Keep in mind that this a first person narrative based on reading and experiences over the years. I highly recommend that you do your own research. New discoveries are being made all the time.
Bipolar is a physical illness in the brain, one that if not treated, has the potential to shrink the corpus callosum and areas of the cortex. Untreated, it can devolve into dementia and other cognitive issues. Even with plasticity, your brain can’t keep up with untreated Bipolar as it “eats” your brain.
Bipolar is a life-long illness that cannot be cured. Bipolar has nothing to do with learning how to control your moods or thinking “positively” or the endorphins created by forcing yourself to smile. I’ve tried acupuncture, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), doctor visit after doctor visit. I even tried the Celestine Prophecy without much success.
I’ve also discovered that medication doesn’t make Bipolar go away but does make it possible for me to live with the illness. I take my medication like a nun saying the rosary.
When I found out that relapse was a common event in the lives of Bipolar II individuals, I felt like I’d been hit by one of those Japanese bullet trains. It doesn’t go away? This shit’s gonna come back and get me again? Hospitalization?
The doctors talk about early warning signs of a manic or depressive episode. I’ve learned that I yell at my cats before a manic episode. Then I clean house like Serial Mom.
Finally, I’m depressed, and I sleep. I can sleep away an entire weekend if no one stops me. I avoid things that need to get done, like laundry and paying the bills.
As I pull through another depression, I’ve discovered that the medicine helps more than I realized. The first spell of wellness is a rush. Then reality sets in. Bipolar doesn’t go away but it can’t take over my life like it used to.
Today, as my mind tumbled over everything that might have triggered this mild relapse, I decided to try that “smile” exercise. I was astonished. It worked! I ate a bowl of raisin bran, drank some water, smiled some more and now I’m happily writing away.
As I learn to manage my illness, other factors set in. Like peri-menopause. And getting older. Due to an injury, I am unable to work out, which is a line of defense against Bipolar. Do not underestimate the magic of living as healthy as you can.
Flax seed, fish oil, and other types of supplements and fresh foods that are chock full of B vitamins and Omega 3s & 6s help improve and maintain the think tank in your skull. They also help me remember why I walked it a room and what I was supposed to get.
Surprisingly, there is an ample and powerful first line of defense against relapses of all sorts. Water. A hell of a lot more than you’re probably drinking right now.
And get rid of that soda. It’s poison, calorie-free or not. No binge drinking alcohol. or binge drinking coffee. Moderation is the key because Bipolar is an illness of extremes.
So, yeah. Relapse. It’s real. Keep your mood journal and you’ll be able to tell when one is coming on. Keep taking your medicine. Keep drinking water. Talk to your psychiatric care physician (I just had my medicine upped to 300 mg and a supplement added).
And don’t get down on yourself because of a relapse. It’s a normal and expected part of the illness and there are ways to mitigate the magnitude of a relapse. You’re not going crazy. I swear.