“Of Two Minds”, Bipolar Documentary Review

I recently watched the 2012 bipolar disorder documentary, “Of Two Minds”, written and directed by Doug Bush and Lisa Klein. The film features the gripping real-life tales of every day Americans living with bipolar disorder.

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Take a candid view into the lives of people who have been through the perils of extreme ups and downs, succumbing to the enticing world of mania, as well as the empty world of depression. A heavy topic that seemed to be an underlying theme throughout the film is suicide. Almost all of those interviewed had either considered or attempted suicide at some point. I found it to be heartfelt and completely relateable. If you watch the film, I’d be aware of potential trigger warnings, however, for the ideals of suicide appeared to be slightly romanticized at times.

Other topics that were explored include mania, psychosis, depression, interpersonal relationships, family members, professional life, and forms of treatment. I won’t talk about all of them, but I do want to mention how refreshing it was to hear stories of success, and by success I mean every day ‘normal’ living. Also I do feel a little less crazy with my own psychosis and hypersexuality.

Overall I thought the film was nicely done and covered all bases of bipolar disorder without being too clinical. It was compelling in the sense of getting to know each of the brave individuals who bared their souls and allowed the audience inside. I recommend this documentary to those diagnosed with bipolar, loved ones of bipolar folks, students, and mental health professionals. Or anyone just curious about the realities of living with bipolar disorder.






Peer Support in Mental Illness

This past week I had the opportunity to visit a friend in the psych hospital. She is in the process of accepting her new diagnosis of bipolar disorder type 1. My diagnosis. While I knew something was going on with her before, it is certainly best that she is in the hospital, receiving the care she needs. As her friend, and as someone who is living with the disorder, and someone educated in mental health, I want to do whatever I can to be there for her, and help her through this complicated time. This brings me to an important topic- peer support.

Peer support for those with a mental illness is so essential in acquiring mental wellness. Associating with peers who understand and can relate to what you are going through can help to form a bond. Having a support system of friends who also live with a mental illness, and who can relate is helpful in a different way from those who do not. Either way, there are things peers can do to help ease the burden of treatment and every day struggles.

Taken from the DBSA website:

What You Can Say That Helps

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • I understand you have a real illness and that’s what causes these thoughts and feelings.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
  • You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
  • Tell me what I can do now to help you.
  • I am here for you. We will get through this together.

What You Should Avoid Saying

  • It’s all in your head.
  • We all go through times like this.
  • You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.
  • Look on the bright side.
  • You have so much to live for; why do you want to die?
  • I can’t do anything about your situation.
  • Just snap out of it.
  • Stop acting crazy.
  • What’s wrong with you?
  • Shouldn’t you be better by now?

Peer support groups are also really helpful. I attend the DBSA peer support groups twice a month and I appreciate the freedom and safety of being able to openly express myself. I can share whatever I’m feeling, if I’m having an episode, and any difficulties I’m going through. The meetings are confidential and exclusive to those with bipolar disorder or depression, and their loved ones. I will be encouraging my friend to participate in groups as well, once she is discharged from the hospital.


Information on Bipolar Disorder

I thought this was a pretty clear breakdown of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

A Short Bipolar Disorder Summary 
Bipolar disorder, is a serious brain disorder. Also known as manic-depressive illness, it is a mental illness involving episodes of serious mania and depression. The person’s mood usually swings from overly “high” and irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between.

Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years or even decades.

ImageEffective treatments are available that greatly alleviate the suffering caused by bipolar disorder and can usually prevent its devastating complications. These include marital breakups, job loss, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.

Facts about bipolar disorder:

  • Manic-depressive illness has a devastating impact on many people.
  • At least 2 million Americans suffer from manic-depressive illness. For those afflicted with the illness, it is…

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Say it Forward Campaign to End Stigma

Stigma. We all have experienced it at one time or another. Maybe directly, maybe vicariously, maybe we’ve simply been affected by the very notion of it. We’ve been made to feel embarrassed and ashamed about having a mental illness. We’ve been hesitant to seek help. We have certainly attempted to hide our mental illness from people we know. We tend to blame ourselves and feel out of place. It’s time we join together and do something about stigma. Here is someone who has:

When it comes to mental health conditions, silence is not golden. Silence breeds stigma, and stigma hurts: it prevents people from seeking life-saving treatment and support. That’s why the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) have joined forces to promote Say It Forward 2013, an email and social media anti-stigma campaign that educates people about the reality of mental health conditions.

The Say it Forward Campaign is a fantastic quest to reach out to others to educate them on the facts of mental illness. The campaign sight offers three ways to contact people you know either through email, Twitter, or Facebook, and then provides this list of myths and facts:

Myth: I don’t know anyone who has a mental health condition.
Fact: According to the World Health Organization, 1 in every 4 people, or 25% of individuals, develops one or more mental health disorders at some stage in life. They are your family, your friends, your co-workers, and your neighbors.

Myth: Mental health conditions are not real medical illnesses.
Fact: Like heart disease and diabetes, mental health disorders are real, treatable conditions.

Myth: Bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions are not life-threatening.
Fact: Among individuals with bipolar disorder, 25–50% attempt suicide at least once, and suicide is a leading cause of death in this group. This serious condition can be treated, and treatment saves lives.

Myth: People with a severe mental illness are dangerous and violent.
Fact: Statistics show that those who live with from mental health conditions are more likely to be the victim of a crime than the perpetrator. They are nearly five times more likely to be a victim of murder, and people with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or psychosis are 2.5 times more likely to be attacked, raped, or mugged than the general population.

Myth: People with a mental health conditions aren’t capable of maintaining relationships or pursuing the career of their choice.
Fact: Individuals with mental health conditions can and do lead full, happy, productive lives—as mothers, friends, and spouses; as teachers, doctors, and lawyers.

It is important to have these conversations with loved ones and friends. Using the myths and facts is a wonderful tool in breaking the ice on the topic of mental illness. The campaign encourages each one of us to become involved and help put an end to stigma once and for all.

To learn more about the Say it Forward Campaign, check out their website: http://www.sayitforwardcampaign.org/

Sources: http://www.internationalbipolarfoundation.org/  and  http://www.dbsalliance.org/

Say it fwd

Medication Report!

I’m writing this to check in, with myself mostly, but also with those of you taking medication for Bipolar Disorder. It has been almost one year on my current cocktail of Lithium, Seroquel, and Abilify. As a reminder, I was put on (varying doses) of this combo after a terrible mixed episode last fall. In the beginning it was considerably difficult to build a new med routine since I was so used to taking only Trileptal twice a day. But with the assistance of my amazing wife, I was able to get on board. After about 6 months, I even began sorting and distributing them myself. I know many of you know what a small victory that can be!

Medication management can be challenging. Important factors include making sure each script is filled, that you have enough for tomorrow, how many you are taking, how often, knowing what to do if you forget to take it, being aware of and dealing with side effects, whether you need to have blood drawn or not, having effective communication with your doctor and pharmacist, and of course being able to monitor how your meds are affecting you. Whew! It really helps to have someone close to you that you can talk about your medications with, or that can lend a hand in monitoring and managing your meds. Also, utilizing calendars or alarms on your cell phone (like I do!) to remind you what time to take your pills is really handy. Developing a solid routine that works for your schedule is important so taking your meds becomes like second nature.

These are just a few tips I picked up within the last year that have worked for me. So far, I am doing well, and I feel pretty stable. There will always be ups and downs and mood swings, but the medication change was definitely necessary and saved me from a trip to the hospital. Every so often we all need to check in with ourselves and take personal medication inventory.


Travel Tips for Bipolar Disorder

In one week I will be going on a short vacation, traveling from Michigan to Kentucky to visit with family. Even though the trip’s a week away, the travel anxiety started days ago. You know that panicky feeling of not having everything you need in order to be comfortable and secure? Yeah that’s how I feel. My Bipolar tends to trigger when I feel unsettled. I hate feeling unprepared for things. One time my wife and I flew to California and I just about lost my flipping mind. I couldn’t control my outbursts or random crying spells. The time zone threw me off and I hated the airplane. I even picked fights with my wife. While I genuinely loved California, I sure as hell didn’t show it. From that point I vowed to not allow this scene to repeat itself. I vowed to be prepared for all future trips.

I have two separate lists. One is all the things I need to do before we leave, the other is everything we need to bring with us. I don’t care if the to-do list includes painting my toenails, because I know if I don’t do it, I will feel unfinished. Anxiety makes me hyper-sensitized to the littlest things. I’m confident that checking off my lists this far in advance will allow me to have a more relaxed and outburst-free trip.

I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of Bipolar Disorder and travel, and here are some good tips that I’ve come up with:

  • If there is a time zone change, practice for the zone before you leave. This means going to bed and getting up on your destination time. The closer you can get to the time, the better.
  • Sleep regularly while you are there. Disturbed sleep is a prime suspect in triggering episodes.
  • Forecast your destination activities. Adrenaline pumping activities, unlimited access to alcohol, large crowds of people, personality-clashing relatives, crammed quarters, or even a climate you’re not used to can all affect Bipolar Disorder.
  • Be prepared with your medications. Make sure you count out enough meds for each day you’ll be gone, so you don’t run out before returning home. Carry you doctor’s and your pharmacy information just in case. You might even want to talk to your doctor about trying something for anxiety if you feel it will be an issue during your travels.
  • Practice relaxation. Try deep breathing exercises or meditating. These are great to use if things get a little too busy and you feel yourself start to lose it. Slowly breathe in, counting to five, then exhale counting backward from five. Repeat three times.


Overall the biggest piece of advice I can give is to plan ahead. Have your map, your GPS, your debit cards, portable snacks, and comfortable shoes all set and ready. If you plan ahead, you will be able to spend more time focusing on what’s truly important. So far I’m taking my own advice and I hope I can make it through the next week calmly, then enjoy some R & R.

Activities For Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong illness, and it affects millions of adults in the U.S. Treatments include medication and various forms of therapy for mood management. It is important for those with Bipolar to get involved with activities that provide structure and routine, while helping to keep energy focused.

Exercise is one activity that helps bipolar disorder, not only because of the endorphines and positive brain chemicals, but because it helps both extremes- depression and mania. Physical activity gives manic energy a structured channel, thus facilitating a healthy outlet. As for depression, having an exercise routine can help lift the symptoms, producing the energy that is usually lacking when in a depressed state.

Creative activities are extremely beneficial for bipolar disorder. Most people with bipolar tend to be naturally creative anyway, so finding means for creative expression can actually be therapeutic and aid in maintaining mood swings and episodes. Writing, painting, crafts, and music are ideal activities for creative people.

Social activities with loved ones and friends or with a support group help those with mood disorders because socializing allows one to step outside and into the relationship paradigms they hold with others, whether intimately or casually. Recreational activities decrease stress and boost serotonin and dopamine. Sometimes it helps to talk about stressors involving the disorder as well.

Getting your domestic activities in order is a must for both necessity and hobby. It’s good to commit to a routine with housework and cleaning, otherwise potential mood episodes can alter the likelihood of completing chores. Other domestic activities can be fun, like cooking, and would be a great hobby. These activities enhance memory and attention span, as well as a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes it may seem difficult to get started on incorporating activities into one’s life, but once the routine is set, it becomes easier, and quite enjoyable. The benefits for bipolar disorder and self-discovery are definitely worth the while.Image  

A Primer on Positive Self-Talk

One of the things I’ve been working on recently is banishing negative thoughts, and replacing them with positive self-talk. Being more mindful of toxic thought patterns has allowed me to live more peacefully and pro-actively. Sure, I still have a lot further to go, but it’s alright because I’m getting there. Negative thinking is such a common habit among many of us, whether you have a psychiatric disorder or not. Outside factors such as other people, job stress, school, society, and media can plant negativity in our minds, which then manifests into self damage and sabotage. Below is a pretty good infograph depicting this way of thinking, and how to turn it around into positive self-talk.


9 Triggers of Bipolar Mood Swings

I found this article on everydayhealth.com about the most common triggers of Bipolar Disorder. The article touches on things such as lack of sleep, dealing with triggers from a breakup, seasonal changes and how they affect mood changes, pregnancy, job loss, and more. One of the more interesting triggers that I can identify with is grief, or mourning the death of a loved one, and the theory of “funeral mania”.  I’ve lost several friends and family members over the last couple of years, and I hadn’t realized that it was indeed triggering manic symptoms in me. I knew I behaved differently because I felt like I should be more depressed, not the “busy-body” I become when someone passes. Anyway, check out the article and perhaps gain some new insight on your own triggers.




NAMI | Bradley Cooper Speaks Out in National Dialogue on Mental Illness

Bradley Cooper is the star of the new hit film, Silver Linings Playbook, which has been nominated for 5 academy awards. I have yet to see this movie, but I certainly intend to. Cooper plays a man with Bipolar Disorder and he is faced with a series of challenges in his life. Robert Deniro also stars in the film as Cooper’s father.

Click on the link to read what Bradley Cooper had to say about mental illness.

NAMI | Bradley Cooper Speaks Out in National Dialogue on Mental Illness.

Information provided by NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness)

15 Ways to Boost Self-Esteem

Let’s chat about something that in some way, shape, or form affects us all. I’m talking about self-esteem. I will shamelessly admit that I have a considerably low self-esteem. Sometimes I am careful to not show it, other times my crafty side manages to fake confidence so I can trick myself into thinking my esteem is higher than it truly is. It messes with my head and can get rather exhausting. I’ve come to a point in my life where I have to examine my situation and make some decisions about myself. Right now, I’m about to embark on two life-altering events, which include planning for a baby, and choosing a graduate program. These are wonderful milestones that I know anyone would be blessed with. I’m terrified and unsure about my abilities. I’m filled with self-doubt and self-loathing. The good news is that I’m aware of this dilemma and want to crack it once and for all. I suspect I’m not the only one out there with low self-esteem so I’ve decided to share my findings with you.

So, what is self-esteem, anyway? Basically, it’s how you view yourself. Good self-esteem develops from a positive self-concept, which exhibits a general belief that you are good and worthwhile. Associated factors include a sense of confidence, a belief that you are a capable person, and that you are worthy of love and respect. Now before I get ahead of myself, it is possible for people to have too high a self-esteem also. These folks have an unrealistically positive and inflated sense of self and may come off as arrogant. Low self-esteem causes you to put little value on your opinions and ideas, and only focus on weaknesses. It holds you back from having confidence to do things you might be interested in doing, such as hobbies or careers. This might come from a fear of failure, which in turn can result in self-sabotage at work or school. I know I am guilty of this crippling behavior.

The ultimate goal is to possess a healthy self-esteem. This doesn’t mean being in love with yourself- this means liking yourself and accepting yourself for who you are. Building confidence and being more assertive are viable reasons to adjust your esteem, not to mention gaining security in your relationships with other people. So, how the heck do we accomplish this? Well, first you should know it’s an ongoing process that is practiced over a lifetime, not a quick fix.


Some tips on improving your self-esteem:

Boost Your Awareness
One of the very first things you can do is to start paying attention to what triggers you. This includes situations and people. Next pay attention to how those situations and people make you feel. Identify these feelings. For instance do you feel insecure? Unattractive? Inadequate? Most likely these thoughts are irrational, and there’s a chance you know this, but it’s important to recognize each of them.

Change Your Environment
Surround yourself with an uplifting environment. Studies have shown that brighter colors tend to eradicate positive energy. Play music with a positive message. Hang motivational quotes in places you walk past every day. Personally, I’m a sucker for words so I try to keep positive quotes around for my consistent review. If you have awards or anything symbolizing accomplishment, you should put it out, to be reminded of what you have done.

Take a Stand on Self-talk
One very common thing most of us tend to do is practice inner dialogue that is devaluing to yourself in some way. I do it constantly. This is the voice that says, “you’re not good enough”, or “you’re a screw up”, or any of the other million negative, self-deprecating phrases. These need to stop. To help with your self-esteem, you need to start counting how often you say these things to yourself, and try to stop yourself in that moment. It won’t be easy, but it is so necessary.

Clean it Up
Do something extra for your appearance such as put on makeup, shave, or add a dab of cologne. Maybe buy a new outfit. At the very least, practice good hygiene. The belief that you feel better when you look better actually holds some weight. And when you present the best version of yourself, others will notice too.

Celebrate Your Successes
Did you land a big account at work? Or meet that weight loss goal? Whatever you may have accomplished, you deserve to celebrate it. Treat yourself to a movie with a friend, or buy that pair of boots you’ve been eyeing. Go ahead and tell someone about what you accomplished. You earned the recognition!

Do Something You’re Good At
I know what you’re thinking. You think you’re not good at anything. Well, I call your bluff. Everybody is good at something. Even if it is only one thing, that’s okay, it’s something. It doesn’t have to be playing an instrument or building a house. Maybe you have a gentle nature and are good with animals. That’s a talent. So volunteer at an animal shelter or start a pet-sitting business. The possibilities are endless. If you can do something, then do it.

Learn Something New
A key way to build self-esteem is to build on yourself. Learning something new is great because you build on your skill set, which enhances your knowledge, and adds to your talents. Plus, it’s fun!

Join the Crowd
Reexamine those you hang out with. In order to feel better about yourself, you need to put yourself in the company of people who make you feel good. If you surround yourself with people who put you down, constantly complain or nag, then it would be difficult for anyone to feel good in their presence. Likewise, be careful of friends who make a habit of flaunting their possessions and accomplishments. You want to be around others who like and accept you for you. A reciprocating sense of encouragement with your friends is imperative for self-growth.

Set Goals
Setting goals can certainly enhance your self-esteem, but only if you actually accomplish these goals. To do this, it’s important to have a structured plan in place for reaching the goal that you set. You can have a long-term goal such as graduating college, or a short-term goal such as cleaning out your closet, or even something in the middle, like losing ten pounds. Set your goal, create your plan, implement the steps, and then once you reach that goal, make sure you celebrate!

Forgive Yourself
One of the culprits of low self-esteem is self-blame. Blaming yourself for something that is beyond your control can not only make you feel badly about yourself, but can also fuel anxiety or depression. It’s time to forgive yourself and let it go. If there was something still bothering you from the past, or you need to make amends with someone, then now is a good time to do that. If you are practicing self-deprecating behavior at the reins of someone else, it’s time to realize you don’t need anyone’s approval but your own. If any of this is an ongoing issue, I suggest talking to a therapist to help you clear out some of those thoughts.

Take Chances
Step out of your comfort zone. Take a new route home. Eat at a new restaurant. Start up a conversation with somebody. Join a club or committee. Just one little ounce of effort in uncharted territory will boost the hell out of your confidence.

No More Comparisons
You are the one and only you. There is nobody like you. Comparing yourself to others is just giving them the power to hog the spotlight of your delusion. It really will not make you a better person. A little known secret- everyone has insecurities, even those you feel you don’t measure up to. Pay attention to when you start comparing and then reverse it by thinking of the things in your life you are grateful for. I bet there’s a lot.

Trust Yourself
When you are feeling a little unsure, try trusting yourself. You say you’re scared to take a step? You’re afraid you’ll mess it up? I say give yourself more credit than that! Trusting yourself is the key to personal empowerment. You totally got this!

Physical Activity
Exercise releases endorphins and helps boost serotonin and dopamine, or the “feel good” chemicals in your body. It also helps accomplish weight and body image goals, as well as relieves stress. Getting enough physical activity will naturally help you feel better about yourself, thus helping to boost your self-esteem.

Avoid Toxic Stuff
Alcohol can physically deplete you of Vitamin B as well as Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids maintain levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. While some people think having a few drinks helps to enhance confidence, a.k.a. “liquid courage”, they are actually contributing to depression and low self-esteem. Consequently, low self-esteem can manifest into alcohol and drug addiction. Overall, it’s best to avoid these substances.

Hopefully you can find value in yourself, and make it a point to bring a low self-esteem to a healthier place. Remember self-esteem issues are common for those of us with mood disorders, but it doesn’t mean we have to accept that’s how we must live. I know I will continue to work on my own self-esteem, as I have confidence you will work on yours.

Tips on Living with Bipolar Disorder

Advocacy and education seem to go hand in hand. When it comes to Bipolar Disorder, I feel that a part of advocating is to educate people on ways to cope with living with the disorder. So I went ahead and came up with a list of essential things to help live with Bipolar and not against it. And, yeah, some of these things I’m still learning myself.


Get Present
Try to bring yourself to the present moment. Take a mental note of your surroundings. Look at your current situation. Look at whom you are with. Listen to what you are conversing about. Think about how it makes you feel. Take note of any potential triggers in your situation. Doing this helps with your personal awareness and allows you to gain knowledge of your own patterns.

Education is Key
Learn everything you can about your disorder. All mood disorders have distinct qualifiers and variances. Read about the types of Bipolar. Learn about triggers, mood swings, mania, depression, and what a mixed episode is. Go online or to the library. You can even ask your psychiatrist for recommended literature. The more you know, the more confident you will be and the better you can manage your disorder.

Don’t F**** with Meds
As frustrating as it can be, it is so very important to be consistent with your medication. Often, finding the correct med and the correct dosage can be trial and error, but you have to trust your psychiatrist and communicate with him or her about how you feel on the medication. Also, the number one reason we tend to stop taking our meds is because we “feel better”. I know. I’ve done it. Many times. This is NOT a reason to come off of them!

Routine and Structure
Establishing a routine and finding structure help to maintain stability. This means go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Most of us know BP and insomnia go hand in hand, so committing to a set schedule can really help control that. The same goes for taking meds at the same times each day to stay regulated. It is also recommended to eat your meals, exercise, and do leisure activities all in a set routine. Personally, I eat when I’m hungry and exercise when I feel like it, but hey, that’s why this is all a process, right?

Build Your Support System
This includes your family and friends, your significant other, your therapist, your psychiatrist, and anyone who you feel you can depend on. These should be supportive and caring people who understand your disorder at least enough to be able to contribute to your life in a positive way. Other forms of support are peer support groups, such as DBSA (www.dbsalliance.org) or online support groups such as Bipolar Disorder Connect (www.bipolardisorderconnect.com) and other groups found through Facebook.

Know Thyself
I cannot stress it enough- learn to recognize your triggers. How do you do this? It starts with self-acceptance and accepting the fact that you have Bipolar Disorder. If you’re anything like me, it was (is?) difficult to accept this and acknowledge that it will never actually go away. Once you do cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to claim your diagnosis, you will need to start paying close attention to your mood swings. It helps to have someone observe your moods with you. Pay attention to seasonal changes. I know that I definitely trigger from weather changes and often the seasonal switch puts me right into an episode. Watch all environmental stimuli, such as loud noises, social settings, traffic, and anything that may be out of your normal routine. A big trigger for those with mood disorders is toxic people. I’m not saying to cut off your loved ones, but you need to recognize how others in your life may be affecting your mental health. Learning some coping techniques may be a good idea if there are triggers you may not be able to remove completely. Another factor to pay attention to is your consumption of alcohol or drugs. It is not recommended to use substances because they will affect your brain’s chemicals, as well as any medications you have been prescribed. If you do have a drink, observe how it affects your mood, not just while you are drinking, but for the next few days as well.

Establish Coping Methods
It is important to keep a Bipolar brain healthy. It is also important to establish your own personal methods of coping in order to maintain mood swings and episode triggers. Take your medication as directed by your doctor, maybe consider talking to a therapist, journaling and writing are often helpful, prayer and meditation, artistic endeavors like photography or painting are great options, and of course, exercise is so good for you mentally and physically. During your management, some important elements to practice are goal-setting, positive self-talk and affirmations, practicing good hygiene and self-care, and utilizing your support system and groups.

Have an Emergency Plan
Be prepared in case you do enter into either a depressed or a manic episode. If you are anything like me, you have spun into some epic manias and you know how intense and out of control it can become. Have your psychiatrist’s number on hand, know the names and dosages of all of your medications, have a hospital picked out in case you need to be admitted, and keep open communication with your support system.