When you finally get the correct diagnosis…you can feel so many different things. For me, it changed everything. I was able to do my research and find patterns from the past that I had never noticed to be warning signs. Once you are diagnosed, you have the chance to help yourself and others around you. Yes, it is so final. It can be scary. What I ask people is…would you rather know what is wrong or forever guess? When I was first told I was Bipolar, I didn’t tell anyone. I was scared of how people would react. It’s no secret that Mental Illness is viewed as a completely negative thing. I mean, growing up I can’t even count how many times I heard people say “she is so bipolar I swear”. So I began to think, should I even tell people? Should I just deal with it alone? Will the people who love me accept me? Will my significant other leave me because I am “messed up”?
These are all valid feelings. What I will say is that the people who love you will surprise you. I have spent years keeping things from my mom and dad to keep them safe from some of the pain. When I think back to my teenage years I can’t help but wonder how my Mom must have been feeling. Now that I have Grace, I am terrified to see her struggle. It’s been years since that night she came into the kitchen, but we still struggle. For some, this is harder to comprehend. I truly believed that keeping them as much in the dark as possible was the right answer. It wasn’t. I am so grateful that now I can be more open and honest with them. This did not happen overnight…I promise. It’s an everyday thing, but we work on it together. That’s all you can do.
Getting diagnosed is a process. I started seeing a therapist after that one dreadful night. She diagnosed me with Unipolar Depression (obviously not my freaking issue). Now that I am older and have become more aware; I know now that teenagers are extremely hard to diagnose properly. This is why so many people get re-evaluated once they enter adulthood. My mental health drastically declined once I hit twenty. Here I was–out of my fucking mind. Sorry, excuse the language. I was so confused. I got in to see a psychiatrist and started explaining to her what was going on. There I sat, in this cute little office…and she told me I was Bipolar. NOT ONLY BIPOLAR…BIPOLAR ONE. Like, have you ever read about that? It’s freaking scary when you read about it on google. LOL. But I know firsthand how awful it is to not understand your mind. It felt somewhat good to have an answer.
Mental illness (to me), is a problem that never goes away. There’s no clear answer. No clear solution. There are those people who believe it can go away…eh, don’t think so. Would be nice though. This is life, but there’s so much you can do to come to terms with your diagnosis. I truly believe that once you accept your diagnosis, it is easier for you to let others be involved in your journey. I shielded Tristan from a lot when we first started dating, and I feel bad about that. Maybe if I would have been more honest from the beginning, there would have been more understanding on his end. He has been such a huge part of my recovery and I am so thankful for how accepting he is of me. I believe that it’s time for everyone to be more understanding of mental illness. If people were more accepting, the world would be a better place. The stigma surrounding mental illness is idiotic. If I should be ashamed, how am I ever going to get help?
Coping with a diagnosis is hard enough…but now you have to start focusing on how to cope for the rest of your life. I wanted to share some techniques that I have found helpful, and some that I am still trying to master myself. Hopefully this gives some people some guidance.
Total acceptance. Radically accepting your illness. There is nothing you can do about it. This is a situation you cannot change…accept that. Accept that you can’t stop the storm from coming, but you can prepare yourself for it. Once you come to terms with your illness, it no longer controls you. It no longer holds the reins. Acceptance kept me safe. When I was able to understand that it isn’t MY fault…everything changed.
- Triangle Breathing: Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3, then breathe out for 3.
- Star Breathing: This is in the shape of a star. Breathe in, hold, then breathe out.
- Square Breathing: Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, Breathe out for 4.
These are a few techniques that I have learned over the past few years. The diagrams you can find anywhere. With my anxiety as bad as it has been, controlling my breathing has really helped keep me grounded. If I am ever feeling overwhelmed I take a break and focus on just my breathing. It is peaceful.
I want to focus on my absolute favorite grounding exercise. The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique. This involves all of your senses, and it has helped me so much with my anxiety. You need to ask your self these five things…
- What five things can you see around you?
- What four things can you physically touch and feel?
- What three things can you hear around you?
- What two things can you smell?
- What can you taste?
By putting your focus on your surroundings, you take away the need to think the bad thoughts. You can take your mind away from the feeling, even just for a little bit. This has greatly helped me when I feel a panic attack coming. My Mimi knitted a lion that hangs on my keys…it has become my stress ball. The texture of it helps keep me there.
Opposite to Emotion Thinking.
This is one of my newer techniques that I am trying. It’s exactly what it sounds like…the opposite of everything your feeling. You want to isolate? No, go out instead and call your friends. Anxious? Go meditate. Manic? Find something to bring you down and stabilize you (for me, that’s yoga). This is something I am still working on, but I think it is something that would be amazing for me. Being able to battle the negative feelings and turn them into something good…well, that’s amazing in itself.
Living with Bipolar Disorder is hard. Every day it’s something. There are so many things you can do to help yourself get by. It is so important that you find healthy outlets…I know how easy it is to get into the wrong things while trying to deal. I want y’all to know that it is okay to be scared. If you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health, be a friend. Be there for them. Things get better as the days go by. Don’t EVER be ashamed of who you are. Your struggles make you stronger. You got this shit.
Please feel free to go to my contact page and shoot me an email. I am always here for ANYONE who needs someone. Thank you.