People with bipolar speak out about their battle with the disease and what worked for them in the coping process.
Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depression, is a mental disorder that involves extreme changes in mood, energy, and thought in patients. A person with this disorder usually has mood swings that alternate between ‘up’ (feeling overly happy and energetic) and ‘down’ (prolonged sadness and pessimism). These mood swings can last for varying periods of time, ranging from a few hours to even months. Three percent of all adults in the United States deal with this mental illness.
Although bipolar disorder is a treatable disease, it can be really difficult to deal with, both for the patient and the people around him or her. However, that doesn’t mean that you should alienate yourself, or anyone you know who’s suffering from the disease. There are many instances where people have fought this ailment with determination, and come out victorious.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) spoke to a number of people of different ages who shared their stories in order to help others understand what people with bipolar disorder go through and how to cope with the illness. Here are four of those stories of inspiring people who talk about the problems they faced and what worked for them while battling the disease.
19-year-old Zack was in college when he had his first major manic episode. He experienced a sudden change after using some recreational drugs with his friends, and this change continued even after the effects of the drugs had worn off. Recalling the episode, Zack says “The next day, I thought that I was enlightened and knew the meaning of life, like I was Buddha or Gandhi. I felt invincible, like I was on top of the world and could do anything. I even thought I had psychic powers.” During this ‘high’ episode, Zack did not sleep as he thought it would be a waste of time. Instead, he chose to write poetry throughout the night. Usually a quiet person, Zack talked constantly at that time and spent over a thousand dollars on himself and his friends.
When Zack came home from college, his mother, Nancy, immediately recognized the symptoms as her daughter suffers from the disease too, and got Zack to the hospital. A number of doctor consultations and hospitalizations later, Zack is now stabilized on medication. His mother helped him all along, and she found support in the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, a parent-run body that helps families that are raising children and teens with bipolar disorder. In addition, Zack found help and support from his friends after he opened up to them about his condition. Now, they help him stay away from drugs, and are very protective of him. Zack is now looking forward to returning to college.
What worked for him?
Medication is what helped Zack control the disorder. Initially, he was denying the fact that he even had a disease; but he realized that he had to accept it after he had to be hospitalized several times because he stopped the medication. He also lost two girlfriends because of the things he found himself saying during his episodes, and decided that he needed to change things for the better.
When he was diagnosed first in 1979, like many others, John refused to accept that there was something wrong, and even threw away his medicines. But this denial cost him later when he was on a business trip and had a manic episode. Recalling the incident, John says, “I was on an airplane and I thought I could fly it.”Once he reached his hotel, he locked himself up in his room. After he returned from his trip, his manic depression was still on, and his family urged him to get admitted to a hospital. Three days in a quiet room at the hospital under proper care and supervision gave John more than enough time to think about the situation, and he found himself praying a lot. He told himself that if he managed to get out of hospital, he’ll do anything to help others who suffer from this illness. Realizing the need to be around people who understood his situation and could help him, John joined the Chicago chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. The group was still in its initial stage at the time, but John and his wife, along with others, worked hard to make the groups include families and also helped get more such groups started. John had begun to talk to others about his experiences in battling bipolar disorder early in his recovery, and he continues that even today. With an aim of inspiring people like him to believe that they can heal, John regularly talks to a variety of people about his experiences.
What worked for him?
John attributes his healing to the fact that he spent time being around people with whom he could share his experiences and they completely understood what he must be going through. He dealt with this disease at a time when some of the first support groups were just starting to take shape in Chicago. He took the initiative to call them up, and they asked him to meet them at a restaurant that was several towns away, at a distance of around 45 miles. He could have been lazy about it, but driving there to meet people from these groups that helped those with depression and manic depression was what changed John’s life.
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