Celebrate World Bipolar Day by Taking Control of Your Mental Illness

This post appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation website, here.

Are you bipolar? There is a day on the calendar to celebrate your struggles with the disorder.

World Bipolar Day (WBD) is celebrated each year on March 30th, in honor of Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday, as he was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder.

The day–an initiative of the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD), and the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD)–means to combat stigma and raise awareness of bipolar disorders.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is marked by abrupt changes in mood, energy, and executive function–the ability to accomplish tasks on a daily basis.

Celebrate World Bipolar Day By Taking Control of Your Mental Illness - CassandraStout.com

Bipolar disorder comes in several forms.

People with bipolar I suffer from manic episodes–periods of increased energy, euphoric mood, and decreased need for sleep–depressive episodes–periods of intense, pervasive sadness–as well as weeks of relative stability. People who suffer from bipolar II deal with even more severe and lengthy depressive episodes and hypomania, a lesser form of mania. There’s also cyclothymia, or bipolar III, where people have lesser forms of depression and hypomania, but cycle more rapidly between the two.

Episodes of bipolar disorder are not the usual ups and downs that everyone goes through. This is a lifelong condition which interferes with day-to-day functioning. The prevalence of bipolar disorder has been estimated to be as high as 5% of people around the world.

There are several causes to bipolar disorder, including genetic components, environmental stresses, childhood trauma, and other factors.

International groups like IBPF, ISBD, and ANBD support global efforts from scientists and advocates to investigate causes of bipolar disorder, methods of diagnosis, coping strategies, and medications to successfully treat the mental illness. World Bipolar Day was created to celebrate these efforts, acknowledge the struggles of people with the disorder, and raise awareness and sensitivity.

You can celebrate World Bipolar Day by taking care of yourself. But if you have bipolar disorder, how do you cope with the day-to-day challenges the mental illness brings? There are several strategies:

Take Your Medications

Your medications are there to help you. If you don’t take them on a regular basis, you won’t know if they work. Figuring out the right cocktail of antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety meds–as well as electroconvulsive therapy–requires a lot of patience, as the testing process takes time and a toll on your body.

But there is hope. Bipolar disorder is one of the most manageable and treatable disorders. You can find a correct combination of medications or electroconvulsive therapies to treat you. For a post on how to get a psychiatric evaluation, click here.

Attend Therapy

Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, is one of the best ways to learn coping skills to handle the challenges of daily life. An unbiased, sympathetic therapist can help you understand patterns of your behaviors and help you correct said patterns. Attending therapy is essential for daily functioning when you have bipolar disorder.

For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.

Practice Self-care

Self-care is not limited to bubble baths and painting your nails. It’s taking responsibility for your physical and mental well-being. Self-care involves sleeping enough (but not too much), eating a healthy diet, spending time outside and with other people, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.

Practicing these tenants of self-care on a day-to-day basis is crucial for you to feel better. Even if you can’t do all six everyday, try to eat, sleep, and drink enough water. Your energy levels and mood may improve immensely.

Final Thoughts

World Bipolar Day, celebrated every year on March 30th, is a great time to take stock of the strategies you’ve used to cope with your mental illness. If you have bipolar, taking your medication, attending therapy, and practicing self-care will go a long way towards improving your ability to handle your condition.

There is no shame in having bipolar disorder. It just means your brain functions differently. Make the effort to treat your mental illness on World Bipolar Day.

I wish you well in your journey.

Related:

Celebrate World Bipolar Day By Taking Control of Your Mental Illness - CassandraStout.com

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Bipolar? You Can Survive This Holiday Season, part II

This is part two of a two-part series.
Part I | Part II

In the first post in this series, I covered a little bit about how to survive the holiday series when you’re manic. To recap: avoid alcohol, don’t take on too many projects, and try to relax. Now we’ll take a look at…

What to Do if You’re Depressed

Take care of yourself. That’s the core of all the advice I can give on this topic, but it’s the hardest to follow when you’re drowning. But amidst all this merriment, the temptation to give in to your loneliness and hide away from the world will be powerful indeed.

So if you’re invited to parties, prepare to go to at least one. Eat one of your favorite foods beforehand. Shower. Drink a glass of water. Once there, avoid alcohol, especially if you’re on medications. If you’re intimidated, play with your kids until they wear you out. Then talk to the adults.

They’ll probably ask you about mundane things, like your work or your kids or your hobbies. They might comment about how they haven’t seen you much, or even inquire about that project you were so passionate about before.

Credited to flickr user sluzzelîn.  Used with permission.
Credited to flickr user sluzzelîn. Used with permission.

This kind of small talk is normal. It’s what we’re all trained to ask about. They’re not judging you for abandoning projects or even picking up on any guilt you may have about not being a “good enough” parent. They may not even realize that you’re forcing yourself to stand there.

So keep your answers brief and to the point:
“Yeah, I’ve been a bit out of it lately. How are you?”
“Sue turned five this year. They grow up so fast, don’t they? How are your kids doing?”

If you’re overwhelmed, bow out of these conversations. Or don’t; you can apologize later. Just get away. It’s okay to run. Find a corner of the house which you can designate as your own and hide there for ten minutes. Breathe. Then come out again, and have a glass of water before meeting anyone else.

If you’re spending this holiday season alone, I’m so sorry. Some options for you may include attending a local church service or atheistic/agnostic gathering. Cities frequently host free holiday events. If you have the time, volunteer at a food bank or animal shelter, or kick your feet up at home and play games. Eat comfort foods. And if you can afford a road trip, go!

Above all, do not let yourself remain isolated. Feeling alone in a crowd might be easier than being alone in a bedroom. Please keep in mind that while everyone may look joyous on the outside, it’s a seasonal thing. Like the flu. The New Year’s hangover will come soon enough.

How do stay afloat during the holidays?

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Bipolar? You Can Survive This Holiday Season, part I

This is part one of a two-part series.
Part I | Part II

I’m a little late for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to address what to do before Christmas and Kwanzaa sweep the land. For some, the holiday season is filled with joy and light, sweet treats, and time off. But for others, hasty decisions and loneliness reign supreme.

What to Do if You’re Manic

Credited to flickr user derekskey.  Used with permission.
Credited to flickr user derekskey. Used with permission.

When at get-togethers, try to steer clear of the alcohol, especially if you’re taking medication. If you’re partying with someone you trust, ask them to give you a signal if your behavior is out of control, but don’t let them be responsible for checking in on you for the entire gathering. Set a timer on your watch, and step outside–alone–every twenty minutes to regroup. Breathe. Have a glass of water. Take stock of what you’ve been doing at the party. Don’t pass any judgments. Just acknowledge it. Then go back inside.

Next, be wary of getting sucked into the gift-giving trap. Mania exacerbates spending, and what better excuse for racking up credit card charges than purchasing gifts for friends? Make a list of your friends, family, and co-workers. Rank the names by importance. Sketch out a basic set of “what they like” for each person. Then set a realistic budget accordingly. If you’re over-budget, then pare down your list your list and reorganize who gets what. Easy, right?

I’m a crafter, so of course I love to paint, bake, and stitch everything–including stocking stuffers–by hand. Each year I’ve ended up as a sobbing mess on the floor, so I’d recommend not following my lead. If you also have a love for DIY, plan one small, easy project for each person on your list–and start early. If you feel it’s not enough, supplement with candy or thoughtful trinkets.

Over all, try not to stress yourself out.  Gorgeous décor and intricately decorated cookies may be fun, but each project you take on tests your ability to manage everything else.

Stick around for my next post, where I’ll cover what to do if you’re depressed during the holiday season!

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