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Life lessons for those with a new bipolar diagnosis

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Hello people,

I was wondering what life lessons you've learned and wish to convey to someone who has just become bipolar. It has only been 1.5 year since I had my first (hypo)mania where I destroyed my life tremendously. Everything is ok now, but I know it won't be that way forever. I noticed that I still have a long way ahead of me.

This isn't only for me, but for the people who have been recently diagnosed or people that need some good advice.

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1. What's done is done. If you've made a mistake, flown off the handle, done something reckless, said something you didn't mean, or anything else during the tempest of mania, it's already been done, and aside from apologizing or making basic damage control, there's nothing else you can do about it. Learn to let moments like that go. If it isn't within the reach of your arm, you can't control it. If you can't control it, don't feel guilty about it at all. That guilt serves no purpose, and dwelling on things you can't change will only make you miserable and unstable.

2. Don't isolate yourself. Don't withdraw from your friends out of fear that they won't understand. They might not know a lot about mental health, but it doesn't take a degree in psychology to recognize when someone is hurting and depressed, they'll understand that at least. You need your friends and your family as a support structure. Most people desperately need socialization to stay sane and healthy, and when you are in a low period, you need it even more. Talk to people, even when all you feel like doing is staying in bed, make yourself do it.

3. Have an escape plan. You shouldn't live in fear of your next manic or hypomanic episode, but you should definitely be prepared for it. Find somewhere to go, like a friend or relative's house who understands the situation and can keep an eye on you when shit hits the fan, then make arrangements with them that when the time comes, you go there. One of the worst things you can do is be by yourself during the worst parts of a manic episode. Pack a little bug-out-bag just for that, with some of your toiletries, a change of comfortable clothes, a week's worth of extra medication, and important phone numbers. When it gets bad, bunker down in that safe place.

4. Get the right amount of sleep. Don't sleep to little, but don't sleep too much either. Both extremes will make you unstable. Depriving yourself of sleep will make you tend toward mania, while too much sleep will make you tend toward depression. Hypersomnia, or sleeping too much, is an especially vicious cycle I've seen many folks with BP fall into, including myself, and it's hard to claw your way out of. Don't let yourself wallow in bed, ever, because the more you wallow, the more you sleep, the sadder you'll get, and it will be that much harder to make yourself get out of bed.

That's all I've got, but I'll try to think of more. Some of this might not apply to you, or might seem ridiculous, and if that's the case, just ignore it. Everybody's experience of BP is going to be different in one way or another.

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the most helpful thought i have is that each and every mood state passes. every time i'm in a bad way, i think i'm going to feel that way forever. but there's always an end to the depression (usually after fooling with meds), an end to hypomania (ditto), and even an end to the better times (which is why i have to remember to enjoy these times as much as possible). no matter how bad it gets, it gets better again. every time.

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If you kill yourself, you will never, ever get better. Remember, if you hang on, things will eventually improve, even if being 100% stable is elusive.

Sleep is really important, although I have dreadful trouble sleeping.

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As another newbie to the diagnosis, I'd like to add this: Take advantage of the resources available to you and don't be afraid to ask for help.

If you have access to therapy, then go. If things aren't working out with your first pdoc, then find another one who is a great fit for you. Your treatment team consists of people who are on your side, who are there to help you. Never be afraid to reach out if you need extra support or if you recognize the signs of an on-coming episode.

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This seems pretty common sense, and it is something that everyone should do, but I find it especially important for some reason since I've been trying to get stable: take care of yourself. Stick to a schedule. Don't go out on booze/drug binges. Exercise (cringe). Eat stuff that our grandparents would actually recognize as food. Reign in that caffeine habit if you have one. Learn to calm yourself. "Normal" people do this crap all the time, but if you're manic or depressed, it's a lot harder than you'd think. The drugs you have to take to combat bipolar can do a number on some of your organ functions and your weight. If you don't stay on top of this kind of stuff, you end up getting to the point where you have a whole bunch of other health problems and/or it's too risky for you to take certain medications. This isn't really one of the first things that people will really tell you that you'll think is all that helpful when you're first diagnosed, but oh, if I had only realized this kind of stuff, my treatment plan may be a whole lot easier today.

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Don't let other people's ignorance interfere with your treatment. If I listened to some people I would think i don't need meds and I would have never tried therapy.

Different things work for other people, but hearing from other people with similar experiences, especially if they are doing well now, gives me hope and helps me feel understood. I would mention support groups and on-line forums.

Your docs work for you and if they aren't helping you try to find someone else

When I was first diagnosed I was fragile and got overwhelmed easily and it was hard for me to do simple household chores, so I learned to accept help when it was offered.

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- If you have to choose between a job with little stress and a job that pays more, seriously consider the cushy one. If you're stuck in a high stress job, be vigilant for a less stressful alternative. Overachieving is overrated.

- You don't have to tell everyone you're Bipolar. After almost 20 years I can count on one hand the people I've told.

- See Post #2, fourth point. Cut & paste it. Print it out. The difference between Heaven and Hell can be an hour of sleep.

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And for the love of God, have a sense of humor. BP is some serious shit, but injecting a little humor and levity in your life can keep you getting sucked into your own head and illness.

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Always take your meds, take your meds, take your meds. Don't run out. Don't hoard.

P.S. thanks for the question and everyone else for posting, I've been playing this game for a long time and (how can it be?) had no notion of some of the strategies mentioned. Did some cuttin' and pastin' myself. :cool:

Edited by sheila2050
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Always take your meds, take your meds, take your meds. Don't run out. Don't hoard.

P.S. thanks for the question and everyone else for posting, I've been playing this game for a long time and (how can it be?) had no notion of some of the strategies mentioned. Did some cuttin' and pastin' myself. :cool:

Both of these things, in spades. Added to 'take your meds' I would also say, 'and don't change anything around dosage-wise without talking to your pdoc first.'

I know some others here think it's splitting hairs, but I always say, "I have bipolar", instead of "I am bipolar". Saying I have a disease, instead of saying I am a disease, makes me feel like I'm not defective or that it was something that I could somehow control. Saying I have a disease reminds me that it was the luck of the draw, not something I chose to be, and as a result, is something that can be treated. Most people wouldn't say, "I am diabetes", for example.

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I am not bipolar, but I just want to say that the responses given here are simply wonderful and very useful to me as well. What I would like to add is: try not to make big decisions (employment, relationships, etc.) when in a mood episode. It almost invariably turns out badly.

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This has been very informative. I am newly diagnosed with BPD myself. However My boyfriend has BPDII and I have seen his various episodes over the years. After being diagnosed it explains so much that I have experienced throughout the past few years. However with feeling better I don't think i need my meds.I know I know, big no no..What I always tell my BF is the reason you feel better is because of your meds. So i know that's an important thing I can just see things so much better from his side now. and WOW...

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Stick with your treatment plan. Take care of yourself. Know your limits. Have a backup plan in case of a bad episode. Don't share your diagnosis with the world, chances are they don't understand MI and will treat you differently. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but few. Try not to obsess about the diagnosis and every mood you are having at the moment. Everyone has shifts in mood - BP people just have bigger ones. CHART, daily. Make notes of your mood, sleep amounts, irritablity, having to take backup meds. My doc really appreciates this because I'm not always a great judge of my state, sometimes rating myself as mildly manic when I'm practically running people over in my car, shaking violently and can't focus for shit.

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I would say this to someone new to BP: it gets better, it really does. There are always new medication combinations that can be tried, and if you happen to try them all (which I haven't seen on this board in the seven years I've been here) there are always new meds being introduced all the time. Sometimes you get a good day, sometimes it's a good month, and sometimes a good year. But it will come. You just have to remember that through the bad times.

I would also tell you to keep in constant contact with your pdoc when you are in trouble. They are being paid by you to help you, so don't try to go it alone. You may be unique, but your pdoc probably has a lot of unique patients just like you and can adjust meds/talk/offer advice when you need it the most. I think a call to the pdoc is the most underutilized resource BPers have.

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So much great advice! What a wonderful thread! I'm newly diagnosed...although I always had a feeling I was. After my breakdown I went to my doc to get help and he told me it was a process...I was a shell of a person at the time and I just burst into tears. He goes "hey hey! You're fixable! You like that better? You're fixable. I'm gonna help you feel like a human being again" And he's 100% correct, living with BP is a constant process. And you when you ae broken and beat down....you're still fixable! That phrase has helped me so much! Whenever I feel broken beyond repair I tell myself "I am fixable!" and go review the process with him.

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Cheshire Kitty Cat, I think I am in love with your pdoc. Finding a good one has been a major obstacle for many people, it sounds like you pulled it off! :)

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This is a great thread, very helpful for me to read.

Do a mood chart. I did one for one year, it just takes a few mins a day.

It was very helpful for me to recognize symptoms as I begin to wind up or spiral down.

100% med compliance. That is my goal. I am probably 98% med compliant.

Every Sunday I distribute my medications into my pill organizers, for me and my husband.

I could never do it without a pill organizaer, actually I have two.

Moods do change. They will always change. I can feel an exquisite, sharp pain and two days

later feel much more normal. Never make relationship decisions when in a mood state.

Sleep, healthy diet, fresh air, pleasant company ........all these normal things help to normalize

my state of mind.

It is true about stress. I had to make career decisions which reduce the stress. It also reduced

my income. Basically I try to protect my sanity, my marriage, and my poodle.

We are everywhere. There are bipolar people everywhere in all professions. Take heart

in the sheer brilliance you can find among the bipolar. We seem to be highly intelligent.

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Thanks everyone for your responses! I find it good to hear that this thread has helped other people as well as me.

If only I could get my sleep schedule back on track and my springtime dip back up, I'd be all set.

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Hmm My advice is to try to have understanding and supportive people around you. I have my gf who is Bipolar and a co worker who has a Bipolar husband that I can talk to. Also my mom who can't completely understand as she isnt Bipolar, she does her best to listen and support me. Also as it has been already said Take your meds!! Do not suddenly stop them, that can suck major trust me. Always call your Pdoc if you are having an episode or issue. Become educated about Bipolar, you are going to be dealing with it for the rest of your life. I have a ton of books that I bought and read when I was diagnosed and I still refer back to them from time to time. Also find something you are interested in and or passionate about. I love music and being creative. I have a whole box of art stuff that I do when the mood stirkes me and I have tons of music that I listen to daily, it can work wonders for my moods. Ok I'm getting long winded, sorry, I'm manic and I am thinking a lot...lol hope this helps.

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Stay med compliant.

Look into Nami or DBSA for support for yourself and your loved ones.

Don't skip meals.

Get into a good bedtime routine.

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