Help for When the Bipolar Gets Really, Really Bad

I’ve had mood swings while sleeping where I can tell that my eyes are closed and that I’m dreaming, but the symptoms of the day are still present even though my brain has supposedly gone into a different state. I’ve experienced panic attacks during a nap and have been so suicidal I’ve rolled in a ball promising the people around me that I would NOT kill myself. This is my bipolar reality.  I want to be honest about what I experience so that you will not have to feel alone if it happens to you as well. 
We have a mental illness. This is our reality. It doesn’t matter what we call it. It doesn’t even matter if we deny we have it. The reality of our mood swings are there for all to see. I often experience depression, anxiety, mania and psychosis in the same day. I keep a lot of this to myself and I know what to do for help, but reality is reality. My brain is not my friend. 
You are not alone if you haven’t found a magic pill that takes away the mood swings. You are not alone if you struggle in school and work. You are not alone if this illness profoundly affects your relationships. You can’t put lipstick on a piggy wiggy and you can’t perfume dog poop. Sorry to be so crude. But bipolar is bipolar no matter how much we try to talk about it positively. Despite all of this, I am still an incredibly positive person and I’m hoping you an also find a way to love life, despite the pain caused by this illness. 
Why am I being so honest? It is how I survive. If I buy in to the idea that this illness is easy to treat and that one day I’m going to magically be better, I will be upset every time I get sick. I’m a realist and this helps me move forward in life despite my mood swings. 
When I look in the mirror and remind myself, “Julie, you have a genetic mental health disorder that affects your ability to manage you moods. It’s normal for you to have mood swings,”, it clears the brain for getting help. 
Denial, refusal to accept my limitations, thinking I will wake up one day and my brain will have righted itself and listening to people who say that mental illness is a sham or shameful takes up valuable time and brain space that I need for my management plan.
All of this involves having a plan in place I can use when the moods start raging. I need specific strategies in place for staying alive when the suicide shows up simply because someone writes something rotten about one of my blogs. I need the space to put something in my brain that is going to help from medications to meditation and supportive friends to exercise and having fun.  Managing this illness has to be my job or I will not be able to reach any of my goals. 
People often ask if the illness gets worse as you get older. There is no evidence for this, but I can tell you that it gets harder to manage as your body changes and life gets more crowded. When you’re 20 and don’t have as many worries, the illness may be the same, but it will affect your life incredibly differently when you are 40 and have kids and a mortgage, or you have lost this part of your life due to illness and you are no rebuilding. 
My attitude is one of realistic positivity.  If I know what I’m up against, I can be ready for the mood swings when they inevitably appear. I’m going on year 22 of my diagnosis and year 37 since my first symptoms. I am ready for this illness. Life now has far more good moments than bad.  I remain fascinated with my own brain. I remain vigilant and kind to myself when I get sick. This is illness. It’s not emotional instability. It’s not a personal choice and it’s not something created by my childhood. It’s genetic, it’s strong and I have to be ready for what it throws at me, even if I’m sleeping. I am up to the task and I know you can be as well.  When my bipolar disorder gets really bad and I feel I am too sick to function, I know that I am going to be ok because I have a plan. It’s an illness. I am strong and you are too. 


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