Managing my Bipolar in a Tough Season
So, I have bipolar. If you know me, you know this. If you don’t know me, yes I am clinically insane and I own that as part of who I am. Because in the times when I have tried to deny it, or to pretend it doesn’t exist, I have experienced some pretty terrible sh**. And even when I have tried, I’ve gone through hell and back. And those lows are not something I ever want go to through again. So, I manage it.
(Here is my disclaimer: just like all humans are unique, all cases of bipolar are different. I’m not a doctor or counselor, just a patient. Tips and tricks that work for me might not work for you. Always always always talk to your doctor.)
This season has been a tough one for me. For one, fall is always a hard time of year for me. The shorter days, the cold coming, less time outside, all of that can get me down. And some of my daily joys are no longer here. My sister and her kids moved back to WA. As much as kids can be little hellians, they can also be a huge source of joy, and laughter, and love, and kids have always been that for me. And my sister is my best friend, so not being around her on a daily basis… well, it sucks. Plus, my favorite guy is deployed and contact is limited. And I know what you’re thinking… girl, that would be tough for anyone! And you are right!
But I’m not just anyone. In my beautiful brain, a little can turn into a lot, fast. It’s taken me years to learn myself (that’s a constant though, right?), and especially to navigate my bipolar. Through this process, I’ve learned to recognize my warning signs before they turn into triggers. Before I lose touch with reality. Before I lose my hope, my will to live, and end up in the hospital. Because again, I’m not going backwards. Only forwards.
So, mine go a little like this:
1. I worry about things that I can’t control, or things that I definitely don’t need to worry about. Like politics. I do not need to overthink and panic about the world’s problems because of politics. Or even how I’m going to afford a house one day. That is far in the future, there is no sense or reason to be stressing and obsessing about it now.
2. I get more tearful. Now, I am a cryer. And sometimes I just need to cry things out. But when I start crying more frequently, I have to ask myself, is something wrong? Am I crying too often? Am I crying more than I am laughing? Because if I notice that, I know that I’m not feeling good enough.
3. I just feel down. I have a harder time feeling joy. I have a harder time feeling happy. It feels like joy and laughter and warmth feel further and further away. And I have to try to reach them. And that becomes exhausting. Just to feel good, just to wake up happy, becomes a chore. Blah!
4. And the big one: my sleep. It becomes harder for me to fall asleep. I can’t seem to slow my brain down. Or once I’m asleep, I dream so much that I wake up feeling like my brain never really rested. Normally I need a lot of sleep. When I’m at my best, I get 8-10 hours on a weeknight, 12-14 on a weekend. Again, that is just who I am. And when that starts to slip, I know I need to make a course correction.
So what do I do first? Ask my safety team. A safety team is a small group of people, all who you can trust, who know you well, who can be honest with you and who you can be vulnerable with. They are the people you save in your phone as ICE (in case of emergency) and that on the tough days, you can always go to. For me, I check in with my family and the people who love me lots to see what they think. Because they know me well and can give me the encouragement I need to GO TO THE DOCTOR.
So a few weeks back, when I checked in with my sister, she was able to tell me with lots of love, you have seemed down, maybe just go in and ask? Which means: girl, get your butt into the doctor! I went in 2 days later.
Second, I take my meds. I will never, ever, ever quit my meds (thanks T-Swift!). My life is too hard without them. (And life is going to be hard enough by itself, I don’t need to make it any harder). It took a long time to find a medication combination that works for me. But, because life comes in seasons, sometimes I have to make adjustments. So I talked to my doctor. I shared what I was feeling; my concerns, and asked what we should do. And we came up with an adjustment together. Ultimately, I was SO thankful, because that feel better was on its way!
Next, I check in on my self care. Am I eating well? Am I exercising? Because believe it or not, that matters. A lot. And the answer for me, a few weeks back, was: not really. I had let it slip. More sugar, more carbs. Less walking, less exercising, less movement altogether. Also, how is my fun? Am I making time to do things with friends, or pursue hobbies? Because fun matters. Laughter matters. In this life, if you don’t say no to stress, it will work its way into your life and take over. I realized I was letting that slip, too. Not scheduling enough fun time, not scheduling enough friend time, not pausing to chat with my roommates or taking a moment to joke in the hall with my coworkers. Not cool, Kels. Life should be fun, full of love and laughter. And while not every day, or every moment will be, it’s something we should pursue with vigor.
Finally, I check in on my soul. Yep, faith has been the key that unlocked my freedom. My relationship to God, and to Jesus, has to come first. Because while I can’t let all the other pieces slip, and hope that prayer alone saves me (cause it won’t) – I am an eternal being. And in my prayer and my worship, and pursing my God-given gifts, I find my purpose. And when I have a purpose, I have a reason to live. I know that the world needs me, people need me, my friends need me, my family needs me, I need me, and most importantly, Jesus needs me. Right here, right where I am, right exactly as I am. And even in a tough season, God reminds me of that. He pulls it all together in the most magical ways. And reminds me, I have BIG purpose here.
So, yep, I’ve been having a tough time. And sometimes admitting that sucks. I’m a strong and powerful woman, so saying I have weakness is uncomfortable. But that’s okay, I can handle uncomfortable. I can get accustomed to that place of need. Because in the past, when I haven’t, it’s turned bad. And to be really honest, sometimes the fear of having another episode brings me to my knees. It’s in those same moments, I am reminded to give my worries to God. I step out in trust and say, You have gotten me this far, You will get me through anything. I trust YOU with my future. I trust YOU with my health. I trust YOU with my heart. Jesus and I make a pretty fantastic team that way. Together, we got this…
Are you struggling? Are you hurting? Are you in a dark season? I’ll tell you, I’ve truly been there… and it truly is going to be okay. Check in with yourself, and turn to those who love you most. Make those gentle adjustments. Choose a little bit more light, a little bit more ease, a little bit more laughter, and a lot more love. Choose that for you, and then trust that you are going to be okay. Because in the end, it will all be okay. And if it’s not okay, that’s just because it’s not the end.
I write this for you just as much as I write it for me. Maybe more…