Get it Done When You’re Depressed

 

How time flies. I had my first bipolar disorder depression downswing at age 19. I had no idea what was happening. I was also psychotic, so you can imagine how few tools I had to take care of myself.  I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 31, but no one taught me how to manage this illness outside of medications. For many of us, medications are not enough and the depression remains. I was very, very sick for a long time. I spent days and often weeks in bed, unable to get on with my life.  

This is one of the few pictures I have of myself during my most depressed years. I was 31.  I had my diagnosis and a big ole bag of pills, but I wasn’t getting better. One day, I was standing on a street corner in Seattle and I couldn’t decide what direction to walk. I thought to myself, “This is my life! This is what I’ve come to! I can’t even decide what direction I should take literally?”  And in that moment, my life changed. I realized that depression was never going to let me do anything. If I listened to depression, I would be stuck for the rest of my life. On that day, I decided I would get things done even if I were still depressed. I was waiting for the depression to end before moving on in life. The depression didn’t end and I was stuck, so I changed my plan.

For the next ten years, I taught myself to work, have a relationship and get on with life even though I was often severely depressed. I created strategies, such as never getting in bed unless it was for sleep or the other great thing we do in beds, and made sure I was up and putting on my shoes even if putting on my shoes was all I could do.

 

 

I still live with depression and I still use the same strategies I created all of those years ago to get things done when I was depressed.  I love my book Get it Done When You’re Depressed. I used the just last week when a vicious mood swing hit me after a business deal went south.  I hope you can use them as well.  I still believe I can end my depression, but until that happens, I am going to get things done! I want the same for you!

 

Ask Julie Fast: Will I ever stop being scared of my psychosis delusions and voices?

 

ANSWER:  Yes, can learn to understand and respect your hallucinations and delusions. For example, I used to get VERY scared that I had a demon following me to harm me. Eventually I saw this psychotic experience for what it was- an anxiety response to a trigger. I still see myself get killed when I have anxious psychosis, but I just watch now. I am no longer scared. I used to see a lot of dead bodies – such as seeing a bag of leaves and just KNOWING there is a dead body in the bag. Now, I have the idea there is a dead body and I say, “Well, I’ve been triggered. I’m psychotic and have to make some changes.”

PARANOIA….The unfounded fear and worry that someone or something is behaving towards you in a harmful way.

My paranoia is still a problem. I think others are out to harm me or steal my ideas. One problem is that I do get a lot of my ideas taken without credit, so this can get complicated. Psychosis is a SYMPTOM. I find it fascinating. My Health Cards changed how I manage this illness. Now, I have ALL of my psychotic symptoms listed and they are familiar. It’s never pleasant, but I have learned to live with my psychosis. I also NEVER go near high THC pot. That made me so psychotic I almost had to go to the hospital!

Also, we can’t talk about psychosis in bipolar disorder without mentioning schizoaffective disorder. If you, like MYSELF have psychosis that is separate from your mania and depression the correct diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder. Here is an article on the topic that can help you decide if you have regular ole bipolar or if you actually have schizo (psychosis) affective (mood) disorder. 

 

Ask Julie Fast: Why do many with bipolar disorder NOT try to help themselves?

 

Julie,  I see so many posts of where they self sabotage themselves and sabotage their family.

 

MY ANSWER:  Helplessness and lack of insight are natural symptoms of the illness. Self help is a luxury of the stable people of the world. Many of us with bipolar experience such intense mood swings, we are simply gasping for air and trying to survive. Even when we DO get a diagnosis, the treatment required for us to stay stable feels monumental and insurmountable when we are sick.

For example, we KNOW that depression responds very, very well to taking action such as going on a walk, going to a good health care professional, taking meds or being around people. I have it written down in a book that people can read and use for less than the cost of a meal. People on the outside looking in often think, “There is help out there dude! Read Julie’s book! What is wrong with you!”

But this is not how it works. People with bipolar are often caught in a selfish trap that comes from being sick. The illness tells us we don’t need help when we are manic and then when we are depressed, we often isolate and refuse help. NONE of it makes sense. It catches me out regularly. I wrote the darn book and on some days it’s hard for me to remember what to do.

 This is why I stress having a management plan in place for when we get sick. I work on my bipolar intensively when I am WELL. Most wait until a crisis hits. This is normal human behavior.

I see this a lot online. People will post about how sick they are and how they need help and yet there is NO sign they are actually doing something about it. Of course this is frustrating. Many who are talking more than doing when it comes to mental health often have more than bipolar disorder to deal with. When you see someone falling apart regularly online or see someone who is self sabotaging, lashing out at others, complaining, acting paranoid or simply being mean, there is usually something more than bipolar involved such as another illness, substance abuse or an external trigger.

Please know that bipolar disorder is episodic. If you see someone having regular posts that are kind and informative and suddenly there is a flurry of out of character posts where the person is ranting and raving and then… the posts are suddenly gone and the person says he went to the hospital.  That is a typical bipolar pattern. If you see someone complain consistently- or throw their loved ones under the bus consistently- and the posts stay up and the person is consistent over time with this complaining and lack of self awareness, this is usually not bipolar disorder.

I like the book High Tide Low Tide: A Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder for friends and siblings who want to better understand the illness and why it is hard for some of us to ask for help.

My book Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder is for partners who want to better understand why someone would self sabotage and not get help when help is so readily available.

Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder explains bipolar in general and has a chapter on how to get help for a loved one.

For those who want to understand more of the brain workings behind bipolar, I love the book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder by Dr. Jay Carter.

Julie 

Can We Diagnose Bipolar Disorder Using Eye Images?

This is the question a new study from Souther Methodist University poses based off of my work on recognizing signs of mania in the eyes.  Please visit the website and read more about this potently life changing study. What if we could see that we are manic through a physical sign even when our brain is telling us we are just fine? Think of the possibilities.

Click here to read more about the SMU Mania in the Eyes Research Study.

If you love my work, I would love your support of this project. Even one picture helps!

Julie 

 

 

Positive News for People with Bipolar Disorder

 

Oh my goodness!  Our blogs and writings can be so depressing sometimes. It’s easy to write about what is wrong with bipolar disorder and lose focus on the many things that people are doing to positively change their lives for the better!

It’s natural that we want to know our symptoms and what we need to do in order to stay stable, but we also need to focus on what is going well in our lives in order to stay happy!

I love making jewelry. Others are artists, karaoke singers, love working on old cars and are sports fanatics. It’s important that I remember that even though I deal with bipolar disorder daily, it is not the majority of my life. I have a great life outside of this illness and the more stable I become, the more I get to lead that great life!

What do you like to do that creates something wonderful? Can you do it even when you are not feeling well?

I believe in you!

Julie 

 

Bipolar Disorder II and Psychosis

ensor psychosisI call psychosis the forgotten bipolar disorder symptom!

My bipolar psychosis intensified at age 19.  I consistently had hallucinations of seeing myself killed  and thought it was normal. I eventually learned to manage my psychosis, but it sure would have helped if the health care professionals in my life had explained the symptoms of psychosis and that they were often a normal part of the bipolar disorder diagnosis.

I just received the following question from Mario on the topic:

Julie, I thought that people w/ Bipolar II don’t get psychotic? Or did you have a psychotic depression?

 

Hi Mario,

People with bipolar II can definitely get psychotic. I’ve had psychotic symptoms since age 16. Mine are usually with depression – as it’s rare for someone with bipolar II to have psychosis with hypomania. One reason I can identify with so many forms of bipolar disorder is the psychosis. I have hallucinations and as I got older, delusions. Later in life, I realized that I also have psychosis when I am not depressed which is why my official diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder.

The difference for those with bipolar two who have psychosis is in intensity- people with bipolar I have full blown psychosis – usually with mania. In fact, 70% of people with full blown mania have full blown psychosis at the same time. This is when most people with bipolar I  have to go to the hospital and often have to be committed by a family member.

If you have bipolar disorder or care about someone with the illness, it’s essential that you learn about the signs of psychosis. I have a psychosis  Health Card (my treatment plan) and am especially careful to look for paranoia (a psychotic delusion) when I’m speaking in public!

Thanks for writing!

Julie

PS: Here is an explanation of the difference between bipolar i and bipolar II. If you are new to bipolar disorder terms, I think you will find this helpful.

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