Dealing With Irritability in Bipolar II

I am not an angry person. I am passionate, but not angry. However, my bipolar II disorder can sometimes make me snappy. When I get irritable as a result of a mixture of something trivial and my mood, I can be mean. Really mean.

Yesterday, something happened that wasn’t a big deal at all. I felt like people were talking behind my back, when in reality, they just had my best interest at heart and didn’t want to hurt me.

But I didn’t see it that way. If this had happened 2 years ago, I totally would have lashed out. I would have sent some nasty text messages and said things I didn’t mean. Then a few hours later, I’d break down crying and beg for forgiveness.

Something inside of me just wants to get that anger out, no matter who I hurt or how much I love them. I’m still a little snappy sometimes, but now that I’m on the right medications, I don’t feel the need to act on my impulses so dramatically.

So yesterday, while I did cry and get a little upset, I didn’t let the people who insulted me know how I felt. I knew deep down that it wasn’t a big deal and that I needed to pick my battles.

There are a few things I can recommend for people who also get irritable due to bipolar disorder.

First and foremost is always medication and therapy. Make sure you have it if you need it. But there are other steps you can take. Meditation and mindful thinking, even for 2 minutes out of the day, can be so calming. It’s crazy! I didn’t believe it until I tried it.

Acts of self care is another one. Do something you like. Go for a walk and listen to a podcast so you have something else to think about. Take a bath. Anything.

Lastly, I find that writing is super helpful. Journaling out all your mean thoughts where they can’t hurt anyone is so much better than taking your emotions out on your loved ones.

Disclaimer: By no means am I saying to be nice no matter what. This post is for the times where you don’t need to express anger but feel that you have to get it out. If someone does something to truly hurt you, think about what needs to be said, and say it. I can write another post on that.

I hope you’re all having a fantastic day, and thank you for reading my blog. It really means the world to me. Speaking of the world, there are people all over the globe reading! From everywhere from Hungary to the UK! I really appreciate each and every one of you.

Xo

3 Steps To Accepting Your Diagnosis

I was relieved to find out that I had bipolar disorder, if I’m being completely honest. It finally made sense. I could put a name to what I had been feeling for so many years. But I know it’s not like that for everyone. Sometimes it’s unexpected, or even scary! Everyone has their own unique experience.

Because not everyone knows how to deal with this important event in their life, I put together a short list of the main ways I think you can learn to accept your mental health diagnosis.

1. Stay Calm: When your doctor gives you your diagnosis, try not to freak out if you can help it. You WILL get used to it and you WILL be okay. A word does not define you. Schizophrenia or bipolar or depression does not mean crazy. You’re still you. All a diagnosis really is, is the first step to healing, recovering, and managing the situation at hand.

2. Do Your Research: Ask your doctor what some healthy ways to research your illness are. WebMD isn’t one of them. They may be able to recommend some books of videos that can give you more information. I like to watch people’s stories on YouTube. It makes me feel less alone, and I find it interesting how each person’s story varies. Remember, the more you know about your illness, the less scary it becomes.

3. Remember Who You Are: This is the final and most important step. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I sort of let it take over my whole identity, and lost myself in the process. It’s really important that you know who you are outside of your illness, because your illness does not define you. Continue to go about your normal routine and do the things you like. Integrating therapy or medication or both can be great! But that’s only part of your life. You can do whatever you want with the rest of your time. This doesn’t have to take over. You can still reach your goals.

I believe in you.

Xo

Dealing With Family Stigma Surrounding Your Illness

I think I have a pretty unique take on this, but maybe not. Maybe some of you have stories just like mine and I just haven’t heard them yet. I guess I’ll give you some background information.

My family is and has always been extremely supportive of me. I love them very much and we all have a great relationship. But, it’s not perfect.

I can understand not “getting” mental illness when your family member is first diagnosed. But you shouldn’t judge. You should do some research. Literally all you have to do is Google the illness, and you’ll find a definition. Then, BAM, you know what it is.

In my experience, my family seemed extremely uneducated on the topic. I got a lot of “They just put a name to everything these days”, or the classic “You won’t need those pills forever, right?”

Instead, I would have LOVED some supportive words. I just wanted to know that they knew I was still me, but that now I might need a little extra help some days. It would have also been great to get some questions.

How do you feel about all of this?

What can I do to help?

How can I learn more about this so that I can better understand?

Sadly, that was not my experience. I could give so many examples, but I’ll just give one. This person did not mean to hurt me by saying this, and I’ve forgiven them, but this is just an idea of the things I hear all the time.

I had my head out the car window because I was vomiting due to the Lithium I had to take at the time. It really didn’t agree with me. The family member driving, instead of consoling me, or I don’t know, maybe stopping the car? Said, “Don’t tell the rest of the family about this. They can’t handle it.”

It felt like the cruelest thing anyone had ever said to me, not just because it was rude, but because it made me feel like they were embarrassed of me and they didn’t care if I knew it.

So why am I telling you all of this? It’s not for sympathy. I want each and every person who reads this post to know to be supportive of their mentally ill loved ones.

I want you all to find out a little about their illness, ask some questions (if the person is comfortable with it), and never act ashamed of them.

To this day, most of my family does not know that I struggle with this. I’m not supposed to tell them. It’s so hard to break through stigma and just do everything you can to break it down when your family just builds it right back up. It’s really hard!

But we have to keep fighting. We have to be proud of ourselves for doing it too. If we don’t treat ourselves with love and respect, we’re not setting a very good example for everyone else. So keep slaying stigma! I love you!

Xo

How To Check In On Your Mentally Ill Friends

There are so many things people say you should and should say to a mentally ill person, but the truth is, it’s different for everybody. One person might be offended by your question while another might be so glad you asked.

My rule of thumb is to think about these 3 things.

  1. How close are you to the person?
  2. How open is this person about their mental health?
  3. What is their current mental state?

Say your best friend is clinically depressed and is in the middle of a really horrific episode. They’re very outspoken about how they feel on a regular basis. In this case, we can dig a little deeper than just, “How are you feeling?” Here, we might want to go deeper. If they have a history of self harm, you can make sure they’re staying safe. Even ask if you can remove any harmful objects from their home. You can talk with them about suicidal thoughts and if they’re up for talking about whether or not they’re having them.

On the other hand, maybe a friend reached out to you who is also in a depressive episode, but is more reserved when it comes to talking about their feelings. Of course you’ll want to make sure they are safe, but you have to ask in a different way. You might say something like “I’m here for you in any way you need. I know you don’t like to talk about your mental health, but just know that you can always come to me.”

That’s honestly a good thing to say to anyone going through any sort of mental instability. I think you get where I’m going with this. Just feel out the situation before asking invasive questions.

  • There are also a few things you should NEVER say when someone is struggling….even if you’re just trying to help. Some of these phrases include,
    1. Are you sure you’re not doing this for attention?
    1. Think positive thoughts!
    1. You’re negativity is toxic
    1. Are you sure you need those meds?

    The list goes on.

    When you’re checking in on someone dealing with a mental illness, you’ll want to make sure that you let them know you’re here to help or get them outside help if that’s needed. Don’t try and offer solutions or make it better. Just be there to support them during this trying time.

    As long as you’re keeping them safe and they feel supported, even if they don’t feel happy, you’re doing it right!

    When I’m depressed, I know I hate when people try and solve everything. Depression usually sticks around for a while, and there’s not much you can do about it. Also, I’m always too tired and sluggish feeling to even try and feel better. But being supported by people who love me, and even by the Instagram community, at least gives me hope for happier days to come.

    Xo

    P.s. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! If you ever feel like their problems are becoming your problems, help them seek out a crisis line or a therapist to talk to. It’s not your responsibility to fix someone.

    Am I Qualified To Give You Advice??

    What do you think? Am I qualified to give anyone advice about mental health? In short, probably not.

    I don’t have a degree in mental health counseling and I’m not a doctor. This, you already know. And yet, I get messages every single day asking for help. And I answer every single one!

    While I may not be the most qualified, I do have a TON of personal experience with my own mental health as well as experience in helping some friends through depressive episodes and anxiety attacks.

    After going to therapy for four years, seeing a psychiatrist, and dealing with severe mental health issues, I’ve sort of come out the other side. I’m in no way perfect, but I am much much better than I used to be. I think that qualifies me a little bit to give advice to people dealing with issues similar to what I’ve dealt with!

    As long as people know I’m not a professional and they’re okay with that, I think it’s okay for them to take advice from me. As someone who is currently doing very well and is living with a clear and focused mind, I can give sound advice on many topics relating to mental health.

    I want to be that friend everyone needs. Their shoulder to cry on and someone to build them back up when they’re down. I think that’s my main point in saying all of this.

    I want to be the support you need in your life that you may not have from family or friends. It’s because I get it. I didn’t tell anyone I was struggling for years. If I had had someone to message, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone. Maybe I would have been able to get help sooner.

    That’s why I started my Instagram page in the first place. To help! I’m just here to help. So if you’re struggling, message me. If you overcame something huge, or even something not that huge, message me. I want to hear about it! I want to be a cheerleader you can always count on when not everyone else is available.

    I do it because I wish I’d had it. I do it because you deserve it. Xo

    Self Esteem 101 (For Someone Living With A Mental Illness)

    My self esteem has always been a little bit all over the place. From a young age, I was very self conscious about the shape of my body, being a little taller than the other girls in school, and never having that super skinny body.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t deal with it in the best way as I grew up. I would binge eat like you wouldn’t believe, and then starve myself for days while working out excessively. I even went to a nutritionist, who was amazing, but didn’t understand what I was going through. She told me I didn’t have an eating disorder. I was later diagnosed by my current psychiatrist.

    Now, I don’t binge, I don’t starve myself, and I try to eat healthily most of the time. And the photos you see above? That’s what my body looks like now- that’s where it’s settled after constantly being above and below that weight for years.

    While I’m not thrilled with the way I look, I am learning to love myself where I am now, while still trying to get into better shape. I think that’s the biggest lesson. You can love yourself wherever you are right now, while still trying to change and better yourself in whatever way that may be. That’s true self love.

    I went to the beach for Labor Day and rocked that bikini, although I usually go for high waisted swimsuits or one pieces. I tried all day to not be self conscious, but I still found that I was. Was this a failure? No way. It’s because I tried something new, took a risk, and tried my best to live my life without fear. Even though I wasn’t completely confident, wearing a bikini at my size (10-14, depending on the store) was never something I would have done last year. So I know that I’m taking steps forward, and I’m really proud of that.

    My advice to anyone who wants to be more confident is to take small steps forward every day. Get to know your body and don’t be afraid of it. Seek out help for an eating disorder if you have one or think you might, and then go from there. If you deal with anxiety, and let’s say you only are comfortable in one pieces but want to wear a bikini, wear something with a high waist. Just work up to two pieces. I think you get what I’m saying. If you’re afraid of certain foods, don’t force yourself to eat them all in one day. Go one at a time. If you want to stop counting calories, do it gradually. The list goes on and on.

    The thing is, we are not the problem. Society and the constant telling of consumers that we’re not good enough is the problem. We ARE good enough. You are beautiful. You are worthy. If you just remember these things, you begin to see that you don’t have to look like a stereotypical supermodel to be considered pretty. And also that there are more important things than being pretty! Focusing on your passions, your intelligence, your drive, your compassion….these are the things that make up who you are. It really has nothing to do with what you look like.

    But of course, we always worry about our appearance. And it’s okay to want to look “good,” whatever that means to you. Just be gentle with yourself, and always remember that you are already perfect, just the way you are.

    The Effect of Bipolar on Friendships: My Story

    bipolar friendships

    Not everyone is equipped to befriend someone with a severe mental illness such as Bipolar. For some people, it’s just too much. It took me a long time to understand this-the fact that something entirely out of my control could be a reason for someone not to be friends with me. But when you find friends who love you for you, you will never feel alone.

    When I was diagnosed at the age of 19, I didn’t consider any of this. But then I lost a few friends. No one tells you that when you’re first diagnosed, you’re going to be put on a lot of different medications and you may act different than your normal self. You may become manic or depressed due to a medicine that doesn’t work for you. Or maybe you’ll even just want to talk about your mental illness with your friends, because it’s new to you and you just need to get it out. All of this is totally normal.

    However, it will show you who your real friends are. There are plenty of people who distanced themselves from me after my diagnosis. I wanted to talk about it! I was confused, but also relieved that finally my moods had a name. But they didn’t want to deal with my new exhaustion that I dealt with from mood stabilizers. I didn’t realize that I had to take them at night in the beginning of my journey (because of side effects of drowsiness,) so I would get tired when we went out at night. Some people also felt embarrassed by my random spurts of energy, that turned out to not be so random.

    A while after being diagnosed, I had decided to go off my meds. My friends were there for me the entire week I decided to go out every day and night and skip my classes, but not many of them checked in on me the following week when I slept for 5 days straight.

    Another time, I had an episode of suicidal ideation in freshman year, before being diagnosed, and my best friend from college at the time went behind my back and told everyone I was crazy. Instead, maybe this person could have talked to me and suggested I speak to a counselor.

    I mean, this is college. I get it. Not everyone’s going to be your lifelong best friend, and not everyone’s going to be there for you all of the time. Also, not everyone knows what mental illness looks like, so they don’t know how to handle it. I understand that, and I have no ill feelings toward any of the people I’m thinking about when writing this post. I wish them well and I understand that my moods were too much for them.

    But those people made me especially grateful for the friends who did stick around. The friends who never judged, and always tried to understand when I acted differently from my normal self. Those people do exist. And now that I’ve found the right combination of medication? I’m a completely calm person for the majority of the time. And these friends have been with me through it all. I have to give a shoutout to my best friends since high school, Miranda and Erin. They’ve always been there for me through every up and down and I love them for it.

    Of course, it’s not a one way street. With any friend, I understand that my mental illness is not an excuse, and that I still have to be an exceptional friend, in order to expect that kind of love back. But I think feeling so much has allowed me to be extremely empathetic, kind, and supportive, because that’s what I want in return!

    Here’s what mentally ill people want you to know: We’re not crazy. We have our ups and downs like everyone else, they just might be a little more extreme. Our problems might look a little different than your problems. But all we really want is to love and laugh and have fun with our friends. Like any non-mentally ill person. In that respect, humans are all the same. We just want to love and be loved. So please, be patient with us. Don’t be too upset if we slip up and say something we don’t mean. And most importantly, tell us if our problems ever become your problems. We will understand if you need some space every once in a while.

    My other main point is not to compromise your values, ever. Just because you have a mental illness does not mean that you’re not worthy of amazing, lasting friendships. I still go by the rule, treat people how you want to be treated. As long as you do your best and communicate well with your friends, you should be good to go.

    Xo

    Pursuing Passions Outside Of Mental Health

    Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 05.07.41 pm

    Me as a makeup artist!

     

    After being diagnosed with a mental health condition, it can feel like it’s consuming your entire life and that the illness is just who you are now. But this is not the case.

    When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder, I felt that it defined me. I was Bipolar. I was not a person LIVING with Bipolar. It was my whole life. I just didn’t really know how to continue on with my life. I felt that I either had to let it completely consume me, or I had to just pretend that the diagnosis just didn’t exist.

    So I juggled between the two. With some people, who I was comfortable with, I was mentally ill and that was it. But with most people, I was still me! I didn’t even mention it. They couldn’t know about my Bipolar “alter ego”. This was exhausting to keep up. It was like I was living a double life, and not in the fun Hannah Montana sort of way. It was just a mess. I would blow up out of nowhere when people weren’t extremely accepting of my new diagnosis. Obviously, it takes family members a minute to get used to news like a new diagnosis, but when they didn’t understand right away, I freaked out because it felt like they weren’t accepting me as a whole.

    Recently, I’ve learned how to be myself and have my illnesses there as a part of me, but not as my entire being. They no longer define me, and finally, I’m able to enjoy things outside of mental illness. I know this is much healthier than how I used to live. I know my blog is all about mental illness, but I have so many hobbies outside of this as well!

    There’s a path by my local beach that I LOVE to go walk on with friends. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Then there’s my brunch habit, LOL. Every Sunday, I love going to brunch, getting a spicy Bloody Mary, and then shopping my worries away in our cute little town. This weekend I actually bought the cutest summer to fall romper I’ve ever seen in my life. And it was on sale!! It’s really the little things. Another hobby of mine has always been hair and makeup. I used to be a freelance makeup artist as my job! Now it’s more of a hobby, but I still love it. I used to do some modeling as well! You guys get the idea.

    Me as a model!

    What I’m trying to say is that you are so much more than your illness. I challenge you to think of three adjectives that describe you completely outside of your illness. I am empathetic, caring, and passionate. What are you? Let me know in the comments!

    I also challenge you to pick up a new hobby next time you’re feeling unlike yourself. Next week, my aunt is coming over to teach me to knit! This is practical because I can do it on my commute to and from work, but also super fun! Now I can make scarves for everyone for the holidays and I’m so excited.

    It’s nice getting excited about little things. In our world of medicine and therapy and possible hospitalizations and suicidal thoughts, it’s so nice to have a world outside of that. Our passions outside of mental illness can even pull us out of the depths of depression or any episode you might be going through.

    Everyone says diet and exercise keeps you healthy, and that’s true. But there’s nothing like passions that give us a reason to get up every day. Those keep us healthy too! So whether you’re an artist, a singer, a makeup artist, a sports player, or whatever, keep at it. It makes a bigger difference in your life than you think.

    Xo

     

    How A 9-5 Affects Mental Health (And What You Can Do About It!)

    We all have to work, right? And many of us who get jobs just out of college, like I did, are extremely lucky. But what happens when your shiny new job begins to take a toll on your mental well-being?

    Number one is the commute. If you can’t get enough sleep, or spend half your day on a bus or train just to get to and from your job, that’s not going to be good for your mental health. I spend 4 hours a day on the train. It makes me feel like I’m living for the weekends because I have no time for myself during the week.

    So what’s the solution to this? I’m in the process of asking to work from home one day a week because I can’t afford to move closer to my job right now. This would take a huge weight off my shoulders and sort of break up the week.

    Next, there are the bad days. We all have bad days, but those of us living with a mental health condition can have it really rough sometimes. How are we supposed to have a productive day at work when we can barely get out of bed?

    You could always call in sick, but what I like to do instead, is make sure I’m wearing something comfortable (and still work appropriate,) and order something I’m really craving for lunch. It’s the little things that really help get you through the day! As for the work day, I give myself a break. I’ll get my work done, but if something can wait till tomorrow, I’ll save it for then. This way, you’re still getting to work and getting everything done, but you also aren’t overworking yourself.

    Lastly, how are your coworkers, and does it weigh on you having to keep your condition a secret? Not everyone keeps it a secret. I chose to, but accidentally told one person. As far as I know, no one else knows, and I’ll keep it that way. There’s so much stigma that I just don’t feel for me personally that it’s worth it to put that information out there. But hey, that’s just my choice. You know what’s right for you. I do feel like I’m keeping a huge secret sometimes. Like it’s something I need to be ashamed of, even though that’s not the case.

    That’s why this blog is so therapeutic for me. I’m able to give advice and share my stories without the judgement and stigma that you get in your professional life.

    So here’s the big question, can you be a mental health advocate and still have a professional life that’s separate? Of COURSE! That’s what I’m doing! And anyone who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to follow me. That’s really how I feel. I want to create a community of all different kinds of people with all different kinds of jobs that can lift each other up throughout the ups and downs. And you can do that too. Your job isn’t always going to be your greatest passion. That’s why I love having this hobby on the side. It’s totally manageable and I can write from anywhere.

    So stop living for your 9-5. If you have a mental health condition, do what you love for work, or do your job and find something you love on the side. Keep that spark ignited, because I know you can make a difference by following your passions.

    Your job may take a toll on your health, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself on your time off! Be kind and patient with yourself, and just do the best you can.

    Xo.

    Alcohol and Bipolar: My Experience

    My story with alcohol begins at an early age. When I was 13, I snuck a drink with one of my friends at a party. Then, I slowly drank little by little at friends houses (infrequently), until the age of about 16. By then, I was going to parties and getting absolutely blackout drunk every time. I don’t love telling these stories, but it’s important that you know this so that you can see the change from beginning to end.

    I was undiagnosed, manic, and acting completely ridiculous every weekend of my high school career. I’ll spare you the photos of those weekends. I thought I was having fun at the time, but looking back, my drinking caused me to lose two important friendships, and even allowed guys to think they could take advantage of me because I was drunk. I was a disaster, but I had no idea.

    Lots of kids binge drink before they settle down and realize their limits, but I took it to a level that, thank god, I don’t anymore.

    When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19, I was put on mood stabilizers. This meant that I was supposed to now only have two drinks or less on nights that I went out. But that wasn’t so realistic for me. So, throughout college, I continued to drink heavily to the point where I would fall asleep at the bar because my meds and alcohol were not supposed to mix.

    Now, at the age of 22, I’m beginning to learn. I know that I have to do what’s best for me despite what might be going on around me. I think I’ll always be a party girl at heart, but I have to know how to dial it back. I’ve cut down to like 3 or 4 drinks on a night out, and sometimes I even stick to the 2 or less rule! But I definitely have some work to do. I don’t want to put that kind of strain on my body.

    All I know is, now I’m much happier getting a Bloody Mary with brunch that getting wasted every weekend. I still go out all the time, but I’m living proof that it’s possible to go out without getting totally messed up. It’s still fun! Now I just want to dance, get dressed up, and be with friends.

    It’s not as much about the alcohol anymore. I definitely still slip up, but knowing what it’s doing to my body and my mood makes it worth it to drink less. I’m confident that I’ll continue to improve my habits and that my mood will become even more stable in no time. All we can do is our best.

    Xo

    P.s. I know 3 or 4 drinks is too much for me. I’m just being honest about where I am in my journey to health. Please please PLEASE follow your doctors orders when it comes to drinking!