I have to be at work at 11pm tonight as today is my Monday after a glorious four day weekend. I got woken up by my mother at 6am this morning saying that her friend was in mental health crisis. She just started her mood stabilizer, Lithium but wasn’t yet at a therapeutic dose so essentially her dose was too low so she’s not feeling the effects of the medicine. She was manic, incoherent, going from idea to idea in rapid succession without much sense.
To say I understood where she was coming from was an understatement. I have lived in those shoes before she said she was about to walk out the door to walk 3.5 miles to the store to get a bottle of booze when she called my mom instead. My mom didn’t quite know how to help her and since I have skills and lived experience deescalating mental health crises, I did my best to do just that.
I think the three of us were on the phone for an hour or so and eventually she took a sleeping pill that was prescribed by her doctor and she started to feel the effects of it so she went to lay down and that’s the last I heard from her. I gave her my number and said if you ever want to talk, I get bipolar 2 disorder more than most because I struggle with it myself. I think I asked what her coping mechanisms were and she kind of was bewildered by the question and she said her cat calms her down. I told her to lay on the couch or in bed and pet the cat and think about the texture and consistency of its fur as a way to distract from the manic thoughts.
Mom and I were not on the same page as far as crisis responding goes and that is solely because she doesn’t have the experience doing it. My mom kept saying to call her on call doctor to get medication for this manic episode or to go to the emergency room and I was just trying to get her calmed down enough to go to bed because in a mania situation, all you can do is sleep and it’s the best thing for it.
Her husband was the variety that mental health problems are “all in your head” and didn’t believe that medication could help the “crazy”. It was very sad to hear and I understand what it’s like to have a not very supportive partner when it comes to mental health stuff; Diego didn’t understand for a long time because he grew up dealing with the issue head on and if you can’t deal with it, get over it. My boyfriend now is very supportive in how I feel but it wasn’t always like that for me. So I empathize with this woman who doesn’t have the proper support system she needs.
I kind of explained a few concepts that have helped me in my journey with bipolar which is that normies, neuro typical folks, rely on their natural brain chemistry to function along with the rest of the world whereas us bipolar and mentally ill folk must rely on medication to make us function like a normie and function along with the rest of the world. She conceded that she had a hard time taking meds because she knew it was all in her head and why she couldn’t just “snap out of it.”
I essentially said bipolar is a game your mind plays with you to trick you into falling back into addiction or struggles of any kind. So in order to combat said game, you gotta play it smarter, not harder. What I mean by that is you have to trick your brain into doing coping mechanisms to combat the negative thoughts. It’s all about intentions.
For example, you can’t sit still because you’re manic, you’re bopping around, toe tapping, can’t sit still. You’re in a lecture and your hands are free to do as you please. So you use the fidget cube in your bag to calm the sensory overload by using your hands in a productive way, it ceases the toe tapping and it allows you to use the part of your brain to listen and rationalize what the lecture is about.
Seems like an easy fix, right? Well it is and it isn’t. It won’t always be that easy but with a therapist and through medication trial and error, you can learn coping strategies and create a care plan for when you aren’t manic so that when you are manic, you have a way to combat the negative thoughts.
It is now almost 2pm PST, I better hop on that homework and get some sleep before work tonight. Take care of yourselves out there.
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Love this post! I feel like the ballooning of mental health in pop culture has led to people confusing mental health for mental illness. The feeling of depression (common) is not the diagnosis of chronic depression – the latter involves brain chemistry, and an imbalance, and the help of both therapy and meds. Same with bipolar. We all might have mood swings, but bipolar disorder involves biological, brain aspects that people can’t just “think” themselves out of.
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One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, “Oh I’m so depressed or Oh I’m so bipolar” without having a firm grasp of what that means. Certainly these folks could be depressed or bipolar, but without the proper diagnosis and treatment from a mental health professional, I tend to take it with a grain of salt. Mental illness isn’t a fashion statement or something to brag about to your friends when you’re trying to fit in or be cute. I think our society is doing better at talking about mental health awareness, but maybe we should redirect our focus from self care days and mental health and switch that over to mental illness and what that means for those who suffer from it. Thanks for your comment. Much love, Dani