Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – The story of my pill boxes

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder about six years ago. That seems like such a long time ago now. A different life, a different era.

During these years, as part of my medical treatment for this mental illness, I was directed by various psychiatrists to try various different types of prescription medication.
(Read: Trialling different medications, different dosages, different combinations, taken at different times, and all with different instructions).

As those of us who take any medication on the regular would know, having a lot of different pills that need to be taken at different times of the day can be tricky to successfully and consistently incorporate into a busy and unpredictable lifestyle.

And like many of us who have had to make the decision about medication and mental health can understand, initially, I was very uneasy about taking medication for my bipolar disorder. How would I know what was me and what was the medication?
I remember thinking that taking medication would blur the already shaky lines I had of my self-identity or maybe make me numb to my emotions when all I wanted to do was control the soaring highs and the catastrophic lows i.e. have all the high energy and good moods with none of the moodiness or depression (basically have my cake and eat it too).

Every time I had to take my medication, it was a constant unwelcome reminder that I had a mental illness. Two or three times a day.

I remember upon revealing my diagnosis to a close friend, I was embraced and made to feel like I was accepted. We had known each other for years and it didn’t change who I was, the experiences we had had, the love and respect that was there.

This same friend also happened to see my pill boxes at the time, which were split into morning and evening doses for each day of the week and labelled very simply with pieces of scrap paper.

Next thing I knew, my friend presented me with these custom-made personalised labels,  for each day of the week, to fit into my pill boxes, each day with a special drawing of one of my beloved toys. See photos below.

As a bit of background, I had a number of plush toys scattered around my room; toys which I hugged to sleep, carried around the house, or sometimes even brought out with me into the outside world. Some were bought, some were gifts, all with many memories.

 

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This may sound silly, but looking at these hand-drawn labels on my pill boxes every single day really made a difference in how I viewed taking my medication for my mental illness.
Yes, taking medication multiple times a day will be a constant reminder of my bipolar disorder, but it was also a constant reminder that I was loved, and that I was taking medication because I wanted to get better. That was the goal.

So, my suggestion to anyone out there with a generic pill box:
Customise it now! Make it yours!

Make your pill box a reminder that medication isn’t about being ill or abnormal,
it’s a conscious daily action towards positive mental health that we do because we want to get better and be a better version of ourselves. That is the goal.

Never forget that.

 

Thanks for reading.

^_^”

Love, accidentalbirds

Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – Planning ahead

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder I was overwhelmed and scared of what that label meant, yet at the same time, relieved that my demons finally had a name, and that there was treatment.

I remember early on as I started taking medication that I had so many questions. Some were easily answered, while others I had to develop my own answers.

I’ve separated them into categories to try to make it easier to make sense of.
I hope these questions and answers can be of use to you.


Planning ahead so you never run out a.k.a. Maintaining your supply

  1. Do I have enough of each of my medications to last me till the next time I plan to go to the pharmacy/chemist?
    I don’t count each and every pill I have, but I do make sure I have enough of each medication to last me at least until the weekend when I can go to a pharmacy. It’s always good to stock up a bit so you have an emergency supply. Generally, once any of my medications goes down to about a two week supply left, I make a point of going to the pharmacy.
  2. Am I low on repeat prescriptions for any of my medications?
    Your general practitioner or psychiatrist can give you more scripts for your medications as needed. Medication prescriptions have finite authorised repeats which means your GP or psychiatrist will have to routinely write you new ones in order for you to get your medication from the pharmacy. It helps to be aware in advance if you are close to maxing out your repeat script for any of your medications so you can ask for one at your next appointment. Many psychiatrists charge extra if you need a script outside of your appointment times while a doctor’s appointment generally involves a long, tedious wait beforehand.
  3. Do I know where the best pharmacies in my area are in terms of:
    • Location – Convenient and accessible, perhaps near your local shops, near home or on the way to work.
    • Type of stock – I found out through experience that some pharmacies only stock the generic brand of certain medications or only the brand name. It’s important to differentiate between generic and non-generic brands of medication. Although they would both have the active ingredient, the ratios will vary as well as the “filler” ingredients used in each pill. A good example is the drug quetiapine, which is also known by the brand name Seroquel. I was specifically directed by my psychiatrist to avoid the generic brand as it simply was not as effective. Always check with your doctor if it’s okay to get the generic brand to cut costs, otherwise you’ll have to make do with the more expensive, but also potentially more effective brand of medication.
    • Cheaper costs I’ve found that the cost of medication is highly dependent on location, with suburbs closer to inner Sydney or the city being more expensive than in the western suburbs. 
    • Opening hours Late night chemists may help to cater for after work if you do long hours or if you need to buy any medication on short notice.
  4. Special considerations when travelling
    If you plan to travel, it’s important to make sure you have enough in stock to take enough of each medication with you in carry-on luggage only (not checked luggage). As a precaution, I always get a medical certificate along with any necessary vaccinations from my doctor to certify me for carrying medication, just in case I’m questioned by airport security.

Correct storage

5. Am I aware of the correct storage of each of my medications?
All medication has specific storage specifications. Always read and follow the medication instructions. I store my thyroxine sodium medication in the refridgerator at about 4-5 degrees, my lithium carbonate pills at room temperature, and my omega-3 capsules at room temperature away from light.
I generally store my medication in their original blister-packs or containers until I prepare my daily doses in pill boxes. I do this every two days so my medication isn’t exposed to air for more than 48 hours.

6. Storage when travelling
Many medications require storage at room temperature away from direct light and thus do not require any special care. Other medications, such as thyroxine sodium as mentioned above, need to be refridgerated which can make things a little tricky when you’re travelling overseas. A product like the Medication Travel Pack from The Australian Thyroid Foundation would have been handy on my previous trips as it is designed for the transportation and cool storage of medical supplies. It’s on my wishlist for future travelling adventures, though is a bit expensive at $69 (including membership).


 

Clear daily schedule

7. Do I have a clear daily schedule of when I take each medication?
By clear daily schedule, I mean a succinct and detailed timetable of what medication I take, each dosage, at what time, and any other specifics. I found this especially important after undergoing electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) treatment and suffered from some memory loss. It is also helpful for your emergency contact or loved ones to know your medication routine and to act as a reminder or in case of emergency.

8. Am I aware of how to take each of my medications?
Each medication has different and specific instructions on how to take it.
For example, I take my thyroxine sodium pill thirty minutes before food every morning (or whenever I wake up). I take my lithium carbonate tablets with food and I take my Seroquel tablet one hour before I get in bed.

9. Do I have my medication easily accessible and ready to take on a daily basis?
The main idea is to make taking medication on a daily basis simple and an automatic part of life i.e. minimum brain power required. The more I minimise the decision-making involved, the easier and seamless it becomes as part of my everyday life. It becomes less of a chore and just something I do everyday, like brushing my teeth.
Plus it will lessen the probability that I will miss or skip any doses.

10. Can I prepare my medications in labelled pill boxes in advance?
Consider trying different types of pill boxes to suit your needs. I’ve tried quite a few over the years depending on my medication as you can see in the photo below. I started by using seven-day pill boxes, then moved to split pill box containers with personalised labels for each day, and finally two handcrafted wooden pill boxes from an Etsy seller. My pill boxes evolved to suit my needs as I changed medications and dosages over the years.

pill boxes sa title

11. Do I need a split pill box to separate my morning medication and night medication?
This is helpful if you take pills that look similar at different times so you don’t mix up the doses, or if you’re like me and just like taking all the pills in the morning section in the morning, and all the pills in the night section at night.

12. Do I need a pill splitter to break any tablets and get the correct dosage?
Pill splitters are available at most pharmacies/chemists. You only really need it if you’re in-between doses under the instruction of your psychiatrist. I’ve found it to be quite a handy tool over the years as I’ve trialled different medications that required a gradual increase in dosage.

pill splitter sa title.jpg

13. Will it help if I set regular alarms/reminders on my phone so I can take my medication at set times?
I have my alarms set at 8 am, 12 pm, 8 pm, and 9 pm for the different prescription medications and vitamins I take. 

14. Would it be helpful to trial the different mobile apps available for recording and taking my medication?
There are lots of apps available to help you take your medication on time. A key search term would be “Medication reminder“. I personally use an app called “Medisafe Pill Reminder” to monitor my changing medication. I have trialled others in the past but have stuck with this one for many years and find it helpful in monitoring my compliance i.e. if I take/miss/skip certain pills, as well as changes in dosage and changes in overall medication.

medisafe screenshot sa title.png


Coping with side effects

15. Do I know the potential and likely side effects of each of my medications?
This one is hugely important and means I prepare myself to cope with the side effects I experience as a result of all my medications. For example, lithium causes me to experience dehydration on a regular basis and constant thirst, so I will make an effort to drink a minimum of two litres of water a day and also always carry a reusable water bottle on me at all times. One of my medications, Seroquel, makes me very drowsy so I make sure to take it at night just before I sleep instead of in the morning, and I also make sure I don’t do anything that requires too much concentration like driving.
It’s a necessary evil to cater for the side effects of your medications, especially if that particular medication is working to help balance the chemicals in your brain. It’s a matter of striking a balance between what you are able or willing to tolerate in terms of negative side effects versus the gain in positive effects on your mental health, and to adjust accordingly.


In case of emergency

16. Do I have a complete and up-to-date list of all the medications I take in case of emergency (with dosages)?
I have a written reminder in my yearly planner to review my “Current medication list” every six months. I make sure to list all my current medications with today’s date, each medication dosage, when I take each in a day, and even a basic drawing of what each pill looks like. It is important to set aside time to regularly review and update this list so that you, your emergency contact, and any loved ones have this information on hand when needed. Pictured below is my actual current medication list. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just as long as it conveys the necessary information.
On another note, this list is also handy to bring along to different doctor’s appointments as I’ve often been asked what medication I take and it’s easier to show this list than verbally list each one.

current meds list sa title

17. Have I made this list available/accessible to my chosen emergency contact?
I have my current medication list typed up as a digital note on Google Keep which I’ve shared with my emergency contact. I have also emailed this information to my emergency contact in the past and left a physical, written list attached to the front of our fridge with a magnet. You just need to find out what works best for you.

18. Do I know the important contact details of all my health professionals for emergencies? (Including full names, profession, contact number, address)

  • General practitioner
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Other key therapists, support groups, etc

I find it helpful to keep this in one spot so it’s easy to refer to when needed. Include contact numbers as well as location.

19. Have I educated myself on the potential side effects of each of the medications I take in case of toxicity/overdose?
I learnt about lithium toxicity the hard way when I overdosed and had to admit myself to hospital. It’s important for you as well as your loved ones to know the signs so you can act fast. Find out what the signs and symptoms are for each and every medication you take, make a list, then share it with your emergency contact and loved ones. They may recognise emergency symptoms before you do and can act fast to get you help.


Regular review of medication

20. Am I aware of how regular my blood tests need to be?
In order for my doctor to monitor the correct level of medication in my body, I need to have regular blood tests. My test results help my psychiatrist to adjust my dosages accordingly and determine the number of tablets I need to take to achieve an optimum level in my blood. I think in general, it’s best to ask your doctor if you need a specific regular blood test each year to keep on top of things, or as often as every three months as in my case to track lithium levels. For myself personally, I ask questions specific to my medication such as:

  • Quilonum (slow release lithium carbonate) – How often should I be having blood tests to check my lithium levels? What is the optimum range? What happens if I’m below the optimum range? Will I experience symptoms? What happens if I’m above optimum range i.e. toxic level?
  • Thyroxine sodium – How often should I be getting thyroid function tests? Am I currently on the correct dosage of medication? Do I need to see an endocrinologist?

It’s important to become an active participant in your own healthcare because, ultimately, you are responsible for your own mental health. Your doctors, other health care providers, and loved ones are just your support team; they can’t take those steps forward for you.

I have found that this way of thinking strongly contributes to my mental resilience and the drive to get better and stay well even after every setback. I have to regularly remind myself that I am the catalyst; the game-changer; the one that makes the decision whether to try again. When, not if, I fall over, I can choose to get right back up; I can also choose to lie there for as long as I need to and recover. It’s a tough journey towards prolonged stability, especially if like me, you experience rapid cycling, so make sure you make the choices that are right for you to support your well-being. Yes, it will be a lot of trial and error, with a lot of setbacks, but you can do it. We can.

21. Are the medications I take regularly reviewed by my doctors? I’ve seen many different health professionals in relation to my bipolar II disorder and over the years, it’s easy to lose track of when you started or stopped different medication doses. I’ve often been asked when I started a particular medication and at what dose, so I found it helpful to make a concise record a.k.a. my treatment timeline, which includes both medication changes and treatment changes (see screenshot of my actual treatment timeline below). For example, I started Quilonum in November 2011 at 450 mg, or had 12 rounds of ECT treatment in August 2016.

tx timeline sa title.png

It also helps to make a note of what medications you used to take and why you stopped. E.g. Escitalopram, 20 mg, taken from February to May 2017, stopped due to side effects (add details).


Medication waste

Medication blister-packs are currently not recyclable in Sydney and can only go to landfill -_-” As someone who is trying to minimise their waste, this is a pretty big disappointment. Of course, I do recycle the cardboard boxes that the blister-packs come in, but I also regularly feel pangs of guilt as I drop yet another blister-pack in the bin.
This photo below is the amount of medication waste I generated in about two weeks T_T”

meds waste sa title.jpg

I am hopeful that TerraCycle in Australia will eventually offer a program in collaboration with the big pharmaceutical companies to recycle their pill packaging and force them to embrace a closed-loop environmental solution. This basically means that the  companies that produce the pills and profit from the sales become accountable for their products from manufacture through to disposal (which is the way it should be!). Fingers crossed that future accountability and sustainability isn’t too far away.


I hope you have found at least one of these tips to be useful to you.

Keep embracing the adventure.

Thanks for reading ^_^”

Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – Overcoming the stigma of medication

As someone with bipolar II disorder and I assume like many others, I eventually decided to go on medication after overcoming the stigma associated with it and listening to my psychiatrist who wanted to help me get better.

I started off slowly on low doses of medication, and over the past six or seven years since I was diagnosed, have been on about a dozen or so different medications, combinations and dosages.

As you can imagine, keeping track of medications can get a little tricky when there are different instructions for each. And taking different medications multiple times a day can prove to be monotonous and if I’m honest, a bit of a slap in the face; a constant reminder that you need this medication to help you live your life.

It took me a long time to come to terms with taking medication and I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggled through the questions: Do I really need to take my meds? Will it change me and who I really am? How do I know what’s me and what isn’t?


The answers are simple.


Yes, I need to take my meds, because my brain isn’t able to balance the chemicals I need it to alone. When I am on my medication, and my brain chemicals are finally balanced, then I will be the real me. Without the meds, I am a shadow of myself as my brain struggles to maintain stability. Me without medication is a version of me that isn’t coping with life.


I think I understand some of the fear, because I’ve been there. And if I look closer, there’s a lot of hope there too.


I am not saying that medication solves everything. But it helps. Along with daily mood charting, regular psychiatrist appointments, regular psychologist appointments, and constantly striving for a healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise, good nutrition, plenty of water, good relationships… you know what I mean.


And this stuff is lifelong. It’s not just a short stint and then bam, permanent results. It’s a constant evolution of self. A regular reflection of who you are, what your values are, and where you want to be. I wish I could tell you it’s an easy road, but there are ditches you won’t see till you fall in. You and I, we will always fall. This life isn’t about avoiding the fall; it’s about knowing you will, preparing for the consequences, and then planning for the recovery and the climb back up.

You just have to make the choice in your mind that you will make the climb, because you want your life to be better, because you want to know that life can be better.


Embrace the climb, my friends.


And enjoy the simple adventures in life.


Thanks for reading.

Pets and Mental Health – Bipolar II Disorder and the Cat Effect

It has only been one week since Neko the cat has been in my life, but it’s been a wonderful week. If you haven’t read my other recent blog post, Neko is a beautiful three year old domestic short hair cat that my partner and I adopted from our local RSPCA shelter.

In a few of my depressed moods this past week, she has kept me company in bed by sleeping on top of the blankets. When I forget to eat regular meals, she reminds me to feed her and in turn also gets me in the kitchen so we can both eat. During times when my mind is in a fog and I can’t think or focus she has even approached me to play with her by playfully biting my fingers or rubbing her body against my leg to ask for affection. I’ve noticed that she actually helps me bring my thoughts outside of myself so I can refocus and function, if that makes sense; kind of like a reminder to practice mindfulness that comes in a furry four-legged form.

Having a pet for the first time, as in my case, my first time having a cat, can feel a bit overwhelming, especially when I feel like I have enough trouble taking care of myself let alone another living being. But I can honestly say that having a cat has impacted my bipolar disorder in a surprisingly positive way. Sure, there’s poop to be scooped when there wasn’t before and you are suddenly aware that there’s another living being that you’re responsible for, but overall, it’s a pretty wonderful adventure that I highly recommend.

The feels when my cat jumps in my lap and meows up at me when I’m feeling down and out, when she feels​ the need to accompany me each and every time I go to the toilet, and just the feeling of unconditional love that emanates from her, words really can’t describe.

I used to forget to eat, or just not bother, but with a cat, she helps keep me in routine simply because I have to get up and feed her several times a day. Sure, sometimes it might be an hour or two out of schedule, but I still get up and do it as she gently meows and encourages me. I watch her eat and try to get her to eat slowly without inhaling all her food at once. She encourages me to be better simply through the act of feeding her to in turn, feed and nurture myself too.

The only negative aspect of having a cat and having a mental illness for me is that I’ve noticed I developed a bit of guilt when I feel like I don’t do things right or I mess up. Guilt when my emotions are dulled and I can’t return her affections. Guilt when I can only muster up the energy to clean her kitty litter trays once a day instead of twice. I have found that although I’ve felt this in varying degrees when I interact with her, I’ve found that on the whole, my cat actually enforces me to do better and to be better.

What do I mean, you ask?

Well, having my cat around me this week has encouraged me to overcome some of my low moods and low energy to actually function in a productive way that reinforces a good routine i.e. feeding her, remembering​ to eat for myself, cleaning her litter trays, and even overcoming my anxiety about going outside to throw out the trash.

I know it has only been a week, but I am hopeful to what the future brings with a furry feline in my life. I feel like a solid routine might be more achievable now that I am accountable for looking after another living being. I want to take the very best care of her that I can and all the while she inadvertently helps me improve bit by bit and be the very best I can be too.

I hope this was helpful to you, especially if you’re looking to adopt a pet into your life too. I can’t recommend it enough. You drastically improve the life of an animal in need of love and in turn, maybe nurture your own heart and mind too.

Thanks for reading.

Medication & Mental illness – Stigma & Shame

Medication is an important part of my treatment as a person who has been diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder (Rapid Cycling) for the past six years. It is a large part of my mental health treatment, but it is not the only part. This is an important differentiation to make.

I was diagnosed for six months before I ever took my first pill for my mental illness, despite the recommendations of my treating psychiatrist at the time. This was partly due to my own stigma and ignorance about medication, and also because I was afraid that if I started taking medication it would make my mental illness more “real”, if that makes sense.

Here’s a rough train of thought from back then when I was dealing with the decision to start drug treatment or not for my bipolar disorder:

  • Stigma and shame: Negative biases that medication was bad, the false attitude that only “psychotic lunatics” needed to take medication like this, that people who took medication for their emotions were weak or deficient or somehow less of a person.
  • Denial: I thought my symptoms were all in my mind; that my erratic mood swings, changes in energy, and impaired ability to function were just a matter of needing to “suck it up” or “try harder” at life. I also held on to the possibility that I had been misdiagnosed and that I was just having a rough time in life that just happened to last years. -_-“
  • Fear of judgement: I didn’t want to be that person that had a “mental problem”. I could imagine how negatively my family, friends, or coworkers would react. I didn’t want to be labelled or discriminated against. I felt alone and without support.
  • Tunnel vision: I couldn’t see how medication would actually help me in my situation because I was so focused on the severity of my symptoms at the time. I couldn’t see how just taking a few tablets would benefit me by changing the chemistry in my brain and body, although at the time I didn’t take into account the regular psychiatric therapy that would be a part of my treatment.
  • Fear of change: I had been experiencing such severe symptoms of bipolar disorder for so long that I felt taking medication would in some way change me; that I would lose a part of myself or become a zombie and numb to my emotions.

There are some people who can manage without medication, and that’s fine.

You do what is right for you and your body.

But not everyone with mental illness can manage their illness without medication.

Medication is not a choice. I think this is a common misnomer. For many of us experiencing mental illness, you cannot simply will yourself to be better. Believe me, I am sure we have all tried. For many of us, medication is a necessity of life to balance the chemicals in our brain. It is a form of medical treatment that is effective, but not without its side effects. Also, it is easy to forget that medication always goes hand-in-hand with varying psychiatric therapies to help manage the symptoms of the mental illness. Unfortunately, it isn’t about popping some pills and suddenly you’re happy. It’s about balancing the chemicals in your brain with drugs if needed, addressing psychological therapies to improve your symptoms and decrease side effects, and then creating wellbeing plans and mood monitoring to maintain the best mental health you can have.

I’ve had well-meaning friends tell me that I don’t need medication. They inadvertently perpetuate the stigma against mental health and propagate the myth that medication is something to be ashamed about. There is no shame in taking medication for your illness, just as a diabetic or someone with high cholesterol takes medication to help manage their illnesses.

We have to ask ourselves though, why isn’t there the same stigma for those who use an inhaler for their asthma, or inject daily to control their insulin levels, or even take a paracetamol tablet for their headaches?

Can I call you weak for wanting to take a pain killer for your sprained ankle?

Why is it therefore,”weak” for those of us experiencing the invisible struggles of mental illness to also take medication?

Think about it and then justify it to yourself.

It doesn’t make you weak to take medication for your mental illness; it makes you stronger for making the choice to do so and choosing to improve your mental health.

It takes a brave soul to admit that there is a real struggle inside and to then consciously choose to want better for themselves; to take steps to be a better version of themselves. It takes strength that only others who have had to make these choices can truly understand.

Find the right doctor that you can connect with and make the conscious decision to be better by finding the right treatment for you, whether that includes drug treatment or not. It might take a lot of trial and error to find the right doctor, the right medication, the right combination of medications, or the right psychological therapies, but a healthy mind is worth the pursuit.

Make the intentional and conscious choice to become mentally well and a better version of yourself. Once you’ve made that decision, I promise you will never look back. 

*Bro fist*

Thanks for reading.
 

So, I have Bipolar II Disorder…

Some of you may know the pain of this disease, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the title, Bipolar II Disorder is essentially one of many invisible illnesses; an illness of the mind.

Yes, a mental illness.

One, characterised by an unpredictable mixture of soaring highs, boundless energy and untapped ideas (known as hypomania in medical speak); and also for the crushing lows, the inexplicable loss of energy, the catastrophic depression that is so dark and deep that light itself cannot penetrate it.

I was first diagnosed in 2011 though it honestly feels like a lifetime ago. My official diagnosis is Bipolar II Disorder, Rapid Cycling. They told me my brain is having trouble balancing all the chemicals that control my mood; that not only is my mood affected, but also my energy and thinking and ability to function.

Stop for a moment and imagine that. Imagine being told that your brain is dysfunctional and that your feelings, thoughts and actions are sometimes not yours to control. Scary, huh?

I was afraid, yet there was a part of me that felt some relief that this thing I had, this bipolar, was an illness and not an intrinsic part of my character or personality in some way. There was a medical reason for some of my moods, my behaviour, my struggle. My diagnosis didn’t excuse my past, but it did provide a label to aid me in understanding certain events in my life. I now had a name for the confusing emotions that conflicted within me. But naming the demon is not enough.

So I acted. I went to regular psychiatric appointments and was eventually put on medication despite early resistance. I had naively thought that if I tried hard enough with “talk” therapy alone, I could “fix” this bipolar myself. I eventually came to confront the stigma of taking medication for a mental illness and realised it was a necessary step to gain stability in my life.

I even participated in various psychological studies at The Black Dog Institute, an Australian charity and research facility that specialises in clinical mood disorder research.

I would like to state that the internet is saturated with information, generalisations, stereotypes, and a lot of misnomers about what “bipolar people” are all like, or meant to be like. I do not think that you can generalise people with bipolar disorder, even if you have a form of bipolar disorder yourself. It bugs the shit out of me when I hear people say that everyone with bipolar is creative or that we’re all really sensitive or that we are all over-dramatic people. That’s like saying everyone with illness Y are introverts and are all good at painting and those with illness Z like walks on the beach and can all play the flute.

I see it is an illness that affects a person’s moods, thoughts and feelings, which are extremely unique to every individual. It must be emphasised that the only commonality between people with bipolar disorder is that we all suffer from extremes in mood. Period.

All that crap about being super sensitive because we feel everything really intensely, I think, is bull. Sure, those with bipolar disorder suffer the extreme mood changes that expose us to intense thoughts and feelings, but that does not necessarily make us sensitive to general life or one with the cosmos.

Maybe it’s because I suffer from bipolar disorder so I get extra annoyed when people, whether they have the illness or not, deem it acceptable to speak on my behalf and the behalf of others suffering. I find that I rarely fall neatly into their boxes of what people with bipolar disorder should be like. I am also possibly the only person with bipolar disorder to not be extremely creative. I can’t play a musical instrument. I can’t draw or paint or even colour inside the lines, though I can fold a pretty origami paper crane, so I guess I’m not a total loss.

Another thing, that would help people differentiate a person from their illness is to use the correct grammar. You see a lot of “My wife is bipolar” or “My friend is bipolar” on different sites or on Youtube vlogs, but this is a huge mistake. Why?

Because language matters. Words have meaning. The way we use words changes and influences the way we frame things in our minds. It changes the way we view people suffering from mental illness, even if just on a subconscious level.

When we say someone “is bipolar”, we take on the perspective that the mental illness in question is an integral part of that person’s character rather than a separate illness affecting them. Using that language sets expectations and it implies that bipolar disorder is all that makes up that person. It effectively demeans them and classes them as inferior or defective. Although I understand that many people don’t intend to be derogatory, but the effect of these words have that effect whether we realise it or not.

Your wife has bipolar. She is not bipolar.
Your friend has bipolar. They are not bipolar.

A person has bipolar. They are not their illness.

It’s like how you would say “He has cancer”. You wouldn’t say “He is cancer”.

Point made?

Good.

Because we who suffer with bipolar disorder are more than our mental illness.

So there you go. My sort of coming-out online with my mental illness.

I should probably mention that only a handful of people in my real life actually know of my diagnosis, so this is a bit of a big deal for me.

More posts to come on my perspectives on bipolar disorder and how I live with it.

Thanks for reading.