I’ve learned these insights over the last seventeen years of my diagnosis of bipolar type II which have helped me understand both myself and my recovery. So as a result, I’ve managed to stay well for longer. I feel responsible to share this information. Please take the ones which work best for you and feel free to ignore the ones which are less helpful.
Realisation and acceptance in no particular order…
- Feeling isolation yet being the one who imposes it, is the easiest way to trick yourself.
- When pejorative labels no longer hurt so much. They’re not an ‘ouch’ anymore. Just a twinge. That’s when you feel progress.
- Demonstrating self-help to yourself. Not to anyone else.
- Understanding and reading symptoms. Listen to your entire body. Really hear it.
- Discovering and realising the triggers. Then cutting them out of your game.
- Understanding your medication and learning to live with side effects. You live in this era of medical advancement, not in the future.
- Trying not to live in the past but looking for answers there is ok. Keep a diary in some form to look back on.
- Deflecting other people’s preconceptions about you or your condition. You don’t have to do this head on. If you have a close relationship with someone else share with them and discuss.
- Discovering ways to help control your thought processes. If you can get a free course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) then take it. You’ll never look back.
- Knowing what fair treatment is and living that way. Treat others the way you want them to treat you.
- Develop coping mechanisms everywhere, certainly for insomnia. Absolutely for the paranoia crisis. This hooks back into recognising triggers.
- Accepting debilitating insecurities and quietening them down. The voice can be dominating for years without actually noticing how it has been talking you into negative states. Conquor it by turning down it’s volume. It’s a tougher ask to make it go away entirely.
- Pursue authentic communication with other people. Don’t speak in riddles, it can confuse and complicate.
- Working on your perception of reality by grounding yourself. Reality is different for everyone. Reality changes because of history. Reality can be shared for comfort if you need to. There are no rules other than trying to avoid a slide into a place where your imagination is taking over and you feel magic shading in. I fear that state because it’s not reality.
- Aim to make each wellness window stay open longer than the last. Try to stay well for 12 months or 12 weeks if you prefer. Just aim further and you’ll do it.
- Always take your medication and never miss a blood test. This is as important as breathing air.
- Start a quest for answers and don’t stop. Read books, search google, watch bipolar videos in youtube, listen to podcasts. Go!
- Start a subscription to Pendulum magazine if you live in the UK. It helps your entire family.
- Finding happiness through lowering your expectations to balance self esteem.
- Seek out better ways to feed yourself which align with better mental health. Eating is as important as medication. Think about food and drink and make better choices accordingly.
- Seek out a local nutritionist and have a chat.
- Take comfort in rituals. Live life a little less extraordinary and a little more structured.
- Investigate to come to terms with your paranoia and then you’ll begin to master it.
- Go running more than once a week or jogging if you can’t run.
- Remember with Lithium, “Swallow the salt and try not to overdose on beauty.”
- Never forget that the brightest dawns follow the darkest nights.
- Everything feels a lot worse at 3am. It always gets better.
- Try and disregard that feeling of rejection. Keep going it will pass.
- Leave the house every morning with protection and with courage.
- Take heed to the words of wisdom that are written on the walls of life. No, not graffiti. Think deeper. They are all there for you. You’ll notice them.
- A side effect of learning to feel isolated is suffering duplicity and sarcasm. It may not be there. Try to look at the situation in another way. I helps clarify what is actually happening. You’ll be relieved.
- We can’t always blame. Be gracious, patient and grateful.
- Rage against the misunderstandings and misconceptions.
- Have faith in what skills you’ve already got and it will carry you on.
- Telling people you have a mental illness is not a sound byte conversation, it’s a big conversation.
- If you need quick fix to avoid stigma just blend in and be unremarkable.
- Biologically, bipolar is very much like diabetes only not as cool. If you were diabetic should you be ashamed of that?
- It’s not about what’s wrong with you, it’s about what’s happened to you.
- You are not responsible for your illness but you are responsible for your recovery. You’ve got to get on with life.
- Don’t try and find someone to save you. Find someone to stand by your side while you save yourself.
- Mood swings cannot be masked by alcohol in the mid to long term.
- Try to stop drinking alcohol or seriously cut down.
- In the UK, join a local MDF group and spend six months visiting once a month to meet other people who share your condition. Stay longer if you think it helps.
- Always keep your 3 to 6 month psychiatrist appointment. They are worth it.
- 1 in 100 people are bipolar. Think how many you must meet everyday. You can’t tell who they are can you?
- If you can, try to live near your doctor’s surgery so motivationally, it makes it easier to go.
- Having a nervous breakdown when you are young is not entirely a bad thing because you have the rest of your life to recover.
- It’s not helpful to convince yourself that you are not attractive or that you will never find someone to love you. You will.
- Who wants to be in the mass anyway?
- Every month when you collect your repeat prescription, the chemist will be 100 pills short and you’ll have to go back again for the excess the day after. Guaranteed.
- In the eyes of stigmata you’re different. But not good different, unfashionably different. It’s almost a complement.
- Some people will drop you like a hat when they find out. Some partners leave you, some bosses fire you and some of your team mates will ridicule you. But not everyone.
- Doubt sometimes can be healthy. Doubt all the time is really bad for you.
- A nervous breakdown in stigma terms implies you are weak, when intact you are stronger for having gone through it.
- Nobody knows your diagnosis by looking at you apart from the chemist.
- Smile at the chemist as you’ll be seeing each other regularly. They’ll eventually smile back.
- There’s a big difference between seeing a psychiatrist and a psychiatrist wanting to see you.
- It helps to have religious observance or spiritual authenticity. Whichever works for you.
- Remember, in adversity we all move forward quicker.
- Comfort food in moderation. But don’t go without.
- Try green tea. It may not be the tastiest brew but it’s very good at avoiding too much caffeine. Also try camomile tea before bedtime.
- Try and go to bed before midnight.
- Put some lavender oil on your pillow if you’re not sleeping so well.
- Travel insurance and life insurance will always cost more if you declare. That doesn’t feel fair.
- In a black sheep democracy, you’re the odd one out if that’s what you believe is happening. Try to think differently.
- It’s hard to find your way out of taboo but don’t stop moving around in it, even if you can’t come out.
- Stigma is just a way we try and control others. Fear of stigma is how it really works. Be brave.
- Why me? Why on earth did it happen to me? Was it something I said or did? Did I do something wrong? Did I deserve it? No, no and no. It’s not you.
I’ve learned to live with something many cannot bear to be close to. They despise it and they cannot see me directly behind it. That is their target and I am caught in the crossfire. They don’t hate me. They can’t see me. They only see ‘it’.
‘It’ is my bedfellow and it is also in my heart. I cannot remember anymore what it was like before, I only know what it feels like now, after the transformation. No way am I defined by it, not by me – not by anyone, but I ignore my well being at my own peril. Never, ever taking my remission windows for granted, however long they last for.
There is a 60 second video book trailer available to watch at hypomanic.co.uk
Or watch a YouTube version of the Hypomanic video book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkQbVibNH0o
To follow me on Twitter: @victorjkennedy