Live to Thrive
by Simone Brooks
I was asked to give some advice to those of you who are newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and your loves ones. My focus is really on those of you who have been diagnosed; although, my hope is that you loved ones will learn a little something that will help them you understand the journey you are on together.
I have three pieces of advice:
1) do nothing to make the situation worse
2) if you fall, and you likely will, rise again
3) strive for the courage to thrive
I was diagnosed in 1993 with major depressive disorder. I was re-diagnosed in 2003 with bipolar II disorder, and finally with severe bipolar I disorder.
I have felt the highs, the rushes, the passion, the sensuality, the energy, the omnipotence, and the limitlessness of mania. I have also felt the desperation, exhaustion, fear, terror, horror, guilt, shame, and despair of depression. And, I have visited the planes in between. I have self-harm behaviors that have scarred me physically, and suicide attempts that have scarred me emotionally.
I have suffered and caused suffering.
Sometimes in the midst of one of my depressive moods, I feel like I am a smaller, tiny version of myself standing inside a larger unfamiliar me–and that tiny version of me is surrounded by darkness and an oppressive heat, gasping, unable to escape, while the larger me plods on, disconnected, seemingly unaffected by the terror of the smaller me. That larger me, disconnected, does not remember to take care of the smaller one: (1) moderate food and alcohol consumption; (2) workout; (3) journal; (4) go to psychotherapy; (5) take prescribed medications; (6) meditate – she ignores my needs until I wilt inside.
What to do with a wilted me? a pain-filled me? an emotionally and physically exhausted me? As if I were a weed, I have tried to extract myself from life through maladaptive behaviors like binge drinking, promiscuity, raging rants, cutting, and even suicide attempts. All of these behaviors made my situation worse:
These maladaptive behaviors were all I knew, but they risked not only my well-being but my life.
Now, I tell people that I owe my life to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a form of therapy pioneered by Marsha Linehan at the University of Washington.
It was initially designed and applied to those suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, but has been found to be effective with other forms of mental illness and even substance abuse.
One of the first things I came to understand in DBT was this concept of “do nothing to make the situation worse. And, if you can’t stop from making it worse, lessen the damage.” For example, if you are a person with self-harm behaviors, and you desperately want to act on that behavior, call your individual therapist before making the decision. Perhaps you give yourself permission to self-harm as soon as you’re done with the call. But make the call. You’ll likely find that the need to self-harm has passed. You didn’t make the situation worse.
Not making the situation worse doesn't mean you've made it better, it does not mean that your illness has disappeared. Instead you have held your ground. You have remained steady. You have lived to survive another day.
My next piece of advice is that if you fall, if you relapse or have a recurrence, if you fall, rise again. Relapse occurs when you have not yet become asymptomatic. Recurrence is an episode that occurs after you are in remission.
In the world of mental illness, recovery is not and remission rarely is an endpoint, a final destination. At least one study has shown that patients with major depression who experience one episode are 50% more likely to experience a 2nd. Patients that experience 2 episodes, are more likely to experience a 3rd, and those that experience 3 episodes are 90% more likely to experience another. I don't tell you that to discourage you. I tell you that to prepare you.
The likelihood is that you will fall down. That can be a terrifying prospect. So, while you are up, do the work: psychotherapy, exercise, medication, meditation; do the work to prepare yourself for what is likely to occur. Understand what your triggers are and plan for them to occur again. How will you deal?
For me, with every relapse and recurrence, I learned something more about myself and my strength, my capacity to survive. Each time, I worked to acquire new understanding and new skills to aid me for the next fall. At first, I didn't believe that I was any different. I felt as if each fall was the same, or worse, more miserable than the previous. I felt that just experiencing recurrences was a failure.
With the help of my psychotherapist, I realized that my recoveries were faster, that my climbs to remission were not so steep.
Thus far, I have continued on. Not a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of continuing on. Rather a quiet kind of determination to survive. I read a quote from Mary Ann Radmacher, "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'" I try to be courageous.
Speaking of courage, my final piece of advice to you is to strive to thrive. Strive to find the courage to not just survive this life but to live a life filled with contentment, with fulfillment.
Some days, I feel as though this diagnosis I have is a weight unbearable. I have found those are usually the days that I’ve exhausted myself with hiding my bipolar experience.
Kay Redfield Jamison wrote “I am tired of hiding, tired of misspent and knotted energies, tired of the hypocrisy, and tired of acting as I have something to hide.” I understand that in your workplace and your personal life, you may not have the freedom to air your diagnosis or diagnoses, the safety and security to ask for and receive the help that you may desperately need. Perhaps hiding is more than a way of life. Perhaps it is your only method of survival.
But it is when you stop hiding from yourself, when you mindfully, radically, accept that in this moment you are perhaps not in remission, but you have the potential for it. Mindfully, radically, accept that your journey of recovery is in every moment, it is in every choice.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, "People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar."
I believe that each of you wants something different and possibly better. I believe that where you are and how you behave now is understandable given your circumstances (internal and external). But I also believe that you have to try harder even when the reserves seem empty, in order to experience improvement in your condition. And finally, I believe that you cannot fail. I have faith in you. Now you must have faith in you. Live. Strive. Thrive.
By Keturah Montgomery*chorus/beginning*
My emotions go up like a skyscraper
Then they shoot down like a rollercoaster
They are packed with so much intensity
They make me question my own desitny
I'm so sorry i'm crazy
Yes i'm sorry i'm crazy
I'm so sorry i'm crazy
Yes i'm sorry i'm crazy
*after repeating chorus go to the 1st verse below*
I'm sorry for constantly cutting myself
And i'm sorry for trying to kill myself
I was just so angry at myself
Please help me till I can help myself
*after repeating chorus go to the 2nd verse below*
I have a secret I don't want to tell
But my secret I might as well tell
I must admit i'm not mentally well
I'm bipolar so please don't tell
*after chorus go to the ending below*
So please don't leave me
I can't help that i'm crazy
Cole Max's Story
I started to begin this by saying that having Bipolar Disorder has changed my life, but actually I don't remember my life ever changing I have just been ME my whole life. I would say I really started to feeling depressed, and cut off from emotion when I was five years old. My oldest brother was just born and there was no longer room for me on my mom's lap. I can remember every night for what seemed like years crying myself to sleep thinking I was completely unloved and utterly alone is this great big world. That was the end of my childhood as far as I am concerned; because I don't think any child should have to face the every day battle of wanting to want to stay alive. Every day Bipolar Disorder tells me life isn't worth living and I have to fight back with all my strength to say that I am worth it.
There have been
times in my life when I didn't even have the strength to pick up a fork, and my
dad would have to carry me to my bed and I would just lay there completely
numb, unable to move or think rationally. By the time I hit 18 I had lost all
control over my life, I turned to worldly things trying to find in them the
medication I so desperately needed. Those were some of the happiest times of my
life, and some of the most miserable too. Finally after years of telling my
parents I need help I just laid it all out on the table and told them they had
to help me or else it was done trying to stay alive. My mom took me to our
family doctor thinking she would prescribe some miracle drug and everyone could
get on with their lives.When the
doctor said I needed to be evaluated by the behavioral center she broke out in
tears finally realizing how serious my situation was. Oddly this made me smile
because for the first time in probably 13 years I felt loved. The behavioral
center was a joke I couldn't even tell them my story, or convey the way I
really felt because I could tell they didn't care. They referred me to a class
A quack who put me on a medicine that sent me spiraling deeper into depression
than I had ever been before. Finally in the end I ended up in Minirth Clinic in
Richardson TX and actually got a foot in the door on my way to hope. After that
life was a roller coaster of extreme emotions to say the least, I went through
many medications and treatments, but the thing that really got me through was
something I learned from Dr. Minirth's book called "Happiness Is A
Choice" and it was just that that you have to make a conscious effort to
be happy. I still feel like I am in the midst of a war within myself daily, but
with the help of family, medication, knowledge and most importantly God I have
been able to to win all of the major battles up to this second. So to all you
other Bipolar Survivors keep up the fight and spread the word that happiness is
a choice and that Bipolar Disorder is as real as you and me. We are soldiers
fighting a battle often no one else can even see.
I had prepared a different talk for you, but then something happened this past Monday night. That talk was mainly a chronological telling of my own experiences with bipolar disorder from the age of about 14 until now. It was a linear narrative and illustrated a kind of eventual “success story”. That is to say, I was completely debilitated by bipolar disorder, anorexia, and bulimia nervosa up until as little as two years ago. Through the steadfast support of friends and family, a very good psychiatrist, the right combination of medication, and healthy lifestyle choices, I am now consistently content, professionally motivated and, dare I say it, quite often very happy.
On Monday night, however, I had a meltdown with my boyfriend, James, that made me realize my story must be adjusted if I am to illuminate my true experiences with the disorder, its impact on individuals close to me, and the ways in which the support of friends and family have been one of the most vital means of helping me to take control of the disease.
Before I tell this story, I’ll give you my brief personal history. An only child, I was born to older parents who are completely wonderful and completely eccentric. My mother is very clever at words and works in publishing; my father is very clever at numbers and is a Professor of Astrophysics. I always did well at school. Even though I was sensitive and prone to mood swings as a child and adolescent, I graduated top of my class in high school, was a member of the National Honors Society, editor of the yearbook, President of Amnesty International, blah, blah --- you get it. In Fall, 2003, I entered the freshman class at Vassar College.
My bipolar disorder had been evolving throughout high school and I was becoming more prone to bouts of mania and depression. Yet because my outward scholastic performance was good, and I was sociable and had many friends, my increasingly irrational behavior was understandably put down to adolescent angst.
By the end of my sophomore year of college, however, there were weeks when I was sleeping as little as two hours a night, or sometimes not at all, obsessed with the idea of getting straight “As”, and losing great amounts of weight. I tumbled between intense manic highs and being swallowed by depressive lows.
Although I never experimented too widely with drugs, I found similar solace in anorectic restriction and bulimic purging. My health and mood disorder worsened during the next two years of college.
Somehow, however, through the support of wonderful friends and parents, and because I was scholastically obsessive, I graduated with honors in May, 2007. After graduation I moved back home and spent the next two turbulent years without purpose, nannying, waiting tables, bartending, dating a menagerie of men, and trying to distance myself from friends and family with whom I felt I could no longer relate.
In college I was in considerable denial about the severity of my disorders. Post-college, I made life choices to remain that way. Finally, because of the eating disorders, I became too physically ill to continue. Sick and scared I agreed to enter an intense outpatient treatment program in the Fall of 2008. Although my parents had wanted an intensive treatment plan for me in college, to be committed to it the choice had to be my own. This is when challenging and gradual upward change began to take place in my life.
Through treatment of my eating disorders, I was eventually forced to seriously address my bipolar disorder, and began slowly building a regiment of prescriptive medicines to help me control both the interconnected eating and mood disorders. This treatment provided a framework for my recovery, but it was the dedication of my parents and friends that provided the essential emotional foundation.
You see, living with bipolar disorder is often very lonely. In its worst phases I frequently felt completely detached from reality, seeing the world through a kind of Jessica monoscope. Although usually I am a compassionate person, when in a bipolar swing it is impossible to take into account the emotions or needs of others. During these episodes I am experiencing what can best be described as a completely dominating series of emotional explosions. Consequentially, something small can suddenly cause the rational mind and senses to go a kind of Pop! Pop! Pop! This surge is utterly overwhelming. A depressive low also consumes and debilitates, but feel less like flying sparks and more like a grinding numbness that makes you search for things to feel real and alive again: for some with bipolar disorder it is the sharp prick of a needle and the calming swell of a drug induced high, or long nights with liquor bottles. I sought the biting and strangely enlivening hunger of anorexia.
But let’s get back to Monday night. James and I had just decided to move in together, or rather, that I move in with him. We have radically different decorating styles. Mainly, he likes anything steel, straight, and black --- blugh! And I like things that look like they haven’t been pulled off the Terminator. On Sunday, I went off to buy flowering pot plants to bring some life into my new living room, which we are now in debate as to how to jointly redecorate. I spent the evening arranging the plants around the room and went to bed satisfied that I had helped to enrich my boyfriend’s life with new and needed vibrant color. When I came home from work on Monday, the plants had been moved into tight clusters of three on the far corner of adjacent tables on either side of the room. Pop! Pop! Pop! I lost it.
I failed to see that in addition to moving the pot plants James had reorganized his bookcases to accommodate my books, had fixed the broken lamp, and had one of my favorite meals waiting on the stove.
Although clearly I am immeasurably better than I once was, on Monday I experienced the unreasonable and all-consuming swell of sudden, spiked, emotional deluge. I spun around the room, tossed down my bag, and said, “Frankly, I hate this! I can’t believe this! You just shoved all my plants in corners!” There was a brief pause and James tilted his head. “I put them closer to the windows so they could get more light, sweetheart,” he replied. I now felt close to tears and shrieked, “Do you even want me living here?!”
James did what James does best when I still sporadically have these emotional episodes, and what my parents, once they learned more about the disease, could do so well when these moments were far more frequent, lengthier, and more intense. He looked me in the eyes, did not overreact, and stayed present with me in the moment.
“Yes. I want you to live with me, very much so.” He spoke calmly, somehow willing to validate my unanticipated emotional reaction. “And we can always put the plants back.”
For numerous reasons—anxiety about living with him, fear of the relationship’s potential failure, the day’s fatigue—I blew my proverbial gasket. That sudden, familiar irrational ache, that isolation I used to feel so intensely took momentary hold. But most importantly, and this is why its hold was only temporary, there was someone sitting right next to me quietly and patiently waiting for me to gather myself whole again. Even though I was being absurd, James is almost always able to separate these brief bipolar episodes from who I am as a more complex, comprehensive individual. He does not make me feel I am my disease. And so I did, I could, moments later, return back to James, the room, and to rationale. I could see I was being silly.
He laughed tenderly and called me a “nutty bunny”, and most importantly, he did not judge me. He trusted that I would, and could, emotionally and cognizantly spring back to him. There is great and contagious strength in this love and conviction.
We did put the plants back
and I apologized. “Yes, “ he said. “You overacted, now let’s have some dinner”.
Theo Anderson was born June 14, 1991 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Around his 15th birthday, he began to exhibit symptoms of severe mental illness. He was soon diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. His last two to three years were a constant struggle with the pain and misery which accompany these illnesses. Throughout his life, Theo was a kind and gentle spirit who accepted all people regardless of their limitations, beliefs or station in life. He remained to the end a happy, hopeful person while suffering from the profound depression and hopelessness which accompanied his illness. Theo died November 11, 2009 in Rochester, Minnesota.
In his last few months, Theo began writing poetry. Following are three of his poems which address a young person’s struggle with severe mental illness.
Wayne and Janet Anderson
I keep filling up notebooks
With words I never sing
The next George Orwell
Or maybe a hit
That just might sell
This is the song where realization hits me
I’m not the child I thought I would be
Listen close now, pretty girl come here
I have a story to share with you
This time last year I can’t remember
I must have been detoxing my memory
I wipe the slate clean but it never looks quite new
I have a story to share with you
So if you would, please lend me those ears
My humble lungs are not quite done
And if you find yourself beneath your fears
My words and your thoughts can sing harmony
I’m not the child I thought I would be
I spill my head upside down, spill its contents on the floor
It doesn’t feel much different, can’t think straight anymore
I haven’t in awhile, but I find myself without the need
The need for rationalization
I stick my hands into the ground, digging for a purpose
To stay alive, to live and breathe, I feel like I’ve heard this
Heard this song before, with a thousand different melodies
A thousand different singers
I chase my shadow, I chase the light
Chase whatever suits my mind
At the given moment
Crazy pills like cyanide
Yet water all the same
Can’t live with or without them
I shove my mind into a book, let the author convince me
That life is simple, or complex, depends on who I’m reading
Metaphors and imagery, each one like concrete
Cold and hard and gray
I turn my eyes to the sky, to the atmosphere
Nothing residing up that high will ever keep me here
Got a bad case of life poisoning, wish I could take a break
Wish I could just take a break
For years I studied how not to live
I pray no stares come my way today
It was wrong, you were wrong to look at me that way.
A Brief 15 Seconds Inside My Head
Wreck, wreck, wreck.
My hands continue to shake,
I took the time to check.
I tell them.
But I'm a wreck.
No outlet, no release.
Not for me – I pace the floors – not for me not for me not for me!
Could there be
a single thing
to kill all the
Not for me not for me not for me.
I'm a wreck, you see.
Some call it nervous, others OCD.
But not me.
I call it me. I am what you see.
Wreck wreck wreck wreck wreck,
a description of me.
Are the doors locked?
Wreck wreck wreck.
Are the windows shut?
Wreck wreck wreck.
Is the alarm set?
Do I look okay?
Is my pulse normal?
Am I gonna die am I gonna die am I gonna die am I gonna die??
Is my heart about to stop, or my car about to crash, or my plane about to fall clean out of the sky??
Am I gonna die??
Why do I wonder if I'm alright??
Why do I wring my hands in plain sight??
Why is my mental state a constant fight??
Wreck wreck wreck. Wreck wreck.
On top of my neck.
September 1 – 2009
My Bipolar Boys:
When I started dating my now husband, I could not understand how he could go from being so fun and loving to so mean and hateful at the drop of a dime. I fell in love with the sweetest, loving, caring individual I ever met. One day, he was not so sweet; he turned hateful, degrading, and mean towards me. I wanted nothing to do with him. He continued calling me and I agreed to meet with him and talk. He said he was not himself and that he was having a bad day, so I agreed to date him again and the rest is history. We now are getting ready to celebrate our 10th anniversary and we have 2 children from this union. You may think that we had it easy to make it ten years and have 2 children. Let me tell you, it has been the biggest struggle of my life and his. Re read the first 6 sentences of this 100 times and then you will get the full picture of how it has been getting to this point. It was about 5 years ago that I had to put him in the hospital because he wanted to commit suicide. He would say things like he wished he would die and could not wait to die because life was not worth living for some time before it but now he was ready to act on it. We went to the doctor because I told him that there had to be something wrong for him to feel this way. I am so glad that the doctor committed him to a 72 hour suicide watch in the hospital. There he was diagnosed as being bipolar. So now we knew why he was acting this way, but what was bipolar? I began reading about it and went to family support meetings to learn how to deal with it. It has been a long, long, road. About every 6 months I have to remind him that he has to take his medicine every day not every other or every third day. It makes such a difference when he takes it every day. We can function and be a loving family when he does. He knows and can see and feel the difference but he has excuses as to why he does not take it. I will not let him slip because I know what that is like and we are not going to live that way anymore. We have been through counseling and that helped him to see what his issues were with childhood and helped him to deal with them and let it go so he could move on and live his life with his family.
Our son is bipolar, he is 8. We knew for years that he was bipolar; he has been since he was born. I refused to put him on medication because I had read all of the side effects and read stories of the brain damage. I could talk him down from his rages so I said that when I could no longer do that I would entertain the idea of putting him on medication. Last year I lost the battle and gave in because all he would do is talk about killing himself and dying, he was 7. What happy healthy 7 year old thinks about killing himself and hates life? A bipolar child. I had to face the fact that my perfect little angel was bipolar and that if I did not get him help he would dead before he was a teenager. Also, our daughter, 6, was picking up on what he was saying and doing. My aunt has her Ph.D. in pharmacy and she consulted with doctors on the medicine to treat bipolar so I knew what medicine I needed for him, I just needed him diagnosed. We went to the same office my husband goes to. He was diagnosed and we got the medicine needed to help him be a happy 7 year old. He also does counseling there. He no longer talks about killing himself or dying but he does act out when he does not know how to cope with someone or something. That is part of bipolar; you cannot change their routine or what they are use to because it is too much of a shock to their system which makes them lash out. He is so loving and caring and has so much to give. It is hard work every day but it is worth it to see him happy. I also talk with him about how he should and should not act in different situations so that he can use reasoning in his decisions before he just blows. At least, I can think he is using reasoning first.
is the beginning of my bipolar story.
It will never end, but at least I can hope for a brighter tomorrow
knowing we made it through today.
Megan Spahr's Story
After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder recently after 10 years of dealing with it and knowing something wasn't right and turning my life into a mess I was disappointed to see that there wasn't very much being done to help people with bipolar disorder. It seemed like my only options were to pretty much take the medicine, deal with the side effects and deal with the it for rest of my life and no one was really trying to do more or explain to me more about the disorder. My husband would often ask why did I have to end up such and mess before someone finally was able to help me. I really started to feel like no one cared or knew much about bipolar disorder. Now that I am diagnosed I am dealing with the trouble of accepting that it will never got away and that I will always have problems and the stigma attached to the disorder, as well as the people who don't understand and just think I'm crazy. When I came across your website today I really started to cry I just wanted to say how wonderful what I think you are doing is. Just to know that someone is doing something gives me hope. To many people die because they can't deal with the pain this disorder causes anymore and end up self medicating or just committing suicide. I've self medicated too many times time to count and suicide has crossed my mind many times. You just get tired to dealing with it after awhile and with not with medicines that don't work well and not many other options it's like what do they expect you to do. The Quest for the Test you are doing is great. The sooner we can get diagnosed the sooner we have a chance to deal with it and get the help we need. I don't wish anyone to have to live with this for 10 years like I did before getting diagnosed. I used to tell myself maybe I was just weird and after all the horrible things I did because of my manic episodes I was left feeling like I was just a bad person and was worthless. It was horrible living everyday knowing something was wrong with me and no one being able to tell me what it was. I just want to say thank you again for everything you are doing. I am looking forward to seeing great advances made one day in the research and treatment of bipolar disorder.
A Mother's Story
I am sitting here in tears and at the same time applauding the efforts of your foundation for tackling an issue that previously did not seem to have a name. Years ago, my daughter Tya exhibited a great deal of the symptoms that bespoke of a mental disorder but nothing conclusive could be applied. I have six children of which Tia is the second born and I noted early on that Tia was a rambunctious kid with a great deal of energy but who also possessed a dark side that I could not fathom at the time. Even in pre-school and kindergarten, teachers who tell me that she was the one who “acted up” in class. And even though she charmed them most of the time, it was when those dark moods hit that drew the most with response to negative reactions. She attacked other children, she was the one running, jumping and doing the more dangerous pursuits on the school playground. She often acted as the aggressor if someone bullied her older sister and she fought those battles as well. Twice she seriously hurt her little brother (pushing him off a terrace-20 ft drop which led to 7 stitches to his head –she was 5, and plowing him into the wall and busting his head while playing ball in the house out of anger-she was 8 and he required 5 stitches to his head).
From Ransom, who wrote to the Foundation and volunteered to share his story:
My name is Ransom and i am 23 years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 3 years ago shortly after my brother died in a motorcycle accident. This event completely tore my life apart, but my problems started long before that. At age 12 i began experimenting with drugs and alcohol to cope with the divorce of my parents and the lack of my father being around. I learned at a young age it was easier to just pick up a bottle or a pipe to make any emotional pain go away. My mom recognized in my early teens that i had problems and scheduled many appointments with psychiatrists. They were all quick to prescribe anti depressants and send me on my way. I had problems in school with attention so i was prescribed medication for ADD as well. I was always lead to believe there were just medications to fix anything. It was all a bit of a joke to me. I was always getting into fights and honestly i was angry and difficult to deal with most of the time. I would be fine one minute then some small comment or event would just set me off. I wanted everything my way. Nothing was good enough for me. When i was a junior in high school my father passed away. I hadn't seen him in several years but it still hurt. My father was diagnosed with bipolar when he was older and was bulimic but refused to get treatment. He chose alcohol to make himself feel better and according to the coroner he died from liver failure. I knew none of this until after his death. I moved on with my life struggling but i graduated from high school and started college. I was still drinking quite heavily at this time but my older brother John began to heavily influence my life and i began to slow down and see the changes i needed to make for the good.
Like me my brother had problems at a young age but somehow he dramatically changed his life and was sober and very happy with life now. I became very close to him and he slowly molded me and taught me many things. He was my father figure and i wanted to be him. I was 19 by now and he was 22. Then things took a turn for the worst. My brother had been out riding motorcycle with a good friend of mine late one night and they had crashed. My brother did not survive. Losing my brother broke my heart. I felt cheated in life and nothing had ever hurt me like that did. I quit going to school and I began drinking extremely heavy after that. I used drugs, money and anything else i could find to numb the pain as well. I got to a point were i was in bed for days not caring if i lived or died and not having the energy to kill myself, i was so burned out. My mother realized i was in a life or death situation, having dealt with my father she knew what would happen if nothing was done. Luckily she was friends with someone who got me an appointment with a good psychiatrist. I thought here we go again, but this time it was different. This doctor was a specialist in the bipolar field and after two appointment's diagnosed me with bipolar. We began trying out medications for the illness and found that a mood stabilizer was what i needed. Since i have been on the medication life has been easier but not everyday is a picnic. Even medicated my moods are not stable at times. I am often negative and hard to deal with. I probably don't always try to understand things instead i just make them what i want in my head. One of the hardest things about being bipolar is being in a relationship. I have been in many relationships in the last few years. All undoubtedly ending because of my unstable moods at times and lack of being understanding at times. The women i have been with that i felt like i could tell about my illness either never gave me a chance because of it or left me cause they couldn't deal with me because of it. I have made many mistakes in the past but the relationship I'm in now makes me want to be a better person. I love this woman very much and want to spend my life with her. She is more understanding than i could ever dream someone could be and i know she loves me. That is a good feeling. I have hurt many people in the past and in the process hurt myself but I am making an effort to change that and make my life better now. I have many dreams i wish to accomplish in spite of having this illness hold me down at times.
I look forward to the day that my child is born and marrying my girlfriend. That to me is success in life and makes me smile. I am current working on a book about my life and living with bipolar disorder from my perspective. Before i was diagnosed with bipolar disorder i had no idea what it was. What i want people to know whether you have been diagnosed or somehow know someone who has been is that it is a disease. Its something you cannot control at times but with help people with bipolar can lead perfectly normal lives. Everything in the mind of someone bipolar can be extremely sensitive. It takes patients to deal with it at times but give it a chance. Living life on that happy middle part can be a struggle some days and it cannot be achieved alone. It takes medication for most and it definitely takes support from the people around you that love you. I have learned to vent my feelings through writing, art, and music. I thank god for making me this way and i wouldn't change me. I see things differently and I've learned to use this to my advantage. I am trying my hardest to get the most out of life and be happy. I have found that every negative thing that happens can have positive effect on you if you choose to see it that way. This is a short story of what i have been through and what i deal with everyday. I hope that if someone reads this they have learned something about what its like being bipolar or maybe makes it easier to understand why people are the way they are sometimes. Just keep your mind and heart open and look for the positive in things. I thank you for your time in reading this.
SPREADING AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING
The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation is also proud to highlight some of our supporters and their unique efforts to spread awareness and understanding of Bipolar Disorder and to help erase the stigma associated with this insidious illness.
Mrs. Jean Matthews, who designed and created a Bipolar Christmas Tree in honor of The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, described her project this way:
"'Polar Opposites' is the name of this tree which was on view at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens West Palm Beach, Florida, for their inaugural Festival of Trees. Over two dozen themed Christmas trees were on view from December 1, 2007 through December 16, 2007. Trees were trimmed by school children, decorators, families, and individuals.
Jean Matthews used an enlargement of the Foundation's Bipolar Awareness Pin as the tree topper and she placed North Pole polar bears on the top of the tree and South Pole penguins on the lower half of the tree. The polar bears and the penguins wore black and white polka dot bow ties and The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation awareness bibs.
The children and families who came to see the trees for the Festival of Trees loved the polar bears and the penguins."