were many times where that was just the case), but in the context of where I succeeded. I know the internet and people on it are jumping at the chance to tell you the one thing that worked. They are quick to say “When I made this one change, my illness was gone.” But, again, I am here to tell you that just isn’t true. Making one life change may alleviate some people’s struggles, or it may make them much easier to manage. But, for the rest of us, there isn’t a cure-all. And, believe me, I’ve tried to find that cure. I tried every avenue. I can tell you it wasn’t just one thing that got me through. It wasn’t just deep breathing or doing yoga. It wasn’t just taking medications, seeing doctors or regulating my routine. It wasn’t just giving up alcohol and late nights, making sure I got enough sleep or practicing self-care. It wasn’t just praying, family support, counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy. There wasn’t a miracle cure. There wasn’t a single strategy that worked by itself — until I combined them all. Giving advice about there being one way to be happy and stable again is a toxic and dangerous idea. Sometimes we cannot even do the one thing that someone declares is the way — either from physical limitations, past experiences or triggers. And, because someone suggested the only cure is to do that one thing we cannot do, that creates a sense of hopelessness. I am here to tell you there is not merely one way. While there are some things I did in my recovery that made more of an impact than others, I still needed them all in some way or another. It takes a village. Despite all my doubts, I have recovered and I can say that with confidence. This does not mean I do not have episodes. It does not mean there are no more hard days. It does not mean I regulate my life perfectly and have found that exact balance. It simply means I have made it to a place where I can see where I am at when I’m struggling and I know how to get out of it. I know which tools I need this time to pull through. I know how to draw on my resources to see the other side. And yes, there is another side. There is more stability, there is calm and there is happiness. Although, I will tell you these are not endless, but that is no different from anyone else who is happy and stable. There isn’t a way for me to tell you the one thing that cured me. I want to say it was only medications or it was only therapy; it was only yoga or it was only sleeping. It would be nice if there was just that one thing that could pull you through to the other side. But, if we’re really being practical, wouldn’t more of us have pulled through? Don’t you think if it was that simple, more of us would have done it already? It is not that simple, that easy or that defined. There are bumps, bruises and trials and errors. There are successes, failures and battles. You must find your own way. It is far from easy, but I pray you find hope in the idea that even if you cannot implement that one thing, there is still a way. I can’t tell you what it is, because I don’t have a clear-cut answer. I simply know it will take more than one tool to climb that mountain. It will take more than just an ice pick, a rope or hiking boots. It will take more than just bungee cords, water or power bars. And it will take more than just a traveling buddy or a pep talk. But, please believe if you combine these things, the climb is possible. You can make it. Life can come back to you and you can find relief and happiness. Recovery is possible. I promise you. I am living proof it is true.

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

Feeling Like You Have to Choose Between Mental Stability and Weight

I never thought I’d be this way or weigh as much as I do now. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. How could my athletic body turn into something so big and something so unbearable for me to behold in the mirror. Social media is no help, with ad after ad after ad about weight loss. The images of dieting ads taunt me. They hunt down and attack my self-esteem until my worth is mangled and bleeding in the darkest corners of my mind. “You’re fat,” they say. “It’s not enough to be stable. You must be fit. You must overcome. You must change.” These words propel me to jump on my exercise bike, and crunch my abs on the floor of my living room over and over again. I make it through two weeks of futile attempts to return my once-athletic body to its potential before my mind unravels. It begins slowly – the stirring of my mind. The darkness slithers in and wraps around my brain, tightening until I’m once again at the mercy of the thoughts inside my skull. They betray me and it cycles. Push harder. No, slow down. Yes, peddle faster. No, it isn’t worth it. Yes, you can do it — you must do it. I will my brain to deliver — to reach beyond my psyche and conquer my body. I command it into submission. But, despite this mentality, my head defies. It rebels. It rebels with ferocity. It rebels with vengeance. For who could I think I was, trying to force myself to become something I know I cannot be? I will never be fit and stable at the same time. This doesn’t mean my body is unhealthy. Every time I have check-ups, every time they draw blood, every time they run tests, I am healthy. All my levels, all my counts, all my results come back directly in the middle of normal ranges for all areas that could be the culprit to my weight. I know the truth. It isn’t my body. It is my mind. As a result of my medications, it is impossible for my weight to stay lower. Certain people — many people — in my life judge my frame. How could I possibly be healthy? Look at me. Every dieting program, every exercise regiment, and all the “before” and “after” photos demand better. It is not enough. Despite my mind finally being stable, my body is not enough. But, it has to be enough. Despite the lure of a body I could have, my mind is more important. I wouldn’t even feel satisfied with my body if I came off my medications because the mania or depression would rage. There is no point to demanding of my body that it will change. Instead of shoving my body where I want it to go, I will be gentle and let it wander. My body goes through so much as my mind has battled itself. I have to give myself grace. I have to applaud my endurance — the drive to sustain my mental health at the cost of my weight. It is anything but easy. Going from a college athlete to what looks like a couch potato challenges every ounce of self-esteem I have left in my heart. But, I have earned these stretch marks. Life has painted these tiger stripes as battle scars on my sides and I am proud to wear them. The way I am when I am stable must be enough. I will die otherwise. I came to the conclusion it is better for me to be a stable, heavier woman than a suicidal athletic woman. It really is a life or death decision. My body or my mind. I cannot have both. Maybe one day this will change. Maybe I will be fit again. For now, I choose life.

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

Warning Signs for the 'Manic Fire' of Bipolar Disorder

Most people are aware of, or at least have heard of, some of the major characteristics of a person struggling with manic episodes – the rash racing thoughts, rage and mood instability, hypersexuality and suicidal ideations, to name a few. But there are all of the little things – little struggles before the cataclysmic ones. Personally, before I go into full-blown mental disaster, these are the little warning signs that I am headed askew. I’m sure anyone with bipolar disorder has their own little flashing lights (whether they adhere to them or not), but these are my five signs of waiting catastrophe. 1. Spending Sprees A quirk for some, this is a disaster for me. When my mind goes awry, I will buy last-minute plane tickets for my next great adventure in The South, go online and purchase two Le Creuset Dutch Ovens… you know, just because they have my two favorite colors. I go to the grocery store and buy a restaurant’s worth of food supplies for the week, and let’s not forget the non-food items. I really need that new dishwasher and the top-of-the-line vacuum. Mind you, none of this I can afford. But, it doesn’t matter. Thankfully I keep receipts and Alaska Airlines has a 24-hour cancellation policy. 2. Adopting Pets This doesn’t sound bad. I mean who doesn’t love animals? But, there has to be a limit because pet food, vet visits, flea medication and critter essentials add up quickly. The urge to harbor all the animals in the world is palpable. At one point I adopted three kittens in two days, bringing our total to five cats. We already had goats and dogs, and of course chickens (sometimes they count as pets). Thankfully we lived on a few fenced acres and had a house big enough to house the critters – all of whom I love dearly and wouldn’t trade for the world. 3. Slurred speech. I will be in the middle of a dinner prayer or a conversation with a friend and I will start slurring my words or stumbling over my stories. I can’t speak as fast as I am thinking. Sometimes the things I say don’t make sense because my mind has skipped a few steps and my tongue is trying to fill them in. 4. Memory and Concentration This is common with my depressive episodes, as well. When my mind gets off-balance, my memory and concentration evaporate. I will drive to town to grab a few groceries and get gas in my car, but I can’t remember my shopping list and I drive home without filling up. I walk in and out of rooms trying to remember why I went into them in the first place. It gets worse when I can’t follow map directions or when places I frequently visit seem strange. 5. Good Ideas All of them. Every single last idea I have is great. From adding on a 500 square foot addition to our home, to changing jobs on a whim, to moving to Colorado and buying a cabin in Montana. All of them. Great! Except they aren’t, at that moment or all at once. Who wants to be talked out of a good idea? How to stay in check? Slow down. I cannot stress that enough. Bipolar mania and hypomania are fast, fast, fast. Everything is urgent and immediate. My running coach once told me: “when you feel rushed, slow down.” It works. Now, that’s not saying I always catch the signs. But, over time, I have gotten to the point where I pay more attention to those little smoke alarms instead of waiting until the whole house is on fire. I must slow down and ponder, slow down and double-check myself, slow down and ask for outside advice. It is incredibly hard to doubt my own mind; even harder to admit I am overzealous in my actions or my thoughts. But it is OK to be wrong and take a step back. It takes practice. I now know my warning signs, and over time I have learned how to see the sparks before the forest fire. Typically when I start to feel that burn coming on, I call my psychiatrist, work on my sleep and become even more diligent in my daily routine. The only reason I heed my warning signs is because I know what is coming if I don’t. My life has billowed up in flames because of the full-blown out-of-control mania and I never want that to happen again. Realistically, I will not always be able to keep myself out of the hypomanic fire every single time – bipolar disorder is not that kind. Although, I do hope to get there one day. But if I listen to the warning bells, I can control the flames of mania — which is my greatest fear of all. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

How to Be Brave When You Have Mental Illness

Bravery. Some of us are brave for giving speeches in front of thousands of people. Others of us are brave for learning to walk after an invasive surgery. Some of us are brave enough to put our lives on the line to promote a cause we so desperately believe in. For some of us that kind of brave is reaching out of the comfort zone. Throwing yourself out there. Taking that step when the other side can’t be seen. That is one kind of brave. My kind of brave is different. My kind of brave is waking up every morning and telling myself to get out of bed. My kind of brave is swallowing those newly prescribed antipsychotics every day and praying that they might eventually work. My kind of brave is telling the people I know about my mental illness, all the while knowing they will judge me. And my kind of brave is choosing life. Yes, that’s my kind of brave. And, because you woke up today, I’m here to tell you that you are brave, too. If this is the last day you can bring yourself to muster. If you are holding on by a thread that threatens to break. If you are contemplating a way to stop the madness. Stop. Don’t. Be brave. I know the struggle. I know the darkness. I know the suffering. I know the pain. I know the numbness. I know the chaos. And I know you think that in a single instant you could end it all. Don’t. Be brave for one more day. And after that, be brave for the next. Sometimes being brave isn’t climbing mountains. Sometimes being brave is as simple as finding the impossible will to make it through one more day. So, please remind yourself of this today: You are brave. You’ve started another day. I don’t know how many days it will take for you to get better. But, I do know this: You will make it. So, when you don’t want to wake up tomorrow, and it all feels like it’s just too much. Please remember this: You can make it through another day. You are brave. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via sultancicekgil

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

Depression: Changing How I Think About Success and Completing Tasks

I sometimes feel like I have utterly failed. When my manic highs shoot me into euphoria and I make 15 plans for the week, only to come crashing down into depression shortly before the plans take place, it feels like I’ve failed. It feels like I fail epically when I am depressed. I can’t fight my anxiety enough to get out of the house — no matter how many times I convince myself I can do it beforehand. The idea of not succeeding further deepens my self-loathing and self-doubt. I can’t finish my college classes, I can’t think. But while it’s true I’ve not followed through, and while it is true I’ve not completed things, that doesn’t mean it must be this way forever as I battle my mental illness. I sat in my psychiatrist’s office one day, describing my utter paranoia at not being able to finish my essays, make my appointments, and sometimes even go to the grocery store. “Write your name,” he said. I looked at him, confused. “Write you name,” he repeated. “And if that is all you can do that day, that is OK. Just write your name and put the paper down. Come back to it the next day and write the title; if you can’t think of a title, write the date. The next day, write the first sentence, or the last sentence. Just put something on the paper. You will find that step by step, you can finish it — eventually. Slow and steady wins the race. Break things down one item at a time.” I tried to process this as he talked. And now it’s something I apply to every task in my life — especially on the hard days. In my experience, completing small steps as a person with mental illness can feel like climbing mountains at times. For example, when I have to go to the grocery store, I pick up my keys and start the car. I sit there for a minute while it runs. If I think that’s all I can do, then it’s OK for me to turn off the car and decide not to go yet. But if I can drive down the driveway, then I can drive to the corner, and then I can drive to the stoplight. If I get too anxious and need to turn around, I turn around and go home. But when I eventually get to the store, I take a deep breath and shut off my car. I walk to the store and grab a cart. I grab one thing I need. If that is all I can do, great. I’ve accomplished something. If I can do more, I grab the next item, and the next. I make it to the checkout line and take time to breathe while I wait. I’m almost done. Once I get back in my car, I go home and relax. I did it. Every step of the way, I did it. It’s the small things that matter at first. Instead of looking at tasks like they are daunting and impossible to finish, I try to chip at them. Chip and chip away at your own pace. And you can get there. Just take your time and keep chipping. Drive one more mile, write one more sentence. If that is all you can do, take a break or stop for the day. Pull over and take some breaths. Little wonders, little accomplishments. You can do it. There is no “fail” if you reward yourself for getting the little things done. You don’t have to clean your whole house. Start with the dishes. Stop. Sit down. If you feel like it, fold the laundry. Stop and congratulate yourself for getting little things done. Something as simple (yet so huge) as getting out of bed in the morning can start with opening your eyes and taking a breath. Then if you’re ready, pull one sheet off your upper body, then your legs. Sit up next, and just sit there. If that is all you can do for now, that is OK. I know the torrents of mental illness and how it can make us feel. It can make us compare ourselves to others around us. But try not to look at things like that. Success is measured in many different ways, and right now it might help to think small. If the smallest things seem like mountains to you, think small. Because you can climb them, one hand at a time. Editor’s note: This is based on one person’s experience and should not be considered medical advice. For any questions or concerns related to your health, consult a doctor or medical professional. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock Images

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

Bipolar Disorder: Coping With Side Effects of Medication

I sometimes try to pretend I am still thin when I look in the mirror. But who am I kidding? I weigh more now than I ever thought would be acceptable to my athletic self. But the kicker is, the only part of me that is unhealthy is my brain, and my body pays the price to keep my mind working correctly. I’ve complained and cried and clenched my fists in frustration as I try to combat the weight gain, the fatigue and the endless sleeping. Those are my three biggest quarrels. Aside from that, there are headaches and dry mouth — and I mean ridiculously dry; I wake up in the morning with my tongue essentially adhered to the roof of my parched mouth. There’s also the shaking hands, the sensitive digestive system and oily skin. I could keep going and pick out more little things that could be attributed to my psychiatric medications — and most fairly accurately. Over the years, I’ve begun to resent my medications and their side effects. Psychiatric medications suck. The side effects suck. There is no way around that. However, as I’ve given more thought to the struggles that can come along with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, I’ve come to appreciate one particularly important fact about my health and my medications… At least something works. I’ve seen others struggle with the torments of bipolar disorder — in my psychologist’s office, in my psychiatrist’s waiting room, on the streets of Seattle, in stories on The Mighty — desperately trying to find a remedy for the pain they’re in. And I remember my own struggle. I remember clinging to life by my bloody fingertips. I remember screaming into the darkness, begging for it to somehow end. I remember the raging manic highs and the desperation of the depressive void. I remember wanting to stop existing so many godforsaken times. I remember tasting hell, and then I am humbled. I’m not where I was before my first bipolar episode. My brain isn’t quite as sharp, my body is definitely not as fit, and I have to drink lots more water (which isn’t a bad thing). I sleep for literally half the day and stay on a rigid schedule to make sure my sleeping, eating and exercise are perfectly monitored. I can’t stay up late, work out for hours, or handwrite without making some scribbles. But you know what? At least something works for me. I know with mental illness such as bipolar disorder your mental state can change so much you can sometimes forget where you are and what you have. I know it can get frustrating gaining weight to stay stable, losing some cognitive function, and anything else you personally experience in order to have the healthiest mind possible. I know it can be so hard to see anything positive in the struggle. The glass often seems to be cracked when you are learning to cope with mental illness. It is hard taking medications. The side effects are hard. It seems like just one more thing that is hard to live with having a mental illness. And I know it is hard to preach the “be thankful” card when one is struggling to find the balance with medications. But, if you can, try. I can’t speak for you or your struggles with medication. I can only speak for myself. But even in the midst of my own medications’ side effects storm, I am thankful. I’m thankful I’ve found something that works for me. And I hope you will, too. Image via Thinkstock. 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 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

Letter to Veterans Who Feel Alone in PTSD

To the veterans who think they can’t talk about their struggle with PTSD, We’re not as different as you may think. You have PTSD from the wars you’ve fought, the things you’ve seen and maybe even the things you had to do. I can’t say I’ve been there. I can’t say I’ve shot at anyone, seen someone die, have been horrifically injured or God knows what else happens when you’re a combat veteran. I don’t know what it feels like to wear boots, carry M-16s or eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). I don’t know what it feels like to take fire, take orders or take lives. But, I can say this: I know what it feels like to have memories rage inside of you at the things that have happened, and things you have done. I know what it feels like to be ashamed that you can’t fix yourself on your own. I know what it feels like to wake up in the night sweating and swearing and crying at memories you cannot control. I know what it feels like to have triggers that set off a plethora of violent and horrible emotions inside of you — emotions you can’t stop no matter how hard you try. I know what it feels like to be scared to love someone, because you know how much your past could hurt them. I know what it feels like to take all of your rage out on the people you love, because they are the safest place to let it out. Our PTSD may not have the same origins, but it has many of the same effects. I know what they feel like. And so, I must tell you, you are not alone in your struggle. My PTSD spawns from rape. Yours spawns from war. But we probably both feel the same thing: that we are weak for not being able to beat the memories on our own. But, you see, that just isn’t true. You are not weak. You are not unfixable. You are not crazy. You are wounded, just like me. And wounds can heal. So, to the combat veterans who struggle in silence with their PTSD, I encourage you to reach out. Just because someone hasn’t physically been to where you’ve been, doesn’t mean they can’t feel what you feel. You aren’t as isolated as you think. There are people out there who want to help. There are people who value you and all that you’ve done for this country. And there are people who understand how it feels to have your struggle, even if they haven’t been exactly where you have. There are people who care. The more you keep those memories bottled up, the more they will eat at you. They won’t just go away the harder you try to hold them back. They need to come out. Your story is important and your emotions are valid. Don’t be afraid to reach out. There are helping hands all around you. Talk to someone. Talk to me. Talk to anyone. The path to healing is right in front of you. Simply the fact that you are a veteran says you have courage. You are not weak for being unable to control your past. In fact, your ability to voice your struggles only shows how much inner strength you have. It takes courage to heal. It takes courage to share your story. It takes courage to battle PTSD. So, for those veterans struggling with PTSD, I encourage you to get help. Talk. Connect. You are not alone. I want you to heal. I want you to live. I want you to love. And, so, I dare you to speak. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

What to Look for in a Partner When Dating With a Mental Illness

You know they are out there. Those people who aren’t going to be helpful to you when you’re dealing with your mental illness. They do exist, and you need to be mindful of that. I have dated a few men prior to marrying my now husband, and I learned over time different things I needed for my bipolar disorder in order to have the best, most supportive relationship possible. I didn’t even know I needed some of these things before I got married, but I think they truly help me combat my bipolar disorder. I wanted to share a few traits I think are important for your significant other to have in order to help you the most with your mental illness. They are good traits for anyone to have, as well, and they go both ways. Yet, I think it is helpful for people with mental illnesses to find a significant other with some or all of these traits. 1. They should have an ability to listen. This is a big one. If you are with a partner who doesn’t listen to you or try to understand what you are going through, it’s not a great sign. When I found my now husband, he would listen to what I had to say about how I was feeling. Now, no one is perfect, and many people want to be able to “fix” things. It took some time for my husband to realize he couldn’t necessarily “fix” me, and he had to be OK with simply helping me. Yet, after some couples’ counseling (while dating and married) and lots of long talks, we came to a mutual understanding that he didn’t always have to offer solutions. He could just listen and love me. This is important because oftentimes it helps to just be heard, even if there isn’t a solution. 2. They should have patience. Having patience is critical, and I think this is the trait that is absolutely necessary in the person you are dating. They should be patient at all times: on the days when it isn’t getting better, when it’s getting worse, when you can’t get out of bed or when you’ve started 10 million projects over night. You need a partner who is patient enough to see you need help getting out of your mindset of mania or depression and that it might not happen quickly. You need someone who is willing to walk beside you, no matter how long it takes. 3. They need a willingness to learn and accept. If your partner is willing to learn about your condition and if they are hungry for information on how to help and understand you, then this is fantastic. If they are open-minded toward what you are going through, then it will make it that much easier for them to help you in the long run. Your partner needs to accept you just as you are, good days and bad. If your partner stays with you only in hopes that you will eventually be “cured,” then this is not someone you want to be with. You may never fully come out of the episodes. You need to be with someone who guides you through them, instead of waiting for them to end. It is important that the person you are with not only wants to learn more about your illness as a whole, but also how to best help you battle it. Every person living with a mental illness has different ways that help them cope and heal. You should be with someone who can help you find it and learn about you along the way. 4. They should be honest. This may seem obvious, but I find honesty (with a touch of being gentle) to be one of the most helpful things my husband brings to the table. He is able to gently question me when I’m in a bad place. He will tell me in a nice way (and we’ve worked on this) when he thinks I am starting to go into mania and that I’m taking on too much. At the same time, it is a delicate balancing act with the “listening” part. You can’t always think rationally. So sometimes honesty isn’t taken well. I do still think it is important that your partner doesn’t always cater to all of your ideas during mania or depression. Sometimes, that only fuels the fire. It is helpful to have my husband ask me directly, “Have you taken your medicine?” and things like that. 5. They should have love and devotion. “I’m not leaving, no matter how hard it gets.” This is something you save for the person you decide to spend the rest of your life with. Yet, it is a trait you want to identify long before you get to the altar. Everyone says this, “through thick and thin,” but for people with mental illnesses, the thick can be much thicker and the thin can be much thinner than for other people. Having someone by your side, who will never leave you no matter how bad the days get, is a source of strength and stability as you fight through the hard days. It is challenging enough to battle your own brain without having to wonder if your partner will love you through it or if they will bail. My husband always tells me all the good days are worth getting through the days when I am not myself. He is my anchor. I owe him much of my recovery. Dating or being in a relationship is challenging, even without a mental illness involved. Unfortunately, you may have to go through a few bad dates and relationships before you find someone worth sticking with. Once you find them, you’ll know. These traits are things to look for initially (although you can work on them once you’re in the relationship if the person is willing to learn). I’ve found them essential to keeping my marriage working while dealing with mental illness. To all those battling a mental illness, I wish you love and happiness. Don’t settle for someone who isn’t willing to learn, understand and listen. Stay with someone who is willing to stick by you. Above all, find someone who loves and cherishes you exactly the way you are, mental illness and all. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. 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Ebo @elissa-farmer
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Misconceptions About Mania

People often have this misconception that mania is fun, that it is exciting, exhilarating and exceptionally productive. In reality, full blown mania is exhausting, excruciating and exceptionally chaotic. Hypomania, on the other hand, can be fun for me. So, for those of you who don’t quite understand the difference, please let me lay out for you what hypomania and mania look like to me. Hypomania can be a precursor to mania. When I am starting to get hypomanic, I do feel good. My thoughts speed up, I’m productive and I have lots of great ideas. I can stay up late and wake up early. I enjoy planning things and executing those plans. I make a bunch of dates to hang out with friends and get a little more daring in my daily life. I make rash and sometimes bad decisions, but they are based on reality in some way and not entirely out there in left field. I can cruise through books, write for hours and create beautiful pieces of art without having any symptoms of “writer’s or artist’s block.” Hypomania seems like a good thing, right? Life just seems better, more efficient and more enjoyable. I am creative, alive and happy. However, there is a catch. Hypomania is unstable. It can quickly turn into a deep depression, or, for me, it typically turns into mania or mixed mania. When I become manic, there are no more good ideas. They are out of control. My ideas come so fast that before I can act on one, I switch to another and another and another. It gets to the point where sometimes I sit on the couch with my head clenched in my hands begging my brain to stop. Then, I get impulsive. I act without thinking about any thoughts for long. I don’t think. I just react to my mind. I get out of control and irrational. In my last severe manic episode (thank God it was years ago), I slept with a few strangers a week. I tried drugs. I drank too much, sped too fast and bought too many things I didn’t need. I made terrible decisions, and I hurt people emotionally. The entire time I’m manic, I know what is coming later. I can’t stop my mind from derailing. I am out of control. Yet, there comes a place in mania where you reach a turning point. Yet, there isn’t a “hypo-depression.” You don’t slowly fall out of mania and gently come back down. You crash, and you crash hard. Once the mania is through with me, it hurtles me into a deep depression. That is the other dark side of the coin. Neither one is anything you would want to have. Both mania and depression are awful in their own right. I have often found people glorifying the manic side of bipolar disorder, as if somehow it is the opposite of depression, as if everything is great, fantastic and fun. It isn’t. Mania is full blown chaos and catastrophe. I wish more people understood this part of bipolar disorder. When I say I’m manic or I’ve experienced mania, it doesn’t mean I’ve been on a joyride. I haven’t been to the epitome of happiness. No, far from it. Mania can be destructive and terrible. Mania is not fun. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.