I ran out of one of my bipolar medications…

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I ran out of one of my bipolar medications, and not in a “I wasn’t paying attention” sort of way, but in a “my doctor was on vacation, I switched pharmacies, and spent hours on the phone only to finally get my medication after four days of not taking it” sort of way.

After two days of not having it I noticed something, a hint of self loathing, then the next day a large drop of despair. A taste of where I would be without my medication. I don’t understand why, I’m at a really really good place in my life. Things are going great. If I would have guessed I would have thought that if I stopped all my medications I’d be manic, but I was faced with something else, clearly, after my little medical mishap. I’d be depressed right now.

I don’t know if that was what startled me most over these bits of mood turbulence that came from only four days without just one of my many medications, was it that I would be depressed now without them, surrounded by all the current joy I have, or was it the fact that this is all it took for me to feel those ends fraying, me losing control over my emotions?

The reality of bipolar isn’t an easy one, even for someone like me who isn’t a control freak. I’m not in control of my own emotions; perhaps I’m painting with too wide a brush. I am in control when I’m also in control of taking my medications.

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Touched by Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament: A Book Review

The definitive work on the profound and surprising links between manic-depression and creativity, from the bestselling psychologist of bipolar disorders who wrote An Unquiet Mind.

One of the foremost psychologists in America, “Kay Jamison is plainly among the few who have a profound understanding of the relationship that exists between art and madness” (William Styron).

The anguished and volatile intensity associated with the artistic temperament was once thought to be a symptom of genius or eccentricity peculiar to artists, writers, and musicians. Her work, based on her study as a clinical psychologist and researcher in mood disorders, reveals that many artists subject to exalted highs and despairing lows were in fact engaged in a struggle with clinically identifiable manic-depressive illness.

-Goodreads

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Air them out: Why communicating our emotions is so important.

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I wear my emotions on my face, it’s a curse and a gift. It’s a curse because I have very little control over it, it happens in a split second and often by the time I get rid of the expression or slight tone in my voice it’s already been noticed. It makes people ask about my emotions a lot, which in turn, has gotten me to talk about my emotions a lot more. It made me realize how important it is to air out our emotions on a regular bases.

It also made me realize that some of my emotions are stupid. I’m not going to lie about that. Not every emotion needs to be spoken or written or told, some of our emotions seem to come out of nowhere and defy our common sense, but paying close attention to our emotions and which ones keep swinging around help us determine which emotions we need to be ignoring and which ones mean something.

Hint: If it happens over and over again, no matter how stupid it seems, you should figure out what is causing it at it’s root. It’s probably more important than it seems.

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The importance of identifying mental health cycles:

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Life comes in phases. It’s a up down cycle of happiness and sadness. A constant revolving door between good events and bad events. It’s easy to dismiss that fact, to overlook it and think that each bad phase is going to last forever, but they never do. So, why is it so easy to dismiss the cycle?

Our emotions are overwhelming. They completely take over our thoughts. Our memories of both good and bad times get fuzzy and we think the only thing we know for sure is the crisp emotions we currently feel.

Because of this it’s easy to miss the fact that it isn’t just happiness and sadness that cycle, but all aspects of our mental health. Anxieties that we have conquered in the past can come up again in different ways. Habits that we haven’t seen in a long while can come back when we least expect them.

We often find ourselves trapped in cycles without even noticing it, and perhaps that’s because we really can’t control these cycles, and they’ll always come back despite us. But not being able to control our cycles doesn’t mean that we can’t beat them.

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I told people I’m bipolar on the first date:

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I told people I’m bipolar on the first date and I’d still be doing it if I was still dating.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t at first. I was terrified of what people would think of me, how it would effect my chances with someone. I wouldn’t tell a soul, I thought it was something that should be saved for a few months in, a “so I should probably tell you…” that comes when your ready to confess.

But why was I confessing? I wasn’t guilty of anything. I am bipolar, it’s part of me and it has been for a long time. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m annoyed by it a lot, but I’m not ashamed of it. It was out of my control and it made me stronger. It’s just there, a consistent part of me, and I share things about me when I’m trying to get to know someone, so why shouldn’t it be shared as well?

Sure, there is stigma, but there is stigma on all sorts of things, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about it. Maybe by hiding our disorders we’re adding to the stigma. We’re acting ashamed, so they must be shameful! But it isn’t. Bipolar disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, so I started to act like it.

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What is the key to beating depression before it really takes root?

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I was able to successfully ward off depression my freshman year of college, but I wasn’t able to do so my senior year. What was so different and why didn’t I catch on in time to fix it?

It’s a question that crossed my mind today when I thought about how long it had been since I mindless danced like crazy around the room. I did it a ton my freshman year of college because I knew it made me happy and I needed it, along with a lot of other things, but since then? It’s been a hot minute since the last time I cranked music just to dance by myself. That led me to ponder on the fact that I didn’t do it my senior year of college, which was the year that my depression actually caught me. I work so hard to keep it away my freshman year, why didn’t I attempt to do the same three years later?

It’s a multi-layered question, but I think it can help me understand how to catch my depression in earlier stages in the future. Sometimes pulling out all your coping mechanisms is enough, sometimes you need medication, but the fact is it’s always easier to fix it when you catch it early.

My freshman year was hit with really bad break ups, both a romantic one and one with my best friend. I knew I had every reason to be sad. I acknowledged that sadness and I knew that it was logical. My senior year was different, it shouldn’t have been, but it was. My close college friends all graduated a class before me and I became isolated the same way I had my freshman year, but I still had friends in the area so I dismissed the sadness. It wasn’t valid and I was fine. I kept telling myself that, and it’s amazing what lying to yourself can do. You can convince yourself that crying every night is completely normal, and I did. Was it because my pain was more understandable my freshman year? Was it because I knew college sometimes started out rocky and that break ups were always messy? My senior year I thought I was supposed to be clinging onto my last years of college bliss, but instead I found myself angry I wasn’t done yet. Everyone around me was sad to be leaving, did that make me feel like my emotions were less valid?

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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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