Bipolar Disorder~ FAQ’s and Hacks

bipolar-faqQueries, people seeking advice and members seeking entry to our Peer Support Group have surged in the past week. Honestly, I have been overwhelmed by the response post the 1st World Bipolar Day Event in India!
Goes to show that we made fresh inroads in our mission of spreading awareness.
Coming to the flood of queries, isn’t it better if these are addressed in a Public Forum rather than one on one? This way the knowledge base widens for everybody, even casual visitors to our website.
So here is a pool of questions raised most often~

What is Bipolar Disorder?
A vast and complex topic like this needs to be addressed separately~ you could visit our Page,
Demystifying Bipolar Disorder for that.

Is Bipolar Disorder Curable?
‘One size does not fit all’ goes for almost all chronic illnesses of body and mind. Whereas, the fortunate, rare few might completely recover and be off meds, in general, Bipolar is considered to be a condition that is treatable but not curable. Meds, therefore could be mandated through one’s lifetime in an overwhelming majority of cases. This is one mind set issue we must sort out, as soon as possible to set off on the path to recovery. A heart patient or diabetic (or an Asthmatic like me) has to face the same situation of discipline as far as meds and prevention goes.

pills-926375_1920Can Bipolar Disorder be treated without medication?
A few alternate healing methods claim total recovery without medicines~ until we hear about cases first hand, we cannot take this as Gospel truth. In general, allopathic medicine is an integral part of the treatment. Psychotherapy can then hasten the recovery process.

Which Symptoms should I watch out for?

A Bipolar herself/himself might not notice subtle changes in symptoms. In fact, during mania, he watchtowerwould vehemently refuse to accept abnormality! Therefore, a family member must play Vigilante (the Watchtower) and keep a hawk eye on changes/shifts of~ sleeping hours, energy levels, appetite, euphoric thoughts, spending patterns, drive, conversations about hopelessness, excessive irritability to name a few.

What is the main factor in the recovery process?
2003 to now, during my thirteen year of post diagnosis journey with the condition has cleared many cobwebs of the mind~
Diagnosis and treatment from a good Psychiatrist is critical. I have found inconsistency in diagnosis as well as advice meted out by various medical professionals. If in doubt, you could always seek a second opinion! I have had a fantastic Psychiatrist who has brought me here. Persisting with a good Doctor and continuing treatment is the next logical step.

Aren’t the side effects of medicines worse than the condition?
This a pet grievance that must be firmly addressed to ensure adherence. There’s no doubt that most these meds have noticeable side effects, some even impact normal functioning. One mood stabiliser causes a nasty hand tremor: I have stuck to it. Almost all cause excessive daytime sleepiness which undermine my effort to get things done. What keeps me going is knowledge that keeping my sanity is more important than any of these side effects.
It’s like this. Studies say the lungs of people who live in New Delhi are as bad as heavy smokers! They still do have to breathe the polluted air to survive, don’t they?
Medicines are like that air~ a must for survival.
depressionMy Father is under treatment for a decade but is still Depressed. What do I do?
This is crux of the condition. No easy answers here. I know of people who do all the right things and are still struggling. One reason for this could be science is still in the process of unraveling the human mind, the complexities of the brain and finding ways to lessen suffering. Psychiatry, Psychology and medication for mental illness are imperfect sciences, with more advancement happening every day. It can be a long haul to normalcy. Keep the faith, keep walking.

What else helps in Recovery process?bipolar-recovery
While Meds are a must, remember the analogy to air? While we cannot do without meds (or air), meds are not sufficient by themselves. Don’t know of anybody who lives just on air! So how do we fortify ourselves further~ recovery has to be of mind and body as well. An unshakable inner belief and focus on end goal are rockets to recovery!

How can Physical Fitness help?
born-to-run‘Sound mind in sound body’ goes the old adage. A fitter me helps in many ways. Depression especially, causes lethargy and almost a total loss of energy and will to do anything. Regular exercise sounds fanciful to someone who has no motivation to get out of bed~ small beginnings is the game plan. A ten minute walk, light yoga and breathing exercises cannot be too challenging. Gradually we can increase our commitment in terms of time and energy devoted to these essential activities.

Exercise releases endorphins (feel good chemicals) in the brain, thus acting as a natural mood elevator. Fitness increases alertness, concentration and focus also.
comprehensive article by Fitness and Nutrition expert Ruchi Verma as a guest contributor on our site, is an excellent guide. Caution~ consult you Doctor before considering serious, abrupt changes in your lifestyle. * In mania, exercise can worsen symptoms.
Yoga, however, suits almost everybody. It also helps balance body and mind.

How can I make my Restless Mind calmer?
One word answer ~ Meditate! I have tasted its magic eighteen years ago and am in love with themeditation tranquil world it takes me to. Meditation has proven therapeutic benefits, it reduces stress and brings about clarity of thought. Most exciting though is what recent research on the benefits of Meditation suggests~ that it can actually help us rewire the brain (a term known as Neuroplasticity). I find this ironical~ medicines with lots of side effect, of questionable efficacy are endorsed by Science. However, when it comes to most holistic healing options with no side effects, guess what is the refrain? “evidence to back this is insufficient.” Powerful commercial lobbies manipulate opinion.

How Can I regulate my Sleep patterns?
Medicines tend to interfere with our sleep patterns. Insulating ourselves from these issues can be termed as ‘Sleep hygiene’ as it is often referred to. Sound sleep and regularity in sleep timings benefits everybody but for Bipolar afflicted, this is crucial. A fixed time to hit bed, fixed to get up~ very difficult initially but later the body clock adjusts by itself. To ensure sound sleep, avoid watching Television or stressful work prior to bedtime. Reading and music induces sleep. I myself tend to sleep in the afternoons. For others, this might disrupt night sleep. Meditation helps here too. Breathing exercises can calm one down before falling asleep.

art-therapyDoes Art Therapy Help?
It certainly does. Aren’t we Bipolars tagged creative? If so, let’s express ourselves freely! Painting, Music, Writing, Dancing, Sculpting, Drama~ take your pick.
Writing has proven healing power, even for someone not so conversant with the skill. Maintaining a journal, filling up a few lines each night is a good way to begin (and sustain). In a journal you might jot down thoughts which you are reluctant to share with anybody. Penning these inner feelings is a release for pent up emotions.
Writing set me free, am now on the path of helping others discover their paths. The human mind seeks appreciation, validation and yearns to reach a higher ground. Isn’t art the perfect platform that transcends the mundane?

What else can help?
Learn, learn and learn some more! I have a ravenous appetite for learning which helps keep my mind agile and makes me more resourceful in dismantling challenges that come my way. What would I recommend specifically? Mind Mapping, refining any Art/ Skill of your choice, Public Speaking (trust me, it does make a world of difference to your confidence), select NLP practices among many other that I have dived into.

What about Bipolar Disorder and success in Marital relationships?
This is a grey area, really. Within my circle of personal interaction, I know so many who have managed their marriages well. On the other hand, there are cases where those afflicted are adamant and refuse to seek treatment~ in such cases, life for the family can be hellish.

I tried most of this, yet I am struggling. How did you make it?
There were times (and this period stretched for years..) when there seemed nothing to latch onto for support. The secret of what kept me going?
My faith. In God. My spiritual quest was a journey that answered troubling questions I asked of life. I firmly believe I am the chosen one. God pushes me into the deep end of the pool so that I learn swimming. When I do learn that, he throws in a few crocodiles. Every time I emerge victorious, do I come out battered and bruised? I come out stronger, more resilient and surer of my path.
Thankfully, more compassionate too.
Thank you God.