My guide to living with Bi Polar Disorder pt-1

Discussion in 'Mental Health Disorders' started by Lorax, Aug 19, 2013.

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  1. Lorax

    Lorax Well-Known Member

    Bi Polar Disorder.

    1)What is this Bi polar?

    Bi Polar is a disorder, that leads from episodes of "mania" to "depression".
    It has varying levels of severity, as well as frequency. In some types, you can have episodes of depression/mania for days, or weeks at a time.

    As well, in some types, you can "rapid cycle" in which you can experience episodes of depression, or mania, multiple times over the course of a single day.

    It is important to note that in either case, it can be traumatic for patients, loved ones, friends, and family members. In addition to the sometimes crippling symptoms, there is still a wide amount of stigma associated with this disorder.

    2)So I've been diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder (BP) What should i expect?

    Receiving a diagnosis of Bi Polar does not have to change your life. The diagnosis, is a way to put a group of similar symptoms, into a certain category. This enables health care professionals to understand the best way to aid you, in living a productive life. Based on others, who have had a similar diagnosis.

    Remember, having this diagnosis, is only between you, and your health care professionals. It is entirely up to you, who else, if anyone you share it with. There is no rush to share this information. I would recommend, you wait until you are comfortable with it, before sharing.

    It may be very helpful to ask your therapist, and doctor for more detailed information. Once you understand the disorder better, it will be easier for you to share with loved ones. It is advisable, to have a print off of basic, information, as well as helpful coping skills for loved ones.

    Keep in mind, your experience is unique. Should you decide to share, make sure who you tell understands how it affects you as an individual. I strongly advise, telling someone you can trust first. A parent, a sibling, or a very close friend, are generally good candidates. If they have questions for you, try to be patient, and honest.

    3) What kind of treatment is there?

    There is a large number of support available.
    Generally, the advised route of action is a mixture of therapy, and medication.

    It can be hard to find the right therapist for you. I would advise, if possible. To find someone who specializes in Bi Polar Disorder. It may take a while, before you are able to find someone that is a good fit for you. I would suggest giving at least, 3-4 visits before switching.

    Therapy is not a "quick fix". It can take years, before you can make significant progress through this means. It is worthwhile how ever. Ideally, you should find someone that can help you find ways for you to be able to cope, in a work setting, a relationship, as well as in day-day life.

    Finding the correct medication can be a lengthy, tiring process. The general medications for BP are "mood stabilizers". Usually used in conjunction with something else, anti depressants, seem to still be a common choice.

    There are an array of different types of medications in these categories. As well, it may take some adjustments of your dose, before you can experience the desired affects. Most of these medications carry side-effects. A common one for "mood stabilizers" being increased weight gain. Another potential side-effect to be aware of, is risked increases in suicidal thoughts/actions.

    Generally, you will be started a low dose of any medication. If it seems to be having a positive effect, you will gradually increase the dose. Keep in mind anti depressants, can take weeks to reach a "therapeutic level" simply put: the amount of the medication in your blood stream at any given time.

    "Mood stabilizers" generally have a more immediate effect. You can potentially feel these working within a few days. Note however, that these medications take time for your body to build a tolerance against. Usually, side-effects start to wear down in a few weeks. Depending on what you use, it may be very sedating, so ask your doctor about the possibility to use them at bed time.

    Everyone experiences medication in their own way. For some people a certain kind/dose can be extremely positive. While for others, it can make symptoms worse, or have too many troublesome side-effects. Keep careful note of any side-effects, as well as any changes in your condition. I recommend writing them down, and bringing them to your doctor appointments.

    IMPORTANT: If you notice any allergic reactions to any medication, consult your doctor, call poison control, or go to an emergency room straight away. Make sure you are informed about any signs, including: rash, hives, trouble breathing, or swelling of face/throat.

    If you notice an increase in suicidal thoughts, or actions (self harm, writing a will, writing suicide notes, purchasing fire arms/rope/pills, or anything to this persuasion) get in to see your doctor as soon as possible. They will either stop the medication, or lower the dose, until you can safely stop. They may also prescribe Lithium, which is generally effective for negating suicidal thoughts.

    If you are an immediate threat to your self, or others, call 911 immediately. Emergency rooms, are well prepared for suicidal patients. And can help you survive through this troubling situation.

    4) So, I've started my treatment program, what about daily life?

    It can be very difficult, to function in day-day life with BP.
    Depression can leach energy, motivation, "drive", and general well being.
    Mania, can lead to financial crisis, poor diet, trouble with responsibilities (work/family/relationships) severe sleep deprivation, potential self harm, and in severe cases, even legal troubles.

    Hopefully, by this point you have started a treatment program. Now it's time for some minor changes in day-day living. Some useful tips include:

    ~Take your medication at the same time, every day. (unless other wise informed by your doctor)

    ~Aim to start a regular exercise regime. No need to become a body builder, but start by walking outside in the sun for 1 hour daily. Exercise, naturally boost dopamine, the chemical in charge of pleasure. It also helps build small energy in depression, and burn energy in mania.
    Get help starting, walk your dog, go with your sibling/parent/friend. Or use it as a cheap date nite :)
    As you start to build stamina, try doing basic push ups, pull ups, or if you are not too self conscious, go to a gym. Increasing your physique, can have a positive boost on health, and self image.

    ~Develop a healthy diet. Ask your doctor about supplements, Niacin, and fish oil. Eat low meat/high fruit/vegetable. If you do eat meat, aim for high omega3 fish, salmon is the pinnacle here, but pricey.

    ~Develop a normal sleep schedule. This is one of the best things for BP, and general well being. Go to bed at the same time every NITE and wake up the same time every DAY. Your medication may be sedating, so this can help in the event you are currently manic. There is a sticky on this thread about sleeping tips, i suggest reading it.

    ~Find a hobby. Finding something you enjoy, can be a life saver for depression, and provide temporary relief from worrying about moods. There's no right or wrong hobby (unless it involves illegal/self harming activities of course) Sports are a good fit, reading, painting, singing, cooking, cleaning, any art really.

    ~Develop multiple hobbies, this can be especially beneficial for coping with mood swings. Art/reading is generally good for depression. Poetry is powerful, as is singing, or writing. Sports can be good for dealing with mania, it's a good way to vent excess energy. As is art, mania has high amounts of creative thinking, don't be afraid to channel it, in a healthy way :)

    ~Keep a "mood journal" see section 5: Coping skills

    5) I'm still having some mood swings, how can i cope with this?

    ~"Mood Journal"

    This is simply a safe place, to keep a chart of your moods over the course of a day. I recommend doing it at nite, and using it to chart the entire day, if you have long lasting moods. For "rapid cycling" it may be beneficial to mark every few hours, or if you have a major change. This allows you to track your progress. Don't be discouraged if it isn't as "flat lined" as you hope, it will get better eventually.

    There are a number of ways to chart this, an X and Y graph, a line (your base line, where you are not affected by either major end of the moods) and draw above, or bellow this line. Or ask your therapist, for easy graphs. Or make your own, just be sure it is legible. This can be kept to your self, or be very beneficial in treatment. Bring it to show your doctor, or therapist, so they can better understand how you are doing.

    It is highly advisable, to write anything you were doing before a mood switch. Depending on how you graph it, just be sure it is easy to see where it follows the mood.

    ~Identifying "triggers

    What is a "trigger"?

    Triggers, in terms of psychological disorders, are simply events, objects, or places that can trigger certain symptoms to appear.

    How does this happen?

    There are many possible reasons. It could be a traumatic event in a certain location. Certain objects, may bring back memories of a lost loved one. Certain events, such as break ups, or job loss, can trigger you to remember how you handled it in a past situation. These examples are more common with cases of PTSD, how ever it is the same basic principal.

    How do I find my triggers?

    Keep an eye on your moods. Are there certain things which seem to bring on a mood swing?
    Does spending time with certain people seem to make you more depressed, or manic?

    Does having to go to certain kinds of areas (really busy towns, or very rural areas for instance) seem to bring out mood changes?

    Are there any specific changes in your situation? (job changes, relationships starting/ending/becoming more serious/less enjoyable, starting/stopping any kinds of bad habits drinking/smoking/drug use/ect, or any other disturbances in your daily routine)

    ~Dealing with "triggers"
    So you have found some triggers? Now you need to cope with them.

    It depends widely on your exact trigger how to cope with it. Your therapist, can help you with specific issues. Generally you can go two ways with triggers:


    Try to avoid the triggers. If it is certain areas, plan to not go there. If it is a certain city for instance, avoid vacationing to the area. In the event you have family there, or major events: funeral, wedding, ect. Ask your doctor, if there is anything you can use short term, to help with the stress. Or if possible, explain that is it difficult to go there. You must look out for your own well being first!

    If there are certain people that seem to trigger you, you may want to terminate the relationship. This should only be done if they are unwilling, to make accommodations for you, or if it is a major disruptive influence in your well being. You do not need to tell them you have BP, in fact you shouldn't need to in this case. Simply find their behavior you can't cope with, and politely ask them to change it. It may take time/reminding them, but they may be willing to. If they are unable, or unwilling to stop, cease communication. Do not blame them for how you feel though!

    If you find that your situation is somehow triggering you, avoid the exact problem. If it is smoking, ask your doctor for help on quitting. If it is drinking, get help as soon as possible! Most psychiatric medications are dangerous when mixed with alcohol! If it is drug use, have your therapist help you find a way to quit. Even the "lighter drugs" such as Marijuana, can have very negative affects on BP. As well as severely inhibiting your medications ability to work!

    For your exact triggers, it is advised you use your "support team" (see section 6) for help on dealing with avoiding these triggers.

    Coping with triggers:

    Some times it can be difficult, or just not in your best interest to avoid a trigger.
    There are a number of ways to cope with them, for more specific advice, ask your therapist.

    Some general coping skills include:

    In relationships, romantic, or other wise. You can try working with the individuals involved, and ask them politely to make accommodations for you.

    If you are uncomfortable about certain types of areas, try to find ways to deal with the stress. For instance, there is strong support of Yoga/Meditation as natural ways to help reduce anxiety. Of course, you may feel silly doing Yoga in a public area, but try a few minutes before you go, or after returning. If you have to go through a busy part of town for work/school, find a route that can get you there without going through this area. Be sure to plan out how much extra time this may require!

    For other triggers, consult your "support team" for helpful advice.

    6) Find, and work with your Support Team

    What is a "support team"?

    Your support team, is your doctor, therapist, and anyone else you choose to help you deal with BP.
    A metaphor for it is, if mediation is your blood, and therapy is your lungs, your support team is your skeleton.

    First things first, who is on your team?
    This is entirely up to you! Generally, I would advise your doctor, and therapist as pretty set members.
    Choosing who else to help is important! It should not be rushed, and it may be wise to wait until you are comfortable with your diagnosis before seeking more members.

    ~So you understand your illness, you have good information, who do you want to help?

    ~Finding a good support team takes time, and patience. If someone is unwilling to be part of it, do not hold hostility towards them.

    ~Aim for people you interact with on a regular basis. Generally good candidates are members of your family that you are close to. It could be your parents, especially if you still live at home. An older brother, or sister. Or if you have a trusted extended family member, such as an aunt, uncle, or cousin, they are good starting points.

    ~Friends can be extremely helpful for your prognosis. Choose only friends that you have known for a long time, and that you have a close relationship to. I would advise against friends you met online, or have limited interaction with physically. Ex: a friend in another state.

    ~Co workers, is a pretty touchy subject. On the one hand, you see them nearly daily, and they are there with you at work. It can be helpful if they are close friends, as they can help you remember coping skills, and you can mutually help with stressful responsibilities. On the other hand, they may feel that you are not "pulling your weight" if you have issues performing your job. This can lead to discrimination, hostility, rumors, and make it harder to work. STRONG care should be taken here, and generally, i would advice against it.

    In accordance with the American Disability Act, your employer may also be required by law, to make reasonable accommodations for those suffering mental, or physical limitations. This is another touchy subject. You have the right to inform your employer of your BP. Though this should be avoided in interview processes, and is generally handles during the application process.

    I would highly recommend consulting your doctor, and your therapist on this issue. Generally there is not much they can really do to make BP easier at work. If you take medication that could inhibit your ability to operate machinery, or drive, ect. This is a good subject to ask your doctor about.

    Or if you have certain issues with being presented in very stressful situations: closing the store, being on a register, ect. These are things to consider. This would largely fall under self responsibility, to not seek employment in these fields. However, it may be presented as a required, or optional promotion/demotion. In this case consult someone who better understand the exact laws, for more helpful information.

    ~ Approaching your support team members:

    So, you finally decided who you want to be on your support team?
    Now you have to ask them if they are willing to be a part of it. Some general points first:

    ~This is a "support" team. They are people of close relation to you, that you want to aid you in living a fruitful, productive life.

    They are not:
    ~Being paid to help. So do not expect them to always be available!
    ~Trained psychiatrist, they will have times where they are unsure how to help, this is okay!
    ~Baby sitters, this isn't meant to sound cruel, but they are trying to help you, not look after you!
    ~Under obligation to help, they are doing this as an act of great love to you, don't expect anything unreasonable out of them!
    ~Your minions, if they have other priorities, try to understand this!

    So you want them to help?
    Here are some basic steps for approaching them

    ~Inform them you have BP.

    ~Give them time to cope with this fact. It is likely to be a bit of a shock at first. Give the, a few days, before moving onto step 2.

    ~Be informative. Once they are willing to discuss it further, give them the information you obtained from your therapist, and doctor. Read it with them, to be sure they understand it all.

    ~Encourage them to ask questions. At first, you will want this to be as closely related to the illness as possible. Avoid mentioning support at this phase. Give them a few days, to absorb the info.

    ~Once they are fairly understanding of the symptoms, and disorder. Very politely ask them if they are willing to help you out with this. AVOID the term "support team" they are your loved one, and you are asking for help, nothing more, or less!

    ~If they feel uncomfortable, or unsure, give it time. DO NOT bring it up, let them come to you, when they are ready to give a more firm answer.

    ~Tell them, you are not asking for a baby sitter, and inform them of how they can help.

    ~This is a two-way street. Be supportive of them, and show them how much their help means!

    ~Dealing with rejection:

    So who you asked is unwilling, or unable to help?

    ~This can be hard news, but keep in mind, they are still the same person! They haven't changed, they are just unable to be a part of the team. Do not harbor hostility over this! Just resume your usual relationship with them.

    ~Find another person to help. Give it time, before moving on. And try to find multiple people to aid you with this. Ideally, family, AND friends.

    ~Remember, you are asking them to take on a large responsibility, so be understanding.

    Thread is too long, so pt2 incoming
  2. emily83

    emily83 Well-Known Member

    very good guide so far!

    thanks for sharing it

    anything inspired you to write this?
  3. Lorax

    Lorax Well-Known Member

    Thank you,
    Actually it was going to be a short list of coping skills i found, but thought it may help someone better understand/cope.. So i kept going.
  4. emily83

    emily83 Well-Known Member

    ah, okay- thanks for explaining. (oh, and i nearly missed this post... thank you search results!. lol!)

    gave me an idea for a thread, but you've kind of covered it so
  5. Lorax

    Lorax Well-Known Member

    An idea for a thread?
    You mean like a guide sort of thing?
  6. emily83

    emily83 Well-Known Member

    well, kind of..

    i was going to start a thread asking all the members to post a tip to survive mental illnesss- and eventually we'd come up with our own guide

    but yeah.. you covered it really
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