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The balance between mental conflict and clarity
Having bipolar is a constant struggle between feeling elevated and ambitious, and drowning in all the bad things that the mind throws at you. When looking at things positively, and letting your emotions take control of this, dare I say, good part of having bipolar, it helps to create a perspective on a delusion of grandeur which in itself may not seem the right emotion to latch on to, but it gives an experience that can be compared to the worst parts of this mental condition. After all, positive and negative feelings co-exist internally, and without each other, there wont be an emotional platform to know what to keep inside, and what to let go.
Bipolar disorder hits you like a truck when it’s meant to, and in its most generous personality, keeps you grounded in what reality deems as the right way to live. To find a balance between the good and bad of this illness is difficult, as these varied waves of emotions swarm the mind and affect the body’s way of dealing with them. To keep this vast difference in moods controlled and stable, one has to embrace each mood swing, and practice a priority system where one can segment each different feeling to link to a situation in reality.
Bipolar disorder and what you should know about it
Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that causes erratic shifts in mood and emotional stability, and can happen in a very random consistency. There are 3 types of bipolar disorder – Bipolar 1 Disorder is a more severe variant of the illness, where manic and depressive episodes can last from 7 days up to 2 weeks. Bipolar 2 Disorder is a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not as intense as Bipolar 1 Disorder. The last type is Cyclothymia. This variant produces hypomanic and depressive symptoms lasting at least 2 years. People who suffer from bipolar disorder usually have symptoms of unusually random intense emotions, changes in activity levels, and uncharacteristic behaviour. This can be dangerous as sufferers usually are not aware of their destructive behaviours when their mood swings occur.
Treatment is available for each individual suffering from bipolar disorder. Help can come in the form of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists who access the condition and provide medical and emotional support. My personal journey with bipolar has led me on a path that keeps me having an open mind to healthcare professionals as well as public community support systems. For optimal treatment and help, yes, going to appointed professionals is the first step. However, to keep your mind strong and resilient, communication with friends and loved ones definitely helps a lot too. Everyone has their different views on how people should feel and act, and having multiple opinions on your behaviour and mood will help to curb the gravity of your episodes. People who really care for and love you will undoubtedly give not advice, but their outlook and personal opinions on your illness, and this will definitely give you more insight on your own mentality.
My personal journey with bipolar disorder
I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011. Prior to that, in my teenage years, I have always had the lingering feelings of depression and mood swings. I would distance myself from my friends often, just to have my alone time to simply think and reflect on my life. The funny part was that there was nothing to think about at all. It was just me having a bottle of water and a snack, sitting by the a garden, staring blankly into the sky and greenery around me. It felt good, but it also felt like there was a time-bomb inside me waiting to explode.
I sought help after a toxic relationship with an ex-girlfriend. Our relationship had taken too much of a toll on my mental health, and it was beginning to spread all over my life. I was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health for a 10 day stay in 2011. Inside the institution, I was confused, angry, and extremely depressed. Despite the ward being of a high living standard, all i did was pace around the limited space and for the first few days, minded my own business. I felt like a prisoner in my own mind. Every day there would be a doctor to come and analyse the situation to see if i was ready to be discharged, and days went by with me still stuck in the ward. Every single time I was denied exit, i cried and asked myself, “What is wrong with me? Will I ever be able to rejoin society?”
Then one morning in IMH, I decided to do something differently. I went around the ward and started having conversations with the other patients. I started to learn about their illnesses, which were different from mine. These talks opened up my mind, and I realised that none of us are alone in this journey to get better. I was introduced to different perspectives, and met many wonderful people. I was a little skeptical in approaching these patients as i did not know how they would react to me, but i came to realise that they’re all as human as i am. One patient stood out to me. He had been staying in the ward for 3 years at that point of time, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I spoke to him a lot about how he handles his illness, and how his childhood trauma put him on this path that he never wanted. Ultimately, I learned a lot from him and the other patients, as I realised that just by talking to them, I actually managed to help them in some way or another. They gave me an insight into their emotions, and in turn made me more confident to deal with my own illness.
I was released 10 days later, and I took my experience into the open world. Now, 11 years later, I have learned to cultivate healthy mindsets and look at the world in a more logical and positive way. Of course, I still have my episodes once in a while, but I’ve taught myself to deal with them in a structured way, and in the only way i know how. To curb my manic episodes, I’ve made it a practice to get some fresh air, take a walk with my dog, play video games, practice the guitar. These might all seem too easy to be a true solution, but for me, it’s part of my healing process. I am still taking lifelong medication, and it also helps a lot.
My personal takeaway and advise to those suffering from bipolar disorder, is to take your time to find what makes you the person you always wanted to be. Aspirations come in small and big packages, and starting from the little things is already a big step forward. Every time you have an episode, find comfort in your favourite things. Reach out to your loved ones. Go for a swim. Eat your favourite meal. It’s easier said than done, but if I can do it, anyone can.
A Word from A Space Between
Be mindful and avoid saying insensitive phrases to a person with bipolar disorder, or to anyone really. Let your words be encouraging and supportive, without marginalising people with psychiatric disorders.
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