Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depressive Illness
Treatments for Bipolar DisorderTaking Care Of Yourself
An important part of living with bipolar disorder is taking care of yourself. Although professionals, friends, and family can help, you are the one who knows best what you are going through. You are the one who can best take steps to make things easiest on yourself.
A healthy body can have a really big impact on a healthy mind. Eat balanced, nutritious meals at least three times a day. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and junk food because they have a lot of sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients. All of these ingredients contain chemicals that can throw your body out of whack. It is also a good idea to drink a lot of water, which has many health benefits and helps to prevent dehydration (sometimes a side effect of bipolar medications).
Exercise is also key. Among other benefits, it helps to release stress and tension. Exercise gives you a jump-start when you are feeling unmotivated, and provides you with a healthy outlet if you are suddenly flooded with manic energy. Choose a sport or an activity that you enjoy and that is not too complicated to do. This way you can stick with it and make it a scheduled part of your life.
Stress can be part of anybody's life, but too much neglected tension can aggravate or set off episodes of mania or depression. Aside from medication and therapy, it is very important to learn to deal with stress.
Part of dealing with stress is learning how to relax. Relaxing is often more difficult than it seems. It takes some practice and concentration. Allow yourself plenty of downtime to kick back and watch a movie, ride a bike, or hang out with a good pal.
Most important, be good to yourself. Even if you sometimes feel weak and rotten, you are going through a lot and deserve relaxation. Make sure you sleep well. When you are weak and exhausted, your physical and emotional defenses also weaken. If you are having problems sleeping, talk to your doctor, who can prescribe sleep medication.
Finally, do not be afraid to share details of your condition with family and friends. Many people do not understand manic depression. They might say things such as “It's all in your head,” or “You're exaggerating.” Explain it to them, and don't be afraid to talk when you are feeling alone, desperate, or suicidal. Surround yourself with good people on whom you can count. Aside from friends and family, know that there are youth groups, specialized hotlines, and associations for people who suffer from depressive disorders, including bipolar disorder.
Fourteen-year-old Sam felt as if he was sinking into a deep hole. He had never felt so hopeless. He stopped doing his homework and ignored his friends and family. Just getting out of bed took enormous effort. Life was becoming increasingly unbearable, and neither drinking nor drugs helped make him feel better. So one day, when he really couldn't stand things anymore, he swallowed a handful of his mother's prescription sleeping pills.
When Sam woke up, he was in the intensive care unit of a hospital. He had just had his stomach pumped. He remained in the hospital for two weeks, undergoing numerous physical and psycho logical tests. Diagnosed with major depression, he was prescribed antidepressants by a psychiatrist. The medication seemed to make a difference. Sam felt a cloud lifting in his head. He was released from the hospital soon after.
At home and at school, everyone was nice to Sam. But he felt that they were all afraid of him, too. While he no longer felt depressed, he began to feel that his parents, his teachers, and his friends were whispering about him behind his back. He found himself lashing out at them for no reason. Sometimes he felt very anxious or panicked. He couldn't sleep and worried that the drugs weren't working. In fact, they seemed to be making him worse.
Sam's parents became alarmed at his aggres sive behavior. When he was suspended from school for threatening to punch his math teacher, they took Sam to see Dr. Mader, another psychia trist. After questioning him closely about his symptoms, Dr. Mader said that he believed Sam was manic-depressive. He said that the doctors at the hospital had only detected the depressive phase of the disease and that the antidepressants had triggered a manic episode. To stabilize Sam's moods, Dr. Mader prescribed lithium.
At first the lithium didn't seem to have any effect. But when Dr. Mader increased the dosage, Sam became so nauseous that he could not keep any food down. After experimenting with various drug combinations, Sam discov ered that he reacted well to a mixture of Tegretol, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. At the same time, he saw Dr. Mader twice a week for therapy, at first with his family, and later by himself.
Today, Sam is eighteen and he has just begun attending a university. He has a girlfriend and plans to move out and get his own apartment next year. He accepts that he is manic-depressive and will be for the rest of his life. Taking his meds is as normal to him as eating breakfast. So is seeing his therapist once a week.
Sam still has days when he feels down and others when he feels anxious and irritable. These moods sometimes overwhelm him, but at least he knows where they come from and how to cope with them. So do his family, his girl friend, and his friends. Instead of trying to hide that he is manic-depressive, Sam has found that being open about his illness has strengthened many of his closest relationships. A few friends initially distanced themselves from him, but most have been supportive.
Although he knows his friends and family care, Sam really looks forward to his weekly sup port group for young people with bipolar disor der. It is a great comfort to share experiences with people his own age who have similar feel ings and problems. It helps to know that he is not alone.
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