Hey everyone, I think it’s about time I share my story. I’m an undergraduate nursing student who is living with Bipolar Disorder type 2. I not only live with this disease but I have a lot of valuable fundamental information in respect of mental illness. I do not think I know everything as I’m not a health practitioner yet and even so I am inexperienced and do not claim the knowledge of a Doctor. It’s hard, it gets so hard but it’s possible to live with this illness and be successful. It may just take a bit longer to complete you’re degree, work or anything in life. Sometimes activities of daily living are so difficult… getting up, going for a shower, washing your clothes, cooking and so on.
Not everyone understands that a mental illness has the ability to affect almost all aspect’s of your life, especially emotionally and even physically. A lot of people think that one can just “Switch it off” or just ” Ignore it!” It’s a physical illness. Simply, it’s an imbalance of chemical neurotransmitters. Serotonin, nor-epinephrine, dopamine and more. These chemical’s affect our mood. Increased Serotonin leads to increased mood and in regards to Bipolar disorder an increase in Serotonin might well lead to a manic episode. It is comparable to diabetes in many ways. If you’d like more information on this please just ask. When your depressed, sometimes you do not eat. When you do not eat, you become malnourished. When you become malnourished, you become tired and weak. My point is Mental Illness should be viewed as a physical illness that has the ability to affect our emotions as well as our physical health.
I’ve always gone through stages of depression since the age of 16, maybe even before. When I was 22, in my first year of university I started to experience Highs and Lows. Sometimes I’d stay awake all night, I was so happy. Then I wasn’t so happy and then I’d drink. I drunk myself into oblivion. (I do not suggest this. The highs were not so bad, I liked them. However, the lows are paralyzing. It’s a dark place. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t feel sadness or happiness. I was so numb, I was tired and I wasn’t hungry. At one point I lost 5 kilos in 2 weeks. My body was just able to maintain my blood glucose levels, I was dehydrated and then I could no longer sleep. I would throw up from the sickness I felt but the sickness I felt was from a lack of food. It was a vicious cycle. I didn’t want to do this anymore, I wanted it to be over. I fought and I fought really hard. Onetime, I thought I was so superior and God like… I knew I wasn’t a god but I felt I was that great. I stayed awake for 2 days. I don’t Hypo manic often but I was diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder 6 months later.
It’s definitely hard to maintain a job, go to uni and have an illness but it’s possible. I do it but if you’re not able to do this you are not a failure. It will just take you longer. Anything is possible and you can do this. You have to make SO many life style changes and this takes years. I am not completely better. Right now, I am in the response/remission stage. I am almost symptom free, however the reality is I am going to have more up’s and down’s than someone without a mental illness.
This is what I do that helps…
Try and go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time. This is not always possible especially when you have a job and university work to do + the side effects of your medication can make this difficult.
Take your prescribed medicine. IF side effects are awful, ask your doctor to change it.
Get a good, nice and understanding doctor that includes you in the management of your illness. My doctor proposes potential side effects, one was weight gain. I said ” Please can you find another drug that wont do that to my body” and she did, she listened. She never makes me feel bad. She’s wonderful.
Work hard to go to Dr’s appointments. They are expensive. I know this. It’s not easy for everyone to do this. I work to pay these bills and my family does not have money to pay them either. It is possible but very hard.
Eat healthy and exercise. This may not cure your illness but it will definitely help release endorphins. Eating healthy is important for all aspects of health but it’s really important when you take medication that can potentially cause weight gain. Eating healthy is also good for your mood and energy levels.
Have a good support network of friends. You can choose who you tell about your mental illness. Be proud of who you are and if you tell someone who judges you for it.. hold your head high. If they are a true friend they will understand and support you.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. This is so important !! this is the FIRST lifestyle change you should make. This is a hard one. Especially when your friends drink, or you’re living the university life. This is the first thing I did. Alcohol is a depressant.. no more needs to be said. It’s one of the worst things for your illness. If there is one thing to change.. this is it.
Lastly, if you have suicidal thoughts seek help. Please. Tell someone. People think that when you tell, you are then locked up in a mental hospital. It’s not like that. As a Nurse, I’d take this information as the illness is progressing and needs more immediate care.
I’ve most likely missed out PLENTY of things I’d love to say. You’re welcome to ask questions.
May 1, 2012