Friday, December 16, 2016

A Stranger’s Act of Kindness Towards Me and My Bipolar That Surprised Me

I hit rock bottom in life a little over 10 years ago. I lost everything that was important to me, from my child, to my car, to my my dignity.

This is when I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and ended up spending 6 weeks in a short term psych ward. The average stay there was 5-7 days, I blew that average right out of the water.

I made a lot of poor choices before that hospital stay, which ultimately cost me custody of my child, and for a time it lost me my family and friends.

When I was staying at this hospital, I had no friends or family to come visit me, everyone had written me off. I had no one to call during open phone time. I had no one to bring me money to get a soda, or something besides the semi-edible hospital food.

That kind of isolation will wear on a person, until they begin to truly believe that they are nothing more than a mouth breather taking up space. This being a very difficult point in my life, I actually contemplated ways to end my life while in the hospital. I hated myself, and felt like no one should waste their time on me.

And since I had that attitude, several of the nurses and techs treated me as such. There was one who didn't though. He treated me as if I were a person. As if I mattered. He was always subtle in his approach to letting me know I had value, but it was always there. It was the little things like getting me a soda every week or so, or buying me french fries from the cafe downstairs because he knew I wasn't getting that stuff any other way. He would let me choose the radio station and encourage me to rock out.

These don't sound like huge things, but they were life altering for me. I was able to slowly come back from the brink of the dark abyss because of his actions. I started writing while in the hospital, to get the words that were poisoning my soul out. I started trying to live again, even though every day was like having a glass shard in my heart.

I learned a valuable lesson from this man's treatment of me. I learned that you never know how much of a difference you can make in a person's life by being kind, so be kind, always. He'll never know that he helped save my life, just by treating me as a person. Now I try to pay that forward whenever I can. Random acts of kindness are my favorite things to do. If you're ever in a position to either be kind, or say something hurtful, always try and choose the higher road. You never know when you'll be saving a person's life by doing so. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Three Resolutions of a Person With Bipolar Disorder

It's the end of the year, and what does that mean? It means it's time to start thinking of New Year's resolutions.

My resolutions tend to stay the same every year, none of that 'I want to lose 30 pounds by bikini season' crap, or 'I'm going to run a full marathon by the end of winter' phooey. Good on everyone else who makes those promises to themselves, but it's not my scene. Though, it could be because I don't run - unless a zombie is chasing me.

No, my resolutions are a little more serious, and have far more lasting consequences if I don't see them through. You see, I have bipolar disorder, and I have to think carefully on my resolutions each year.

Take my first resolution for example, it is to stay medication compliant all the times. This is way harder than you'd think. I'm on 10 different medications; two of them cause weight gain, and with one of them I have to go in and get my blood checked frequently. I get so sick of taking 5 pills in the morning, and 5 at night, plus 15 more over the course of the day. When you have a hard time swallowing pills, 25 of them gets to be a bit much. And this is every day. I don't get weekends off, or holidays, or sick days. But I do it. I've had so many epic fails when I've decreased dosages without my doctor's knowledge, or just straight up quit meds without my provider's blessing. I've learned the hard way, again, and again, and again, about messing with my meds without my doctor knowing about. So, medication compliance, that's resolution number one.

Resolution number two is to put myself first, always. Many people think self care is selfish, but it's the most important thing you can do to help keep yourself stable. I have to take time every single day to make sure my needs are being met. I love to color, or crochet, or be able to take a long enough shower to have time to shave my legs. (With 4 kids, this is harder than you'd think.) Self care also includes reaching out to friends or family if you need to talk. There's an age old analogy that I share, about airplanes - if the oxygen masks come down, who's do you put on first? Yours or your child's? You put on yours first of course! Because if you pass out, you're of no use whatsoever to that child. This is an excellent analogy to life, you can't properly care for others if you don't care for yourself first.

Resolution number three. I have to be resolute in my decision to see my doctors and therapists regularly. I hate seeing my doctor every month, he's out-of-network, and it's pricey to see him every month, but we've tried pushing my visits out to every 2 months, and I decompensate every time. So, I go see him. I also have to stay regular with my individual therapist because I start to go downhill when I begin skipping appointments with her too. And then there's marriage counseling; we see him PRN, but I have to be honest with my husband about how I'm doing. So if my individual counseling isn't being effective on its own, my husband and I can go in as a team to our counselor and get extra coping skills from him.

I have to say, keeping these resolutions is not as easy as you'd think. There are months that I don't want to pick my meds up from the pharmacy because of how much they cost, which would put me out of compliance with them., Putting myself first isn't always easy, I have a history of low self esteem, and learning to care for me has been a challenge. And honestly, I get sick of all the doctor and therapy visits I have each month; I get tired of going in and seeing them so frequently. I feel like they're probably sick of seeing me so much or something.

But I keep those promises because I have to. My good health is one of the most precious things I have, and stability is worth the price of feeling like I inconvenience people. (I also recognize that this is probably a negative thought distortion, and I probably don't really burden people.)So if you live with bipolar disorder, and you haven't figured out what resolutions you want to make for 2017, maybe my list will be a springboard for you to jump off of and find some ideas that fit your situation too!