Living With Bipolar I

How I Get Through a Normal Day

A picture of Shell and I
A person may seem happy on the outside, but inside it’s a constant battle with themselves

Hey everyone. I was just sitting here on my day off thinking “It’s time that I open up about my mental health.”

We’ve all heard the cliche sayings like “talking helps” and “admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovering”. My entire adult life I’ve thought that the people that said these things were the ones with the issues. And as I get older, I realize that THEY ARE. These people are living their lives, with these mental disorders, with enough control over them to help others! That, to me, was simply amazing. Now here I am on my 17th year after being diagnosed, FINALLY, ready to help others.

I’m just letting you all know what works for me. This is not an end-all-be-all guide to conquering mental health issues. If there was one, we would ALL have a copy. Because I know SO MANY people with mental disorders. SO many. I live with them, I work with them, and I am friends with them. They are Mothers, Fathers, Sons, Daughters, Older people, young people, children, teenagers, White people, African-American people, Asian people, Hispanic people; the list is literally ENDLESS. Mental disorders are not prejudiced. They can, and will, attack ANYONE at ANY TIME in their lives. Now, on to my segment.

1. See a Psychiatrist

This is crucial. If you feel as though you may have a mental disorder and have not been officially diagnosed, SEE A DOCTOR ASAP! This could save your life. For some of you in the early stages of mental illness, this may be very difficult. I know it was for me. But the sooner you get to the doctor, the sooner you can get this under control. You may be scared now, and I know exactly how you feel, but it’s so worth it. You need to catch this and start treatment before it gets worse.

Did you know that there are approximately 5,000 suicides per year due to bipolar and schizophrenia?

5000!?!? That is so many lives lost that could have possibly been prevented by proper treatment. So please, if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal immediately contact: 1-800-273-8255. This is the National Suicide Hotline in the US. Are you too nervous or scared to call? There are options. There is an online chat available 24/7.

There is also an organization called “Lines For Life” they also have a phone number to text. Just text 273TALK to 839863.

Ok, now that I’ve given you the information for when things get out of control, I will continue. Just PLEASE know that suicide is not the answer. I vowed to never leave my wife and children alone by my own doing, we will not become a statistic.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much I truly have.

2. Counseling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Personally, I have a mobile therapist that comes to my house every other Sunday, and she only charges me $25 per visit. We do two sessions a month, for about one hour per month. And I will tell you this: it helps so much. SO MUCH. You may think “I can handle my own issues without getting someone else involved” and, for some of you, that may work. But, for most of us, it won’t.

For those of you that don’t know what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is a form of therapy that focuses on changing unhelpful behaviors, and developing personal coping skills. It’s a common misconception and, sadly, one of the most used excuses, that medications alone will work. For most of us, that is the furthest thing from the truth. So when someone treats you like shit, and their apology is something like “Oh I’m off my meds” No. You need CBT with those meds.

I’ve been that person folks. I’ve treated people like complete and total shit and claimed that it was because I went unmedicated. Which, being without meds may have contributed, but, I didn’t use the coping mechanisms that I learned in CBT. They go hand in hand, and you can’t have one be effective without the other.

3. Coping Mechanisms

This is a very broad category. It’s also very vague. Because what works for me may not work for you. We are all different. We think differently, we feel differently… our emotions are different, and this is what makes each of us unique. When I start to feel overwhelming anxiety, I have a little exercise that really works for me. I close my eyes and picture myself at a stream, my stream of consciousness. And I visualize all of my thoughts floating down this stream. When I think a good thought, I let it come to me, or go to my mind. As I think “bad” thoughts, I paddle them down the stream, leaving them to float into oblivion. This may sound ridiculous. I know this. But IT REALLY WORKS!

Another one that I use is called bi-lateral tapping. I sit in a chair with my feet on the floor. I then take my first 3 fingers, with my pinky folded down in my hand, and begin tapping on my legs slightly above my know. As I was told by a past counselor, Ricardo Marcelli, “Your fingertips and the area of your leg above the knee are “wired” directly to the areas of your brain that deal with anxiety. When you tap on that area with your fingers, your body releases the same chemicals that it would if you took an anti-depressant, like Zoloft, or anxiety medication, like Xanax.

As you sit in your chair, tap on one leg at a time, alternating. And silently say to your self, “Tap, tap, tap, tap” as quickly, or slowly, as you need to. After a minute or two, you will begin to feel a very welcomed calmness. I have shared these methods with quite a few of my friends and family, and more often than not they say that it works!

4. Learn to Be Self-Aware

This was the most helpful thing that I have ever done to ward off Bipolar Disorder. Being self-aware. And that means being aware of your feelings, your thoughts, your actions, and their consequences. Self-Awareness is something that can’t really be taught, which I find very frustrating. Because I want to help you all as much as possible, but I can’t really help too much here. I guess this is just something that comes over time. Once you get a diagnosis, and you’ve discussed your symptoms with a doctor, just be aware of those symptoms. When you feel them, tell yourself “This is part of my mental disorder.” And just remember that you’re going to be OK. Anxiety, no matter how bad, will very rarely “kill” a person. You are not going to die because of it. I know first hand that you may feel like you’ll die. But you won’t. Not today. Of course, no one wants to be the one to stop in the middle of a grocery store, hold their hands together, taking deep breaths, repeating “I’m going to be okay” to themselves, but if it works, be that person. Which leads me to my next section:

5. Forget What Others Think

When you manage to do this, you are set free. It is so liberating. One of the best things that I’ve heard came from a man that I met in CBT group sessions. He said “What other people think about me is none of my business.” Yes, say that to yourself once. “What other people think about me is none of my business”. Beautiful isn’t it? So fresh, so liberating, and SO TRUE. What you should concentrate on is what YOU think of YOURSELF. If you wake in the morning and look in the mirror, are you happy with what you see? If not, change it.

Conclusion

In essence, what I’m trying to say is this: Get a diagnosis, see a psychiatrist, see a counselor, learn self-awareness, develop coping skills, and forget what others think of you. If you can do these things and really put effort into them, it could save your life. I know it saved mine. But, should these suggestions not work for you, if you ever feel like you want to hurt yourself, please use the above listed numbers. Even just calling and talking to someone about how you’re feeling could make a world of difference. If you can’t find anyone to talk to call the number. If it’s between 2:30 pm and midnight, email me. ian@progtimes.com, or use the contact form on the Contact US page. I will talk to you.

As always, thank you all for reading. It means the world to me.

Love,

Ian Spaid

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