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.
So one thing we have all been taught is that in order to manage your Bipolar Disorder, you must be sure to practice good sleep habits. It’s crucial to get adequate sleep to avoid unnecessary irritability, avoid agitation, and prevent potential triggers. Many of us are on meds that either control, conflict with, or conduce our sleep schedules. Another thing we’re taught is to be aware of potential stimulation triggers around you, or to pay attention to your surroundings. We also have the understanding that meds must be taken on schedule and it’s against the BP commandments to fuck around with meds. This is where my story of last weekend begins..
I take 600mg Lithium and 300 mg Seroquel at night before bed, no later than midnight. Then 300mg Lithium and 5mg Abilify during the daytime. Ok so while I usually have my wife on pharm patrol, I went away to a convention this past weekend, where I spent two nights away from home. Of course while I was away, I was on my own to remember to take my pills.
Now let me fill you in on the convention I was at. It was a very large organization of support groups and motivational speakers, discussion panels, an array of activities, and lots of intensely inspiring people, strong emotions, and an impossible amount of interaction- at all hours of the day…AND night. The convention consisted of several hundred members of Alcoholics Anonymous and affiliated groups, and I was in attendance as a guest of a loved one. I can say, while I genuinely enjoyed offering my support, the intensity of the emotional experience was a bit hefty a tab for the Bipolar gal who’s currently in the process of trying to color inside stability lines.
I did take the meds- just not quite as directed- I took half of a Seroquel 2 days in a row, and washed the others down with my 13th cup of coffee (it is AA, after all)- somewhere around 4am. Somehow I managed to be the first one up, at 7am, took more Lithium and Abilify, and I was eager to go absorb the empowered desperation of the first speaker. This went on for the remainder of the weekend.
Little did I know, this convention was triggering my Bipolar Disorder. While I thought I was simply being supportive and gaining new inspirational perspective (and I did), I was actually nourishing my disease. Flashback to October where I was full blown manic in my psychiatrist’s office, with my wife pleading for him to do something about me. We’ve been working on managing my treatment for the last two months. This emotional ambush sent hypomania into overdrive and my brain decided to go numb, race my thoughts around, and offer the gift of crying spells all the way home. This opportunity I wouldn’t have passed up for anything, however, life gave me a nice bitchslap pertaining to my own personal management.
Personal management in those with psychiatric illnesses, such as alcoholism or Bipolar Disorder, is imperative at all times, not just in the comfort of your home or workplace, or while with friends and family. But at all times. This, ironically, is a topic that many speakers touched on in their panels. Words I absorbed but didn’t apply until now. Once I got home, I acknowledged my triggers and made the commitment to get myself back on track, something that is extremely difficult for those with Bipolar to do. I put myself into a dramedy of caffeine, insomnia, and the serenity prayer. I’m still practicing serenity, just washing it down with a reality check and a side of Lithium.
This Thanksgiving you will probably be around a lot of people you don’t usually see. While we all know family is a wonderful thing, we know sometimes with Bipolar Disorder or Depression, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.
Loved ones, even when they mean well, can sometimes say the exact wrong thing. There are some common phrases we hear that can feel like little digs as we try to maintain our disorder, and I admit, for me it’s tough. Here is a list of some statements we can all agree are annoying. We might run into these or ones similar during run-ins with the relatives this holiday season.
Do these sound familiar? Now you need to strategically plan your response.
First, try to realize your loved ones care about you. That’s why they make comments in the first place. They are showing that they’re being caring. With this in mind, if you hear an irritating remark or question, you should practice relaxation & take a deep breath. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not aware that they’re saying something potentially offensive.
Next, you could either react with compliance and politely answer their question, which, let’s face it, most bipolars wouldn’t do. Or you could ignore the remark, which I do recommend in most situations. The reason I say it’s ok to ignore someone’s comment is for several reasons- you keep your temper down and avoid an unnecessary fight, you avoid hurting an unsuspecting relative’s feelings, you keep anxiety down and possibly prevent a trigger, and you can possibly deliver a hint to the said speaker.
One last thing you could try is telling the person the truth. If you do choose to confront the person who said something offensive, make sure it’s not at the dinner table in front of many people. Even if that person was disrespectful, remember they probably didn’t know that they were, so do yourself and everyone else a favor, and pull them aside speak to them privately.
However you choose to address these types of situations, remember every individual is different and you need to be prepared for any result. I do think sometimes with Bipolar Disorder, we need to learn to bend a little since there are a few needs we have that others don’t always understand.
Good luck and have a fantastic holiday!