Staying Well with Bipolar Disorder

mental health

According to research by Rethink Mental Illness, there are seven key things to ensure that you stay well when you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have been diagnosed as bipolar for around six or seven years now and so have obviously developed a range of coping mechanisms that work for me personally, so I hope the following can be even a little bit helpful! The key things to remember are:

 

  1. Spotting early warning signs
  2. Looking after your well being
  3. Being in control
  4. Doing what works for you
  5. Making decisions about medication
  6. Talking to people who will really listen to you
  7. Getting support from your friends and family

 

So where to begin? Well finding the warning signs of bipolar disorder early is extremely important and can be a key part in assisting with your recovery and finding the right coping mechanisms. Personally, I was originally wrongly diagnosed as having depression and put on Citalopram – which is an antidepressant and therefore a terrible idea for someone suffering with bipolar as it just sends you spiraling horrendously the other way! However, eventually I received the correct diagnosis and have now come to manage my condition pretty well meaning I can balance my friends, family, relationship and a full time job with no (well okay, with few!) breakdowns!

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Warning signs are totally different for each individual and so learning to recognise your own can avoid severe and/or dangerous episodes or even hospital administration. To find these warning signs, start to reflect on the times that you have been unwell and struggling in the past. My mum and other close family members have been an essential part of helping to find my own warning signs as they will notice things that I may not. As outsiders who spend a lot of time around you, it can be easier for them to notice small changes from the outside looking in. Ask your GP or other mental health professional if they can also help you to find out more about warning signs as well as timing is crucial in preventing dangerous build ups and breakdowns.

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Actually looking after ourselves and doing things that we want to do can be extremely difficult. It shouldn’t be, but too often do we punish ourselves for allowing ourselves to relax and enjoy the things that make us happy because we are “wasting time” when we could be doing something more productive and worthwhile. When will we realise that we are worthwhile!? Looking after our mental health is just as important as looking after our physical health and although it may not seem like it, sometimes taking a long, hot and relaxing bath is just what we need!

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Self care isn’t all Lush baths and whale music though! It can be something just as simple and boring as remembering to take your meds for the day, catching up on that tv show that you had fallen way behind with (I’m talking about you The Walking Dead!) or even just doing grocery shopping and allowing yourself to buy some tasty snacks as opposed to the trolley of vegetable that you tell yourself that you should be buying. Do what you actually want to do sometimes and it can really go a long way in terms of looking after yourself and preventing any breakdowns. Balancing your mood and mental health is extremely important for any one of us, but especially so if you are suffering from bipolar disorder as our moods can sometimes be so unpredictable and hard to control. However, if you have been struggling through the condition for a while it is likely that you are now able to anticipate any of the warning signs I mentioned earlier and work on getting yourself well again. So what are you waiting for? Go eat that Dairy Milk that’s been sat gathering dust in the fridge!

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When I was first told that I was suffering with bipolar disorder my first major concern was control. What if I can’t do the things I enjoy anymore without raging into a fit of mania? What if I can’t leave the house anymore through depression? What if, what if, what if!! It took me far longer than I am proud to admit to realise that “what if” really can go and screw itself in the ass! All of these issues have always been a part of me, things don’t just appear, nor do problems just create themselves as soon as you have a label slapped on you.

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No, mental health issues sure don’t make life any easier, and no they sure as hell don’t make remaining in control a barrel of laughs either however you can do this. Hell, you have been doing this – you’re still here aren’t you? That means a lot! You’ve already beaten so many odds just by making it this far, don’t get too het up on “staying in control” and certainly don’t worry about the things that you can do nothing about – try instead to live in the moment. Focus on you – love the things you love and make sure you always find enough time and space for yourself.

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There really is no “one size fits all” model when it comes to dealing with bipolar disorder. This is why it’s so important to listen to your own body and mind so that you can learn what works for you personally. Want to know what brings me back from the edge of a breakdown? Sleep. Family. Friends. Oh and tea, never forget about tea!

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Medication can be a minefield of important decisions, and no, it isn’t for everyone. However, it is important to keep an open mind when it comes to deciding whether choosing to utilise medication is the best course of action for you. So many people are scared of mental health medication, mainly due to the huge (unwarranted might I add!) stigma surrounding it. The general consensus by the public seems to be that if you rely on medication for your mental health then you are just weak, useless and not actually willing to even try to get better – quite frankly, these people are morons.

Would you tell someone suffering with colitis, HIV or (hey we don’t discriminate sexually here) chlamydia, to not take their medication? Of course you wouldn’t because that would be a totally ignorant and moronic thing for you to do. Medication is an important part of recovery for most health conditions and yet again I find myself screaming “mental health is no bloody different to physical health you tit bags!!” Everyone has to find their own personal formula for recovery and personally, I have chosen to use medication to deal with my anxiety and bipolar disorder. My anxiety stems from childhood abuse and so until I have fully dealt with this, it sure as hell isn’t going anywhere unfortunately (more on that in another blog, long story short – you get 6 sessions of therapy on the NHS which sufficed to say is not enough to deal with lifelong trauma and its impact on your life). And so, I use medication to allow me to live a relatively normal life. Yes, I will still have occasional panic attacks however thankfully they are extremely rare nowadays which means I can continue with my job in service. My day job? I’m a barista which I absolutely adore, a job that involves dealing with (A LOT) of people on a daily basis in an extremely small and enclosed environment – something that a few years ago I couldn’t have even considered as a possibility. But I love people, I love learning about their lives and getting to know my customers and I really do enjoy my job – so why shouldn’t I take medication to allow me to continue doing what I love?

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My bipolar is a bit more complex and irritating to be quite honest with you as it manifests itself in many different ways. I’ve tried everything I can think of when it comes to controlling my mood without medication – restricting certain things in my diet (I read some bullshit post online, don’t ask), therapy, exercise, mood tracking apps – you name it, I’ve done it but without medication this just seems to be useless for me!

My main symptoms that restrict me from living a normal life with my bipolar disorder are insomnia, lack of motivation during depressive periods and hyposexuality. In short – I can’t sleep, if I’m sad I physically can’t bring myself to do anything, and during periods of hypomania I get intense and overwhelming cravings for sex and sexual consent (again, more in a future blog post about this symptom – but trust me, no it is not a good thing!) My medication has helped me to not erase, but certainly deal with these symptoms much better meaning that my condition is managed correctly. I’m not saying that medication will be the magical miracle cure that you have been looking for because it might not be, all I am saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try it and explore your options. Speak with your GP, they can help you find what is right for your own personal recovery.

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The people around you are the most valuable resource you will ever have in your arsenal in fighting your mental health condition! However, it is important that you are surrounding yourself with the right people. People who are dismissive of your condition and your feelings are toxic as hell for your well being and should be avoided like the bubonic plague! Try and surround yourself with people who are keen to learn more about your condition so that they can help you as best as they can. I have a small group of these people including friends and family and I truly do consider myself so lucky. Don’t allow people who make you feel worse about yourself the luxury of sticking around in your company – you’re worth so much more than that!

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As I say, there will never be a one fits all formula for you to feel totally okay and put together 100% of the time, bipolar is never exactly one to allow that kind of thing – it’s a bit of a bitch like that. However, once you have experimented with what works and what doesn’t you can finally start to get a bit of a better handle on your life and live it with those that truly matter. Stay safe my lovelies, and thanks for baring with me during my mega break from blogging/YouTube – it means a lot. Hopefully, the blogs are back now, YouTube will need a little bit of a longer break until I find my camera again that I lost while moving house – not ideal! Have a wonderful day guys, much love.

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Thoughts from the Edge of Mania…

mental health

As most of you will know if you follow this blog regularly, I suffer with bipolar type two and all of the joys that come alongside this wondrous condition (!) The majority of the time when I tell people that I have bipolar, their instant reaction is to talk about how wonderful mania must be, and quite understandably, I have to try very hard to bite my tongue. No part of this condition is “fun” or “easy”, and if I had to choose a state to remain in forever, it would honestly be depression.

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I know that sounds ridiculous to most people, why would I want to be depressed? Of course nobody wants to be, but if the situation called for me to choose then I would. Mania is horrible. It isn’t just bouncing around on a cloud, happy and excited for everything that will come at you that day. Most of the time when I am manic I am certainly not in a happy mood. Mania means that you feel everything far too intensely. Thoughts are coming at you at a hundred miles an hour so that you are thinking everything and nothing at the same time without having the brain power to focus in on one particular thought.

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I feel creative, like I want to do all these wonderful things, and obviously creating content for my YouTube channel and blog is high up on this list. However, I have all these thoughts and ideas for what I could do, but no focus to actually follow through with them. I either sit staring at a blank page or (as I am doing now) sit and furiously vent at my laptop typing at a hundred miles an hour with no concept of whether any of this crap makes sense – I do apologise if not!

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Currently, I am not happy. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not especially unhappy (for once!), however this lack of specific emotion is certainly not giving me a drive for any of this pent up…something. I don’t know, honestly, there is no word for what is going on inside my head, I just know that whatever it is I need to get it out!

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So far tonight I have tried to watch six movies but lost interest in every one thanks to my concentration being all but none existent when I am like this. I have tried to read several times as this can sometimes quieten my thoughts, but I haven’t managed to get past five pages without my eyes wandering off to something more interesting, or being consumed by a new and exciting “none thought”.

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I even tried to go for a walk, which in itself is very unusual for me as I don’t normally move unless there is either food or imminent death involved, but I just ended up staring at a teenager in the distance who was repeatedly kicking a can and thinking to myself “if he carries on I’m taking his bastard foot”! So before I caused any actual bodily harm, I took myself back inside.

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Currently? I am sat on my bed with my duvet scrunched at my feet. I have my hair tied straight back because if it’s in my face then I won’t stop playing with it, mainly giving myself a hair moustache and thinking I’m hilarious… It’s a good job I live alone really isn’t it? I thought that I would give myself the opportunity to write something, anything! And although I have a book full of blog and video ideas downstairs, I knew damn well that I wouldn’t be able to focus enough to do them justice. I’ve worked hard on creating the plans for those projects and I don’t want to ruin them by writing some drivel like this instead!

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This post has taken me forty five minutes to complete, and it is currently 649 words long. I typed so much more….oh so much more! But even in this state of idiocy and manic thought jumping, I still have a little bit of pride left which insists I at least proof read it once before posting. Trust me, an awful lot has been cut from this, I hope that enough of this makes sense. As I say, if it doesn’t I apologise, but I want to post things that I have written during the various stages of my bipolar, whether that be hypomania or depression, as it think that it is important to give an honest representation of the condition and how it isn’t as easy to deal with as some might think. I can’t just pop a pill and be okay. They help me to cope, but there is no cure for this kind of screwed up unfortunately. I hope you’ve had a good day, and to future (and more calm and normal Emmie) I sincerely hope you are not cringing too much reading this and that it makes sense to you – but I insist that you do not delete it!

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10 Things I Love About Performing

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I have been performing in some shape or another ever since I can remember and I have always loved being on stage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very different to me enjoying public speaking as that is far from the truth! If I am performing then I am not myself, I am actor or a stage persona, the second I have to be myself all of my self-confidence disappears. I have always been a very shy and quiet person when I meet new people and so performing has really helped me to work on this and be the loud and bubbly person that I know that I am inside! Here are my top 10 reasons as to why I love performing.

  1. It helps my confidence!
    As I say, I have always struggled with confidence. When I have to speak in front of people then I almost forget how to talk, to the extent I have worked at places for over six months and the whole office didn’t even know my name! I know I am quiet in front of people that I don’t know and I hate that about myself and so it is always something that I am looking to improve wherever I can. When I am onstage I forget my anxieties and they no longer seem to matter to me. I am not myself, I am my character and am blinded by stage presence. Performing means that I have to get better as I get to work with so many amazing people throughout every stage of the rehearsal process….and they all remember my name!
  2. I meet amazing new friends!
    Thanks to my “wonderful” anxiety, I unsurprisingly find it a very daunting task to go out and make friends. In fact, making friends at all as an adult – anxiety or no anxiety – is bloody horrible! When you are a kid as you’re at school you have to make friends so that you are not alone, everybody is in the same boat really and it will benefit each of you to buddy up. But as an adult everyone is at different stages! Whether you have just started a new job, moved to a new area or are just looking to meet new people in a bar etc. it can be really difficult to find some common ground. But performing has helped me to meet some of my best friends in the world, as being thrown in at the deep end of the intense world of rehearsals is the perfect place to get to love people!
  3. It helps me to understand my emotion!
    As someone that suffers with a mood disorder (bipolar), wading through the moggy pit that is my emotions can be an impossibly daunting task! But acting is wonderful for that, to be able to successfully portray a character you need to do more than just recite their words. You need to understand their words and the motivation behind them. You need to see the reasoning behind every decision and choice, and the incentive pushing every sentence. Being someone else, helps me to understand how to be me.
  4. It improves my public speaking!
    As I have said, speaking in front of people as myself is absolutely horrifying to me! Knowing what to say is tough enough, but then I have the loud voice of my anxiety telling me that everybody in the room is laughing at me and that I am their own personal and collective in joke. Performing regularly helps me to get used to being in front of people and allows me to start bleeding a little more of myself into the performance to help me remember how to talk at that next big meeting!
  5. Your empathy improves!
    Being placed in a situation whereby you have to portray the emotions of someone else in a situation that you yourself have never been in, then you have to develop a great sense of empathy. Performing helps me to understand how other people may see the world and also helps me to read how they may be feeling.
  6. It helps me to learn to trust people!
    Thanks to many factors I have real difficulties when it comes to trusting people however performing is helping me to get over that. When you are working on a production you have to rely on other people, you simply do not have a choice and so if you don’t learn to trust your production team and cast, things will just quickly fall apart.
  7. Helps you to learn how to efficiently work in a team!
    As I have kind of mentioned in previous points, a theatrical production demands excellent team work to allow everything to gel properly. Your show becomes kind of like your little child and you are determined to make it the best that it can be. Everybody will band together to combine ideas and skill sets to come up with ideas that you would never have even been able to dream of on your own.
  8. It takes over your life….in a good way!
    From learning your lines, to rehearsals God knows how many times a week, promotion work and finally performances (not to forget the after show party!) the performance that you are working towards really can take over your life – but I genuinely do love it! It takes over most of my waking hours, and I am exhausted and so occasionally am a complete ratty bum, but it is something that I actually want to be spending all this time on because it is all worth it!
  9. You gain experience in so many things!
    Since I have been performing, I have learnt to do so many things! I can now direct, put on a show and advertise it, work a set of stage lights, create a props and costume script – even fire plans and risk assessments! When you are putting on a show, everyone comes together and does whatever they can to make the show a success – all hands on deck!
  10. It makes me so proud of myself!
    When you take that final bow and hear just how much the audience have enjoyed themselves, it really is all worth it. The buzz I get from that is outstanding and there is nothing like it in the world! I love everything about my performing life and I don’t intend to ever stop!

Sometimes I Just Want to Get Off…

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Living with bipolar disorder can be fun at times, hypermania so often bringing with a flood of endorphin’s and inspiration to be great and to do great things. However the lows can be totally debilitating and take over the overwhelming roller coaster that is your life. The past two weeks have been extremely tough for me in regards to my bipolar depression, and it is really the first time that I have properly crashed (to the extent to which I am worrying myself at least) while I have been a functioning adult, with my own responsibilities.

This past fortnight has destroyed me and all I have wanted to do is fall back into old habits, and not move from my bedroom while sitting on the wrong side of a lighter or razor blade. But I don’t live at home now, I’m not at uni. I can’t afford to stay at home, just because my world is falling apart doesn’t mean it stops turning for the rest of the world! I rent a two bedroom house with a garden and have two pets to look after and a full time job to manage – I don’t have the luxury of just being able to stay at home when I feel a bit dodgy.

And so, I have had to drag myself to work and sit at my desk, the majority of the time while trying to ignore the tears streaming down my cheeks, and get on with everything because life will never just stop. Of course there have been tears, and stress and even a panic attack (my poor manager…never seen a grown man look so uncomfortable in my life – I am so sorry!), but I am surprising even myself by pulling myself through it.

It may look like I am not coping to any outsiders looking in, and to a certain extent no I am not. However, only I know how fragile and broken I was just two or three years ago, and there is no way that I would be able to cope with moods like this, be living on my own – and more importantly to trust myself to live alone without doing anything stupid, without anyone to (for lack of a better term) “babysit” me.

When my mood plummets like this I can appear to be a totally different person – I become even quieter and only speak when spoken to (yes I can speak even less than I do now, I swear its possible!), I forget to eat, lose pleasure in doing things I’ve always loved, nothing tastes right and most annoyingly my concentration becomes non-existent. If there is something on my mind then I will sit and think about it endlessly until I have reimagined every possible alternative outcome to that situation, if there is nothing in particular bothering me that day, then my head will help me to create a problem – probably fantasising about a bomb scare, or a kidnapping similar to my past happening again – neither of which are exactly likely on a Tuesday afternoon in North Lancashire.

But that is what bipolar depression does, it takes who you are and slowly compacts you into a small shadow of your former self. You become paranoid and snappy and often end up taking it out on the people who try to help you most. Life just becomes very difficult. As I said, I feel like I am doing well, and I am proud of how far I have come over the past few years. No, I am not exactly coping right now as it feels like I am trying to sew sand together to be perfectly honest. But, I am coping well enough for me, and I am doing my best to stay afloat, and that’s good enough. For now at least.

Goodnight my lovelies,

Emmie x