When you suffer from a disease like Bipolar it’s extremely important that you become intimately in tune with yourself. Not in sense that your favorite movie is “Steel Magnolias” or “Raging Bull” or that you love pizza and taking long walks on the beach. I mean in the sense that you know how your moods manifest in your day-to-day life.
Being bipolar and trying to remain a contributing member of society is a difficult task. Many wonderful, talented, bright people watch helplessly as their functionality escapes through their fingers like grains of sand. And these are people who are on meds! Some even go to therapy, too! Sometimes, the more we fight to hang on the quicker the ground gives way beneath us.
One tactic I attribute to remaining somewhat functional for the past 7 years is acute awareness of my early warning signs. It works just like the emergency broadcast system except without the annoying beep! It gets tested regularly to make sure it’s still relevant and it’s there in case of an emergency. It even has an emergency number to call…the one that rings my psychiatrist.
Now, when I say early warning signs, I mean EARLY! Not things like “I’ve been crying for days and don’t know why” or “I went out and spent $5000.00 on a new television but didn’t pay the electric bill.” Those are examples of symptoms of an ensuing episode. It may end up being minor, but it’s better to catch the signs long before this stage.
The signs I’m talking about are infinitely subtler. They require a magnifying glass to properly identify. No one can tell you for sure what yours are, but some close friends or relatives may be able to point out some behavior patterns that qualify. I also recognize more than just the early signs. Intermediate signs can play an important roll if the early signs don’t show themselves or get ignored.
Here are some samples of my signs:
1. I start to see shadows or movement out of the corner of my eye, but when I turn and look there is nothing. I usually think I saw a bug or spider and I HATE bugs and spiders.
2. I am unable to pick out clothes without standing in the closet and staring for 10 minutes at a time. Then, out of frustration, I leave, only to return again 10 minutes later to start the cycle again. Some days it’s okay to do this, but if goes on for more than 3 days it’s a warning sign for me.
3. One occurrence of staying up all night. I am a big sleeper and this is a huge no-no for me!
4. While screening my calls (which I normally do anyway) if I don’t pick up when my friends call, that’s definitely a sign. UNLESS I’m taking a nap and then it doesn’t count!
5. Waking up more than once in the middle of the night or waking up and not being able to get back to sleep so I get on the computer instead. Once is okay, twice is a phone call to my doctor!
6. Not wanting to read bedtime stories to my son. This is a special time and if I’m not in the mood, then my mood is out of whack!
Intermediate Warning Signs
1. When I hear people talking and assume it’s about me and how fat, ugly, mean, stupid, etc. I am; then I’m on the way to the phone!
2. Not wanting to shower at least every other day. Hey, I don’t sweat and I just sit at the computer, so I don’t think it hurts to skip a day here and there!
3. Staring out the window for 10-15 minutes at a time, yet not seeing anything or even realizing that I’m doing it.
4. Taking over the conversation no matter who I’m talking to at that moment or even who they’re talking to at the moment.
5. Wanting to go to the mall. Not actually going, just thinking about going is enough. Sounds silly doesn’t it? For me it means I want to spend money and I don’t have much disposable income. Plus, I’m not real fond of shopping. Even when I need something I still don’t like to go!
Most of these things have to happen a few times over a period of a couple days to count as a true sign. Usually a couple will occur together and then there is no doubt. As soon as I’m leery I call my psychiatrist and he will adjust my dosage of medicines. Sometimes he will quiz me about my diet and fluid intake as well and correct it if necessary. (He’s smart enough not to eliminate my chocolate though!) If I’m getting into multiple intermediate signs then I will even go in for a visit. My sanctity is worth it!
I have a responsibility to myself to remain as healthy as possible. It’s hard to do if you don’t know when you’re becoming unstable. And I can’t wait until I’m into a full-blown episode because a darling angel depends on me. So I do it for him, too. But mostly I do it because I like myself more when I can think rationally.
So, let’s do our best to stay healthy and be kind to ourselves as we struggle through the torment of this debilitating disease together!
Terry J. Coyier is a 37-year-old college student studying for an Associates of Applied Sciences degree. She is also a freelance writer who writes about bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Terry was diagnosed with bipolar ten years ago. She lives with her son in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. Terry is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers and her personal portfolio can be viewed here.
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