It is Mental Health Awareness Month. I guess it was fortuitous that I publish my book on the first of this month.
I take my mental health very seriously. The above picture is me having a mixed episode. This is me being medicated. This is me managing my medication and attempting to manage my swing. This is me failing to do that as well.
I write about this picture in my book. The mixed episode at the cabin where I wanted to slash my wrist with a fish knife. I had hurt myself by burning myself earlier. I had been depressed then manic then mixed. The pictures are about a few hours apart maybe five at the most. At least three and a half, because that’s how long the drive is from the cabin back to Vegas.
Taking your mental health seriously helps. Having good sleep hygiene, taking my meds, and not drinking alcohol are how I take care of my mental health. I am a stickler to a schedule. Being on quarantine has loosened my habits a bit and has caused some troubles for me but nothing too bad.
Taking your mental health seriously does not mean you will not have set backs. In the picture, I was taking my meds, getting exercise, relaxing. My meds were just no longer working. I had reached max capacity absorption and the meds just didn’t help anymore. I was maxed out on the dosage for the Geodon. Even now, I take my meds, follow my tidy schedule and I have major swings. I am medicated have no triggers and I feel like a fireworks show has started in my brain.
You have to really know yourself to take care of yourself. I know when I’m starting run hypo that I need to take a pill to calm me down. If it continues to build, I need my rescue meds. I also ALWAYS still go to bed on time and put on The Big Bang Theory and close my eyes, even if I’m not sleeping. I pretend. I will toss and turn for hours but I’m resting. I may not be in complete shut down mode but I’m not on sensory overload either.
With having a schedule and a system to follow, I also track myself daily on eMoods. I can find a pattern of my behavior. I can see if I am not sleeping or if my sleep has been bad over the course of a few nights or if I just feel like it has been. I can see how many days I’ve been hypo. It’s important information and you can print or send it to your doctor.
I find with talking openly about being bipolar most people are accepting. They are willing to listen to me. Maybe that’s because I’m loud and don’t give people a chance to leave before I launch into a story about me in a Batman onesie. Who doesn’t want to hear that? As funny as my antics are, I find that people do want to hear about the seriousness of this illness.
I have only had trouble a few times. I have always been open about being bipolar to fight the stigma.
One time some co-workers were gossiping about me and my medications and how that made me act. My friend overheard them and told them to knock it off. She told me about it. I dismissed it but was wary about telling them anything personal.
When I was sick and could not start back to work, I had trouble convincing people it would not take all year for me to recover. For me, I know myself. It takes me a few weeks to bounce back from an episode. A med change maybe a month. But the hospitalization ER moment had given people reason to worry. I understood the reason people were worried. I was upset that they didn’t trust me to know myself. They did things “to help” me.
I admit, some of that help was great. But once I was well, it was hard for people to see me as being well. People kept looking at me as if I were wounded. People worried for me. People did not confide in me so as not to trouble me. It took time for me to rebuild my relationships with people so they could see I was well. I’m not saying that was for EVERYONE but for a lot of people.
It was very frustrating for someone like me who is very independent and who had the trust and confidence of most people at my work. Overnight I went to not being able to make decisions for myself. It was difficult to lose that status especially when I knew I would be well in a few weeks. And I was.
I missed starting my job the first two weeks of the school year. I went back and did well. I even underwent a med switch while continuing to work without too much difficulty. Even with that success, I was treated different by several co-workers.
Now that I have had a successful year of not being sick and needing time off, people have not treated me different. Being bipolar has moved to the back of people’s minds. It moved right up until I publish a book called Yes, I Took My Meds and reminded people I’m bipolar and take my meds daily. LOL.
All in all, I think you have to fight the stigma of your mental illness. I think you have to stand up for your rights. I wish I had done more of that. I felt pushed aside. I think even if you are well, you have to be vigilant. Swings happen. Be forgiving of yourself if you get sick. It happens, just get treatment and try to get well. Know yourself and be your best advocate.