Lessons Learned from Being Bipolar

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I have learned a lot since I was originally diagnosed with bipolar II disorder in 2016. Wow. I have known I was bipolar for five years now… that’s crazy! There’s a lot to know about the illness itself, let alone how to orient yourself to others without acting like a complete basket case. So below I will write lessons lived and learned with Dani, the bipolar girl. Hopefully you can read this and learn from my mistakes rather than having to live out your own mistakes!

1. Knowing when to Mask.

Masking can be defined as hiding or minimizing your illness or disorder to please others or make them feel more comfortable. Part of this includes knowing when to mask and when it’s okay to be your true self.

This can be rather difficult because you would think being honest with employers about being bipolar or whatever your illness is would bring clarity and awareness to upper management on how to approach you, but in some cases, your honesty could cost you your job.

I have lost jobs due to employers finding out I was bipolar and as much as I loved that job as a paralegal, there was no changing my boss’ mind about me due to the stereotypes that a mental illness such as bipolar disorder has.

On the flip side, when going on a date, you would think to mask symptoms of your disorder in order to impress this person. However, I would suggest showing your true self on a first date so that heartbreak is less likely to happen over your diagnosis if that person decides they can’t be with some with a mental illness. I would personally rather hear the bad news on a first date rather than a tenth date after you may have developed feelings.

Ultimately masking is up to you on how much or how little you do it. Know that either way, there are consequences for your actions.

2. It’s normal to feel fatigued all the time.

Let me just preface this segment with a story. Every day I tell Diego how tired I am and he tells me that I am not as tired as him since he works 50+ hour weeks, six days a week whereas I do not. But the difference between him and I and exhaustion is that we both have valid reasons to be tired.

Sure, I may not work as much or have as much on my plate, but mental illness is still an illness. For example, when you have the flu, your body uses all of its energy and healing properties to attempt to make you better. Same with a mental illness. Your body lacks chemicals it needs to make itself happy and regulate mood, so it fights to create those chemicals and cannot, which is exhausting within itself. This is why we give ourselves medicine or supplements to provide the body with nutrients that we cannot make ourselves. Even with these supplements, our body is still fighting to make more of its own nutrients, which leads til fatigue. It is also why so many side effects of these supplements include drowsiness and fatigue. So sure, I may not be physically working as much, but mentally I have a war going on.

Please know that you are not alone and I’m right there with you on feeling tired.

3. Bipolar is an illness of extremes

What I mean by this is that bipolar people have higher highs than most and with that, comes lower lows than most people have. What does this mean for me? It means I need to be more hyperaware of my surroundings and the impact I have on others.

For example, when I am manic, I experience pressured speech and going on long tangents with no end, when I think I am being confident, I could be coming off as obnoxious or abrasive to others. Here is another instance where masking may play a beneficial role. By being aware that I may be making others uncomfortable, I can use this information to cool my jets off a little bit, maybe take on the role of the listener more often so I can see how others communicate together.

This also means that suicidal ideation is very prevalent with bipolar folks to the point where it may feel like suicide is the only option, but in reality there are many options that can help you, even if it’s hard to see or hard to grasp.

4. Try not to stay idle or ruminate over things

This can be a tough thing for me when I am depressed, because when I am sad, I don’t want to get out of bed, let alone do the activities that bring me joy. It is also difficult not to ruminate over past experiences and say that I am a failure or that I suck, or whatever terminology you would use.

I try to follow a schedule or a routine and I have one for days off work and days that I do work. Right now recovering from foot and leg surgery, I have a lot of time on my hands to ruminate and be destructive. Overall the past two and a half weeks have been spent in bed, of course, but watching new documentaries, playing my Nintendo Switch, ordering entirely too much shit off of Amazon! Lol but like I say, if it keeps me away from my triggers, and it keeps the bad thoughts away, do it, do what makes you happy. I got 4 more weeks of this, so hopefully my bipolar doesn’t get too extreme, hopefully I’m even keeled.

If and when you do find yourself ruminating about the past, I always try to leave the room I am in and force myself to go for a walk or make some food or do a different activity that activates the right side of the brain, so art can be another form of that. By leaving the room, it forces you to think about something else such as, “Where am I going?” or “What am I doing?” By keeping your hands busy your mind must think about the next steps along with allowing your right side of the brain to be creative and do something different.

5. Keep a journal

I’ve learned to write down what I experience and what I go through. I have done this starting at 12 years old and I still have the diaries to prove it. Now I blog online, this is where I keep my journals because technology is the future. But if you don’t want your personal beeswax all over the internet, completely understandable. Keep an old fashioned journal and I would suggest to write at least once a week when you are starting out. Make a routine of it when you drink your coffee in the morning or late at night after you do your shower and skincare routine. Either way, it is for you to remember and reflect on the good times and the bad, the happy, the sad, just whatever life throws at you.

I often look back on what I wrote this day a year ago to see where I was at, how I was struggling and my gosh I always feel better because I know I made it through those hardships, God only knows I will make it through these hardships. I like to reflect on the good and the bad in my journals because life isn’t about only giving one or the other out. If there is a good time, there must be some bad in there, and vice versa. Regardless, I always like to think my kids would be interested in the human that I am becoming and I am just happy I love to write and share my story. The fact that 200+ of you reading this care about my life is mind blowing to me and I want to thank you, the readers, for following me and joining me on my journey.

Well 5 tips in 5 years seems to make sense to me. I bookmarked this post for a loooooong time and I am glad I was reading through my drafts today and I think I picked a good one to ignite and blow into the wind that is cyberspace.

Hopefully these tips helped you or gave you ideas for the ones you love whom might be struggling with bipolar disorder. Know that this isn’t the end, it is only the beginning. I love you all and hope you have a blessed week at work, school, or home.

Much love,

Dani

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