I can’t think of a better way to spend World Mental Health Day than smiling. Smiling at others, including ourselves, can change the world! Even if the smile hurts to make today, do it anyway. Sometimes you’ve got to fake it before you make. I love all my followers from ALL over the world! You all make a difference!
The fire hydrant of information that exists at our finger tips is drowning us mentally, spiritually, and physically. The unrelenting noise found in internet surfing, texts, emails, television, social media, and podcasts clutters our minds so much that moments of calm, relaxation, and pure silence have ceased to exist in our everyday lives.
Underlying bipolar symptoms of depression and mania will undoubtedly be exacerbated by all of this loud noise. I would say bipolar minds, especially, are more sensitive and susceptible to stress and anxiety-ridden information. Have you ever been on the internet only to sign off and feel like complete crap? Anxious feelings? Feelings of inadequacy? Then why continue this vicious cycle?
We need to recognize what a healthy amount of noise should be allowed in our lives. It will vary from person to person. Some people may find that all social media noise should be eliminated, and that’s okay, you can survive without social media! I deleted all social media for one year and never looked back. I loved the extra silence in my life. I got back on social media because I felt the call to write about bipolar. One day I may change my mind, and that’s okay!
Perhaps today, contemplate the idea of putting your phone down—even if it means not reading my blog 😉 Lie down in a comfortable place with complete silence. When a thought enters your mind, shut it down. Even if for only five minutes at first. I think you will be amazed by what it will do for your mind, body, and soul. If you are especially used to the noise, you will most likely find this very difficult, which probably means you need the silence much more than you thought. Just give it time, you will eventually very much welcome the silence. We desperately need more silence in our lives to alleviate restlessness and reconnect with our true selves.
I’m going to do this today as well. If you do too, I’d love to know how it made you feel.
A reminder to be kind to yourself today. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes (as I tell my kids, I make at least 100 a day), we all really don’t know what we are doing, nobody in the world has it “all figured out,” and it’s ok to learn to love yourself despite what awful, terrible mistakes you may have made. All can be forgiven.
More difficult to find than a cure for bipolar is someone who will listen. Not just hear you, but actually listen.
Those of us with bipolar typically have an abundance of thoughts and feelings rolling around in our heads. Releasing those thoughts and feelings can help lighten our burden. As I’m sure you’ve heard, keeping feelings pent up inside is never a good thing. When we bottle up emotions they can percolate inside for perhaps years, until one day the lid pops off and we emotionally explode over everyone. Then we wonder where all that came from. Not pretty.
Instead of allowing the explosion to take place, we should be proactive about communicating our thoughts and emotions in a healthy way. What do I mean by “a healthy way?”
1. Don’t wait for someone to ask you how you are feeling or thinking. Nine out of ten times that won’t happen. Instead, ask a trusted friend or family member to make some time in their day to talk. Do not just throw all your thoughts and feelings on someone when they can’t give you their full attention for risk of not feeling heard.
2. Do talk with people only when you are calm. A conversation never ends well when one person is angry or upset to begin with. If you need some cool-down-time, be sure to take all the time you need before you involve yourself in a well-thought-out conversation.
3. Do realize that because bipolar emotions can be incredibly strong, they might also come across to others as very strong. Try to be aware of your audience and tailor the way you present your thoughts and feelings to how they will best be perceived.
4. If you really trust the person you are speaking with, sometimes I like to ask (usually my husband, in my case) if what I am saying is irrational. I trust him to tell me if I sound like I am in a more hypermanic phase than perhaps I realized.
5. Do give others credit for doing their best at listening. Especially for those who are not naturally emotional people, it can be very difficult for them.
6. Try not to start a sentence with the word “you” during a more confrontational conversation. It makes the other person automatically defensive. Instead start your sentence with something like “when this happens, I feel (fill in the blank).
7. Don’t just talk about problems without offering solutions. Otherwise the conversation will just turn into a giant whine-fest.
8. Thank someone for listening. It takes a selfless person to listen. Also, remember conversations are a two-way street. Allow the other person to speak and be heard as well. We ALL need to be heard and feel valued.
These tips should have you on your way to communicating your bipolar feelings and thoughts more effectively while keeping your relationships intact. Do you have any other tips to add?
Is bipolar a gift? Or simply an illness, as we are told by the medical community?
Some will argue, “how can a disorder of any kind be a gift?” I will do my best to explain.
Almost everyday of my life these days I am knocked down by my brain telling me: you are not good enough, end your life, you are a burden to your family, you will never succeed. Everyday I fight like hell pushing back saying: I am good enough, my life is worth living, I am needed by my family, I will succeed.
This thought process has created a resilience, a kind of stamina that only someone with mental health struggles would know. My bipolar has made me mentally strong, contrary to what people would think. When others quit, I keep going because I am used to the fight.
Bipolar has given me some of the best days of my life. When my brain is manic and rapidly thinking, my best ideas and passions come to fruition.
On a spiritual level, I am a Catholic and my faith is paramountly important. When I am suffering in a deep depression, I am able to align my suffering with the suffering Jesus went through dying on the cross for me. If you are not of a Christian faith, it can be a powerful tool to suffer. You learn compassion, and I believe a deeper understanding to the meaning of life. I do not believe we were created as human beings to lead easy and cushy lives. I believe there is much value in suffering. In suffering we are humbled, in humility we find understanding, in understanding we find compassion, in compassion we find love, which is what I believe we were created to do; love.
On the opposite side of the argument, people will say that bipolar is bad. In fact, if you look at a previous post, I asked people to describe bipolar using one word. Out of 215 comments, only 20 responded with a word that had a positive connotation. Most words were extremely negative in nature. And I get it, bipolar can be exhausting and all the other words mentioned.
Bipolar’s very nature is a chemical imbalance. There is something “wrong” with how our brains function. Or so we are told. Could it be that our brains are wired differently for a bigger purpose than we can see?
The one dreadful bipolar side effect is its contribution to suicidal behaviors and suicide. Which easily makes the argument that bipolar is a bad thing. But is bipolar bad without the suicidal tendencies? I’m asking you. I want to know your opinion on this. Is bipolar good or bad?
A mixed episode creates an experience of entrapment inside her mind. She is itching with desire to reach deep inside her skull to purge her tormented brain. Her brain suffocates her. She cannot breathe.
Her body unmistakably trembles with fear, her hands twitch from excess energy. Tears overflow in her eyes. She wants to run away from herself as quickly as possible. How does she escape her agitated herself? She can’t. She will indefinitely be trapped. Waiting for her brain to decide when and how she will come down from this mixed episode of hell.
She wants to sleep. In sleep, she is unaware of the torture occurring in her mind. Unfortunately, the mania during the mixed episode relentlessly and viciously keep her awake. She is like a trapped lion in cage, heart bursting out of her chest. The tossing and turning she endures is enough to make her cry out. Please God, take this from me! I cannot go on. The clock changes from midnight to 3 o’clock, from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock until she wearily gives up on the notion of sleep. Bipolar wins again, she feels as though she is losing her mind. She is terrified.
The world and her life do not slow down. She is a mother who pretends like all is okay in the world. She does not allow her children to know of her suffering. She loves them too much to have them worry. After three nights of sleeplessness, her body cannot keep up. Finally she crashes. She closes her eyes, and sleeps at last.
She is me. I am her. Or is she simply her bipolar? The confusion ensues.
If you are #unashamed of having bipolar, then I will mail one of these shirts to you. My husband and I have worn our So Bipolar t-shirts multiple times, and we have to say, we’ve gotten quite a few stares. I don’t know if they’re stares of intrigue, fear, or inspiration. Whatever they are, we’ve got people thinking about mental health.
Go to the www.SoBipolar.com blog, under the shop tab, where you can get these shirts and start the conversation on bipolar. I would love to hear any of the responses you get while wearing your shirt. Or just snuggle up in bed, on a depressed day, while wearing your comfy So Bipolar t-shirt.
Anger can be a monumental bipolar trigger. When someone wrongs you, whether it be lying, cheating, hurtful words, breaking of trust, or unkindness. These are all circumstances that can trigger massive bipolar manic and depressive episodes.
We can respond in three ways: depression, mania, indifference. I personally am usually triggered straight to hyper-mania or mania and block the stressor out so much that I become cold to the world. I create a shell around myself, unable to be cracked by anyone or anything.
I am accustomed to coping with depression that sometimes the anger feels like a welcome escape. At least I feel alive instead of the dead feeling that comes with depression. At times, I will hold onto that anger like a dog with a bone. Not wanting to create a vulnerability which will inevitably induce a depression once again. A kind of defense mechanism I suppose.
How can we reshape the mania or depression in a healthy way? I wish I had a clear cut answer. However, bipolar or not, forgiveness and moving on are eminently difficult for most.
Personally, I turn to prayer, serving others, or putting my excess energy or anger toward physical activities. Focusing my mind and body on anything other than my problems helps immensely.
What are tools or tactics you use to reign in bipolar triggers?
4 Lies About Bipolar Depression That Need to End:
1. Depression means you are lazy. False. You are the farthest thing from lazy. If you were lazy, by definition, you would be unwilling to exert energy. More than likely, you are not only willing, but begging for energy, and lots of it! But your brain is unwilling to give it to you. It feels similar to taking sleeping pills during the day and trying to get your regular routine done. Just add in the relentless sadness and anxiety, that are depression’s best friends.
2. Depression means you are mentally weak. False. Some may argue that people with a mental illness are quite the opposite, and are mentally stronger than most. The war that goes on inside your head would bring many to their knees because of its excruciating pain. So please, don’t ever say you are not mentally strong. You have fought a million wars in your head and won every one. After all, you are still standing.
3. Depression means you are nutritionally deficient. False. Perhaps you have taken every supplement in the book. And quite frankly, you are sick and tired of trying out “the natural way.” Yes, supplementing has helped in some ways. But many people are convinced that bipolar disorder is somehow rooted in the fact that you are fundamentally lacking certain nutrients. Many have taken most every supplement, and guess what? They still have bipolar.
4. Depression means you have “unresolved issues.” False. Yup, we’ve all got them. As an example, I can say with great certainty that I had an amazing childhood and do not have any significant unresolved issues. I had loving and supportive parents, a best friend for a sister, and a ton of close friends. Nothing stands out to me that I need to “resolve.” But I still have bipolar.
What is not understood or maybe even known, is that bipolar is genetic. Rooted in biology. My great-great grandma, great-grandma, grandma, mom, and myself ALL have/had bipolar disorder. Or is it still possible that FIVE generations were simply lazy, weak-minded, nutrient deficient, and bad at resolving their issues? I am inclined to say, no.
Many people have made these assumptions or suggestions from a very loving place. So on my behalf, thank you for loving and trying to support those who have bipolar. I am, however, voicing a perspective from someone who deals with bipolar symptoms on a regular basis. We are who we are, and most likely will not be “fixed” by one of these simple changes in our lives. It is all incredibly complex.
If you have bipolar, you are so incredibly strong, never forget that.
“The Mighty” wrote an article on my experience with bipolar, featuring my photos that depict bipolar mood shifts. Check out the interview at:
You all are amazing, thank you for following!