It has been as of last month six whole years since I've been hospitalized. Some people might not think so, but I view that as a major accomplishment and milestone for myself. What has been the key for my stability? Well finding and keeping on the right medicines has been critical to say the least. Being disciplined and diligent taking them morning and night, or as prescribed. Without my current medicine I know I would be in the hospital in a flash, in a matter of a few days so I gladly take it knowing that it does my body good. Secondly, getting enough rest and sleep at night has also contributed to my stability. When a bipolar person doesn't sleep, especially for an extended period of time they are headed for trouble. Getting enough sleep is just as equally important as taking your medicines. Sleep deprivation can lead to breakthrough symptoms and even a full blown manic episode landing a bipolar individual in the hospital or worse even. Thirdly, keeping all doctor and therapist appointments has kept me stable and in check. These appointments let the therapist and doctor know how you are doing and help keep an eye out for the individual. Having a strong support system and people that care about you around you is also important. They can watch for and know if something is wrong that you might not realize. Lastly, I thank God for keeping me stable these past 6 years, without Him it wouldn't be possible at all.
It is officially Spring for those of us who experience the four seasons. Yet, I look out my window and everything still looks dead. It's a gloomy, overcast day with little or no sunshine at the moment.
I know for myself at least, that the seasons changing and the weather warming up greatly affects my overall mood and illness. For example, when the sun is out and the temperature in the mid-seventies, I feel wonderful, opposed to this days of gloom and cold that are still lingering.
However, I take hope in knowing these winter months are about behind us, and that soon the trees will be blooming again as they come back to life as so many things do. Spring is a time of beauty and regeneration so to speak. Those of us who suffer with depression in the winter months know this to be true. We are entering a new season, and I think like the trees and all living things; we too can make a comeback no matter what has set us back in the past. I really believe the seasonal changes weigh heavier on us with mental illness than on those who don't, because we feel it more and it can be more intense. However, I also believe we can recover from it.
I have this hope that Spring is around the corner and I believe it will get here. In the same way I hope and believe that I'm getting better one day at a time. I'm done looking back on previous seasons, seasons of pain and anguish; I'm looking ahead and perceiving a new thing in my life. I'm choosing to believe that with this new season comes new opportunities, opportunities that are beautiful and life-giving like Spring. What are you focusing on as a new season begins? What good things do you imagine and hope for
Would you agree or disagree with the statement above? Whether you have a mental illness or not, I believe personally what we choose to think about can strongly influence our recovery for better or for worse. First, I would like to say though we all know how important our meds are and we must take them regularly. If they aren't working we must be proactive, and tell our doctor so he can know and possibly try another option. I've heard some people say they were afraid to speak up. Just remember you have the right to, it's your life and you're the one who is taking the pill, so stand up for yourself. It's common knowledge that after medication is in place and working the next step is to see a therapist. Some are better than others and there's different kinds of therapists keep in mind. They are there to talk to you, help you with things, and most importantly to listen.
I found myself thinking one day not too long ago that even though the medicines
were good for me and I was talking to people and my therapist, I was still having problems
with daily living. Again to most people who don't live with mental illness, they sometimes
forget that there's no cure for this as of now, and just because we're popping pills doesn't
mean we're healed. However, I realized lately then there must be better ways to cope with
this disease then if meds and therapy aren't enough. Sure all lifestyle choices and habits
affect the brain where the illness resides, but the topic of this blog is about thoughts.
How powerful are our thoughts? What difference does it make where we let our minds take
us? According to science and all the breakthroughs in brain research, what we think about
can actually change our brain chemistry for better or worse.
In a way then since our brains are like computers, we can download what we
want or even delete something. What are you thinking about and is it helping you recover
and function better? I can only speak for myself, but my secret for feeling better is my faith
in Jesus Christ, he is my encourager, my guide, and my helper when in distress. Without
my faith in God I'm sure I would be more depressed more often and wouldn't function half
as well as I do. The point is : what I choose to focus on determines so much of what I do
and how I feel. You can focus on the illness, or you can focus on something more positive
it's up to you. I still have days where nothing makes sense and I wonder why I feel so
horrible. I still have depressing days where it all seems to be for nothing. However, I also
notice that when I focus on my higher power, Christ, my mind is more at peace, so choose
your thoughts with care.
Most of the people in my life are very supportive of me and my illness. I know they care about me and would do just about anything to help me. Some of them have been very forgiving even if they don't understand mental illness. Sometimes I wonder about things and usually think too much about situations in depth. I feel some people really don't know me at all and don't understand me a bit because of my illness. I get this sense, whether I'm wrong or right, that people are always second guessing me and my behavior when they are around me. I think some people ask, "Is he stable? Is he ok? Should we be on guard?" And I get penalized for it. Maybe I'm paranoid about this which I get from time to time. Am I really that odd and indifferent? Maybe so, but at least I'm unique and different. I can live with that.
What it is about people having religious delusions of epic porportions and ranting about spiritual matters that is so appealing? Well, it's appealing to me because I've had them and I'm fascinated by them. Granted I am a Christian and believe all of what the Bible says, some experience similar experiences who don't believe in God. Nonetheless, what happens to me in mania to some degree would almost seem supernatural. It's as if the spiritual gifts inside of me manifest to their full potential, and I become the person at least spiritual I was destined to me. I don't stop or shut up about Christ, he's coming back soon I tell everyone, I pray deeper prayers, have dreams and do things that I cannot comprehend or normally experience. It's my job to, "Wake up the world." I'm on a divine mission my sick mind tells me. It's really no different than my regular mission as a believer in Christ. The Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations as Jesus says in the Bible. However, I'm pretty tame and disconnected from that mission in my opinion when I'm stable, at least compared to my manic mind. I can't understand why so many people have these religious experiences in mania, but I can't help to speculate my opinion of why. Maybe it's to get shit done for the Kingdom of Heaven, because if you've ever encountered a manic individual you know they are aggressive in nature! Of course this isn't always good, but maybe it is a good way to spread the Word for a short amount of time anyway. It's interesting that no one knows what causes mental illness. It could be a variety of different reasons that we'll never know. One things for certain...God works in mysterious ways and who can say for certain how He works? We don't know, but it is definitely interesting for sure.
A month ago my symptoms were acting up and a lot worse. For months I was going in and out of psychosis I believe due to the fact that one of my meds was at too low of a dose. I emailed my doctor several times in this period complaining asking if it was my thyroid. He was more concerned with my meds, and thought mania was creeping in when I told him that my perception of reality kept changing everyday. So I increased one of my medicines and before I knew it, I started feeling better and reality became more consistent. I told my doctor that and now he believes I'm more Schizoaffective instead of just having Bipolar. It wasn't much of a surprise really, I've been labeled annd diagnosed with this disorder before. It just confirmed my suspicions really, and reinforced what I forgot about several years ago. I looked for all the information I could on the disorder, but there wasn't much. What I gathered is that Schizoaffective diorder is a combination of Bipolar Disorder and some signs of schizophrenia. Good to know I thought. I also read that they are loners and tend to keep to themselves which I do sometimes, but the thing I hated to learn is that people of this disorder have trouble holding down jobs. And it's true based on my experience. I just wish I could find a job and keep it, and that I would find something I like. My meds are adjusted well now which I am thankful for, I just have to find a job I would enjoy now while having the motivation to do it. I suppose it's just a matter of time.
Is it really possible to be content in this life living day to day with bipolar disorder? That's a question with varying responses, but I believe that it can be. Jesus himself said, " In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!" Granted some of us seem to have more trouble getting through life than others, and Christ's statement may be of little or no worth to you. However, to myself this statement means we should expect resistance in this life, it's not a cake walk! I also take comfort in the above quote, because He tells me to look at the brightside of things. Based on my belief in the Christian faith, I have Christ's spirit within me and I don't have to do this bipolar thing alone!
No, I'm not saying because I believe in Jesus that my life is all peachy and good. Somedays I find myself questioning my faith and all that I believe. I'm not one of those guys saying that if you come to Christ your life will be easy, and you'll never feel bad again. We all know better that living with bipolar disorder is not easy or peachy. However, without a doubt I know that with Christ my life is ultimately better and counting towards something besides myself. This post isn't meant to be super spiritual, so I'll move on.
I know that having bipolar myself and other health issues has made it extremely difficult to be content at times. It's so hard to be content when you never know how you will feel at any particular time, or how your brain is going to work or not work upon awakening. Does the weather affect your mood, it does me. In my case with a thyroid problem as well, life has become even harder to predict and reality becomes warped at times. I have tons of time to think, I try to resolve problems, or really questions that I have concerning my future life. My questions are usually about the same thing, what will I do when I grow up? I can't make up my mind or commit to a decision so it seems. One day something sounds good, but then later it doesn't. Nothing really "clicks" in my head like I think it might someday.
My thoughts are speeding up and my focus is getting too much on myself. And you know what? That's what usually leads to my discontentment. It's easy to do when you spend more time by yourself than with others. It's a given thoughts and moods change and sometimes it's easy to care about nothing, but I really believe contentment happens when we get our minds off ourselves and do something to help others. Easier said than done, but do it. I'm working on "filtering" my thoughts and keeping the negative ones away. This I believe will make me more content as I focus on Christ, and believe that this day I can be happy and content.
What is my bipolar disorder achieving in and through me? Was there a purpose in mind when God allowed me to get sick and be diagnosed as mentally ill? If you would have asked me in the beginning I would have said, it's achieving nothing. Again the thorn in my flesh analogy is from the Bible, where the apostle Paul is being tormented by what he refers to as a "thorn in his flesh." It makes him weak in ways and he prays to God to remove it, yet he doesn't. There's a purpose for the thorn in Paul's flesh, as there is a purpose for my bipolar I believe. Paul sees the thorn as weakness, and later writes that he will boast about his weaknesses, because it is through them that Christ makes us strong! The thorn in Paul's flesh caused him to depend more on Christ, and probably kept him from getting too puffed up.
In the same way, my bipolar disorder keeps me dependent on God I pray. I mean when I wake up in the morning, I never know what mood I'm going to be in. I find sometimes I'm hopelessly depressed and anxious, and sometimes I feel great. However, I can face the day no matter and take comfort in God knowing that He is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my strength, my God in whom I will trust.(Psalm 18:2) My satisfaction isn't in myself, what I do for a living, or how I feel. My satisfaction and contentment is found only in Christ. Knowing this puts my bipolar in perspective as I trust him more, and believe that all things are working together for my good and for a purpose.
I'll say it upfront, I hate winter. It's cold, it gets dark earlier, and at times the streets ice over making it more difficult to get around. Of course, it's nothing new, but I have noticed that the winter months are usually tougher on me than the summer months. Sure everyone is different and has there preferences, but it's almost if not a fact that people in general become depressed more often in the winter months. The lack of sunlight makes me depressed, and forces me inside for a better part of the day. I'm not here to complain really, but to address the point that people especially those with bipolar are prone more to depression in winter. Ever hear of seasonal affective diorder? Some people sit by bright lamps to combat the lack of light, and to keep depression away. Every one of my manic episodes had taken place between December and March, there's an explaination for that. I just have to be on guard more so in these months. Thank God for the holidays right? Staying busy somewhat is good, but exercise is even better. I've read that all exercise is beneficial for all people, and that some is better than none. The human body is meant to move, so move it and you'll see your depression start to decrease and your energy will increase. There's not much we can do about the winter months, but you can take steps to get healthy and at the same time keep the depression at bay.
The last month for me has been insane, so many things have been going on. As if the holidays aren't busy and crazy enough, my symptoms have been acting up. My thyroid was supposedly suppose to correct itself, but no it became worse. My thyroid levels went from suppressed to the opposite end of the sprectrum, extremely elevated. How could this even be? I'm thankful one of my doctors caught on to it and had an eye on me. It's good news to me that I'm being treated for my thyroid gland now with medication. I feel so much better already in just the last couple weeks. Prior to getting on the new med, I was having many bipolar symptoms that which the thyroid mimicked. I truly believe I went into psychosis one night while writing about my past, which was just the beginning. I looked into psychiatric symptoms of bipolar individuals of who also have a thyroid problem one evening. Keep in mind that I have been stable, yet I had every symptom on the list. This concerned me as well as my doctor. We finally pinpointed the cause of my symptoms, I pray. Who can say how long this problem of mine has been going on? I'm glad we caught it now though, because one night I felt manic and was thinking of checking myself into the hospital. Thank God it never happened. I'm enjoying life more now, which is a blessing. I look foward to Christmas and being with friends and family, knowing that I'm healthy and being "tuned up." I believe this new year will be a great one, no matter what may be in store. I'm hoping for great things.
I was diagnosed bipolar 1 in March of 2005. It's been a challenge to say the least to live with this disorder everyday. There has been some major ups as well as downs. It's just something I have to deal with. Everyone has their own problems and struggles to sort out and this is just one of mine. I'm not asking for anybody to feel sorry for me. I just want to educate those who don't know much about it, and if it helps out somebody along the way even better.