I had intended to write something different this week, but I am working to keep myself out of a dark place right now. As many of you know, I have type 2 bipolar disorder. One of the differences between type 1 and type 2 is type 2 struggles a lot more with depression. I had a couple of days last week where I could feel myself slipping into a hypomanic episode, but I kept it in check through exercise, talking it out, writing in my journal, using breathing techniques, along with prayer and mediation. I eventually started to come down into a normal range, but then encountered a situation that triggered me towards depression.
Without going into too much detail, a friend and I helped one of our other friends get out of an abusive situation and into somewhere safe. I am so glad she has taken the necessary steps towards a safer, healthier place, and I am so grateful she reached out and enabled us to help her.
In helping her through this, it reminded me of the first time I left my first husband on Thanksgiving in 1997. (I will write more about that next week, when I am feeling more up to it.) There have been situations in my past I have buried down deep that I know are going to start popping up since I am working through them in therapy, and sharing my experiences with others. While I had not forgotten about leaving him, it’s been roughly 20 years since I thought about the emotions, the struggles, and the mindset I was in that led me to go back to him.
Throughout the process of me helping my friend, I have found myself panicking and trying to make sure I share every bit of information available, so she isn’t tempted to go back. I have had this urge to literally take her by the hand and lead her through every step, making sure not to let her go, fearful of her making the same mistakes I did in forgiving my husband and returning to my abusive marriage. I have felt the storm within myself start to rumble and grow stronger as I have felt out of control and scared for her.
And then the darkness started to creep into my mind. I recognized it settling on me, so the day after Thanksgiving, I stayed in my recliner all day. I didn’t clean. I didn’t workout. I didn’t write. I did nothing, but make myself stay still. I was afraid if I didn’t, I would fall too deep, too fast. While I’m still teetering towards a depressive episode, I am working hard to keep it in check. (This time of year is also horrible for me, because I struggle with seasonal depression.) Yesterday, I made myself get up. I cleaned and organized my entire kitchen, because clutter makes my mental state worse. Today, I’m writing and am about to workout. I’m watching my food intake, and will stop by to see my parents for a spell. Even though I’m easily brought to tears and my energy level is low, I’m trying to take the necessary steps to keep myself from plummeting.
Recognizing that I was triggered this week was actually a step in the right direction. That’s one of the ways bipolar is managed. Years ago, I would not have been able to do this. I know now, I have to be aware of where I am emotionally and mentally at all times. If not, I can become too high and too low before I know it, which is dangerous. Relying solely on medication does not work. Managing bipolar also requires therapy, taking care of my body, realizing when I am triggered, taking time to meditate and pray, and keeping my closest family and friends in the loop about my mental health.
Bipolar disorder cannot be cured. I share about my disorder, because I know there are people out there that are embarassed by their own struggles. Also, I know there are loved ones who don’t know how to help. I’m hoping by sharing, it will give insight into the nature of the beast.
Friends and family of those with bipolar disorder, the best thing you can do is check in with your loved ones, listen, discuss their thoughts and feelings, and understand when they are stuggling, they can’t “just snap out of it.” I’m lucky to have a strong support system that meets me where I am and encourages me to do what is needed at that time. This makes a huge difference as to how long I am either up or down, and sometimes, helps me reach a more stable state within days instead of weeks.
To those who fight this disorder daily, you are not alone. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to speak up when you’re struggling. Make sure to take your meds; I know it sucks to have to do this daily, but without them, we harm ourselves. Make sure you are keeping your therapy appointments to talk it out, and please, take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.
And if you are in a bad place you just can’t seem to get out of, please, please, PLEASE, ask for help. You do matter, you are loved, and your life is important. Just take it a day at time, an hour at a time, or a minute at a time. Do what you have to do to survive. We will get through this together.