Riding the Wave

It's been sixteen years since I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I had symptoms far earlier than that. I remember having depressed symptoms when I was nine years old. I was sad,depressed,unable to concentrate,not taking care of myself, and being introverted. It lasted about six months. My mother thought I was being rebellious and lazy and didn't think to take me to the doctor. When I was fifteen years old I was so depressed I almost flunked out of High School. Somehow my mother didn't even notice. My sister was also dealing with Bipolar illness during this time so maybe she was to overwhelmed to notice.

I have been depressed in 1977, 1983-4,1989, 1991-2,1998,2005-2009. I had manic episodes in 1992,1999 and 2004. I have been hypomanic in 1990, 1994, and 2002. I have been on Lithium, Tagertol, Depakote, Haldol, Risperedol,Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Paxil, Prozac, and Disiprimine. I have been hospitalized only twice for mania other times I was in the emergency room. I am currently on Haldol and Lithium and have been for five years.

I was watching a movie about surfing and I realized that having Bipolar Disorder is very much like riding an ocean wave. You may see it coming but you can't control it once you are on it. You just have to stay on your surfboard and keep from falling off it. I have been trying to stay on my board this whole time. There were times when I fell off the board but I got right back on it. Over the years I have learned the importance of staying alive and healthy.

I learned it's important to take care of my health. I need to eat healthy and exercise daily. I haven't been exercising but that will change. I need to make sure my thyroid and metabolism is healthy. That means eating regularly and exercising. I also need to learn to use my lightbox during the winter months so I don't get too depressed. Just getting outside in the sun does the trick but when it's too cold to go outside I need to use the lightbox.

I have learned that I am not my illness. It doesn't define who I am or make up my whole identity.I need to stop torturing myself with guilt over mistakes I have made while depressed or manic. Not being able to finish school is a huge regret of mine. I need to see that I was limited by forces I couldn't control at the time. I need to learn to forgive myself for not being the person I wanted to be. I have felt guilt over not being a good wife and Christian. I need to see that I tried my best under the circumstances.

I need to cherish the friendships and relationships I have with people and not take them for granted or assume they don't care about me. I need to make sure I keep in touch with family and friends even when I am depressed and don't feel like talking to people. If I am hypomanic I need to be low key and not get angry or irritated easily.

When I am depressed I need to make the decision that I need to stay alive. I need to seek help when I am suicidal and not be afraid to be a burden to my husband. I need to plan my days and make sure I go out even if it is for a few minutes during the day. I need to stay busy with writing and reading even when I don't feel like doing anything. I need to face reality and not avoid it by staying in bed or overeating. I need to let go of my guilt and anxiety by journaling and reading positive affirmations.

When I am hypomanic I need to seek rest and quiet. I need to pace myself and not overwhelm myself with numerous projects. I need to journal and make sure I'm not getting delusional. I need to put a moratorium on spending any money that's not in the budget. I need to check my irritability and anger and not pick fights with people in my life. I also need to make sure my anxiety does not skew reality. If I am feeling hypersexual I need to make sure I stay safe and within my relationship with my husband.

It's been difficult riding this wave of Bipolar illness. I feel that I have lost so much while trying to stay alive and healthy. I don't know how to salvage my self-esteem or how I can regain my Christian faith. I feel like the last five years have been about recovery and healing. I have often felt like I was retarded emotionaly because it seemed like I couldn't feel anything for a long time. I am finally coming to a calm place I think. I still have a long way to go but I feel much better this year than past years.

I have to be more disciplined about taking my medication. I admit that I have not been as diligent as I need to be. It's important that I take my medication so I don't have a severe depressive episode or a manic episode. I've been lucky in that I haven't needed to go to the hospital in five years. I need to keep a journal so I know when I am missing doses. I need to be more disciplined about my health.

Overall I feel I have learned that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. I know who my real friends are. I know I am loved and people do care about me. It's just been hard knowing that I could not have been able to work at all these nine years. I still don't think I can work a full time job but maybe I could work a part-time job. I just want things to be different than they have been.