Living with Bipolar DisorderbyLadynStFreknBed©
Living with bipolar disorder is like clinging to a tightrope, trying to avoid being sucked upwards into mania or falling into the pit of depression. While performing this balancing act, the person with bipolar disorder is often trying to hide their symptoms from family, friends, and coworkers. Bipolar disorder is an illness that still carries a hefty stigma among the general population. Bipolar disorder is sometimes called bipolar affective disorder or manic depression.
Hiding the symptoms from employers and coworkers proves difficult for many who have bipolar disorder. In the United States, people who suffer from illnesses and disabilities are legally protected from discrimination by employers. However, if the manic depressive person chooses to hide it from their employer and coworkers, they may find it impossible to hide various manic depressive symptoms. During a depression, they may have difficulty hiding tears from coworkers, clients, or customers. During mania, the person with bipolar disorder may show poor judgment, restlessness, and impulsivity that may alert employers and coworkers that something is wrong.
When dating, they may feel insecure about sharing the fact that they have the medical condition of bipolar disorder. Someone with bipolar disorder may feel uncertain of when they should share information about their mental illness with the person they are dating. It is a terribly uncomfortable feeling not to know if you will be accepted despite your illness. Just remember that if the person you are dating cannot accept you for who you are, bipolar disorder and all, then it is better to find out early in the relationship before strong attachments have been formed. Though you may not want to reveal your condition right away, it is better to do so sooner than later.
When someone with bipolar disorder decides to confide in another person about their diagnosis, they should only share what they are comfortable revealing. The person with bipolar disorder should be ready to answer questions about the disorder. Therefore, it is important for the person to be well educated about their disorder. The individual should feel comfortable sharing how the illness affects them before letting someone know about their affliction.
Bipolar disorder can strain all relationships. The erratic, impulsive mania and all-engulfing depression can potentially destroy a marriage. Well-intentioned friends and family can become sources of stress for the individual with the disorder. This is a common result from a lack of education about the disorder. If family and friends are having difficulty understanding or accepting the illness, consider having family therapy sessions with a therapist to work through these problems.
Being a parent with bipolar disorder brings yet more challenges. Living as a manic depressive parent is not easy. Not only does the individual with bipolar disorder have to struggle to manage their disorder, but they are also responsible for the welfare of their children. My advice to manic depressive parents is to do what you can and ask for help when you need to. Imagine being virtually immobilized by depression while having the responsibility of caring for young children. It's a difficult situation. The parent with bipolar disorder should do what is necessary to control the disorder and take advantage of the periods between episodes. If a parent with bipolar disorder faces a crisis, they need to seek immediate medical attention.
Now that we have examined some of the challenges of living with the disorder, here are some helpful tips to living successfully with this potentially debilitating condition:
1. Manage Stress: Stress management is important for managing symptoms of bipolar disorder. Stress can trigger manic and depressive episodes. Stress management should be part of the daily routine for anyone suffering from bipolar disorder. A healthy lifestyle can help manage stress. Relaxation techniques such as imagery, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can release tension and anxiety.
2. Get Creative: Some people with bipolar disorder find it extremely helpful to have creative outlets for stress and anxiety. Painting, writing, sculpting, playing a musical instrument, drawing, or any creative exercise can be a priceless tool for someone with bipolar disorder. Not only does it offer an outlet for stress, but many people with bipolar disorder find that they excel at these and other creative activities. So, not only can they use this tool to help manage the symptoms, but they may also find it a source of pride and accomplishment.
3. Build a Support System: Make a list of people to call if you are not doing well. Your support team may notice symptoms before you do. Building a support network is a crucial part of your treatment. The easiest way to start building your support system is to make good use of what's already available. Healthcare providers, therapists, members of the local and national community, family and friends are the foundation of support. Imagine yourself at the center of this community. Different people will support different parts of your life. Only you can build and maintain your support system.
4. Don't Isolate Yourself: Resist the temptation to isolate yourself. It's important to take some time for yourself and to do things you enjoy. Isolating yourself is not the answer. Try to balance time alone with time spent with friends and family.
5. Develop a Daily Routine: Daily routines are helpful in managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Routines such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, regular sleep cycle, meditation, and prayer can alleviate stress and help someone manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Going to sleep and waking up at about the same time each day can be extremely helpful. Getting enough sleep is the first step in living a healthy lifestyle and managing stress. Insomnia and excessive sleeping are common symptoms of bipolar disorder. Talk to your doctor if sleep is troublesome.
6. Find a Good Doctor or Psychiatrist: Medication is possibly the most effective way to manage bipolar disorder. However, sometimes a bipolar patient can't take the medications. This may be due to pregnancy or plans to become pregnant. Mood-stabilizing medications can cause birth defects. Discuss treatment options with your doctor. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you do not feel comfortable enough with your doctor to ask questions and discuss treatment options, then it's time to look for a new doctor.
7. Educate Yourself: If you have bipolar disorder or love someone who does, educating yourself about the illness is a priority. Many people think they know about bipolar disorder, but they are commonly basing their knowledge on one person's experience with the disorder. Everyone's experience with bipolar disorder is different. The media tends to perpetuate a false stigma that people with bipolar disorder are dangerous, self-destructive, or unhealthy. Media hype is only concerned about creating dramatic stories. Information about bipolar disorder can be found online, from a doctor, or at your local library. Not only will educating yourself about the disorder help you understand the condition, but it will prepare you to challenge any misinformation or criticism that comes your way.
Living with bipolar disorder is not an easy road, but it can be done successfully. The first step to being happy and living successfully with bipolar disorder is to accept that you have this condition. It does not define you unless you allow it to. When people tell you that you should just snap out of it or to just control your symptoms, recognize that they are speaking out of ignorance of the facts. Inform them politely about bipolar disorder if you feel it would be helpful. People with bipolar disorder often have manic or depressive episodes with no apparent cause. Having a depressive episode and feeling sad (or "depressed") because something bad happened are two different things. Bipolar disorder is a medical condition. No one would tell a diabetic to snap out of it.
I hope you have found this piece to be informative. Please let me know if you would like to see more information about bipolar disorder.
If you have bipolar disorder and are struggling with acceptance, it may be helpful to remember that some of the greatest artists, authors, poets, actors, and historical figures have lived with this disorder. I felt the need to end this on a positive note by listing some famous people who either have acknowledged that they have bipolar disorder and those who historians believe had this condition:
Vincent van Gogh
Jean Claude Van Damme
Ludwig van Beethoven
Hans Christian Anderson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Edgar Allan Poe
Ralph Waldo Emerson