Putting A Face To Bipolar Disorder —
How I got over my recent Depressive Phase
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 16 years old and I’ve lived with it for 12 years now. I’m very self-aware, and I’ve taken the time to understand how this affects me and figured out ways to cope. However, I still find myself going through a depressive phase on a regular basis. Too often, I put the needs of my mental health far lower on my list of priorities than it needs to be. As a result, this year has been quite difficult for me, but I’m finally beginning to turn things around and I’m getting back to my regular self.
Though I’ve always been transparent about my journey with mental health, I wanted to share in more detail in hopes of answering some of the questions that I regularly receive.
Living with Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes a cycle of moods from extreme highs to extreme lows. The medical term for what many perceive as me being “highly productive” is called mania. Believe it or not, I can go for days, weeks, and even months in a manic phase. My energy is through the roof, I can go days on end with no sleep and I move around day to day as if the world is mine. This is caused by an increased release of dopamine in my mind.
Now, while it’s natural to enjoy some of the perks of walking around like I’m Superwoman, it can also lead to poor decision-making and reckless behavior. Not to mention that everything that goes up, must come down. Anywhere from seven days to six months after my mania starts, I crash hard. My thoughts are a mess, my anxiety is out of control and my energy is completely diminished. Depression takes over and I seclude myself and overwork to the point of burnout.
I’ve spent the past eight months in a depressive phase. I went days and even weeks without leaving my bed, and months without leaving my bedroom. I failed to see the joy in life and, on more than one occasion, even contemplated ending it.
Things like getting dressed and making lunch sounded more like a chore as opposed to daily tasks that everyone completes. I posted smiles on social media and I laughed with my colleagues during virtual meetings, but my facade of happiness was for the sake of others. After all, no one wants to interact with the person who’s bringing down the party.
Though overworking and seclusion have contributed to countless triumphs in my career during these past few months, my mind was on the brink of collapsing, and something needed to be done. This isn’t the worst that I’ve ever been, but it’s certainly the longest in quite some time.
Where I’m At Now
What came first, the chicken or the egg? All of my depressive phases are triggered by something that I can usually go back and pinpoint after taking some time to think about it. In this case, I’m not sure if my depression caused me to isolate or if my isolation caused my depression. You see, after taking a sabbatical from my business at the beginning of the year, I jumped headfirst into getting back to work with my usual 16 hour days and excessive workload. Nevertheless, I knew that getting back to my day-to-day routine was a great place to start.
Now, during this time, I haven’t been eating excessively. In fact, I’ve lost 20 pounds. However, my dietary choices haven’t been the healthiest. I will begin with small dietary changes and gradually progress by adding on additional goals after consistently maintaining the initial ones. I’ve decided to eliminate sodas and increase my water, fruit, and vegetable intake. Studies have found a link between sugar consumption and depression, and I clearly don’t need any assistance in that department.
I also have this poor habit of “forgetting” to take my medication, every day, for years in a row. I’m a mess, what can I say? I reached out to my doctor at the Veteran’s Administration and asked if my medication could be administered in a shot. Two days after receiving it, I was feeling more energetic. It’s been two weeks now and I’ve officially decided that this is the best decision that I’ve ever made.
I’m reaching out to friends, family, and colleagues more. I’m doing things that I used to enjoy and taking the time to explore new interests. I feel like I’ve been asleep for the past six months and finally waking up. Though coming out of a depression for me is a journey and not a destination, I can definitely say that I’m feeling much better than I was a few weeks ago.
While on the discussion of my efforts to regain my peace and happiness, you should also understand that someone in a depressive state can’t just decide to not be depressed. Even if some people manage to pull their thoughts together to take the first steps, it can still take a while to get to that place, and the journey only begins from there. Be patient with yourself and your loved ones who are dealing with this and know that it takes time, support, and professional help.
A lot of folks have reached out and expressed gratitude for my transparency. They’ve shared with me their own journeys with mental health and asked for advice on managing day-to-day life. The best advice that I can give is to find out what works best for you. Having a mental diagnosis doesn’t immediately equate to being identical to everyone else with the same diagnosis. Find a doctor who you trust, and be open and honest about who you are, what obstacles you’re facing, and what your end goal is. I needed to be completely honest with my doctor about the fact that I was having a hard time taking my medication and that I needed an alternative method to get it into my system. If we only tell our doctors what we think they want to hear, we’re only doing a disservice to ourselves and, ultimately, we’re negatively impacting our mental health treatment.
Additionally, speak to your doctor about holistic and natural practices that you can implement in addition to your medical treatment. Just as I eliminated certain foods and embraced my support system, your doctor will share with you some things you can do on your own to help manage your diagnosis.
Overall, embrace who you are without defining yourself solely by your diagnosis. My name is Dove Bennett, and I am a mother, author, freelance writer, and business owner — and I live with bipolar disorder. Stand firm on who you are and don’t limit yourself to a single diagnosis.
Originally published at https://blavity.com.