How Do You Know If You Need Help?

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1. Suicidal Thoughts

If you’re having suicidal thoughts of any kind, get help. Suicide is permanent in the extreme, and if you’re feeling like it’s the only solution, you need to go and tell someone immediately. I recommend having a safe person, like your best friend, partner, shrink, anyone who is available to you no matter what and can be trusted to believe you when you tell them “Right now I am thinking about killing myself.” or “Lately, all I can think about is killing myself.”

2. Self Harm

If you’re thinking about harming yourself, or if you’ve already harmed yourself, get help. In a healthy state of mind, no person would harm themselves, so you must assume that you’re not in a healthy mind set if you’re in a self harming space. Contact your safe person, right away. See a doctor, and get a referral to a shrink. Keep on seeing shrinks until you find one who listens to you and respects you.

3. Hallucinations

If you’re experiencing hallucinations, whether auditory or visual or other, get help. Healthy people don’t generally have hallucinations. Never follow the instructions given to you by an hallucination, always seek help. Contact your safe person immediately if you can see or hear anything that’s just not there. Tell your doctor, so they can help you find a path to a healthy mind.

4. Extreme High, Fast, Elated Moods

If you’re having super-moods that make you feel as high as a kite, unstoppable and smarter than the average bear, get help. Go to a doctor, explain your moods and let the doctor be the one to decide if you’re having manic episodes. Mania is often described as feeling euphoric, but it can also make you feel really angry, really agreeable, really willing to spend money or sexually unbeatable. Contact your doctor, definitely. Listen to your doctor, and if it makes you more comfortable, take your partner or a good friend to the doctor with you. I know that sometimes it feels safer that way.

5. Deep, Dark, Depression

If you’re depressed, go to your doctor and get help. Never ignore depression, it’s a nasty little bitch and it can try to make you its slave. I just want to say it again; if you’re depressed, go to your doctor and get help. They have a huge range of treatments for depression now, from meds and therapy to meditation, happiness training and a load of other non-traditional methods. Go get help. Truly, go do it. xx

These are my top 5, but there are other things in your life that can be definite indicators that you need to get some help from a safe friend or a doctor. Feel free to add anything I’ve missed, in the comments, so I can include it in another post.

take care,

be you xx Rachel

Losing Weight, Bipolar Style

I’ve just realised something about my many attempts to lose weight in the past six years; every time I decide to lose weight, I’m in a manic state. This means I’m pumped, excited, ready to exercise and eat right and conquer the world. As soon as the depression or mixed state kick in, I immediately lose the momentum and completely give up. This is a huge aha moment for me.

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I’ve joined a gym a few times and in my normal or manic state I can really enjoy the gym. Of course as soon as my mood shifts to depression or mixed state, the Social Phobia accompanies it and I have no ability to leave the house, and I want to eat all day long.

It all seems so obvious now, but I had no way of understanding this before. So, and I’m just thinking out loud here, I have the usual amount of human inertia about eating healthily and exercising, with the added difficulty of unpredictable, uncontrolled mood shifts. Give me a break.

I’m wondering if I can create a plan that shifts with the moods? Sounds revolutionary, but that could be my current manic state speaking. One plan for each of my four states, and I act accordingly each day. The speed at which I cycle between moods could be an issue; at times I can experience four states in one day.

I’m going to work on this and get back to you. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it’s a book in the making. Maybe I’m all hyped up on manic endorphins?

be you xx Rachel

Where I Talk About Bipolar and Writing About Real Life

Hi, my name is Rachel and I’m Bipolar. I know a lot of people hate labels. I’ve heard a few people say things like ‘I’m not Bipolar, I have Bipolar’. Fair enough for them, and I do get their point, but I have to say that right now I always find myself saying I AM Bipolar.

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When I say this I don’t mean that Bipolar is the only thing I am, of course. Bipolar is what I have found myself to be, to suffer from, to struggle with, every fracking day of the year. I can breathe so much more easily now, knowing I am Bipolar. I have over a hundred online friends who are also Bipolar, who I relate to in a way that I’ve never related to anyone before in my whole life. I really get their struggles, I totally understand their pain. I know how it is to be so depressed you can’t see any lights in any tunnels, there’s just hot, deep, black. I know how it is to be a million miles up, high as a kite, without any drugs, just high on manic life, making bad choices, saying stupid stuff, promising things you will never be able to follow through on.

Spending 47 years trying to find out what the hell is wrong inside my own head, made me yearn for the right label. Not telling any of the shrinks that I was depressed and suicidal for over 20 years turned out to be a barrier to that. Who knew? I thought suicidal depression was normal, or irrelevant or so similar to one of my close family members that it could pretty much be expected.

Becoming aware of my Bipolar has not boxed me, it has somehow released me. I know that must sound weird, but I’ve always tried to find out how to act ‘normal’ while my mind did the rollercoaster thing. Now, I find myself not trying to ‘be normal’ at all. I’m being me, and part of me is that I am Bipolar. Wow, feels so great to say it, own it, know it, and be able to find ways to cope with it.

I’ve started writing in a completely different way than ever before. I’m a copywriter by trade, and I have 5 unpublished book manuscripts of my own in my bookcase, but this time I’m writing the stuff that matters most to me. I’m thinking this will make it either much more tempting to want it published or the complete opposite and even more likely to be shoved into the back of a drawer.

Whatever happens to my raw, core-self writing, it feels very liberating to pour that stuff out on the page. I’m closely connected to these words in a way I’ve never been connected to my writing before. I always wanted to write about normal things, normal people, normal heads.

Now I’m going to write about how normal it is to be Bipolar.

be you xx Rachel

Mixed State With A Serving of Grief

My darling, sweet, fat, snuggly cat Magic was killed by a car two days ago.

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He was there for me whether I was high or low, manic or depressed, excitable or angry or whatever. He was a quiet, loving cat and sometimes boisterous and unlike any other cat I’ve ever owned. I love him so much and my heart is breaking.

I’m in a mixed state, with this grief on top of it. My head feels even more scrambled than usual. Thank god my hubby is here watching out for me. I feel that dark need to take my life. Last night I was so off my face I did something that I’ve never owned up to on my blog before: I cut myself. My arms. I hate sharing that. I find that it’s incredibly difficult for people to understand the self harm thing. Friends who can cope with my ups and downs and moody crapola still don’t know how to cope with the self harming thing. It’s a lonely nastiness that seems to help in the moment, but brings on disgust and shame.

I want my Magic back. I want to stop feeling like this. I want my head to miraculously clear, my mood to level out. I also want a house on 100 acres in the bush, a houseboat and a giant camper to travel Australia with my hubby, my dog and my parrot. All of these things are equally impossibly out of reach. I’ll take one hour at a time and breathe in and out. I’ll choose to live. I’ll check my Facebook messages, do the dishes if I can drag myself to the kitchen, watch DVDs, write in my journal, cook dinner, water my veggie garden, and wish for the billionth time that I could trade my mind in for a more peaceful, quiet one.

be you xx Rachel

I’m Dreaming of a Light Christmas

Yep, I’m dreaming of a nice, light Christmas. If you know me, you’ll know I definitely don’t mean light on food; Christmas is the season for special yummy treats and home cooked delights.

merry christmas

My Christmas wish is for a depression-light, manic-light wonderland of family fun and laughs. If you have a mental illness, I wish you a nice light Christmas, too. Here are my tips for a light Christmas;

  • be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else with the same issues you struggle with
  • it’s okay to tell friends and relatives that you’ll decide on the day of a festive event whether or not you are able to attend
  • yes, you ARE allowed to do that ^
  • take time out from all the plans and events and shopping; do something you know will calm you
  • eat plenty of fruit and veg
  • take your meds
  • if you need to say no to friends and family, I hereby give you permission to say no

If you know someone with a mental illness, I want to encourage you to gift them with the following kindnesses this season;

  • offer them unconditional love
  • don’t give them advice about how to handle their issues
  • support them in the healthy choices they are making, like not self-medicating with alcohol and illegal drugs
  • if they’re depressed, sit with them without expecting anything from them
  • if they’re manic, be kind
  • if they need alone time, give it to them
  • invite them to events and be nice about it if they need to decide on the day

I hope you’re having a lovely December!

be you xx Rachel

Hello Mania! Welcome Euphoria! Where’s my Credit Card?!

Woohoo, everything’s fine. Manic today and ready to change the world, fix everything that’s wrong, start new projects, begin again and all that jazz!

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Awake at 4.30am, hardly slept at all, mind tick tick ticking; Sell the house, plant pumpkin seeds, jump on a train and just go wherever it takes me, apply for another credit card, plan a new career, write another book. Mania how I love thee right now.

Euphoria, thou art so much frikkin better than depression.

Come on, decide, choose, know what to do with this energy. Hurry up. Don’t waste precious up-time. Ignore the banal, forget what needs doing and go for what feels good. Shopping! I could go Christmas shopping.

My hubby wants to chat about paying the bills. Pfft. He has no idea how to have fun with money. VISA, electricity, rates, water. Pfft. Maybe we need a festive dinner set for Christmas day? A really pretty one. They have those in Myers!

…The beautiful/horrible thing about knowing you are Bipolar is that you can kill the euphoria with the understanding that this is a temporary up, high, rush, impulsive state. Sometimes that doesn’t occur to you, and you get completely carried away on the wave of the fantasy life where you can do anything your passions want. That’s when very big money gets spent on rediculous things, very big projects get half-done and discarded. Expensive projects, ones you fought for, yelled about, defended to the last breath while manic.

Today I know everything, I am everything. It’s so easy to think that now, in mania, the meds are working perfectly because surely no bad thing could feel this bloody good. Just one thing; please take my credit card off me now! Oh, wait, it’s already maxed out. Pfft.

be you xx Rachel

Taking Charge of My Own World

Life truly is awesome when you do what you feel you’re meant to be doing. For me, this has involved rejecting a whole truckload of shoulds and oughts. In the last twenty four hours, I have been having big realisations about how much I’ve put on myself in regard to who I should be, what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.

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I read a lot. Reading is one of my favourite things in the world, but thanks to my MI, sometimes reading can mess with my head. When I’m manic, I sometimes read quotes by famous people about how life is great if you make it so, and I start to pile all kinds of shoulds and oughts on myself. I should be happy, because, after all, all of the books say that happiness is a choice. Crap! If I’m depressed or manic/depressed, I’m here to tell you that telling me to choose to be happy is about as intelligent as telling a diabetic to spontaneously produce enough insulin. No can do, sunshine.

Something I’ve learned to do is to hit the blogs and Facebook pages of other people with BD, and read how they make their way through the dark times. Humour plays a big part in this, especially the ability to laugh at your own moods, reactions and choices.

be you xx Rachel

The Four States I’ve Lived In My Whole Life and None Of Them is Queensland

I came in here to blog, half a dozen times yesterday, but I just couldn’t hit the Publish button. Mania + depression is such a nasty headspace. I made the image below, to show the four states  that I cycle between. I would love someone to invent a BD barometer, because I learn over and over and over that people, even those who know me very well, can’t see my mood on my face or in my body language. Apparently I’m excellent at using an I’m okay mask.

the four moods

The Bipolar Boogie – A Lot Like the iPod Shuffle, Without The Warning of an Imminent Transition

GOOD morning! I hope you, like me, are having a good one. I hadn’t planned to post today, but I’ve woken up in heaven, and I just have to share.

Heaven, in this case, is a nice, smooth mood. No high, no low, just breathing in and out and thinking about what to do in my day. Beautiful. Heaven.

I am so grateful to be alive today, in this smooth mood. I know from experience that while in this headspace I’ll be able to handle whatever comes along in my day. I’m so grateful for how relaxing this is, and I’m grateful that I can share this with you.

The suicidal, down, dark mood I had been coping with in the past few days has lifted. I have a clear head and so I can plan my day and get some things done like housework and Christmas lists. While in this headspace, I try and take advantage of every minute. I often write myself notes, to read later in the week when my mood has shifted again. Encouraging notes for a dark mood and calming notes for a manic spike day.

Bipolar mood shifts are so random at times, with no trigger or warning. This makes life impossible to plan. I’m only now learning to give myself permission to say to friends and family “Yes, thankyou for the invitation, and if I’m in the right headspace on the day I’ll be there with bells on.” It’s such a relief to be able to do this! I have worried for many years that people will think I’m giving myself an easy out by saying things like that. Now, honestly, I AM giving myself an easy out by saying things like that. I need an easy out. I deserve an easy out. Not being able to choose to do the things I want to do when I want to do them sucks. I’m giving myself a break at last.

It is so great to be able to share these things with you. I feel liberated. Thanks for reading my blog.

I hope you like my design, above, for a Bipolar Boogie app button. Maybe one day someone will discover a way to achieve control over Bipolar Disorder brain chemistry, and we can download the app? In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my smooth mood.

be you xx Rachel

21.11.12

I’m sitting here at my computer, just after midnight, with cold feet. The only sounds I can hear are the whirring of my laptop, the ticking of my little blue clock and the occasional car driving past my house.

I’m grinding my teeth and my left foot is tucked up behind my right leg, just a little too tightly to feel comfortable. There’s something I want to share with you, but I’m nervous about saying it out loud. It’s one of those things that, once said, can’t be un-said. I can’t just tell you and then change my mind and un-tell you. It might change the way you think about me, the way you feel about me. It might confuse you, or it might even be obvious to you.

While I was preparing to write this post, I did some research online about what it has been like for other people to share similar truths about themselves. The range of experiences was vast. There truly seemed to be as many people advocating openness as there were people pleading for silence on the subject. I felt so sorry, reading about the lack of understanding and love that some people had experienced. Some of them lost friends, became estranged from family members and lost jobs as a result of their willingness to tell the truth about their own life. That frightened me badly, I have to say.

I also read incredible stories of lives changed through courageous openness. I felt encouraged and tempted to share my own story, in my own way.

Sitting here at my computer, with my cold feet, a thousand thoughts are going through my mind. Most of these thoughts are tethered to this core question: what will happen when people know? Can I survive whatever happens, whatever is said to me, whatever is said about me, after I tell? I just don’t know. One thing I do know, is that as a writer, a woman, a human being, I will never be able to be my true self in this world while I keep fighting an inner battle every day to keep the hardest thing in my life to myself. This is why I want and need to tell you that I struggle, every day, living with Bipolar Disorder.

Seeing those words on the page, getting ready to click the Publish button and send this post out to the www, I’m more than a little jittery. A thought occurs to me, pushing the jitters aside; once it’s out there, I can start writing about life as it really is for me. I can blog my mighty high ups and my deepest dark downs. I can share how easy it is for me to help other people succeed, no matter how I feel on the day, while daily sabotaging my own efforts to get ahead in business. I can tell you what it’s really like to be me: awesomely supercharged, terribly depressed, and best of all, those times when I get to cruise the middle road, even if it’s only for a few delicious hours.

If you know nothing about Bipolar Disorder, (BD) I recommend this Australian site: Black Dog Institute for a definition and other information.

I’ll tell you more about BD in another post. Right now I really just want to click on that publish button, before I change my mind for the thousandth time. If you’re reading this, I guess it means I published this post and therefore I have more courage in November 2012 than I’ve ever had before. No more cold feet.

be you xx Rachel