Tricia Chilcott

@tricia-chilcott | contributor
Tricia is usually busy writing at Ramblings of a Bipolar Mess, where she shares her own personal struggles with bipolar disorder. She is a long time supporter of NAMI and is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness. When she’s not writing, she’s busy being a mom to four kids, some with mental health concerns themselves. Follow her on Twitter @triciachilcott.

5 Questions I Ask Myself Before I Go On Vacation While Depressed

When I’m depressed, I often dream of running away to an exotic place in the hopes that it would help dissolve the hazy fog I find myself in. Last November I found myself in the deepest, darkest of depressions. I actually attempted to take my life. I couldn’t shake the fog. It darkened everything I did. I had the chance to go to California and see Tony Robbins live, which is quite the experience. I still came home glum, depressed and blue. So, I stayed this blue for another week and a half until my husband took me to Disney World. Now, I love Disney. All things Disney. And I’d never been there before, even though I’ve visited Disneyland a few times. You’d think this was enough to kick that depression’s ass, but no. I tried my hardest, my very hardest to enjoy the trip. And sometimes it worked. There were glimmers of my old self at times, but they didn’t last. Going on vacation, even to those two amazing places, didn’t pull me out. So once I got home, I thought of some questions to help me decide when going on a vacation while depressed would be right for me, just for future reference. I want to share them with you. 1. What does my treatment team think? For me, I didn’t make the decision to go lightly. I discussed it with my treatment team beforehand, and had they been absolutely opposed to me going, I would’ve missed my trips. So, I would recommend discussing a change of scenery with those who care about you before booking the next flight out. Making an informed decision is almost always the best course of action. 2. Where do I want to go? If you’re normally a partier or a thrill-seeker, you might think New York City is the place to be. But if you’re not that person while depressed, NYC could potentially make you feel worse by reminding you at every corner that you don’t feel well. Also, a high-impact vacation may wear you out and leave you drained, much more so than a nice relaxing vacay by the beach would. I know this because I was fighting this depression with everything I had in me. I knew I was super fortunate to be in these awesome places and that I shouldn’t feel depressed, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop it. In fact, I was beating myself up even more than if I’d been at home because who gets depressed at Disney World? Now, I didn’t take a vacation to Jamaica or Hawaii or another relaxing sandy beach. I can’t speak for what vacations to places like that would be like. I imagine that depression is depression is depression, as in, you’ll be depressed no matter where you rest your head at night. I could be wrong though. Maybe it’s worth going on that trip even if you’re feeling blue. 3. What’s the end game I’m trying accomplish by going on vacation? Am I trying to “snap out of it” by being somewhere new, or am I going simply because I think it’d be a nice change of scenery? Your mindset as to why you’re going matters. If you’ve got pie in the sky hopes of magically feeling better just because of where you are, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. 4. Are the travel plans flexible or stringent? Do you have to go the week of the 3rd, or can you play around with the dates, just in case your depression is worst around then? Try not to pin yourself into a corner if possible. I know for me, I’d have much rather preferred to change my dates because it wasn’t a game-changer in my depression. I recognize I had no control over the timing of my Tony Robbins trip and had to go to that happy or sad, but I wish I could’ve waited on my Disney trip. The colors would’ve been brighter, the experiences more memorable,  and I would’ve been better company all around. 5. What’s going to be different once I get home? Are you going right back to work full-time, or are you easing into it? Will you immediately be overwhelmed with household responsibilities, or can some of it take the back burner? What I’m saying here is that if going on vacation is going to ultimately lead to more stress when you get back, it might not be the best time to go, especially if you’re in the deep dark pit of despair like I was. I don’t know if these two vacations helped me stay stable or not. I was so depressed I wasn’t looking forward to anything. Maybe if there’s something you’re really looking forward to, it would make a difference, but that wasn’t the case for me. I appreciate the fact that I had a chance to put my coping skills into practice and show I could practice self-care under challenging circumstances (such as being away from family and no one to hold me accountable). I didn’t give into the depression. I still forced myself to get up and go each day, even when it felt overwhelmingly impossible. I don’t know if I would have been able to keep fighting against it like that had I been home. So there is one positive, at least. All in all, vacationing while depressed is a personal matter and unique to each person. Traveling can be fun, but you always want to be in the best possible health to go. 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 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by NAOFUMI KUROKI/amanaimagesRF

What Is a 'Functioning' Addict?

My husband has been having a hard time sleeping the last month, and in desperation he went to the doctor for some help. He came home with a few different things over the course of the month to try and help; I didn’t approve of all of them. You see, I’m a recovering addict, and there are certain substances I do not want in my house for the safety of my sobriety. I’m now 19 months sober, and I want to see that number continue growing. So, although my husband absolutely needed these medications, we absolutely needed a game plan on how to keep me safe. We chatted about it back and forth for a couple of hours, and besides the game plan to keeping me safe, one of the things that came up was that I had been a “functioning” addict when I used. Functioning. Should there even be a label, “functioning” addict? What does one look like? How are they different than “typical” addicts? How do they act? What challenges do they face in regards to addiction? Are those challenges different than from someone “non-functioning?” How would one define a “functioning” addict? A functioning addict is most likely a person who’s drug or alcohol use hasn’t caught up to them yet. It’s a person who is able to hide the severity of their addiction to the people close to them, often at tragic cost. Functioning addicts are often able to perform their tasks on a daily manner, but there can be tell-tale signs. Some of these signs include making excuses for their behaviors, trying to justify their drug use. Who they hang out with says a lot as well. If all their friends are using drugs or alcohol or they don’t want to attend events unless drugs or alcohol will be there, that’s also a sign of a bigger issue. And if they suddenly lose interest in their hobbies, the addiction could be starting to take over their life. According to the National Institutes of Health, some distinguishing characteristics of a functioning addict include: a high level of education, a stable job, supportive family, commonly middle-aged, family history of addiction (about 30 percent of addicts), and history of major depression (about 20 percent of addicts). One of the most challenging issue that faces functioning addicts and their loved ones comes from the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to convince them they’re actually addicts. They’ll often point out that nothing bad has ever happened from their use or that they’re able to keep a job and provide for themselves and “addicts can’t do that.” I denied I had a problem with my medications for years. I hid it as best I could and justified it and explained away symptoms until my face was blue. Years before I was even close to admitting I was an addict, my religious leader suggested I look into rehab, and I was shocked and offended because I wasn’t an addict. He obviously knew something I still could not see. I honestly didn’t think I had a problem. I didn’t doctor shop, I didn’t try to get more meds than I was prescribed, I didn’t lie about my pain or anxiety to get higher dosages. I didn’t buy pills off the internet or from dealers off the street. I thought I was doing quite well, in fact. My kids were generally well taken care of, I worked and went to school. I participated in extracurriculars. Yet I was still an addict. I discovered it’s possible to be an addict and not do any of those negative things, which was an incredibly painful, humbling time in my life. So the answer for me is yes, it is possible to be a “functioning” addict, but from my experience, it’s not worth it. You go just that much longer before getting treatment, you have just that much further to rock bottom, and you have just that much more to lose. I hope sharing my story shows just how easy it is become addicted and how much possibility there is after recovery once you’ve admitted you need help. There’s no shame in having an addiction; it is a disease, not a character flaw. If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Peshkova

Being Authentic About Your Bipolar Disorder Journey

I like to say I’m in recovery from my bipolar disorder. I’m stable, I have a job, I take care of my family and I’m able to function somewhat successfully in society. I’ve probably been on this glorious plateau for about two years now. What does recovery look like? It looks like you or me, to be honest. It looks like an average Joe going to work each day. It looks like your typical mum cooking dinner for her kids. It also looks like doctor visits every month and lots of pills. It looks like long hours on the couch with a therapist. In the midst of this recovery, I’ve been a writer, and have blogged my journey to where I am now. However, I haven’t always been honest in my writings, which is out of alignment with my core values. I believe in being authentic, and telling the real story, no matter how ugly I think it is. I’ve been a mental health advocate for several years now, and I know people look up to me for how much I’ve overcome. And since I know this, sometimes it’s been difficult to ask for help when I’ve started to decompensate. I don’t want to look like a failure, or no longer seem like a role model. When I’ve gone the solo route, and kept quiet about my internal struggles, shit got real, super fast. There have been times over the last five years when I’ve quit my meds cold turkey, and well, I’m sure you can guess what happened. I ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. There have been times when I’ve felt the darkness, which is similar to the Nothing, take over me and take away everything good I’ve ever known. And the worst part about these struggles? I didn’t share them. I kept quiet about them, like it was something to be ashamed of. I honestly felt like a failure because I had slid backwards. There’s no logical reason for that, relapse is always a possibility with bipolar disorder. I never shared my struggles while I was in the midst of them. I only would share once I’d recovered and was stable. I feel like this is a huge disservice to others. I should’ve shared my struggles as they were happening. That is what an authentic person would do. People need to see the dips of mental illness just as much as they need to see the highs. I feel I can give hope to others if I’m struggling myself, yet I continue to reach out and help others. I’d like to make a pledge. A pledge to be more real in my writings, and more real of how I’m actually doing. It’s not fair to the people who look up to me to only see the best I have to offer. They need to see that I’m human, with fallibility, and I can fall as well. I think it’s just as important for people to see me struggle because then they get to see me rise as I regain control of my internal demons, and take control once again. Who will join me in pledging to be a more genuine person in regards to your mental illness? Who will be more candid about their struggles, and more open about their demons? Now, I’m not recommending you blast your story all over the internet (unless you want to of course), because you should only share your story with the people who’ve earned the right to hear it. What I’m saying is be more open with these people. Be more open in general. You might be surprised at the connections you make with this new level of authenticity. 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 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock

Should I Tell Others About My Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis?

Is “coming out” as a person with mental illness ever a good idea? Is there ever a good time to admit you’ve got a mental disorder? And where? Should you do it in person? On Facebook? On a blog? I’m open about being bipolar everywhere. I may as well wear a scarlet “B” for the world to see. The people in my real life know it, everyone on Facebook is aware, I blog and write about it, using my own name even. I’ve seen this question asked many different times over the years and even though I chose to open up about it, I don’t think there’s a clear-cut “right” or “wrong” answer. I do have some questions I’ve cobbled together that might help a person deciding whether or not to go public about their mental health. These are things I wish I’d known before I started blogging about bipolar disorder years ago. 1. Are you in a stable place of recovery? I cannot emphasize this enough. Being manic or thoroughly depressed when you decide to go public will almost definitely be detrimental to your health. You will get stable and be mortified you decided to share such a private part of your life with the world, especially when you weren’t in the best state to do damage control on what people saw. I am eternally grateful I was in a stable place when I first decided to start blogging about mental illness, but looking back, I cringe at how not “put together” I really was. There were times I wish I’d had someone veto my writing privileges because I’d decompensated. That being said, I am a big believer of the mantra “time heals all wounds” because yes, I put some random, poorly put together stuff on my blog. Luckily the world was rather forgiving of those errors. 2. Can you handle the trolls? Going public, especially going public online, can open the door to all sorts of trolls, who want nothing more than to tear you down. Oh, they may think they’re helping, by making you question your medication choices or question your treatment plan, but all they’re really doing is dragging you down to their level. 3. Are you ready for the (possible) notoriety? Going public on Facebook can be a gamble. You don’t know what the person reading your status really thinks of mental illness or what their preconceived notions are and you may receive backlash. You’ll almost always receive positive statements and love, but like I said earlier, there are trolls out there and I’m sure you know some irl . If you don’t receive anything uplifting or fear you won’t, then going public right now is definitely not the best thing for you. Personally, I’d recommend finding a new social circle if the one you have is full of people who might tear you down. 4. Does your employer know you have a mental illness? This is a big one. Some employers search your name periodically and most new employers almost definitely do. Are you ready to have the risk of losing your job or the possibility of being discriminated against when it comes to a new job due to stigma and fear? I know this is a very valid concern and one of the reasons to think about outing yourself very carefully. I’ve had several jobs since I started writing online and have not yet been discriminated against for being bipolar. However, I have had several job interviews with no job offers and I will never know why I didn’t get those jobs. My last job knew I was bipolar and supported me fully. My current job doesn’t know, but since I’ve only been there a week, I’m sure it’ll come up at some point. 5. Are you OK with your name forever being linked to your disorder? If you google my name, my author page with The Mighty is the first thing you see. My blog is further down, but it’s there, too. It’s blatantly obvious I write about living with bipolar disorder. To be honest, there have been times when I’ve struggled with this degree of disclosure to the world. I’ve always overcome those feelings because deep down I believe in what I’m doing, and am 100 percent committed to fighting stigma no matter what. It’s also been years since I’ve struggled with being “out of the closet” in regards to my mental health. So where does this leave you? Ultimately, I think it’s no one’s business how open or not open you are about your illness and you should never feel pressured into telling your story when you’re not ready. I think you’ll know when you’re ready, too. I think if there’s even an ounce of doubt, a feeling of hesitancy or a pinch of paranoia, then now isn’t the time to come out. But each person is different. Maybe you have these doubts and still want to open up and figure you’ll deal with the pieces where they fall. More power to you. I know for me, “coming out” has helped on a therapeutic level and being able to see my progress over the years has been astounding. I’m grateful I have this platform to speak on, but I recognize it’s not for everyone. If you don’t feel like you’ll ever be ready to come out to people, that’s OK too. Like I said earlier, it’s no one’s business but your own and you’re in control of how you share this info. I am sure if you’re on the fence with this decision, you and your treatment team can come up with a palatable answer. I just wanted to provide a little extra food for thought. What other considerations did I miss? Why else should a person not open up or why else should they? Is one avenue of sharing potentially better than the others? I’d love to hear your thoughts! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock.

5 Things Not to Say to a Person With Bipolar Disorder

I’ve had some incredibly touching experiences in the midst of my struggles with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, it’s also par for the course that I’ve had some really sh*tty ones, too. Over the last decade, I’ve heard so many things, like “There’s nothing really wrong with you, you’re just an attention whore” or “It’s all in your head.” And to that I cheerily reply, “Of course, it is happening inside my head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” I feel like Dumbledore would be proud. I’ve come up with a list of phrases I’ve heard over the last 20 years or so that I feel you should never say to someone with bipolar disorder, and why I believe they shouldn’t be said. 1. “ Snap out of it. “ I really hate this expression, because I feel it insinuates I’m choosing to act this way, whatever way that might be. That I have a switch I can flip to go back to “normal.” Fighting the struggles of bipolar disorder can be an all-encompassing job, and to imply I’m not doing all I can to feel better is insulting. Sometimes, all I can do is make it from my bed to my couch, which can feel equivalent to a hike up Mount Everest when I’m depressed. While walking 20 feet can be too much to handle, “snapping out of it” is an even more impossible task. 2. “ Why are you doing this to me? “ Talk about a guilt trip from hell. I really despise this, because it can make you feel even worse about something you can’t control by implying that you’re doing this on purpose, to be vindictive, or for any other reason. It’s as if they’re trying to make you own their emotions, and give you a weight you don’t need to carry. 3. “Happiness is a choice.” This one really gets to me. Yes, there are choices you can make to lead to happiness, but there is more to it than that. There are other people who can affect your path to happiness. There are neurotransmitters that affect your happiness. There are situational factors that affect it as well. I’m a fan of Viktor Frankl, who wrote about finding happiness after surviving the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. He even created a school of thought from what he learned there, called logotherapy. He knew you couldn’t just choose happiness — you had to work for it. Albus Dumbledore once said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” I love this quote, because it reminds me that what I focus on is what I see best. If I’m dwelling in the dark, I’m not going to find happiness. 4. “Have you thought of trying ____?” or “ You should get off all those pills.” I know this one may be well-meaning, and it’s usually brought up in a loving manner, but to me, it’s still patronizing. It hurts because I have a doctor, and 99 percent of the people in my life know I have a doctor, and we work quite well as a team to keep me stable. I’m not going to risk my stability on an herb that could have grave consequences should I try it. And quitting my meds? I’ve burned so many bridges that the people suggesting this to me likely didn’t know me when I was off all those pills. They wouldn’t want to see that. I know I don’t. 5. “You’ve got it so good, why are you depressed? “ This one hurts, probably the most to me right now. I am fully aware of how incredible my life is, how blessed I am and everything I have to be grateful for. I still cry big tears of sadness and feel like I don’t deserve any of it. It’s possible to have a great life and still be depressed. Pointing out everything great doesn’t make the depression go away; it just makes me hate myself more for being an ungrateful brat. So, what can you say to someone with bipolar disorder? You can say, “I see you’ve been struggling lately, what can I help with?” You can say, “I see you, and I am here with you.” You can even just be silent, and sit and give your presence as a show of solidarity with the person struggling. You can just listen instead of talking. You can offer a hug. I know for me, I had one experience in the psych ward where I was just devastated and the tears wouldn’t stop coming, and the nurse on duty just came and sat with me. And listened. And just her presence was enough to calm me down. She then gave me a hug and gave me an encouraging platitude, and it was enough. I’ve never forgotten that, even though I’m sure she probably doesn’t remember this at all by now. Never underestimate the power of silence. We all just want to be accepted as we are, warts and all. Treat us as you would want to be treated. And remember this above all: In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

How a Moment of Kindness in a Psych Ward Saved My Life

I hit rock bottom in life a little more than 10 years ago. I lost everything that was important to me, from my child, to my car, to my house, to my dignity. This is when I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I ended up spending six weeks in a short-term psych ward. The average stay there was five to seven days. I blew that average right out of the water. I made a lot of poor choices before that hospital stay, which ultimately cost me custody of my child. For a time, it also cost me my family and friends. When I was staying at this hospital, I had no friends or family to come visit me. Everyone had written me off. I had no one to call during open phone time. I had no one to bring me money to get a soda or something besides the semi-edible hospital food. That kind of isolation will wear on a person, until they begin to truly believe they are nothing more than a body breathing air and taking up space. This being a difficult point in my life, I actually contemplated ways to end my life while in the hospital. I hated myself, and I felt like no one should waste their time on me. Since I had that attitude, several of the nurses and techs treated me as such. There was one who didn’t though. He treated me as if I were a person, as if I mattered. He was always subtle in his approach to letting me know I had value, but it was always there. It was the little things like getting me a soda every week or so or buying me french fries from the cafe downstairs. He knew I wasn’t getting that stuff any other way. He would let me choose the radio station and encourage me to rock out. These don’t sound like huge things, but they were life-altering for me. I was able to slowly come back from the brink of the dark abyss because of his actions. I started writing while in the hospital, to get the words that were poisoning my soul out. I started trying to live again, even though every day was like having a glass shard in my heart. I learned a valuable lesson from this man’s treatment of me. I learned that you never know how much of a difference you can make in a person’s life by being kind. So be kind, always. He’ll never know that he helped save my life, just by treating me as a person. Now, I try to pay that forward whenever I can. Random acts of kindness are my favorite things to do. If you’re ever in a position to either be kind or say something hurtful, then always try and choose the higher road. You never know when you’ll be saving a person’s life by doing so. 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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

New Year's Resolution Ideas for People With Bipolar Disorder

It’s the end of the year, and what does that mean? It means it’s time to start thinking of New Year’s resolutions. My resolutions tend to stay the same every year. None of that “I want to lose 30 pounds by bikini season” crap or “I’m going to run a full marathon by the end of winter” phooey. Good for everyone else who makes those promises to themselves, but it’s not my scene. Though, it could be because I don’t run unless a zombie is chasing me. No, my resolutions are a little more serious and have far more lasting consequences if I don’t see them through. You see, I have bipolar disorder, and I have to think carefully on my resolutions each year. Take my first resolution for example. 1. Stay medication compliant all the time. This is way harder than you’d think. I’m on 10 different medications, two of them cause weight gain and with another I have to go in and get my blood checked frequently. I get so sick of taking five pills in the morning and five at night, plus 15 more over the course of the day. When you have a hard time swallowing pills, 25 of them gets to be a bit much, and this is every day. I don’t get weekends off, holidays or sick days. Yet, I do it. I’ve had so many epic fails when I’ve decreased dosages without my doctor’s knowledge or just straight up quit meds without my provider’s blessing. I’ve learned the hard way, again, again and again, about messing with my meds without my doctor knowing about. So, medication compliance, that’s resolution number one. 2. Put myself first, always . Many people think self-care is selfish, but it’s the most important thing you can do to help keep yourself stable. I have to take time every single day to make sure my needs are being met. I love to color, crochet or be able to take a long enough shower to have time to shave my legs. (With four kids, this is harder than you’d think.) Self-care also includes reaching out to friends or family if you need to talk. There’s an age old analogy that I share, about airplanes. If the oxygen masks come down, then whose do you put on first? Yours or your child’s? You put on yours first of course! If you pass out, then you’re of no use whatsoever to that child. This is an excellent analogy to life. You can’t properly care for others if you don’t care for yourself first. 3. Be resolute in my decision to see my doctors and therapists regularly. I hate seeing my doctor every month. He’s out-of-network, which makes it pricey to see him every month. We’ve tried pushing my visits out to every two months, and I decompensate every time. So, I go see him. I also have to stay regular with my individual therapist because I start to go downhill when I begin skipping appointments with her too. Then, there’s marriage counseling. We see him pro re nata (PRN), but I have to be honest with my husband about how I’m doing. So if my individual counseling isn’t being effective on its own, then my husband and I can go in as a team to our counselor and get extra coping skills from him. I have to say, keeping these resolutions is not as easy as you’d think. There are months that I don’t want to pick my meds up from the pharmacy because of how much they cost, which would put me out of compliance with them. Putting myself first isn’t always easy. I have a history of low self-esteem, and learning to care for me has been a challenge. Honestly, I get sick of all the doctor and therapy visits I have each month. I get tired of going in and seeing them so frequently. I feel like they’re probably sick of seeing me so much or something. Yet, I keep those promises because I have to. My good health is one of the most precious things I have, and stability is worth the price of feeling like I inconvenience people. (I also recognize that this is probably a negative thought distortion, and I probably don’t really burden people.) So if you live with bipolar disorder and haven’t figured out what resolutions you want to make for 2017, maybe my list will be a springboard for you to jump off of and find some ideas that fit your situation too! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

What It's Really Like to Have Bipolar Disorder

There are so many things people don’t see about living with bipolar disorder. No one sees the anguish of knowing you’re cycling and feeling helpless to stop it. No one sees the crushing weight of the depression. No one sees the drug-like euphoria of mania. People don’t see you curled up in a ball on the edge of your bed as you hold your pill bottle in your hand, trying to convince yourself not to take them because you just can’t take life anymore. People don’t see the shame spiral you fall into when you wake up from the mania haze and see the path of destruction you’ve left behind. People don’t see how deeply sorry you are and how you’d give anything to not be like this. No one sees the difficulty of having to explain you really are sick, even though you look totally healthy. Or the shame that can come along with looking totally fine, yet being broken into a million little pieces on the inside. People don’t see the internal struggle, the often daily internal struggle of living with this. Sometimes it feels like things will never be right. When you’re feeling great, you have to worry if it’s mania, or if it’s not mania, you’re worried about how long it’ll last. Then when you’re depressed, you have to try and hold on to the hope that there will be brighter days ahead, even though your head is messing with you and screaming that there will never be a light at the end of this tunnel. No one sees the tears because you get tired of sharing them. No one sees the haunting sadness because you don’t want to scare people away. People see the beautiful smile, and hear the, “I’m fine,” and leave it at that. On the other hand, people don’t see the compassion, the sheer empathy, and the love people with bipolar disorder have for humanity. We struggle, so we are more in tune with others’ pain and want to alleviate it. People don’t see the absolute genius in our brains, usually because we’re too disorganized to bring it to fruition, or too scared of failure, or for any other number of reasons. People don’t see enough stories of hope in bipolar disorder. They hear the horror stories, the untreated souls who are struggling and think that’s all that’s there. There is hope. Medications aren’t fun, but they can bring you peace and relief from the dark roller coaster ride. Therapy can help you understand yourself better and give you practical skills to use when you’re struggling. Maybe what people need to see is how hard people with mental illness work to improve themselves. It’s a long uphill battle sometimes, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a death sentence. And people can’t see that without help. 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 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock image by agsandrew

Bipolar Disorder: What Mania Is Really Like

I think many people relate to depression. Many people have fallen into the dark pit of despair and managed to climb out of it. I don’t think, however, people really have a grasp of what mania is like. Mania is incredible. Yet, it is destructive. Mania is the highest high of your life. Yet, it’s also a cliff, and you just jumped off into the abyss. People think mania is just happiness, giddiness and euphoria. While those emotions can happen at the beginning, it doesn’t stay that way. Mania also includes psychosis, grandiosity and delusions. The less commonly noticed symptoms include less need for sleep, rapid speech, inflated self-esteem, poor concentration, racing thoughts, risky behaviors and excessive energy. I’ve struggled with mania, and I’ve done incredible things while manic. I have created amazing things. Yet, while in the throes of mania, I’ve destroyed relationships. You become another person while manic. You feel like you can control the world and you’re going to accomplish great things. You become delusional, and you can’t see reason anymore. You might feel like creating an online business and spend your life savings buying things for it. You might decide you need a brand new wardrobe for the new you. You might decide your partner isn’t enough sexually, and go on the prowl for a new one. You might just become promiscuous when you’re usually not. The worst thing about mania is the hypomanic phase, when you truly are amazing. When you can still listen to reason, when you feel on top of the world and you have brilliant ideas. This phase usually doesn’t last long, and before you know it, you’re into full blown mania. Then, there’s the crash. It usually feels like you’ve literally hit a brick wall going 100 mph. You might wake up in the psych ward. You might wake up on the streets. You might not wake up at all. Yet, it’s there, and there’s usually the deep depression that follows, where you’re in a shame spiral because of all the incredible things you did while manic. I remember the last manic episode I had. I was convinced I was going to start a jewelry making business and sell my wares to my friends. I bought necklaces, lockets and trinkets with money I really didn’t have. I was obsessed. I was crazed. I was fixated on this one thing. I felt amazing. I was in control, until I wasn’t. I couldn’t tend to my kids because I’d flown into psychosis and wanted to kill myself because I wasn’t a size six anymore. I was barely holding onto reality, and it was terrifying. I finally went to my doctor sobbing that I needed help, and I was admitted to the hospital. I know a lot of my friends with bipolar miss the mania and struggle with medication compliance because of that. I miss the hypomania, but not enough to risk full blown mania. It’s fun for awhile, but it becomes horrific very quickly. Mania is an uncontrolled beast that resides inside every person with bipolar disorder, and it is something that will never be tamed, at least, not without proper medication and therapy. So although there is some “fun” that comes with mania, it’s doesn’t stay grins and giggles, which is an excellent reason to try and keep it tamed. Even when it’s hard because you miss the euphoria, you have to remember it’s not just that. There’s also usually a side of remorse and embarrassment included with it. 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. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

How Carrie Fisher Inspires Me to Be My Best Self With Bipolar Disorder

I relate a lot to Carrie Fisher. She’s funny, poignant, sweet, and charitable. I’d like to think I have some of those same qualities. I once had the opportunity to meet her and got to tell her how much I appreciated the work she does to bring light to bipolar disorder. I’ll never forget the hug she gave me and how she seemed to genuinely care how I was doing at that exact moment. I love hearing her talk about the struggles she has with bipolar disorder. I’m really a nobody with bipolar disorder who writes articles that get a few views here and there. But Carrie Fisher, Demi Lovato, and others speak and command attention. I appreciate the work she does because she gives me hope. She inspires me to keep writing and to keep sharing my story. The fact that she is so raw and honest encourages me to do the same. I think she does the same for others who are struggling with mental illness. There’s a quote, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and I feel that celebrities who struggle with mental illness and come out about it have a responsibility to be real. Don’t sugarcoat it. Help people see we’re human. We have fallibilities, yet we have redeeming qualities as well. Fight the stigma. I can’t do that as a relatively anonymous writer, but my heroes like Carrie Fisher can. I love that she fights the stigma and does it in spades. I’m grateful for people like her who have the courage to show the dark side of mental illness, as well as the light side — that there is hope of recovery, and even though the possibility of relapse is always there, challenges can be overcome. A “normal” life of purpose and happiness is possible, even with serious mental illness. That’s what I love about Carrie Fisher. She shows there is hope of a meaningful life, no matter how the odds are stacked. I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep fighting the good fight because I’ve got a role model to help keep me on point. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo by Matt Klein