Bipolar is a mood disorder that causes extreme, sometimes severe shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, changes in behavior, changes in thinking, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
It was December 2019, cold, cloudy, and just plain old sad day if you needed some natural vitamin D. I had been at this IOP (intensive outpatient program) at this point for almost 3 months. And little did I know, I would be getting yet another diagnosis. A diagnosis that explained the last 7 years of my life. The psychiatrist called me in for my appointment and told me, "Brandlyn, I've been seeing you twice a week for 3 months, and after all of our sessions together, we have a diagnosis." I was holding my breath. I didn't know what in the world she was going to say. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn't expecting her to say, "Brandlyn, you have Bipolar Disorder." At this point it seemed like time stopped and my entire being was just focused on my 5 senses. I remember feeling the cold leather chair, smelling the lavender, seeing her face full of empathy, I had a metallic taste in my mouth, and I heard the white noise machine. She called my name and I "snapped" out of it.
She proceeded to explain how she came to this conclusion. Then she explained everything she could about Bipolar. She went into great detail; subsequently, she did exactly what I needed and expected of her. Then came the talk about how it presented in my life. These stories, I did not want to re-tell or re-live. I had to discuss these events because they were the first steps to living a full life with this disorder. She pointed out the times when I became Bipolar--which did not surprise me at all. My mom's death is what triggered and brought my bipolar to the forefront and it settled into my life and now my brain has changed and now...
The and now is the hard part.
Since my diagnosis, I have have several instances of Mania, Hypomania, Depression, and I've evened out too.
Living with this disorder makes me feel like I'm always fighting for my life. Always fighting against the numerous side effects and risks that come with this disorder. When a person is Manic (mania) they can spend too much money, gamble, make risky decisions, suicidal ideation, insomnia, legal problems, poor work performance, drug and alcohol abuse, racing thoughts, unusual talkitiveness, euphoria, abnormally wired, upbeat or jumpy. And more.
I can recognize now when I am cycling through the different stages of my bipolar. This is very important and it was extremely hard. But not as hard as the number one thing people with bipolar need; and that is SLEEP. I have insomnia. But the best thing for someone with Bipolar is sleep...? One of my signs is severe insomnia and not being tired and completely wired. For me, this means I am up for at least 24 hours straight. That's my first sign. Then it's time for me to put the work in. I have to become very conscious of my thought patterns, getting rest, self care methods, money spending, and racing thoughts (which are not always happy thoughts).
Sometimes I get a little down because of the diagnosis and scared too. It gets me down because I'm starting to cycle pretty rapidly. Also, I get down because sometimes I feel like it is controlling my life. I know it isn't but the way I think about things is something I am working on. I used to be embarrassed, but now I am not. But what I am is scared. I'm scared of the side effects and if I will pass this down to one or both of my children. I don't want to be THAT helicopter mom, but with all of my diagnoses; especially bipolar, it makes me want to keep a keen eye on them. I do not want them to suffer like I did for so many years not knowing what was wrong with me.
My bipolar totally changed my relationship with my spouse. From the point it began, that's when we began to have marital issues. I had so many major depressive episodes and bouts of mania its not even funny. And he had to live with that person. I feel so bad for him because he tried to understand, just like me. We did not know what was wrong. And our marriage suffered greatly.
So how did I get bipolar (and another contributor to my PTSD) ? My brain had a major change on June 15, 2013. It's like I felt it splitting and leaving my body. It's like a chunk of my heart literally was cut out and I was left with a piece for mere survival. The air had a summer night sounds and smells all around. The passenger window was down and was between gasping for air and screaming out of the window. All I could taste were salty tears as they were flooding my face like a hurricane. My 54 year-old mother died. Suddenly. While I was holding another child in my arms. I was a nanny. The news shocked me and I was so angry people were trying to tell me through text message. I WAS SO ANGRY ABOUT THE TEXT! I'm rocking the 3 year old as it was his first time without his parents at bed time--in total shock. I felt the shattering beginning to happen. The worst part of it all--is that I was 8 weeks pregnant with my first child Rachel and my mom Daphine's first grandchild. When my husband came to pick me up, I really couldn't comprehend what was happening until I got in the car with him, he wouldn't let me drive my car, and he told me. That's when all of my senses were activated, my emotions were stimulated, and my heart and mind shattered. I HAVE NEVER BEEN THE SAME. This traumatic event is not only one of the most significant things that contributed to my diagnosis, but this event was so triggering and distressing it became a symptom of my PTSD.
So how do I deal? How do I deal with my bipolar? I use a mood tracker app called Emoods. It helps me track my moods and other things. It keeps me abreast of patterns and this is important because of the health risks that are associated with this disorder. I talk bout it a lot. I talk about it with my support team. Having a support team is imperative no matter what type of mental illness you have. A simple talk, a long talk, a text, a video conversation, ect. can elevate your mood and allow you to acknowledge what is honestly happening with you. I have a support team of 7. I have 7 different people who have committed to being on my team! Shout out to the team! I love each and every one of them and they know who they are :) And lastly, I use meds to help also. And yes, they help. But they do not fix anything, they help me manage the symptoms.
I'm an advocate now. I am no longer embarrassed now. This is my life now. I love my life and all it has to offer me. I am worthy of a fulfilling life. I am worthy of someone loving me the way that I am. I deserve and will only accept and give my best in this life--while living with bipolar disorder.
Peace and Love to you all.
Brandlyn Owens is passionate about exploring and educating herself and others about mental health topics. She's a momma of 2 kiddos and she resides in Durham, NC.