My Experience With Bipolar and Alcohol
I remember taking a trip to another town with my friends for a party. We were staying over night and making a weekend of it.
I shouldn't have gone. I'd been feeling very low, having lots of emotional outbursts and trying to hide the fact I had slipped back into depression. However, I was managing to function and I wanted to block it all out for a weekend.
I started drinking early in the day and continued at the party. I forget how much I had to drink but I know I had to be taken home early and I know I lost my bag.
I couldn't stand up. I'd ruined everybody's night. The worst part was when I arrived back at the apartment.
The chemical changes in an already poorly brain made my behavior shoot out in all different irrational directions. I mumbled, cried, shouted and scrambled around on my knees trying to find the contents of the bag, which had been lost back at the party.
I was a complete mess. I can remember seeing my friends’ faces and they were disgusted. I think one friend realized I was in a really bad way and put me to bed.
On top of the severe hangover I experienced the next day, the shame was immense. I felt as though I was dying and my mental state was so fragile I thought, “Am I relapsing again?”
I cried and apologized to my friends, but for the next few weeks I was confined to my bed with depression, hating myself. My friends told me it was ok but I'd done the damage and I couldn't cope with the overwhelming feeling of shame.
I stopped drinking for six months after that — didn't touch a drop. I was too scared that my mood would switch again and I would cause further devastation to myself and to those relationships around me.
Everything in Moderation
I do not condone drinking on medication, but it is a personal decision, and I’m realistic. I am now able to have the odd glass of wine or pint of cider, but I know when to stop.
This is possible because I am relatively stable at the moment and I have the rationality of thought to know I can't be dealing with the hangover or subsequent mood instability.
I am realistic to say that in the future it is likely I will reach for alcohol to self-medicate, but I'm much more informed about this scenario now — and I've had enough experience to be able to question myself at the point of self-destruction.
Once, when I was in a bipolar mixed state (hypomanic and depressed at the same time), I wanted to drink to keep my agitation down and to block out my suicidal thoughts. I remember sitting in the garden with my third can of beer wanting the world to open up its mouth and swallow me whole.
However, something clicked in my alcohol-fused state and I called a helpline number I had saved in my phone. I continued to drink while talking to them, but as I spoke and offloaded to this kind, non-judgmental person on the other end it did make me consider my actions.
The need to lose my head in alcohol had been met by simply opening up to someone who just listened. I hope in the future if ever I am fuelled by my illness to drink I'll make that call again. It really helped.
How We Can Prevent Ourselves From Using Alcohol?
We can help to prevent alcohol impacting our moods by exercising, practicing relaxation, learning breathing techniques to deal with anxiety, talking to someone about our problems, having a good sleep routine and always being aware of why we are drinking and if we do drink, what our limitation should be.
Remember that if we are drinking to block, it is likely we are going to feel a whole lot worse once the alcohol wears off.
Ultimately, however we look at it, no good can come from drinking excessive alcohol with an illness such as bipolar disorder.