According to curetogether.com, which aggregates the responses of thousands of patients.
1 – Creativity. Visual arts, performance, writing, music; in all the arts bipolar talent is common and sometimes exceptional. Patty Duke, Ernest Hemingway, Trent Reznor, Sylvia Plath, many more. The link between bipolar disorder and creativity is well-established, though further study is needed. One research finding: as many as 60% of people with bipolar disorders are writers.
2 – Energy. Not sleeping for two or three days without feeling effects is even better than modafanil (Provigil). People take all sorts of stimulants attempting to experience similar energy; if you could bottle this symptom of mania and hypomania, you’d make a mint.
3 – Exuberance. Kay Redfield Jamison, prominent psychiatrist who studies and has bipolar, wrote the book Exuberance: The Passion For Life in celebration of the passion and joy in mania and hypomania. “Exuberance,” Jamison says, “is an abounding, ebullient, effervescent emotion.” And it’s contagious. Bipolar disorder spreads happiness; think Mary Poppins.
4 – Unlike Mary (well, we don’t know for sure), lust a.k.a. “hypersexuality” is also a prominent feature of hypomania. People with bipolar disorders tend to be dazzling, passionate and adventurous lovers.
5 – Perspective on emotions. What goes up, must come down, and back up again. Viewing life and issues from both ends makes you more philosophical about the meaning of things. Would this matter when not depressed? Would that seem a good idea when stable? Emotions become illusory flavourings.
6 – Proof of the biological basis of mental illness, especially this one but it disproves dualism in general. More scientific evidence and ongoing research plus personal anecdotes asserting internal causes and correlates of depression and hypo/mania (as well as some environmental interactions, it’s not totally reductionist) than you could ever hope to read. Hands down, no debate here, it’s physical.
7 – Lots of bipolar celebrities. “Did you know so-and-so had bipolar disorder?” is an easy conversation starter, raising an eyebrow, implicitly comparing yourself to Marilyn Monroe, Florence Nightingale or Winston Churchill.
8 – Depth of experience. You’ll not meet more experienced, well-travelled, multi-dimensional people. Exceptional and often unusual stories to share. Could be because people with bipolar disorders, so often adventurous, tend to be high-achievers and leaders with above average intelligence.
9 – Courage. Tied in with bravado and gradiosity, at its most severe it can be dangerous risk-taking, but at its best it’s inspiring and heroic.
10 – Depression. What’s good about depression, you ask? Light needs shadow, and the most profound understanding includes both. It illuminates the whole human experience.
Poem that received honorable mention at the 2013 Adult Mental Health Poetry Contest sponsored by the Texas Department of State Health Services Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division
by Judy Eron
Jim and I, we had a life that you would not believe.
Found at once what it takes others lifetimes to achieve.
He said he had found his twin; I said much the same about him.
It worked well for me and Jim—for me and Jim and lithium.
Four pink capsules every day. He said it saved his life.
Thirteen hundred milligrams, and it was joy to be his wife.
Love is strong and love can last, but mania can kick love’s ass,
Which mania did to me and Jim, when he stopped his lithium.
I know Jim stopped his medicine, longing for the high,
Forgetting all the messes that his illness would intensify.
I tried to help but all in vain; I had no chance against his brain.
I’d have moved the earth for him. But I was just not lithium.
We missed the chance to have the talks that likely could have led
To a plan to deal with what would happen if he stopped his meds.
If Jim were here, he would have cared and helped others be more prepared.
Believe me, you’d have loved that Jim—the one who took his lithium.
By Sonnet Fitzgerald
I have bipolar 1, and when I am really manic I can even go into psychosis. My mental illness is pretty severe. (And that’s ON medication, which I take every day.) However, as my psychologist says about me, I “present very well.” This means that to most people, it’s not apparent on meeting me or talking to me that I have a mental illness at all.
Actually, now that I think about it, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the majority of mental illnesses wouldn’t be apparent to the casual observer. I mean it’s not like you get a little “crazy geiger counter” pinned to your lapel that starts to click and beep if your neurons are starting to misfire or your seratonin levels are dropping. When we picture obvious mental illness, like people shuffling about talking to themselves, we’re usually thinking about schizophrenia if I am not mistaken. That leaves a whole heck of a lot of other diagnoses that can affect you without people stopping in the street to do a double take and whisper “look at the crazy person” behind their hands.
A mood disorder is just that: It affects your mood. Your mental and emotional state get all scrambled up. That can be excruciating to deal with, but it doesn’t make you do crazy things. It just feels bad.
I know I tend to go all ‘gatekeeper’ on my symptoms. I try not to expose the people around me to the worst of my symptoms, so when I am feeling off, I stay home and isolate myself quite a bit until I have recovered my footing. When I am feeling hypomanic, people think I’m just cheerful and funny and I sure do get a lot done! None of that signals “mentally ill” to most people. If I have a major problem, I call my doctors or even take myself to the hospital – people in my circles don’t see or deal with me when I’m in those states, because I get help right away. I wonder if this is the same for you? You have symptoms, but you get very good at managing them in a social sense: at hiding the worst of it from those around you. It’s not a bad thing, it can be a great coping skill actually, unless you are using it to avoid treatment in the first place.
I will give you a word of caution: Once you become good at presenting well and keeping up a normal life, people get quite shocked when they find out you have bipolar, and I have encountered some people in my life who were almost offended by my diagnosis. They don’t believe it and seem to think that I’m making it all up. Which is amazingly difficult to do with a team of three psychologists, psychiatrists, and a hospital involved (not to mention my health insurance) but hey! You just might want to prepare yourself for that a bit. At first it’s this fear that anyone will find out. Then you tell people and they don’t believe you anyway. Bugger all.
In any case. It doesn’t hurt anything to get yourself checked out. I mean, say you go to a healthcare professional of some sort and explain your symptoms and they say, “Nope, not bipolar at all, you sound very normal.” Well then you haven’t lost anything – you can put your concern aside and breathe a little easier and know you’ve got nothing to worry about. And if you do have bipolar, you can start figuring out treatment that will help you feel a bit better. So win-win, really.
I felt really bad when I met Eric Clapton at a Test match at Lord’s a couple of years ago. Not bad as in depressed; in fact, I was rather happy. But bad in that since 3 March 1996, I have always associated Eric Clapton with deep depression, and a desire to match up dead feelings inside with an external reality – aka a suicidal thought.
It wasn’t his fault. He was his usual brilliant self, delighting thousands in a packed Albert Hall. It wasn’t my fault either. I was just depressed. Seven out of 10 depressed. I grade my depressions. Eight and a half is can’t-get-out-of-bed bad. Nine is can’t open my eyes, dress, shave, brush my teeth. At seven out of 10, with Clapton getting the rest of the crowd going, I could not hide how low I felt. Conversation was impossible. Other people’s enjoyment and laughter drove me down. Any attempt to draw me in served only to push me further away. I recorded in my diary that halfway through I said I was going for a pee, and went off on my own, hanging around outside. I was “just disengaged, dead inside, and desperate to get home. It was a real ‘life is a bitch and then you die’ moment”.
That was the moment I thought of when I heard Stephen Fry’s observation that sometimes he can be laughing and joking as he presents QI and inside he is thinking: “I wish I was f**king dead.”
I wished I was dead when Eric Clapton did “Layla”. Again, no offence Eric, and I felt especially bad that it was his concert that was driving me down, he having suffered what I imagine to be the greatest loss of all, that of a child. But when the depressive downward spiral hits, there is nothing you can do to stop it, and everything you try just seems to make it worse.
I knew I shouldn’t have gone, but I also knew that would disappoint friends who had invited us, and I was already disappointing my partner Fiona who could tell I was mid-plunge. She thought maybe going out would help. I knew that it wouldn’t, and the moment we left the house, I longed for the evening to be over. I am often asked by families of depressives if there is anything they should do to help. Be there for them when it starts, I say. Be there for them when it is over. Don’t make them do things they don’t want to in between. Don’t tell them to pull themselves together. Do suggest they get proper professional help. I ignored that one for many years.
Fiona and I have a rhythm with my depressions now. I tell her it has struck. It helps to tells someone. She asks what triggered it. I say I don’t know. She suggests I go and see the man I go to see when I get depressed. I go. Sometimes I take medication – which I hate taking, but it does help – sometimes I tough it out. Always, I know it won’t be the last time. It is part of who I am.
“Real struggle to get out of bed,” I recorded of the morning after the Clapton concert. As he, his wife and I sat watching the cricket, I thought about telling him about that awful night, but decided against. I find it hard to describe depression when, as now, I am not depressed. It is the mental health equivalent of childbirth. You have to forget, or else you wouldn’t be able to face it again.
I have faced it many times, though for years I drowned it out in drink, and perhaps at other times crowded it out with work. You hope it helps that you can say to yourself: “You have been through this before, you can do it again.” But when the moment comes, when you know that depressive cloud is moving in, and you cannot stave it off, and it is going to enter your head, your chest, your guts, your legs, your toes, your bones, your teeth and every fibre of mind and body, it is like the first time all over again. Dead and alive at the same time.
Stephen Fry said that perhaps if he had children, it might make him less suicidal when in the depths of a depression. He is probably right. I can’t remember how much I thought of my children when Clapton was performing, but I know I will have done. They are adults now, and I know that when they were young it was an unfair burden to place on them, but they were the only ones whose company could sometimes lift me when I was down.
Yet, of course, some parents do kill themselves. I remember several years ago, a leading politician telling me a friend had taken his own life, and the politician had harsh words for this act of “cowardice and cruelty”.
We ended up having a row. “Who are you to say he was a coward?” Back came the answer. “He had a good job, a nice house, great wife, two lovely sons – what did he have to be depressed about?” We hear it less than we used to, but hear it we do. Stephen Fry is often called a national treasure. He is clever, witty, hugely successful, massively popular. So “what does he have to be depressed about?” Nothing. He just is.
It is to change the attitudes of those who think “what does Stephen Fry have to be depressed about?” that the Time to Change campaign exists. We are a long way from the goal of parity of understanding and treatment of physical and mental health. You would never say: “What does he have to be cancerous about, diabetic about, asthmatic about?” That bloody Stephen Fry, always going on about his rheumatoid arthritis, his club foot, his bronchitis, his Crohn’s disease.
Nobody ever gets blamed for getting physical illness – even when those illnesses do result from lifestyle choices – so why on earth do we still talk about depression like it is the fault, and the lifestyle choice, of the depressive? Believe me, nobody who has had it would choose it for themselves, nor wish it on their worst enemy.
My wife has a small YouTube channel and recently shared her story with Bipolar. I thought it was incredibly brave and I’m really proud of her for doing this. For the record, we’ve been happily married for almost 2 years and have known each other for 4. I couldn’t picture my life turning out any other way or with any other person.
By Maria Diaz
Here is a common scene: I go to my friendly neighborhood chain retail store. I wander the aisles and pick up chips, a bag of Lindt truffles, a totally useless item like a Pedi-Egg or serenity fountain, an Essie polish in a futile attempt to do my own nails, and I finally head to the back, to the pharmacist, to pick up my bimonthly dose of antipsychotics.
The pharmacy clerk always gives me the once-over once I make my way to the counter. Sometimes they speak in a hushed tone usually only reserved for Plan B purchases. “Lithobid?” they ask, referring to my medication by its brand name, in an attempt to be discreet. I nod yes.
The bottle they hand me however, makes no such pretenses: it calls my crazy out, plain as day and is marked Lithium Carbonate in big, bold letters.
Admitting you take lithium is not an easy thing to do. Even in our happy pill-popping times, lithium is seen as the final frontier of brain meds, instantly lobotomizing those that take it and turning them into a zombie.
Lithium is for BATSHIT INSANE people, not for girls like me.
It turns out, lithium IS for girls like me, girls diagnosed with bipolar 2 (this is also called “soft bipolar” and just reminds me of softcore porn).
Girls who thought that it was just their luck they spent most of their life depressed and anxious. Girls who felt weird impulses every once in a while where they didn’t sleep, spent lots of money, and suddenly became much more interested in pursuing sex only to be followed by months of panic attacks and can’t-get-out-of-bed sadness. Girls like me need lithium very much.
I’ve been on lithium for almost a year now. Sometimes my hands shake. Sometimes the room spins. If I don’t take that little fucker with food, I pay for it later.
If I don’t drink enough water, it makes me feel hungover without the added benefit of getting drunk. Sometimes it makes me really fucking tired. But as long as I can obsessively reload Twitter, I don’t consider myself a zombie of any kind.
When I tell people Im on lithium, they either act like they don’t care, or they express concern that it’s “gotten so bad.” The truth is, it had gotten that bad.
I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 at the age of 29, and tried three other medications before settling on lithium. Within two months, I knew that lithium was my medication soul mate, I knew she was “the one.”
As it turns out, lithium is pretty fucking cool. It pulled me out of an extremely deep depression where I was convinced that my life was effectively over at 29. It gave me the ability to think clearly. The cobwebs that had built up in my brain from years and years of untreated mental illness just started to disappear.
For the first time since I was 13, I was not fighting a constant, pervasive, low-grade depression. I was not casually thinking of suicide every day.
This is one of the weirdest parts of mental illness; what I think separates me from someone without a fucked-up brain. I used to think of dying constantly. Sometimes I would jaywalk and barely miss a car hitting me, and I would think, “It wouldn’t be so bad if that car hit me. At least then this would be over.”
When the lithium really hit, I stopped thinking these things.
In “An Unquiet Mind,” Kay Jamison’s bipolar memoir, one of her rules for lithium users is to keep your medication hidden, so lovers who come over don’t see the bottle and assume the worst. For the past year, I’ve told a few friends I take it, and they’re never sure what to say.
One friend asked to see the pills up close, like you’d ask to see an engagement ring. I’ve told a couple men about it, and none of them seemed too fazed. Then again, I tend to date men who are either similarly medicated or in dire need of medication themselves, so it ain’t no thing.
But, still, I feel that shame sometimes. The shame of needing this medication, and the shame of being “crazy.”
So many people worry they’ll lose some essence of themselves when they take psychiatric medication. For me, the parts of myself I have given up to lithium are not the parts that are worth saving.
Living in constant depression is painful, but when you live it your whole life, it becomes comfortable. Conversely, the person I was when I was hypomanic can be fun, but she is mostly incredibly anxious. She doesn’t sleep, she paces up and down the apartment, she melts down at any sign of rejection, and spills out her Xanax on the kitchen counter and lines it up, “just in case.”
They’re not worth sticking by. I’ll probably have to take lithium or some form of psychiatric medication for the rest of my life, unless I want to fall down the black holes of bipolar disorder over and over again. I’ve already lost so much of my life to it.
Instead of thinking of what medication is taking from me, I like to think of what it’s giving me, what I have yet to uncover because of it.
At this point, I’m done being ashamed about a pill that saved my life, or a biological disorder that I was probably destined to have thanks to my genetics.
This is the real me, with a little help.
More sex. More love. More arguments. More intensity. Monogamy wouldn’t have a chance. More jealousy. More fighting. More impatience. More depression. More suicide. I’d say about one-fifth of the population would die before the age of fifty due to suicide.
There would be suicide clubs. People would join together to kill themselves in certain kinds of ways. It would be hit or miss, as sometimes they would have so much fun being together that they would fall in love instead of killing themselves.
Actually, I take it back, if we were ubiquitous, perhaps our problems would not be problems. People would understand them (since we would all have them), and then the things we do to try to save our lives would become acceptable, socially speaking. They would be normal. And with normality, the isolation and loneliness would diminish, and we wouldn’t feel like the only solution was to die.
All we want is to be understood and loved. But we’re too weird for that. If everyone was like us, no one would be so weird, and our behavior would become normal and we would no longer be sick. No more mental illness.
Honestly, I don’t get it. Why are we considered sick? Sorry. That’s an existential cri du coeur. I know why we are considered sick. I just think it’s so unnecessary. If people could become more accepting of alternative ways of being, mental illness would no longer be a problem.
[Just longing to stop taking my Lithium.]
We all tell our own stories about how we “got” bipolar, but no one can say for certain whether they are accurate. From what I understand, you need a genetic predisposition for the disorder, and then you need stress to trigger it. Stress can come from so many different places that I don’t know if we can assign the blame to any one cause.
Was it the growing separation between me and my wife? Was it stress at work? Was it staying up late to answer questions on the internet? Was it trying to hook up with people on Craigslist? Was it meeting someone I’d met on the internet for three days of sex? Was it falling in love with several women and then breaking up with them? Was it, was it, was it…
Every time I tell the story, something else comes up.
My preferred reason is lack of love. Particularly the physical expression thereof. It made me feel worthless and unvalued. My wife didn’t seem to want me any more and for some reason (incipient bipolar?) that seemed to affect me more deeply than it would other people.
Mind you, I’ve always been a person who needs love more intensely than most. I don’t need the intensity merely at the beginning. I need it all the time. I need to be caught up in my love and I need to feel the intensity of that love through sex.
Was it the birth of our second child? That’s when the sex stopped. That’s when we had a difference of opinion. She didn’t want twins. But it was her body. I wasn’t going to make her carry them. Still, I didn’t want a reduction. I was there to support her, but I didn’t agree with her decision. Was that the beginning of our problems?
Or did she have post partum depression. She couldn’t connect to me during that. Was that the beginning of the stress that led to bipolar?
Or did it happen even earlier, when I was 16, and was considering suicide for the first time, due to loneliness. No one loved me. My parents never connected with me on anything real. They didn’t understand me or appear to want to understand me. I was miserable. Depressed. Only they didn’t believe in depression.
Or was it even earlier. When my brother was born. I had been the center of the universe up until them. Presumably loved, although I don’t remember. Then he was born and got very sick and suddenly there was no attention for me. Everything was focused on him.
I never got any back. When I was a teen, my mother always would spend 20 minutes saying good night to my brother, then poke her head in and say “good night” to me, and go on to my sister. I asked her why, years later. She said, “You seemed like you could take care of yourself.”
I could point to so many different causes. I could make all the important people in my life a villain in one way or another. And I have. But there’s no percentage in that. No love, either.
My parents did the best they knew how. I think they loved me, even though I didn’t feel it. Maybe I couldn’t. Maybe the only love I can feel is sexual. For me, that means total acceptance, when combined with love. Love without sex is not what I need. Sex without love is not what I need. Friendship is not what I need, with or without sex.
I need love expressed physically or I die inside.
I’ve learned I can’t rely on any one person for that. I don’t know if there is even enough love for me with a dozen people, but for the moment, there are two. My wife, who I live with, but don’t have sex with. I love her, but I don’t feel that way about her any more. Something got killed between me and her, maybe when I was sick.
I also have a lover. I rarely see her. Once every two months or so. She’s also married. Neither of us wants to break up our marriages.
Oddly, this causes the least stress in my life. It seems stable. My lover and I talk on the phone once or twice a day, and text often. When I am home, I am home. I am with my wife and children and I am there for them.
Is this bipolar? Is this treatment of bipolar? Is this just me, irrespective of my genes and disorder?
I know people will judge me and think I am immoral. But I remember what it was like to be this close to jumping out my office window on the eighth floor. I know what loneliness has done to me, over and over in my life. I don’t want to get depressed enough to want to die, again. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I do my best not to hurt anyone. The secrecy is a strain, and a source of unhappiness, but the depression is far more scary.
I really do believe this is a matter of life and death. I would not do this if I didn’t think so. I would judge myself as badly as anyone might. I have judged myself badly. Nearly condemned myself to death. I’ve realized that these self judgements are as bad as anything else I do. As unhealthy. So I plead the fifth, and yet, I wish I could feel safe telling my story under my name, instead of having to be anonymous and having people say he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions.
What convictions? I’m just trying to stay alive. As hollow as that sounds.
Bipolar I here. Just a modest disclaimer before I get going – I AM NOT CURED. I still struggle with depression, manic episodes, erratic behavior, and wild and unpredictable mood swings. I’m a 22 year old female, but my symptoms started to really surface when I was 18. I was diagnosed when I was 19. My mom had severe undiagnosed mental illness (some say BP, some say schizophrenia). Either way, she took her own life when I was a teenager because of it, and when I turned 20, I become determined to get a grip on everything.
Like I said, I still struggle with the symptoms, but they are few and far between, and they are so less severe now, I’ve learned to stop, breathe, and let it pass for the most part. Here what I’ve done:
- Medication: I’ve been on lithium, prozac, ambien, and zoloft. I hated all of them and felt they made it a lot worse. I attempted suicide 6 times in the 4 months I was on lithium. I shopped around for psychiatrists and found the perfect one. His approach is amazing, and after my refusing to take any meds for a year and a half, he swayed me to try Lamictal. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but holy baby jesus did it change my life. I really didn’t notice its effects until I was up to about 200mg/day (I’m on 300 now). I was also prescribed Propranolol as needed. Smoking weed has also been one of the only things to help me, but I won’t advocate it, and if you do smoke, just know when to identify a crossed line where it becomes harmful and counterproductive. Whenever I feel like a panic attack or a rage building up, I take two and sit there, which leads me to my next thing…
- Meditation :Now listen, I still can’t meditate. I don’t even know if I’m doing it right, or what constitutes as right. A friend of mine told me about a donation-based meditation society here in Los Angeles called Against the Stream. They have 5 meditation sessions a day, and you pay what you can (if anything). I go maybe once a week, sometimes more if I’m feeling up to it. Just sitting in a room with people being quiet, guiding you through what is essentially a conversation with your own brain and body. It taught me a lot of control and showed me what that relaxing place in my mind feels like, and how to tap into it. Can I go from full blown rage to a quiet blissed out cloud of relaxation – hell no. But sometimes just being shown what’s on the other side of the fence allows you to motivate yourself a bit more. When I meditate, there’s still plenty of chatter in my head, but I cannot stress enough how much just sitting with your eyes closed somewhere quiet (preferably with fresh air) and focusing on your own breathing.. I swear it’s helped me so much. If you don’t have something like Against the Stream, find a local yoga workshop and just ask about any meditation classes or sit ins. If you don’t like leaving your home to be surrounded by obnoxiously and abrasively happy people giggling with their yoga mats (or at least I feel this way), then there are literally hundreds of tapes, DVDs and books to choose from. iTunes has a good share of them, as well. Seriously… just try it.
- Exercise: I cannot stress how much this changed my life. I used to hear this from everyone, but I honestly just thought people who work out were annoying, I didn’t like leaving my home unless I had to, and the gym sounds like my idea of hell. Shoo your cynicism aside, and just do ANYTHING that involves moving your body around and getting your heart rate up. Exercise does not mean going to a gym (hell no). Just find something you like. I started by going for a walk around my block. I’d start walking faster and fast each time. I’m not one for running really, but I started riding my bike. I’d ride further and faster each time I got on. I’d try and run errands so I wasn’t aimlessly riding around, and I assigned some purpose to exercising besides just exercising (my mind would tend to gravitate towards “whatever, this is stupid, I could be home right now”. When I was younger, I loved surfing and swimming. Being in the ocean or in a pool was my favorite thing. I hadn’t done it in years, but I passed a garage sale one day and a guy was selling his surfboard for $40. It was the perfect size for me, and without hesitation I walked up with $40 and brought it home. I like surfing because it’s not something you just decide part way in that you’re done. No, you’re in the ocean. You are fighting waves and paddling hard to get past them and to catch them. It forced adrenaline and physical exertion from me. Even if I didn’t catch any waves, just the rush of paddling past pounding waves and then sitting on my board out in the calm part for a bit, then coming back in. I would come out of the water and literally just collapse from exhaustion and bliss on the sand. My boyfriend skateboards, and I started skateboarding with him. I can’t do any tricks, but just being out there and getting a little sweaty was helpful. Seriously, you don’t have to get a gym membership or make any outlandish commitments, just do something that makes your heart race a bit. It will arguably make the biggest difference. The best part is once you find something you like doing, you get addicted to it and you’ll do it more and more.
- Hobbies: Keep yourself fucking busy. I don’t necessarily mean work or school or otherwise (although that is helpful as long as you enjoy it and it’s interesting). Find ANYTHING. Ideally, something away from technology (sorry, Reddit and gaming don’t really help, to be frank). I play music, and I like making art. Going to museums is one of my favorite things to do. Essentially, you want some sort of physical and mental escape from the rest of your life and what it demands of you. Don’t make the mistake I made of literally sitting in bed for weeks at a time and only getting up to use the bathroom or get food. DO SOMETHING. I can’t tell you what to do because THAT’S UP TO YOU TO DECIDE. Yes, it’s something you have total control and freedom of choice over. Everyone has something they’re into. I randomly came across stitching lately. I like drawing, but for some reason I bought one of those things that’s circular and presses fabric into place. I draw things on the fabric and sew in a design. I’ve got a bunch of patches I’ve made and given to friends. It’s nice. Do something.
- Keep a journal: I’m not talking any “Dear Diary, here’s a list of everything I did today” bullshit. Although, that is useful for some people, but not me. I used to have a problem (well, still do) with self esteem, and literally thought my ideas were so stupid and useless that I didn’t even want to write them down for fear that someone would find it, read it and judge me. Any stupid thought or sentence or image that comes to mind, WRITE IT DOWN. It’s fun going back and reading it again months or years later. Even the embarrassing stuff, you’ll feel good that you were brave enough to get it out of your head. Yes, that is an accomplishment. Getting shit out of your head is especially tough for people with bipolar or depression. My journal is more like a scrapbook. I save everything – pictures, receipts, fortunes from fortune cookies, funny newspaper clippings… whatever. My inspiration is Dan Eldon. Don’t try and make a masterpiece your first time sitting down. This is YOUR space to just get shit down. Don’t even try and judge it. Just get it out, however incoherently it comes. Eventually, you’ll start getting more creative and you’ll enjoy the process a lot.
- Your Environment: If you have a messy room with dishes and clothes and shit strewn all over like a tornado just hit, CLEAN YOUR SHIT UP. Seriously, cleaning is insanely therapeutic for me. I put aside an hour, put music on, and get to work. It sort of counts as exercise, too (my heartrate skyrockets sometimes when I’m scrubbing or picking stuff up). A clean environment will make a far bigger difference than you’ll realize. Also, decorate your living space or office. Find things you like (bonus points for making them yourself). I realized how many DVDs and vinyl and books I had stacked up and laying around. I built a book shelf from scratch, and I’d come home everyday for a month and look at it and feel total pride. It’s stupid, and doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, but it makes me feel good seeing it everyday. Also, the more color the better. But most importantly, CUSTOMIZE based off of what YOU like.
- Socializing: I’m not good with people. Never have been. I was a geek in middle school and high school. I was made fun of and bullied and it intensified my desire to avoid social settings. I’m still not one for going to bars (I’d put nightclubs up there with gyms as my idea of hell). I go to my local coffee shops and just sit outside. Don’t force a conversation or anything, just go there. See what happens. If nothing does, whatever. At least you went somewhere where you weren’t alone the whole time. I’ve made friends by just going somewhere and standing there. If you’re reading this saying “no one ever wants to be my friend, no one has ever liked me, I can’t make friends, I’m not like other extroverted people”, there’s your problem. You just said it. My advice for dealing with it – tell it to fuck itself. Just go out and stand there. Something will eventually happen, plus people watching always takes my mind off of things.
- Diet: Lastly, I cannot stress how important that is. What you put into your body is what makes up the chemistry of your body. This is a concept a lot of people just don’t understand, but it’s true – you are what you eat. Things like sugar, bleached flour, excessive amounts of dairy and meat will harm you in ways you won’t even realize. I’m not saying diet or become a vegan, but eat healthier in any little way you can. Buy a vegetarian recipe book and just TRY it. You’ll be surprised how amazing you feel after eating a healthy meal. And healthy doesn’t mean bland. That means you’ve just eaten shitty health food. If your idea of a healthy meal is a salad consisting of half a head of iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch, you’ve got some research to do. Start by replacing little things in your diet. I stopped using milk for anything. I use almond milk in everything, be it coffee, for cooking, cereal, smoothies, whatever. There’s so many delicious alternatives, that in my opinion, are so much more delicious than straight milk. Stop drinking sodas and “juice” (here’s looking at you, Minute Maid). Drink water, tea, iced tea, vegetable and fruit juices. TRY JUICING! Juicing changed my life. Order brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice. Don’t order or add extra cheese. It’s all about substitution, not replacement. You’re not being stripped of anything, seriously. After a day of eating well, you’ll have a lot more energy and your mood will improve. If you eat nothing but fast food, you’ll need to prepare to detox a bit, which is unpleasant for a day or so (lots of pooping is ideal), but after you’ve gotten all of that out of your digestive tract, oh my lord you will feel like God.