My Tips for Coping with Bipolar Disorder

My Tips for Coping with Bipolar Disorder

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost a year ago now, but I knew for many years that I was struggling with it. Here are a few of the things that have helped me to balance things and cope a little better.

Find medication that works for you

This is a trial and error process. The first medications I was put on were a mixed bag – I liked my antidepressants, but the antipsychotics/mood stabilisers weren’t really doing what I needed them to. I’ve just started on a new antipsychotic with less side effects which I hope will work a little better for me, but it’s going to take a while of waiting to see how it goes. If you’re not happy with the medication that you’re on, see if you can try something else. There are a lot of options out there for you to try.

Get a routine

I find that keeping a consistent routine is really good for my mental health. It allows me to fill the time in my day appropriately and organise everything really well. As much as I like every day to be different, I find that my mental health is more consistent when my routine is consistent too.

Keep busy

When I have too much free time on my hands, I don’t feel very good, and I enter a depressive episode pretty easily. When I have a lot of things to do and I keep myself busy, I don’t have the time to wallow and I feel a whole lot better. It’s important to me to find a balance between keeping myself busy and taking on too much at once and becoming hypomanic, and sometimes that’s hard. Right now, I work full time hours Monday to Friday, so my weekdays are already pretty full. On the weekends, I like to clean, hang out with people, wander around the shops, or just treat myself to a pamper night. As long as I don’t spend too much time sitting around doing nothing, I’m golden.

Stay active

I’ll be real with you, I haven’t been to the gym in about a year. I haven’t done any intense exercise for months. But since living in Brighton, I do a lot more walking than I did before and that makes me feel a lot better. Just the simple act of walking, listening to music, and knowing that I’m keeping my body moving makes my mind feel a lot calmer. I might even stretch to a run at some point soon, you never know! Keeping the mental and physical in harmony makes all the difference for me.

Find things that relax you

Take time out to relax at the end of the day, and make sure you really do wind down to keep everything feeling steady and calm. You might do this through meditation, yoga, reading, or whatever else might work for you. Just keep it as part of your daily routine to feel calm and refreshed.

Keep your doctor updated

I regularly check in with my doctor so that we are on the same page. A doctor can recommend other things that might help me, note if I need changes to my medication, and help me to keep things balanced.

Communicate with the people around you

Talking to the people close to me about my current mental state is vital. It’s important for me so that I can tell people what I need from them and make sure we are on the same page, but it’s also important for the people around me as they can communicate any difficulties or worries they might be having about me. Sometimes other people notice changes in my mental state more than I notice them in myself, so it’s important to keep that line of communication open as it works both ways.

If you have any more tips to suggest, please do let me know what works for you!

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How to Cope with Side Effects from Medication

How to Cope with Side Effects from Medication

Coping with side effects can be an absolute pain in the neck. I really struggled with the side effects that my medications were giving me for the first few weeks of taking them, and it’s taken a while to get used to them or find solutions for them. So I’ve compiled a little post of how to deal with all those nasty little problems that can come hand in hand with starting new meds.

For those of you who don’t know, I take Sertraline and Quetiapine, which both come with some pretty nasty side effects. For the first couple of weeks of taking them, I felt like I had every side effect on the list. Most of them died down after a few weeks, but some of them stuck around, so I know how hard it can be to adjust to these kinds of things.

Make a list of the side effects that you notice

It can help to take a look at the (usually extensive) list that comes with your medications. List off all of the ones that you think you might be experiencing, and keep an eye on them. They might go away after a few weeks, but if they’re still lingering after a couple of months of taking your meds, you might be stuck with them for the duration of your course of medication.

Weigh up whether or not these side effects are worth the problems that the medication solves

Are the problems severe, or relatively minor? If they start to impact upon your day to day life, then the medications you’re taking might not be for you. But if they’re things that you can easily deal with, or things that you think are worth putting up with, then stick at it and see how you get on. Don’t give up too fast, because sometimes it takes a while for meds to start to do their job.

Are there ways that you can help to alleviate side effects?

Some side effects can be helped by other things. If you’re constipated, you can opt for laxatives (or even an adjustment of your diet for a more long-term solution!); if you get headaches, there’s always paracetamol or ibuprofen. Some problems can be helped – if you can’t figure out a home remedy, pay another visit to your doctor and see if they can suggest anything. Try your best to make the experience as comfortable as possible for yourself.

Adjust to fit your needs, and know your limits

Sometimes starting new medication means adjusting the way you do some things. For example, I know that I get short of breath easily and my eyes black out when I stand up, so I have to take these things into consideration when I’m getting about or doing activities. I also know that after I take my meds, I get sleepy and my body becomes very uncomfortable to be in – so I have to be in bed. They’re minor things, but they still take some getting used to, and it’s important to learn what your body needs (or doesn’t need) when you’re putting something new in there. Remember that some medications might not fit right with your body, and that’s okay. So if things get too much, talk to your doctor and see if there’s anything else that they can do for you.

 

 

Getting Over ‘Summer Body’ Anxiety

Getting Over ‘Summer Body’ Anxiety

It’s been pretty warm in the UK lately. Alright, “warm” might just mean anything over 10 degrees for us, but still. We’ve had a little bit of sunshine and summer finally seems to be on its way. For a lot of us, that means getting our limbs out, or, to be more frank, our cellulite and stretch marks. That can be pretty scary.

As a fully grown 22 year old woman, my legs are full of cellulite, stretch marks, stubble, and scars from various activities (falling off a swing as a child, cutting myself shaving in the same spot 24 times as an adult), and my arms are hairy, pale, and absolutely not toned at all. When I was younger, I was an actual twig. 14 year old me had smooth, skinny, scar-less limbs that tanned easily, and I was all too eager to whip out the summer dresses at the first glimpse of sunlight. I had no shame when I lay out my little flat body on a beach in a bikini. I had nothing to hide, because I had a child’s body. Then I put on weight, AKA grew into my womanly body, and things changed. Cue the sudden worry about purple marks, orange peel thighs, and a slightly protruding stomach.

I wasn’t used to all of this. Being a slim child, I’d never had to worry about this kind of thing before. Adulthood sprung upon me suddenly and mercilessly. It took me a long time to understand that as an 18 year old, I wasn’t supposed to look the same as I did when I was just hitting puberty. Boobs were inevitable. My hips were bound to get wider, because that’s biology. My metabolism slowed down, but my eating habits didn’t. I still wanted to fit in the dresses I loved when I was 16, but my body just wasn’t the same shape and size anymore. I eventually realised that that’s just the way that things are, and I couldn’t have possibly maintained my childhood body no matter what I did. That’s not how life works. We grow into adults, and with that comes a few marks and scars.

I am fully aware that my body is perfectly healthy. I am not overweight or obese, but you don’t have to be either of those things to have cellulite or a podgy tum, and it’s normal to be self conscious about these little things.

But at the end of the day, that’s all they are: little things.

Yeah, my legs have dimpley fat-pockets. They have scars and spots and cuts. They have shaving rash, and big patches of hair that I missed while shaving. But who’s looking that close anyway? And what does it matter to them?

I am about to tell you something absolutely groundbreaking: nobody will die, or be sick, or cry, at the sight of your bloated belly or cankles. Really! They will not run away from you, because you are not a monster. They will actually carry on with their normal lives around you, maybe buy an ice cream, and get on with it. They’re probably worrying about their own wobbly bits, or that one weird toe that everyone can see in their flip-flops, or that they forgot to shave their armpits while they’re wearing a sleeveless top. Everyone has got their own things that they worry about, and nobody looks like a Victoria’s Secret model that’s been edited and airbrushed for the cover of a magazine.

In case you haven’t heard, websites like ASOS have given up editing out stretch marks and the like. Taking a quick peek at the swimwear section of their website, you can see that even the most toned, slender models have got stretch marks. It’s part of growing, and it’s normal. Having them doesn’t make you fat or ugly or undesirable. They make you a person with skin. You won’t catch these things on the cover of Vogue or Glamour, but even celebs and models have got wrinkles, discolouration, and stomach rolls. Don’t be fooled by their supposed perfection.

Here’s the good news: you grew a body! It reached adulthood. Your adult body looks different to your childhood body, and it’s supposed to, because it develops. Your body might have grown a whole human being in there and pushed it out, or it might have run a marathon, or it might have been the hand somebody held while they got a really scary injection, or it might have done none of those things and just really enjoyed eating slices of cake like mine has. Anyway, as long as you’re healthy, it’s fine. You have a body that is alive and functions and loves you. It keeps you alive by doing things you don’t even notice, like making new cells and attacking viruses. So maybe treat it to some sunshine and an ice lolly.

Bodies are gross, but not for the reasons you think they are. They’re gross because they make weird smells and your skin cells shed everywhere all the time. They’re not gross because they have a few scars. And if somebody thinks that your body is gross because of that, then maybe you should point them to the whole skin cells thing. That might give them some perspective.

I may not leap at the chance to put on a pair of short shorts like I used to do in my teenage years, but I’m still going to whack on a dress without tights (wild, I know) when it’s hot out, because, well, it’s hot out, and I don’t want to get all sweaty and uncomfortable. FEEL THE BREEZE ON YOUR KNEES! ACCIDENTALLY DRIP MELTING ICE CREAM DOWN YOUR FOREARM! EXPOSE YOUR SHOULDERS TO POTENTIAL WASP ATTACKS! But wear sun cream, that’s important. If you’re getting out all of your appendages, they do need to be protected from the sun.

To sum it all up, it’s okay. Bodies on the beach are okay. Bodies in the park are okay. Bodies with minimal clothes on are okay. Bodies with lots of clothes on are okay. Bodies, in general, are okay. Enjoy the sunshine, friends, because your body is okay. Over and out.

The Vitamin That Changed Me

The Vitamin That Changed Me

I’m a lethargic person. My medication makes me permanently exhausted, and most of the time I have no energy at all. Naps have long been a regular part of my day, not because of boredom, but often because of necessity. Sometimes I’ve even had to have two naps.

On top of this, I’ve always eaten a lot. I could never stop eating, and my cravings for sweet things were regular and overwhelming. Willpower? Absolutely not. I’d just stuff my face with all the cakes and chocolate, and then fall asleep. Fascinating.

Last year, my mum read up somewhere that it’s really common for women to be lacking in vitamin B12, and it can essentially make you feel a little bit messed up inside. I can vouch for this, because since I’ve started taking a little vitamin B12 tablet every morning, things are very different.

My craving for sweet things is gone. I mean, completely gone. Chocolate is a no-go for me most of the time, and I can no longer eat the blueberry muffin I used to have every single day without fail. The thought of any kind of junk food no longer makes me drool. I feel like I’ve conquered a problem that I’ve had all my life. Actually, in general I find that I eat less. I have my three meals a day and I’m pretty much good to go, so I can abandon the snacks.

But that isn’t the only thing that’s changed. I’ve seen a spark in my energy, too. Admittedly, it isn’t much, because my medication makes me constantly fatigued, but I can deal with the day better now and I don’t feel the need to nap so much. I’m no longer falling asleep by 7pm, which is a bit of a win for me. I know, I’m such an old lady.

I don’t want to go all preachy about vitamins, and frankly you might not need them, but this made a huge difference to me pretty quickly. If you’re not feeling top-notch, it wouldn’t hurt to give them a try. You might be surprised.