Mental Health Goal #1

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What it is Like to Be Mentally Stable

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I was sitting here thinking about how I haven’t thought about the fact that I have bipolar disorder in a while.  About two weeks ago I had a day or two of feeling depressed and it reminded me of the “old days” of when I was in a true clinically depressed state of being unable to get out of bed or eat or shower for weeks on end; of when I didn’t know how I was going to make it through another day of living; of how I hoped I didn’t make it through alive.  I just wanted to die.

Thankfully, I don’t get that low for that long anymore.  I also don’t get high enough to be up until two or three (or four) in the morning writing or painting or working on any other various creative projects that always turned out to be a waste of time.  Many of the projects I start these days I finish, and they have some sort of functional goal or purpose to them as opposed to being just some sort of random jibberish.

Some major medication trials until the right combo was found and a complete overhaul in therapy to treat my childhood traumas both played a role in the stability I am enjoying today.  It takes work, effort, and the help of good and caring doctors and therapists, but mental stability can happen.

I am fully aware that one of these days I may wake up and find myself in a depressive or hypomanic state once again that lasts more than a day or two as they have been.  I dread the day if it ever comes.  However, luckily, my anxiety disorder is also under control enough that this thought is something I can let go of and simply go on living my life as is until further notice.  Thanks be to God!

Is Mental Illness Real?

Mental illness is “any of a broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning.*”

I listened to a talk today by a behaviorist who proprosed that mental illness is not a medical condition but rather a dysfunction of our subconscious programming mostly likely which occurred during childhood. He stated that in order to change our moods and negative behaviors, such as anxiety attacks, depression, anger, lack of motivation, sadness, etc. , we don’t need medication or therapy. What we need is to change our subconscious programming, which will in turn improve our state of being and positively affect everything in our life.

He said we must also develop an attitude of acceptance (versus resistance.) The more you resist something the stronger it becomes. Accepting doesn’t mean you don’t try and change things that need changing. It just means you aren’t resisting it as it is in the moment you are in.

For example, I am trying to lose weight by changing my eating habits. I am accepting where I am now with my weight by not beating myself up about how far I have yet to go and by saying to myself that it is what it is and I accept what is without judgement, while still making changes. If I was resistant to my weight as it is now, I would be filled with frustration and self-loathing and would probably give up on my goals fairly quickly. In fact, I have done this many times in the past.

He didn’t really explain how to change the subconscious programming except to plug his own life coaching services for further help in this area. I think his ideas on acceptance are very useful and beneficial to everyday living. I highly recommend living life in a state of peaceful acceptance.

I felt very discouraged by his claim that people don’t need medication or therapy to eliminate stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions in their life. He even said migraines could be eliminated immediately using the above techniques.

It scares me to think that people are advising others to go without treatments that could potentially save their lives. One thing does not work for everyone. So, please if you are reading this, be open to all possibilities when it come to mental illness treatment, because mental illness IS REAL and it may take all types of treatments to address it.

*”Mental Illness.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 15 May 2018.

Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder: What it is and What You Can Do about it

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She said, “You’re fine and then you’re sad.  Then you’re up and then you’re depressed.  Then you’re fine and then you come back and your anxiety is out of control.  Then you’re fine again and then you’re sad.  You are a rapid cycler.”  When my doctor summed me up in that way I couldn’t help but feel deflated, almost hopeless, and at the very least, more ill than when I walked into her office.

Then I realized I’ve been dealing with this illness my whole life and the ups and downs have been such a part of my daily living that I hardly think twice about them.  To someone like her, observing from the outside with a critical eye, I must seem extremely unstable, but to me, everything feels completely normal, and believe it or not, my life does not have major disruptions due to my mood swings.

This is not to say we aren’t always trying to achieve stability because we are.  Tweaks to medication and coping skills are constantly being made.  It is a dance of fine tuning that takes the skill of a seasoned and caring specialist and the patience of a willing and compliant patient.  She said there are some people she sees with bipolar disorder who go three or four years without needing a medication adjustment.  She adjusts my medication several times a year.

According to WebMD, rapid cycling is described as having four or more episodes of mania, hypomania or depression in one year.  For many people, this is devastating and wreaks havoc on their life.  For me, it’s just another day in the life of me.

You get to the point of acceptance after living with an illness for so long and you learn that it is not going to kill you and it doesn’t have to control you either.  It doesn’t scare me anymore.  I know what I need to do to deal with my symptoms and I know that I won’t have my symptoms forever.  It is the very nature of cycling: the symptoms are constantly changing.  I think the vigilant tweaking of my medications keeps my symptoms from getting too far off-balance, so I am fortunate in that respect, but the cycling is still there.

Do you rapid cycle?  What does that look like for you and how do you cope?

As an aside, I just received news that Write into the Light was selected by Feedspot’s panelists as one of the Top 100 Bipolar Blogs on the web.  What a nice surprise!  I always thought you had to pay to be on those lists, but I was wrong. 🙂  Check out the list at https://blog.feedspot.com/bipolar_disorder_blogs/

Mental Health and Faith

For many people faith can be a wonderful aid in combating some of their mental health issues. Along with good medical and self care, prayer and spritual meditation can go a long way in providing emotional health.

One of the most frequent commands used in the Bible is “be not afraid.” For those with anxiety disorders, faith in this directive may release people from some of their fears. The faith that all will be well in the end can sometimes be enough to get them through a moment or hour or even a day, if all other factors, such as medication and self care, are in working order.

Depression is a mood disorder that by definition brings people to a state of hopelessness. Someone with great faith may be able able to ward off the despair long enough to get help out of the depressed state before it gets dangerously bad, for faith breeds hope and hope combats depression.

It is best not to wait until you are experiencing mental illness symptoms to practice acts of faith. Engaging in daily spiritual activities will make it much easier for you to use your faith to your advantage when mental illness symptoms take hold.

Personally, I read scripture and meditate on it daily. I pray daily. I attend two different spiritual discussion groups weekly and I read spiritual books on a regular basis.

You don’t have to do a lot of things. Start off by doing one thing consistently. Even something as simple as a gratitude prayer said daily can make a huge difference on your mental health.

How does your faith affect your mental health?

Call for Literary and Art Submissions

Turtle Way™ is Write into the Light’s online creative arts magazine showcasing the work of individuals suffering and recovering from mental illness. Its mission is to offer experience, strength and hope to those who are living with mental illnesses.

Each issue of Turtle Way™ may include poetry, photography, artwork, and prose (including quotes, meditations, opinion pieces and essays) from individuals with mental illness and/or those who love them.

It has been quite some time since an issue has been published, but I would like to put another one together soon. So, please check out the submission guidelines here if you are interested in being a part of this project.

Bipolar Disorder and Chronic Pain

The Bipolar-Pain Connection

According to recent research, about 14% of people with bipolar disorder experience migraines and another 24% experience some other form of chronic pain. That’s almost a third of people with bipolar disorder who are in some sort of serious pain!

In particular, migraines affect 1 in 7 persons with bipolar disorder, which is 3 times more likely than the general population. I’ve been living with chronic migraine for ten years now. Some days I feel like it’s a death sentence. Some days I wish that sentence was carried out. My doctors are still trying to figure out a way to decrease the frequency of my 8 to 12 migraines per month. Apparently, “bipolar disorder and migraines are multifactorial in etiology—there appear to be vascular, cellular, molecular, neurochemical (serotonergic and noradrenergic), and genetic (KIAA0564) components in common between bipolar disorder and migraine conditions.”

Pain and Mental Illness’s Affect on One Another

In general, people with mental illness who experience chronic pain tend to have worsening symptoms of their illness. Often doctors do not take seriously the complaints of physical pain from those individuals who have mental illness. A lot of times people with mental illness have increased sensitivity to pain because they are experiencing depression. Also, because they are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, many times people with mental conditions do not seek the medical care they need to address their physical pain. This leads to greater functional impairments, poorer quality of life, increased disability, and increased risk of suicide compared to those without pain.

Treatments that Address Pain and Mental Illness

Sometimes tricyclic antidepressants or other select antidepressants can be used to help minimize physical pain symptoms as well as address depression symptoms in some patients. Care needs to be taken in patients with bipolar disorder, however, due to the increased risk of triggering a manic episode in those who take antidepressants alone. Often times, a mood stabilizer will be used in conjunction with the antidepressant in these patients.

This is exactly the treatment I am currently receiving under the care of my physician. I am excited to see if it will decrease the frequency of my migraines while addressing my depression and anxiety symptoms at the same time.

Non-pharmaceutical treatments for physical pain and some mental illness symptoms can include things such as meditation, yoga, exercise, prayer, talk therapy, and diet modifications.

Work with your doctor to figure out what may be the best course of action for you. The most important thing is to not give up hope and to never give up trying to find a way out.