Tag Archives: Bipolar Disease

Surviving the Holiday when you are Bipolar

Being Bipolar brings heightened anxiety when the holidays come around.  The issues regular people have, bring a twist that can be difficult to negotiate.  Here are a few suggestions that might ease your way through the quagmire of human emotions, both yours and those of your loved ones.

Remember that “This too shall pass”.  As hard as the holidays can be for some people, especially those with this disease, it helps to realize that a moment is just that, one that passes quickly to be replaced by another.

  1. God don’t make junk.  When your ego is flagging, or criticism comes to bear, it is important to remember this short phrase.
  2. Pause – don’t forget to take some time out, even on the day when you are getting together with family or friends. When feeling overwhelmed, take a walk or go to a quiet room.  If possible, and you really need to, leave and go home.  Put yourself in your place of safety.
  3. Pray and meditate. It doesn’t matter what your religion is or isn’t.   Say the Serenity Prayer.
  4. Bring a support person. A friend who “gets” you can make the difference between a difficult event and an enjoyable one.
  5. Put yourself in places or events where your soul feel’s nourished. Do special things you have been hankering to do…go to a Winter event that evokes good feelings. Even driving around to see the lights on other people’s homes is fun.  Go with a group and it’s even better.  Go Caroling.  Take a long walk in a nature preserve. Build a snowman. Go to a play.  Watch Christmas stories, especially the children’s ones.
  6. Explain your feelings if being criticized or put-down.
  7. Help others out. Nothing does more to bring the Spirit to life than extending a hand to someone in need.
  8. Eat healthy so you don’t have to shed those extra pounds for the next six months.
  9. Realize you are not alone. Many People have difficulty with the Holidays.  It’s small comfort but it helps.
  10. Don’t imbibe too much alcohol or do drugs. It just aggravates the problem.
  11. Opt out. If you just can’t make yourself go, if family is just too difficult, do something else.  Some churches and soup kitchens have holiday dinners. Make your own special meal.  Invite friends over to your home.

The point is to bring the focus back on the meaning of the Holidays and make yourself comfortable as you go through them.  You don’t have to do it “Their” way.      Make it matter to you.


Combatting Bipolar Disease on a daily basis

Do you know that old time hymn “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart . . . I’ve got the Peace of God, Peace of God Down in my Heart”? Well for me, and I suspect, most BiPolar people, that just doesn’t track. The cynic, and the disease, tug me away from those feelings.

For me, a wellspring of sadness and despair coat my linings, much like that Pepto Bismol commercial. Anxiety flavors the mix. My heart is treacly coated with the stuff. I can be laughing, giggling, joyful even, and still can touch that pain and despair, still feel the anxiety. There isn’t any distraction from it. Even with a stable medication regimen, anxiety pervades my consciousness and dreams. I am haunted by Depression.

Amnesty International’s latest annual report speaks to a paradigm shift worldwide into Depression and Despair writes Mark Kerstan on May 27, 2017. I suspect much of that is normal despair, not the kind of thing BiPolars’ experience, but still, it’s a frightening fact.

Moreover, we need to continually monitor our frustration and anger levels as they are two heads on the same coin. Our emotions can escalate and drop at alarming rates and anger is a seductive release from the pent-up pain we carry within.

Coping strategies that work for some, may not work for others. Know them, read up on the latest research and articles, but ultimately you may need to pick and choose among them to find out what works best for you. Millions globally find much relief in Mindfulness Meditation and even though I practiced it for a year, I just can’t slow down the chatter my mind offers up. I have found reading and writing work for me. So does housework. Repetitive activities comfort others – coloring, sewing, cooking. Music therapy is wonderful. Some swear by Affirmations – put a poster of them up on your wall for you to tap into.

I do try to observe negative coping strategies and reduce or eliminate them. Some practices simply serve to agitate me further. I look for something that works better. For instance, when the sorrow and anxiety grow too uncomfortable, I look for someone I trust to unburden myself upon. It sounds crappy, using someone like that, but I try to respect their decision to not listen when they choose or need to. If they accept that role, unburden away, get that pain out of you.

Ask yourself, Do I want to be in control? Is that what is making me squirrely? Antsy unrest, obsessive thinking, and nervous irritability are symptoms of Bipolar depression or mania, with possibly a co-existing anxiety disorder. Everything feels hopeless. The mountain is too hard to climb and I’ve run out of power bars and water. Or my body is too handicapped to even begin the walk, even on a flat surface I am limited. For me, its a sure reason for anxiety and depression. I hate my limitations. Fear builds because I see the never endingness of my life situation.

And don’t even get me started on Money, maintaining friendships, or dreamed of escaping, having sustainable, or any, social life. Seeing and being all those things I dreamed of escaping – sands through the hourglass – fear builds. Just the daily stress of life can prove too anxiety producing.

What it boils down to is relatively simple. Find coping strategies that work for you. Keep seeing a therapist. Talk to others about your feelings, keep on the right medication regimen for yourself. Practice Humility – give up the need to be in control. “Let Go and Let God”. Radical acceptance – forcing yourself to see things as they really are (although I sometimes prefer living in my fantasy world), and not as they should be, is a trending treatment. Pray – turn your burdens to a Higher Power. When I do that I experience a measure of peace for a while – and then have to start all over again.

Even with all the helpfulness available to us, we BiPolars have to realize that we have a Disease that is not going to magically disappear. There will be good times and bad. We just need to find our way through the morass and use the tools that work for us.

Advanced Directive for Psychiatric Issues

In the article, “When Treatment is Traumatic” by Melody Moezzi in the Fall 2016 edition of Bp Magazine, I read something I had never considered, that of needing Advance Directives for one’s Mental Health and a detailed crisis plan. She discussed having had good hospitalizations and bad ones. And, that we can specify which mental health facilities we want to go to and vice versa.

Included with that was we have the right to specify what drugs we do not want to take and treatments we do not want . . . ones we may have had adverse reactions to in the past when physicians and psychiatrists may not have access to that information. She also speaks to vetting your own psychiatrist . . . research the person, interview others who have had that person, interview that psychiatrist before committing to sharing your deepest secrets with him or her. She reports this cuts down on the trauma hospitalization may cause.

Accordingly, I did a little research about PAD’s (Psychiatric Advance Directives) and some of the present problems within the system now. One good instruction manual for the development of your PAD is at:

It answers the questions you may have about how to go through the process of specifying your needs and writing them down. It explains the legal process and what your rights are.

As Duff Wilson says in the December 11, 2009 issue of the NY Times, this can help protect poor children who are presently likelier to receive powerful Antipsychotics than treatment and therapy because the latter are more expensive. In fact, poor children are 4 times more likely to receive powerful anti-psychotics than middle-class children who have private insurance. Medicaid may push for this but just remember – you have the right to push right back. An educated consumer has the right to Appeal and make informed choices even when on Medicaid. These drugs have long-standing to permanent metabolic changes and drastic weight gain. It stands to reason the same factors may apply to adult psychiatric patients.

The David L. Bazelon Center also speaks to this issue. Patients may be restrained, seclusion, forced hospitalization or receive forced treatment and medications if they do not have a standing PAD. We need to have copies of our PADs at our Pediatrician or Primary Physician and/or Psychiatrist as well as with our Mental Illness Medical Advocate. Many times earlier intervention can eliminate the need for such serious and draconian measures. Many times our Primary Care Physician administers Psychiatric drugs because there is too long a wait for a Psychiatrist and treatment is necessary. However, they rarely have the training to make such decisions and so may administer the wrong drugs because the family or physician feels it is necessary or that they don’t have other options.

David L. Bazelon Center http://www.bazelon.org/Where-We-Stand/Self-Determination/Forced-Treatment.aspx
Another factor for consideration is because family counseling or psychiatrist counseling sessions are more expensive, Medicaid may resist paying for them with poor patients. In other words, we are discriminated against, something that should come as no surprise to most of us.

A couple of final things:

UPENN Collaborative on Community Involvement
A Guidebook for Creating a Mental Health Advance Plan or Psychiatric Advance Directive

This organization provides a 32 page document covering all aspects of preparing for your mental illness needs in the future but in easy to understand terms. Not all of which may be directly relavent to you personally. Neverthless, it is a useful reference to draw from as you create the document that suits your exact needs. Just remember to periodically review your PAD because your needs may change over time.

There is also the DBSA Wellness Toolbox – “[A] Collection of self-help and wellness tools to help you communicate better with your doctor, keep track of your symptoms and moods, record the progress you’re making and help you reach recovery.


I have a Living Will but you can bet I’ll be drawing up a PAD ASAP.