This week, I had the pleasure of collaborating with The Bipolar Gamer on this very blog post! Before going into the Q & A, I want to give a shout out to this wonderful and strong individual. I noticed he was liking a lot of my different blog posts and I had the courage to ask them if they would like to do a collaboration in the comments section of one of their post’s that I liked. So for the past week, we have been emailing back and forth, working with a time zone difference, and were able to come up with ten questions total in regard to mental health or bipolar disorder. We both answered all ten questions and will post the answers here at Precarious Aquarius and over on The Bipolar Gamer’s blog.
So if you are interested in learning from a person with a refreshing take on mental health issues who also loves gaming, go check them out. It helps them out and it helps me out by exploring new blogs, liking and commenting on new and different content.
As we were brainstorming ideas for this collaboration post, we decided to ask each other in depth questions whether they be about bipolar disorder, mental health, medication, therapy, you name it, we talked about it. So let’s get to it!
1. How does your mental health struggle manifest you physically?
Bipolar Gamer: Since starting my medication, I no longer experience the highs of hypomania. I more so feel apathy or depression. Lately it’s been to the point where it’s hard to even find the energy to shower. Everything is in slow motion and I’m just dragging my way through life.
Precarious Aquarius: A lot of it results in extreme fatigue and apathy. There is no sense of urgency in anything that I do because I just don’t care. I’m depressed about 65% of the time while my hypomania from the bipolar II disorder is running at about 35% of the time. When I am hypomanic, there is a sense of excitement and urgency in everything that I do, which leads to fatigue when I crash, burn, and become depressed once again. It’s a vicious cycle.
2. Age you knew you were mentally ill vs. when you were diagnosed.
BG: So I didn’t know anything was wrong with me until my diagnosis in August of 2020. I originally sought out therapy to overcome some anger issues that made my relationship pretty rough. Once I identified all of the things I did during a hypomanic episode and the depression, it all made perfect sense. There were finally logical explanations for my feelings and that gave me a great sense of relief. Being diagnosed with bipolar II disorder changed the way I looked at myself and the world around me; as if I could see clearly for the first time.
PA: I knew something was different with how I viewed myself and the world when I was 13. I asked my mom to take me to see a doctor and a counselor, where I would soon be given an antidepressant and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and PTSD at 14. I had to go through three antidepressants before I gave up on meds at that time because they heightened my suicidal ideation and mood swings. Once I was 17, I had these symptoms, even not taking any of the “bad” antidepressants, along with uncontrollable crying everyday and had too many emotions. At 18 I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I was then put on yet another antidepressant, an antipsychotic and a supplemental dose of Lithium.
3. Medication: yay or nay? Why? What do you take? What works best?
BG: I feel medication for me is essential to feeling “normal”. Otherwise I’d be all over the place emotionally. I’m on 200mg Lamotrigine and 10mg Abilify. I was on 10mg Prozac but that did nothing for me but make me more and more depressed and bring me to my lowest of lows. Medication won’t work for everyone but for those that it does work for, it’s a vital element in living a normal life.
PA: What works best for me, may not be the best for you and your needs. I am all for medication. Without it, I would have most likely committed suicide due to my severe suicidal ideation when I’m not on meds. Basically it’s like a diabetic taking insulin; you take it because your body needs it to survive. Same with bipolar. My head doesn’t make the same chemicals that your head makes so what do I do? I supplement the difference; I take my medicine. I take an antidepressant called Prozac. 40mg of that. Abilify, an antipsychotic 15mg of that. And 900mg of Lithium which I am tapering off of. My original dose was 1200mg and since I am stable and pretty even keeled, I get to reduce the amount of meds that I need.
4. Are you seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist regularly? How often? How’s it going? Or if not, reasons being for or against it?
BG: I’ve been seeing my psychologist on a weekly basis for about a year now. It’s helped me tremendously to identify my triggers as well as understand the way my mind works when I’m feeling a certain type of way. I like to think I’ve made great progress and I owe that to my psychologist. With psychiatrists, it’s hard to find a good one that actually cares about you. They push pills and that’s their main goal which I do need but I also want someone who is compassionate. I’m not wasting my money to see someone who doesn’t care.
PA: I used to see a therapist until she was forced out of her small business due to COVID-19. I saw her since basically the beginning of my mental health journey at 14 years old until I was 22. I am all for therapy and those whom seek it, it’s why I am going to school to become a social worker. However, it is expensive to find a therapist you not only like and trust, not to mention make time to go see them. I keep making excuses on why not to go, but I need to go back. There is an increase in my self esteem and self worth when I go because I see the traits that are hidden in the background through the therapist’s views.
5. What might progress with your mental health look like.
BG: Progress for me is when I’m actually able to get out and do things and enjoy doing them. Depression causes you to lose interest in your favorite activities. For me, once I recognize that I’m actually experiencing some sort of joy in my day to day life, I call that a win.
PA: I really saw process in my mental health when I stopped drinking and smoking weed cold turkey. I stopped hallucinating and having delusions altogether, and I notice I don’t need as much of my mood stabilizer, Lithium to keep me stable in my moods. Reducing medication amounts or amount of pills is a win, not to mention hearing when other people notice you being “clear headed” or seemingly “normal”. It’s not everything, those compliments, but it makes me feel good. End goal is to be happy, whatever that looks like for me.
6. Greatest pet peeve that people do or say when they find out or you tell them that you’re bipolar?
BG: Being treated differently, definitely. My mom once asked how my therapy was going because I seemed down. At that point I was unable to hide under the mask that I’ve had on for so long to keep them in the dark. It madam feel like she thought I was broken, which I kind of am but you don’t have to throw it in my face.
PA: That they treat me differently. I cannot stand to be treated differently the I act just like anyone else would. I know that I have lost a lot of family and friends over my diagnosis, and the stigma just sucks.
7. Best and worst coping mechanisms or vices for bipolar.
BG: For someone with bipolar II disorder, routine is everything. I’d be lying if I said I had a routine I’m sticking to but it’s something I’ve been needing to figure out. I also believe giving yourself a break or time to relax is very important so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. I’ve called out of work several times just to give myself some time to recoup. I won’t feel sorry for giving myself some much needed me time. The worst thing you can ado is overwhelm yourself because then you take every little inconvenience personally and it makes matters much worse.
PA: Best coping mechanisms – stay on a schedule as much as possible, go to sleep and get up at the same time, rest when you need to, find a hobby or craft that you love to do (for me it is blogging, painting, drawing, and reading.), stay on medication unless your doctor says otherwise, go to therapy if you can, talk to loved ones for support. Worst vices ( this goes for me, but not everyone) – gambling, excessive drinking, using drugs, including marijuana, smoking or vaping (vaping I am guilty as charged though; it’s the love of my life), cutting can be a vice, along with other self harm measures, and especially shopping or excessive spending.
8. Topics to avoid when discussing mental health. Or how open are you with your mental health condition?
BG: I don’t think there’s any topic not worth taking about in regard to mental health. I believe it’s crucial to talk openly about mental health in order to end the stigma surrounding it. However, as much as I am open about it online, I am much less likely to be open about it with my family as I feel they wouldn’t understand or would look at me differently. It’s a never ending internal struggle that I never let become external for the sake of those around me.
PA: There is no mental health issue I wouldn’t discuss, even if it does trigger me. I am so open with my mental health that it ends up hurting me later on. The first job I lost was my paralegal position when the lawyer of the firm found out through my social media that I am bipolar. He then proceeded to suspend and then fire me for “lack of integrity” when in reality he didn’t trust those with mental health issues. To this day, I still am open to sharing my story of mental health, just openly online, and in real life I am more subtle so it doesn’t jeopardize my employment.
9. Stance/Experience with suicide.
BG: I wish this topic was talked more openly about. I believe that by simply talking about suicide, it would decrease the amount of suicides we see per year. By talking about it, it shows the listeners that they aren’t alone and in turn, it makes them rethink their decision. I know this because I’ve been I this situation. I would often think about death, not in a full on crisis mode, but the thoughts were there and wouldn’t go away. What helped me was watching YouTube videos of suicide survivors share their story and listening to music that talks openly about feelings of death. Just the acknowledgment that those feelings are mutual in many people makes a world of a difference and quite literally can save lives. We need to talk about suicide more openly.
PA: I am all for personal autonomy over one’s self when it comes to the right to choose, your body your choice, all of that. But as a person who would inflict harm on one’s self in the form of suicide, it’s not just about you anymore. You are harming friends, family, and people in your community. But before you go to say, “Who the hell are you to try to tell ME what to do?” I say, read this post first and I promise you, you will feel differently. Let me be the first to say I have never attempted suicide. But I had a note and a plan. I was sitting in my car sobbing before doing the unfathomable. It was a cry for help, I didn’t know whom to ask or what to do, but I needed help NOW. I called my best friend, no answer. He had survived a suicide attempt so I knew he knew how I was feeling. I had just lost my house to a severe gambling addiction, lost my boyfriend, had no money, and a sea of debt. Not to mention loss of trust from everyone. I felt like no one cared nor loved me and I was scared to have surgery on my foot and knee the following week. I decided I was to drown myself in the Puget Sound in broad daylight so if someone helped me, my prayers would be answered. It wasn’t an elaborate plan, but it was MY plan; something I finally had control over. What seemed like hours later, my friend called me and he ended up talking me out of suicide that day. I sobbed and he listened and said I am here for you. He made sure I was ok to drive home and I eventually left the beach. That was September 14th, 2020 and it has now been ten months since I’ve been in a casino. Some people don’t have clear-cut addictions or issues like I did when it comes to suicidal ideation. Sometimes it feels like you’re at the bottom of this dark hole and can’t get out and the walls are caving in on you. I get that, too. I know I struggle still with suicidal ideation but I try to get in front of someone, anybody to just talk to. But I also recognize that not everybody in these desperate situations have those kinds of outlets. Ask for help. Call the suicide prevention line. Call anybody. Call me, email me, find me on social media. I’d rather listen to your story than your eulogy. You are loved. You are cherished. You are adored. You are worthy. Even if you don’t think so.
10. Greatest lesson learned from being mentally ill.
BG: Mindfulness. It’s incredible that by just being aware of how you’re feeling, you can make adjustments to make yourself feel a little better. Mindfulness. and therapy are extremely helpful in dealing with mental illnesses. I’ve learned mindfulness through therapy and I wouldn’t have come this far without it and I’m eternally grateful for it.
PA: This is going to sound jaded, but you can’t trust everyone with the knowledge that you’re mentally ill. Because as much as I strive to live in a society that is understanding of illnesses like ours, we aren’t there yet. With that being said, hold on to close ones tight for support, but be hesitant or use masking skills before sharing new information with new people until you know what they stand for.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed the perspective of The Bipolar Gamer and myself and learned something new.
Let me know in the comments your thoughts on some of these questions, what you learned, or future collaboration ideas! Please go check out their blog listed above and as always, if you enjoyed today’s post, like, comment, and follow for new and improved content here at Precarious Aquarius!