• Benjamin

Oops, it's Bipolar

Talking about Bipolar again today. For some reason, I truly thought Bipolar was just a hitch-hiker sitting in the backseat while Autism directs me in the passenger seat. Along the way of my journey in the last two years, Bipolar took a much more serious role in my life than I had realized. Bipolar felt more like the gremlin who would either cut my brake lines, or my gas lines; whichever the hell It felt like that day.

It is exceedingly difficult to plan your life road trip when your Bipolar is running rampant and your Autism is P I S S E D that there is no rhyme or reason to Bipolar. At any time, I could get hit with a crash of depression, to the point where I couldn’t leave the bed for extended periods of time. With no warning, I would change from somebody who could do anything into a mossy rock.

Of course, I said it was exceedingly difficult but it isn’t impossible. With the help of those around me, and lots of Therapy and guidance, I have found ways that work for me to prevent smaller Bipolar swings, and prep for bigger swings.

First and foremost, what has worked best for me, Medication. I am lucky enough to have my Medication covered, and I know that this is not an easily accessible option for everybody. I have worked carefully with my doctor, my therapist, and my wife to find a combination of pills that worked best for me. I feel no shame for my need of Medication, for myself I have found it necessary in keeping my brain’s baseline more regulated, setting me up for success in other areas.

A downside of medication? It is often not accessible to people with lower incomes. I am lucky to have my medication covered until I’m Twenty-Five but depending on what you need it is NOT cheap. Stigma and medical bias are two immensely powerful barriers in healthcare. The continued lack of diagnosis and access to proper, safe prescriptions in many vulnerable communities make this step much more difficult than it needs to be.

(I do also want to note that misdiagnosis and pushing of medication on a person that it doesn’t react well with also creates issues with people’s view on medication.)

Therapy was so instrumental in my growth as a person and has been a factor throughout my whole life. Some Great, some Bad, some Good, some Awful. What is so important is finding a type of therapy, and a therapist that really meshes well with you. That is why it is so important that we have better systems in place that are accessible to every single who needs them. The greatest I’ve taken to therapy is my current wonderful therapist.

However if I wasn’t lucky enough to have financial access to her services, this wouldn’t have happened. This is NOT saying that public health therapists are somehow naturally “worse” or “bad.” What I am saying is the system in place is broken and purposefully confusing and convoluted. It’s just impossible to get to the root of issues in a session or two before you’re shuffled out and have to apply for someone new. I’ve had therapists that I’ve really connected with, and it hurt way more when I made that connection and then had to go do it again somewhere else.

Surprise, once again as a medical field; therapy is affected by medical bias and stigma. Not everyone will be treated equally in the system, and a person’s own bias WILL affect how they behave through their work. In addition, sometimes the therapy revolving around Autism was specifically focused on masking and “behaving normal and proper in public.” While I love learning life skills, some things are simply just at a detriment to my own mental health.

(Also some people are just vile, sorry to say it. If you want to read more about issues of ableism, and some of my stories, check out my post on Toxic Ableism)

There are two major factors to be aware of when talking about Bipolar that I eluded to at the beginning, Depression and Mania. Many people often focus on the depression side of Bipolar, but that can be detrimental since Manic episodes can be just as damaging to one’s health.

You see, I believe that Mania isn’t as often brought into the conversation because it is held as a “valuable Trait” in society due to productivity jumps that can come from it. Now, that sounds amazing in theory, just a super mode where you get way more done. It comes from a level of hyper focus on tasks which takes attention from other areas.

That is the catch though, it takes away from other areas and more often than not leads to very serious and dangerous burnout. You must pull this energy from SOMEWHERE, and you do it without even knowing. Especially when I am extra excited about a project, I tend to completely forget to do things that keep me alive. For example, if I’m working on something non-stop, I will skip all my meals without realizing, and come back out of my daze at Four or Five the next morning. That is when I look back at the day and think, “oh shit, I didn’t eat, take my pills, or sleep.”

That is why it is important to recognize your own internal symptoms and feelings that surround Manic episodes and try to catch them before they get out of control. That is also why taking medication regularly outside of these episodes will help you succeed in recognizing things before Mania.

Excessive Manic episodes can also directly lead into Depressive episodes. Sleeping is the number one thing to help any mood disorder, keeping a consistent and proper sleep schedule will help you succeed far before you get into any episode. For me, I’ve always had terrible anxiety-based insomnia, so I also use medication to help me keep a consistent sleep schedule.

In addition, eating consistently and with all of the nutrients you need is extremely important just for your body to run, but when you’re Manic and forget to eat often then your body feels like crap which makes your mental health feel worse. This one is surprisingly tough for me, I don’t actually eat a whole lot throughout the day, mainly because I never have the energy to make something and complete other household chores; so I choose not to eat. Something that does help me is having a variety of ready to go, quick eatin’ foods. They may not be as healthy as cooking yourself something, but it is better than not eating at all. Just make sure you try to strike a balance, for me having someone else in the house to cook for makes the energy expended in cooking more “worth it” in my mind.

If you start missing these things, they can make the Depression side of Bipolar appear much more quickly, last longer, and make it a whole lot worse. You see, Depression and Mania are something that will always be in my life, but it does not mean that I can’t change how bad that they will affect me.

Depression seems fairly self-explanatory at this point, as it is becoming more accepted in the mainstream. When it hits, I have a much harder time taking care of myself, my space, and my relationships. A lot of this stems again with energy output. I only have a certain amount of energy in my Stamina Gauge, but when I’m in a state of Depression, then my Stamina Gauge will only restore to a certain percentage each time. That is why it is important I take care of myself outside of these episodes, because it will affect how much of my life I can still participate in when I dip.

At it’s worst, I’ll go weeks with barely leaving the bed, eating or doing chores, and go months feeling directionless and lost. Which obviously starts to wear even more on your physical and mental health. I’m somebody who personally wants to stay constantly ‘productive’ to be happiest, so it really affects me and can cause a spiral when I’m unable to do what I want to do.

I also have a terrible time with Interpersonal Relationships (Click to check out a post all about this) during these Depressive episodes because obviously those take energy as well. When it is really bad I will spend those months not messaging anybody, only talking to Kyla because we live together! (Plus at this point she takes the least energy of anybody to spend time with) Obviously that isn’t a way to sustain any healthy relationship, and I often lose friendships because I stop talking to somebody for so long.

Also, just a weird interconnection with my Autism, but with Mania I have a harder time lowering my volume and not ‘projecting’ my voice, and Depression can give me a lower monotone issue with volume control.

There are a lot of nuances to Bipolar, as there is to any Mood Disorder. We need to have more proper representation of Bipolar and Mood Disorders, because right now we are often villainized and seen as ‘angry and bad’. That is simply not true, we are just out here trying to live our best lives and further stigmatizing it will unsurprisingly do more harm than good.

We often never talk about our issues with Bipolar because of this, or we don’t even understand what it fully is and how it manifests in our own lives when we’re not given the resources. People just want to live their best life, and people with Bipolar are no exception, so being understanding of our space and what we have is important for stronger, long-term relationships. Hell, I usually just send people silly memes on Instagram just to keep connections going without energy expended.

Hope this cleared some more things up about Bipolar, and we can start to have even more public and meaningful conversations about Bipolar and Mood Disorders as a whole.

Anyway, hope you have a consistent and fantastic day!

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© Copyright 2020, Benjamin Imlau