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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Loving Someone Suffering With Bipolar Disorder

One of the best ways you can show your love for someone suffering bipolar is to never give up on them.  Yes it may be hard and there may be times when you have no idea what to do.  But one of the things you can do is tell them that you will always be here.  Even if you ran out of things to say and do, just knowing that someone is there no matter what brings assurance and eases the sufferers fear of being abandoned for something that is literally beyond their control.

Bipolar is a serious illness.  Just as if someone lost a leg and losing that leg has brought disability and limits and not to mention suffering.  The difference is you can easily see a lost leg but looking at a bipolar patient can at times look like they are choosing to be difficult.  Not true at all.  Most bipolar patients are the kindest and most compassionate people you could meet.  They know what suffering feels like and can have empathy for other sufferers. 

Also, read. Learn more about the illness.  Have an understanding for what they go through.  This will help you to not take alot of the things they do or say personally.  When one is depressed that is not the time to point out all their flaws.  They may need extra affirmations and positive feed back.  If your friend were in the hospital for any kind of illness the right thing to do would be visit and maybe even send flowers.  Same thing for someone suffering a mental illness.  Now is the time to show extra love, care and concern.  This will reinforce that this is an illness and is not their fault. 

Mania can bring a scare to loved ones watching their loved one act out of control.  Shopping sprees, life of the party, not sleeping, talking a million miles an hour.  It can feel like there is nothing you can do.  Sometimes the bipolar patient will resent your input because they don't see their behaviour as dangerous or out of the ordinary.  This may be time to step in with some tough love.  If they are going out of control with spending, take their credit or debit cards away for a time.  Make sure they are safe when going out with friends.  Keep alcohol away and maybe even out of the house.   And if it gets really bad get them to the hospital.  Call their doctor and get further advice.  Hopefully they will cooperate and receive the help.  You may not be able to talk them into doing what you want them to do.  Usually it takes them to realize their need for help.

 It may seem unfair that you have to deal with someone who has an illness, but it is the human thing to love, support and be there as much as possible.  Its the golden rule. Do unto others what you would have them do to you.  Think about that.  If you had any kind of illness.  Would that be the time for friends to step away, stop calling, decide that your no fun any more?  Well I can tell you that that is not friendship and your better off without them.  Think of Mother Teresa who dedicated her life to caring for the sick, poor and dieing.  Be great.  Make a difference.  Be important in someones life.  Does this mean never having time for yourself and never enjoying yourself? No.  But it does mean that this person needs you.  Feel honored that God would chose you to be His hands and feet, His heart and compassion.  Never ever give up especially if it is family.  You would never give up on your friend who could no longer walk would you?  If its true friendship you would still visit, still love and still give.  Life may be different now but it doesn't have to be ruined by illness, disease or a mental disorder. 

This is what I would want as a bipolar sufferer and that is who I am.  Someone in need of love, care and support through all the ups and downs.  I have felt utterly alone many many times.  Send flowers to your suffering friend or family.  Trust me it will mean the world.

Art by Jenni Moore
On behave of all those suffering a mental illness...Thank you for caring enough to even read this.  May God bless you and give you the strength to love your loved one fighting this disease.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Summer Mania

The sun shines brighter these days, and the days are longer.  So many of us feel so much better as the winter days are past and we see the sun shining once again.  Some of us may come out of a long suffered depression, while some of us fight the natural urge of hypo-mania or a manic episode.  Although we love the birds sing, the flowers blooming and the warmer days, this time of year can be scary.  I for one am doing great and I can confuse this with being hypo-manic which means a less intense version of a full blown manic episode.  Its hard to tell what I'm experiencing.  If it is a more pleasant mood or a bit of mania.  So I'm keeping special watch over my mood and activities.  I feel especially social and energetic, wanting to go on adventures and do the things that depression wouldn't let me for so many months. 

I have been hospitalized two times during the summer months.  I wish to never have that happen again even though I'm thankful for help if needed.  I"ll tell you a bit of my experience during those times. Maybe you could see a bit of you in my story and get help if you need to.

It was another beautiful summer.  Blue skies, warm weather and lots of time spent with friends and enjoying the water.  I felt so high, so happy. People used to ask me what I was "on".  I always said I have a natural high.  I honestly felt invincible.  I thought I could be the mayor of the town.  Change the world and basically do something BIG.  I was a teenager at this time so that in it's self should have been a warning.  I thought everyone around me was living lower than their potential and should liven up and live.  I quit my job thinking, why am I doing this when I could be doing that?  With no consideration to my employer I never showed up for work again.  I decided to take a trip to the coast.  I had a convertible jeep that my parents were paying for.  All I had to do was provide the gas money and it never once crossed my mind that I could run out of gas and the coast was very far away.  It was extremely spontaneous.  I don't even think I packed anything and only a few people knew what I was doing.  I started off just heading in the direction I thought would lead me to the coast.  I had in my mind that it was filled with happy and loving hippies who would accept me into their "family".  I thought of drum circles and organic salads.  I couldn't wait to get there. 

Everything was incredibly beautiful.  No danger could get me.  I was floating on a cloud and felt like I was flying.  I remember picking up a hitch hiker.  I'm so glad that he turned out to be a very nice guy.  After I dropped him off at his home he payed me back with vegetables from his garden.  God was providing for me and God was with me.  I felt so close to God in such a tangible way.  I was His best friend and the center of His universe.  I knew He was taking care of me and I had nothing to fear.  I then picked up another hitch hiker who wanted to pay me back with weed.  Generous but I did not enjoy drugs at all.  Now if I had a daughter I would have been mortified if she picked up random hitch hikers, especially males.  I was young and naive.  But I was safe.  God really was watching out for me knowing that I was experiencing a mental illness.  I slept on the side of back roads.  I thought I could hear my hippy friends playing their drums and waiting for my arrival.  Only a few times did I feel scared in the dark with only a rag top protecting me from the outside world. 

I finally ran out of gas, or at least close to it.  I had brought my saxophone from high school.  I was planning on playing on the sidewalks and receive alms.  But instead I spotted a music store and sold my saxophone.  Again something my parents bought and I had no consideration for them at all.  I was again provided for this trip was ordained by God.  I filled my gas tank and bought food. 

When I did finally make it to the coast, it was magical.  Just the windy drive down to sea level felt like entering heaven.  I could almost hear the angels singing.  But once I got there I was sad.  I couldn't find my hippie family and it was not a fairy land.  It was normal and quiet busy full of normal life.  It was a let down.  I was alone.  I was disappointed.  I had no where to turn and no body to turn to.  I was deceived.  I parked my car and walked onto the beach.  A man did come up to me and appeared to be homeless.  He kept telling me about Jesus and was saying that He is us.  It was cool but I didn't quiet get was he was wanting me to hear. But he was kind enough to take me to a little church right on the beach.  He said they have free soup and sandwiches.  Of course I went.  I sat at the table visiting the couple serving me.  I excitedly told them about my trip, but they could discern that I was dangerously far from home.  I was 16 and alone and very far from home.  They decided to fill up my gas tank and told me several times to go back home.  They also took me grocery shopping so I had enough food to get me home.  But, without even thinking I was so excited to have enough gas in my car to explore more of the coast.  Everything became magical again and the high continued. 

It was spectacular.  So breathtaking.  It was heavenly.  I decided I needed a bigger car though.  I has always wanted a VW bus.  So I found a camper bus.  Test drove it and offered an exchange.  I had no idea about the papers, I thought I could just hand over the keys.  When the seller realized my naivety he had a very concerned look of his face.  I knew he thought I was crazy but I knew that I was invincible and could do anything and that I was in no danger at all. 

I remember one incident where I was looking over the edge of a cliff out onto the Pacific.  I felt as if I was a prophet and that it was the end of the world.  I had a special message for the whole earth.  I didn't even feel human.  I felt one with God.  My high continued down the coast through three states.  I still had my saxophone money and I ate very little.  After seeing all that I could see I headed back home.  I got there and again felt so high and was trying to get others to join me in changing the world.  They did not find the same enthusiasm. 

Amazingly I was able to take care of myself with angels visiting me all through out my journey.  I was manic but still taken care of.  Gods mercy was with me and He really was taking care of me. 

I do have fond memories but I look back now and could see a mania that was beyond my control.  It scared me a little bit that I was that extreme.  I knew something was off or I was just very different.

This is a somewhat successful story of mania but we are not all that lucky.  Some of us do find ourselves in major danger and go completely out of control.  Mania can be dangerous.  We must be aware of this and keep a watchful eye on our behavior.  Even ask a trusted friend to speak up if they see abnormal behavior.  With mania comes the dreads low that follows.  The high may be fun but the low can be devastating.  I sometimes feel like I had never fully recovered from the low that followed the high.

Let us keep our appointments with our doctor and therapist.  Although we may feel cured let us stay on our medications.  Don't let mania deceive you.  Manage your illness.  Be responsible.  Be safe.  Get help when needed and have a successful summer.

Love and care,
Art by Jenni Moore
Bipolar Butterfly