These past 18 months have probably been the most ‘normal’ that I’ve experienced since being diagnosed. Apart from a couple of manic highs and one short-lived low, things have been constant and manageable.
I’m less worried now about people’s reaction to my bi-polar. Mental illness doesn’t have the stigma it used to have thanks to the Mental Health Foundation and for me personally it helps that I know who I am in Christ, this keeps me grounded regardless of the ups and downs.
Since Charlotte started school I’ve been blessed with many new friends, I surround myself with those who accept me for who I am. There is no point trying to convince someone to be my pal when all they see is the neon sign above my head saying ‘psychotic person’. I don’t want to make others nervous or uncomfortable – after all it may not be the bi-polar they’re avoiding – it might be that they simply don’t like me.
I’ve found that if I’m honest with people and explain that I’m feeling rather high/low/distant/anxious/dizzy etc. then they can be themselves around me and I can be myself around them. It makes for a much better relationship friends tend to laugh together, support each other if you’re open, relaxed and trusting.
Thankfully, I think God allowed me to spend most of 2013 in a slight manic phase, which probably got me through living in the caravan. However, being on a high can lead to some risky behaviour, for me that usually means impulsive or crazy purchases.
I became a regular at the local household waste recycling centre (tip) and would purchase one item of furniture after another. This was in an attempt to make our awning look homely and in fairness I successfully managed to fit a utility area, dining room, walk-in wardrobe and play-room into what was quite a small space.
However, one of my more stupid moments was when I thought it would be a good idea to get a dog. I chose an adorable golden-doodle which we named Bailey. Goodness knows why I thought it would be a good idea to keep a dog while living in a caravan with 2 kids and my husband, and goodness knows how I managed to convince Jez either. Unfortunately, Bailey had to be rehoused because of my inability to cope. It really was one of my most irresponsible bi-polar moments.
My only low episode was at the start of 2014 when my neurologist suggested I come off some of my medication to see if there would be any improvement to my daytime tiredness (more about that here). I was fine for about 3 weeks, but started to become impatient, anxious, angry and feel hopeless. By week 4 I was in a very dark-place, I experienced thoughts and feelings that I’d not had for many years, it was rather frightening. Goodness knows how I managed before being diagnosed and the impact and burden it had on those closest to me.
I praise God every day for my husband who has been such a wonderful support and has only shown love, understanding and encouragement throughout this whole journey.
I’m now on a reasonable cocktail of medication that seem to work very well for me. If I can offer any advise to anyone experiencing bi-polar or depression it would be to:
- Obtain reliable information from established organisations to help you understand your condition.
- Visit your doctor and ask to be referred to the Community Mental Health Team.
- Join a support-group, either on-line or in your local area.
- Give the medication a chance, but if it doesn’t work go back until you find something that does.
- Keep a diary or journal by your bed (and a pen…..and a spare pen).
- Invest in secure relationships that do not drain you emotionally.
- Try to eat healthily and do some exercise each day, even if you don’t feel like it.
- Aim to do just 1 or 2 things each day…….and that’s all.
- Give your debit and credit cards to someone you trust, and take only the cash you need from the house.
- Consider your spiritual wellbeing – personally I’ve found that my bible and my God can protect my mind and remove any fears when I ask.
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control