Friday, June 24, 2016

A Letter to My Little Cousin, Recently Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

Dear Little Cousin,

When your mother told me that you had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I cried.

I wept because I did not want anyone else in the family to walk the road I am on with my own bipolar disorder diagnosis. I wept because bipolar disorder can be more difficult to manage the younger that you are when you are diagnosed. I was 23 when my symptoms surfaced. You are 14. I feel that is too young to have to deal with emotional and mental concerns.

And yet visiting you in the hospital was bittersweet. It dredged up memories of my own hospitalizations – all four of them – but I was glad that you were receiving treatment and on the road to recovery and wellness.

Attending your 8th grade graduation, my heart swelled with pride. And love. And hope. I felt all of this because the last few months were not easy for you. You had more than your fair share of challenges to overcome. Thankfully, you did not have to do any of it alone.

The relationship you have developed with your therapist warms my heart. She has impacted you to your core, so much so that you, too, now want to be a therapist. That would be the ultimate way of paying it forward, of passing on what was instilled into you.

I know you are only 14, but if this career goal sticks, I know that you will make an excellent therapist. You have firsthand knowledge of what it means to live in mood instability and mood stability. You know the impact of a caring adult and professional; and from what you told me about how you relate to your peers, listening and giving advice, you are already honing important skills.

Listening to you talk about your newfound career interests made me beam with pride. I, too, want to become a therapist because of my own experiences with my diagnosis. I, too, have been blessed with great, caring mental health providers and I want to pay it forward.

I hope that I can also be a role model for you in how to live in recovery and instability. I’ve had nearly ten years to learn about my bipolar disorder. I’ve learned to be reflective and proactive. If you ever need help navigating your moods or self-care or high school next year, I’m here.

Love always,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Law of Averages, Mania, and Spring

I survived Spring 2016!

Every spring for the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2015) I became manic and was hospitalized for a number of days. I was worried that I'd bat four-for-four and also become manic this year. However, that was not the case. And I am so relieved.

Earlier this year my boyfriend mentioned the Law of Averages to me regarding the streak of manias I had been experiencing. He claimed for me that my luck would change, that after three years in a row I was bound to have some reprieve.

Back in February and March, on about two occasions, I felt the twangs of mania: hyperproductivity and insomnia. But luckily nothing came of it.

To stave off the mania, I continue to take my prescription medications; I see my psychiatrist and therapist regularly; I increased the number of acupuncture treatments I receive per month; and I continue to make self-care and sleep priorities.

I know there's no magic bullet to living in recovery, but I like my system. Every component is important, but perhaps the most important two, for me, are sleep and meds.

Additionally, I am glad that I made it through my first year of my graduate school program without a hospitalization. I experienced my first bipolar episodes (one depression and one mania) ten years ago when I attended graduate school for my Master's in Education. I took a leave of absence from the program to focus on my recovery and wellness and would not graduate until two years later. Now, back in graduate school, this time for a Master's in Social Work, I am happy that the first year is down, and without any mental health crises. Just two more years of grad school to go. I'm claiming that I'll be bipolar episode free for the duration.

I know that relapse is part of the disorder. And I've learned to handle both the depression and mania as best can be expected. But I'm hoping the Law of Averages holds true for the next few years.