TRANSCRIPT FROM THE VIDEO:
“If I could go back in time – even just a few years – there’s quite a few things that I would tell myself about Bipolar Disorder. Things that would have probably saved me a lot of time and grief. I can be a little stubborn, so who knows if I would have even heeded my own advice at the time. I’m just grateful that I know these things now, and I hope sharing them helps some of my fellow Polar Warriors out there. All that being said, let’s get to it!
Number 1… I’d like to start this one with an analogy. If you had to climb up the world’s tallest mountain, it would make a massive difference if you did some endurance training before the climb. Otherwise you’d be suffering and struggling through the whole adventure to the top. It’s not “fun” or “easy” to jump on a treadmill, change your diet, and read a bunch of books about mountain climbing, but you know without even doing these things that they’d help. Here’s the thing… Knowledge and self-awareness are literally the “endurance training” of mental health. Those of us diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder have a huge mountain in front of us. There’s no avoiding it. Since we know this, it’s reasonable to prepare for the climb. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know words like “hypomania, dysphoric mania, mixed episodes, hypersexuality, and so many more. I’d start to not feel good inside and immediately blame it on my relationship, my job, or my living situation. It just FEELS better to have a reason for our suffering. After learning more about the illness, I started to live my life very differently. Once I had a name for the bad feelings, I stopped seeking external reasons for my suffering. My relationships, my career, and even my health have been changed forever by just learning about this stuff. If I could go back in time, I’d plead with myself to just learn about Bipolar Disorder.
Number 2… I would tell myself to reach out to those I’ve hurt and try to mend relationships sooner. I’ve had partners who spent years blaming themselves for my breaking up with them during a psychotic episode. I had friends who thought they did something wrong because I’d go from being a social butterfly to isolating from everyone. And of course, I’ve had people who I absolutely mistreated when I wasn’t well. Sometimes I’d be so embarrassed that I’d avoid apologizing – even if it was the right thing to do. I was also afraid of rejection… If my apology wasn’t accepted. Well, I had to get past all that and just do it. Even if it was awkward and uncomfortable, it was still an important part of my growth process. I also had to make sure I didn’t just blame my behavior on the Bipolar Disorder. It was a big contributing factor, but I’m still responsible for my actions. To my surprise, most people were supportive and there was a strong mutual sense of relief. I also had one less dark place that my mind would go to when I’m depressed. So that’s the second thing I wish I embraced earlier.
Number 3… I’d tell myself to take the damn drugs. Now I have a very love-hate relationship when it comes to meds. I’m extremely sensitive to side-effects, it took me a long time to find meds that work, I despise the pharmaceutical industry – not to mention drug prices, I don’t like having to remember to take them, and on and on and on…. Although these are all very valid objections, I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t manage this illness by myself – and not for a lack of trying! It would almost be like someone trying to force their pancreas to produce more insulin instead of taking diabetes medication. Maybe some people can manage without meds, but not me. I learned this the hard hard stubborn way! My relationship, my friendships, my job, and even my pets all suffer when I don’t take medication. Now I’m not here to tell you or anyone else to take meds. I’m just saying that if I went back in time, for me personally, it would have saved me soooooooooooooooo much suffering – and those around me – if I took advantage of the treatments available. Maybe someday there will be a better way, but with today’s technology, meds are my first line of defense against Bipolar symptoms.
Number 4… If I could go back, I’d tell myself to seek out peer support a lot sooner – and to spread it out a little… I was in denial about my Bipolar Disorder for a while so there were only a few people I’d turn to for support when times got tough. This was sometimes hard on my loved ones because… it was only a few people. I suggest expanding your support circle – when you are ready of course. This could mean joining some online forums or Facebook groups. Maybe interacting with people in the YouTube comments, or joining the Polar Warrior Patreon Community. Bipolar Hope Magazine has some amazing free online articles where people can comment and discuss topics. Those are all great, but I think the best way to go is in-person or live meetings. I know a lot of these have moved to online due to the Coronavirus, but if you get the chance to safely attend a live meeting, it’s a great way to expand your support circle. The first time I went to a NAMI meeting or a Bipolar specific support group, it was like being in a foreign country for years and finally hearing someone speak my language! It was so powerful to just be around other people who get it. Who share a silent bond through shared mutual experience. I know that not everyone lives in a town with peer support groups, so you might have to look online or get a little creative. For me personally, peer support has been truly life-changing. I’ve made some lifelong friends in the process, so that would be the 4th thing I’d tell myself.
Moving on to number 5… I’d tell myself to be honest with my doctor! I know this is hard for some of us… Unless we’ve seen the same doctor for a decade, most doctors are in all reality – strangers! It’s hard to tell a stranger about side effects like sexual dysfunction, incidents of rage we aren’t proud of, or if we’ve been abusing substances. I remember seeing doctors when I was manic and telling them how amazing life was while my partner is cringing in the corner. I’d lie about using substances, I wouldn’t tell them that I was in fact suicidal the week before. I didn’t want to admit to some stranger that my life felt very out-of-control. The worst part about this was it interfered in my ability to get an accurate diagnosis. I would have been diagnosed and seen improvement much sooner if I was just honest with my doctor.
Number 6. I’d tell myself to not get stuck on how or why I got Bipolar Disorder. Instead to focus on “where I can go from here.” I think doctors hand out diagnoses so often that they get used to it and kinda forget how shocking it can be. Getting diagnosed with mental illness almost has its own grieving process. I’ve had huge feelings of loss, anger, sometimes pity, or even regret over my situation. I spent a lot of time wishing I wasn’t born, or wondering “why me?” Just like when we lose a loved one, it’s easy to get stuck in the grieving process and have it prevent us from moving forward with our lives. If I could go back in time, I’d work with a counselor specifically on my “Bipolar grieving process.”
Alright, we’ve made it to the last one in this video and I really appreciate you spending this time on my channel. If something I’ve said was helpful, you can send a giant digital thank you by just liking the video or subscribing to Polar Warriors. So for number 7… If I could go back to when I was first diagnosed, I’d tell myself to be patient with the process and to have realistic expectations. I remember getting my hopes up every time they put me on a new medication – like I thought it would cure my Bipolar or something. If the side effects started to become uncomfortable, I’d quit. If I had a bad episode, I’d quit. Heck, even if the meds were working, I’d quit because I thought I didn’t need them anymore! Same thing with therapy, my jobs and even relationships. I’ve made hasty emotionally-driven decisions when times got tough. I didn’t have or accept much guidance when I was newly diagnosed so it took me a while to learn that most of my frustrations were really part of the process. I wish I knew early on that it was ok and normal to take a while to find the right dose. That side-effects are a part of the journey for most of us or that getting a proper diagnosis can take time. If I could go back, I’d really emphasize how imperfect the road to stability can be and how ok that really is.
If you are having a hard time navigating through all of this, I’m here to help. There is a link in the video description where you can contact me directly. You can also visit PolarWarriors.Com for a library of my videos, one-on-one coaching, and more. Take extra good care of yourself this week Warriors and stop by the channel again soon for more videos. Stay well!”