Positive things my bipolar disorder has gifted me with:

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I wrote a post a long while ago about how it’s okay for people to call mental illness a gift. It’s one of my favorite posts. I can’t decide if it’s the bipolar jokes or the fact that it’s about Van Gogh, but regardless, it still stands. It’s is okay for people to call their mental illness a gift the same way it’s okay for them to call it a curse. Both can be true.

I spend a lot of time writing about ways to function with mental illness and to overcome some of it’s trickier parts, but I wanted to make a post about the good things my mental illness has given me. So here’s a list of positives that have come from my bipolar disorder:

  • Creativity: Bipolar and creativity have long been linked. For most the creative streaks come during the manic phases, for me it seems like my creativity hardly sleeps. I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember, which is fitting because I got diagnosed at age six. Over half of my hobbies are creative ones and I fully thrive in the environment they create. I love my hobbies and I love this skill set. There is nothing I would trade for it.
  • Healthy coping mechanisms: A lot of people have unhealthy coping mechanisms, in fact, I don’t feel like it would be a stretch to say that most people do. It’s hard to function with a mental illness without learning coping mechanisms, and unhealthy ones just don’t make the cut, they end up making us feel worse. So to function, I’ve learned healthy coping mechanisms, ones that work and can aid my medication to the point where I can handle most everything thrown at me. It took a lot of work to get them, but I’m so happy I have them and am able to fall back on them whenever I need them, whether those needs are triggered by bipolar disorder or just everyday life.

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Stop Googling your new medications.

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I’ve heard a surprising number of people tell me they are really worried about their medications side effects, so they read them all before deciding whether or not to go on them. I get the idea, it’s important to be informed, but it can be a dangerous habit to get into. Let me explain:

I understand the dangers of bad side effects, one medication we tried for my bipolar disorder made me suicidal, another one that is perfectly safe for 99.99% of adults caused an abnormal cluster of cells in my brain after I had been on it for a number of years (they went away when I went off the medication). So, I get it, medications can do some terrible things to your body, but a lot of us need medicine, whether for our mental health or for our physical health. That medicine is essential to keeping you alive or living a life worth living. It’s scary to look at all the terrible things that could happen, but it’s also scary to think of all the things that would happen without it.

The thing is side effects aren’t always the norm. Everyone has medications effect them differently. I know people who are on the pill that made me suicidal and it was the one that cured their depression. It’s really a toss up whether or not you’ll have a good or bad reaction, but one thing is for sure, you’ll never know till you try.

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Your mental illness is not the most interesting thing about you.

20181018_110356.jpgYour mental illness is not the most interesting thing about you, and it shouldn’t be. If you find yourself reaching for your disorders name when trying to define yourself you might want to take a hard look at why you’re doing that. I’ve talked about labels before, and one of my bullet points was about mental illness, but I don’t think that covered the topic fully enough.

You are a complete person, full of dreams, hopes, fears, interests, and memories. A lot of them may be tied into your mental illness. That’s fair, especially if you’re currently fighting it with everything you have. Your mental illness is a part of you, and at times it may be a really big part of you, but it’s still not the most interesting thing about you.

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Giving and Taking Health Suggestions: No, you don’t actually know the fix.

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Suggestions normally come from a good place. We want people to feel better, we think we know a way to help, so we share. But lets be real here, every mental or physical illness can not be healed by the latest fad diet or the new “it” supplement and offering them as a cure all can honestly be very rude and condescending.

Of course I’ve tried to heal from Lyme Disease, of course I’m still working on it actively. I’m not better yet, I’m not just going to give in and submit to it. I’ve found that there are some things that seriously work, but they normally aren’t the things suggested to me by everyday people. They are things my doctor suggested or things that other people with this disease had work for them. They aren’t things that your best friend sells (hello oils) or diets that your mother in law did for her energy (hello keto).

Having an endless line of suggestions that probably won’t do anything aren’t helpful, they’re just saying ‘you clearly aren’t trying everything to get better.” That’s normally not what people mean when they suggest them, but that is normally how it comes off. It also comes off as people thinking they know a lot more than your doctors about science and yourself about your body. Neither of these is true.

That’s not to say that all suggestions are rubbish, some of them might help. How does one pick which ones to try and which ones not to?

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Mental illnesses and romantic relationships:

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You don’t need to love yourself before someone can love you, that is something that I hate hearing, mainly because it’s not true, but also because it doesn’t inspire one to love themselves, it just tells them that they are worthless now. The intent behind it is something to talk about though, and that is that you need to take care of yourself sometimes before you get in a romantic relationship. That is true, even if the saying people have made out of it is false and cruel.

You can have successful relationships when struggling with your mental health, there is no question in that, but there needs to be some serious reflection on how your mental health is affecting your actions and also affecting your thoughts.

Mental illness can make us more stand off-ish or more clingy. It can make you hide the truth or deliver it in hurtful ways. Mental illness effects us all over, which is one of the reasons society needs to take it more seriously, but it is also a reason why you need to evaluate yours before you dive into a romantic relationship. What behaviors are your mental illness affecting and how will they effect a loved one? Everyone has a few behaviors that aren’t ideal, everyone has things they need to work on, but if we currently have more than normal, we need to address them before we make a significant other address them.

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Why it’s important to go off of mental health medications the right way:

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There is a common theme I see among people who are on mental health medications, they’re all willing to go off of them when they are feeling better.

Mental health medications can be vital for people with mental health problems. They can make or break people’s lives. I, for one, would not be a functioning person without my bipolar medication. I learned young that I needed to be on them and luckily never questioned it afterwards, but because of the shame that can be associated with mental health prescriptions, a lot of people are eager to go off of them if they think they no longer need their help.

There are multiple problems with this, but the main one is that a lot of people think they no longer need the mental health help because their medication is still actively working. If you’ve been on an anti-anxiety medicine for years and haven’t had anxiety since that first year you were on it, it’s easy to say that maybe you’ve grown out of it, but it’s also a big possibility that you haven’t and that the medication is the reason you’ve been feeling so calm. Going off the medication often brings back all the anxiety that you had been treating.

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Don’t feed your mental illness: Depression thrives on isolation

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If there is one thing mental illness feeds on it’s the feeling of being completely alone in the world. It thrives when you think that no one could possibly understand, it’s festers when you think that nobody would even care if you were gone.

There’s a lot of ways to help relieve mental illnesses, I’ve talked about some of them before, taking medication, taking care of yourself in basic ways, but the most important thing is not to let yourself grow isolated. Don’t let yourself or your loved ones get cut off from the world. That’s when mental illness is its most dangerous.

I would know, I’ve been there. I was bullied, which forced me to cut ties, after a while I stopped reaching out to the people who still loved me. I let myself sink deep into a toxic kind isolation. I thought that the world would be better without me, because it felt like I was already starting to¬†disappear while I was still breathing. I thought it would be a good thing if I went a step further…

I was deeply wrong, and luckily one day I scared myself enough that I reached out. Telling someone I was suicidal saved my life. Not being alone in my depression was a game changer, and the thing is, it always changes the game.

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