Bipolar Relapse Prevention
How often have I had a crisis or seen a crisis waiting to happen?
Too many times.
My first crisis was 2008, and it took years of hard work and recovery to rebuild myself to a decent level of mental health afterwards. The second was in 2013, when I experienced suicidal depression, and the third, recently, when I was prescribed medication that impacted negatively on my bipolar mood stabilizers, the result being a hospital admission.
You Can’t Always See It Coming…
From first-hand experience I can say there are some crises that are unexpected, particularly first-time episodes when neither the person struggling nor their friends or family are equipped with the knowledge to spot glaring signs or symptoms.
Back in 2008 I carried around a black feeling in my stomach for months and months and developed an eating disorder in an attempt to cope with the emotional distress I was experiencing. I was predisposed to mental ill health due to family history and was thrown into the world of mental health bouncing from a depression diagnosis to a bipolar diagnosis quite quickly.
Of course looking back there were many red flags, but it was impossible to put them all together like pieces in a jigsaw and my friends and family have echoed this. We knew absolutely nothing about mental health and we now know it is all about learning from experience.
Although I acknowledge those more unexpected crises, my argument is that there are always steps we can take can prevent relapse and avoid crisis.
Yes, it is more difficult in the example given above, but as time goes on and we attempt to manage our mental health diagnoses we should have a support network that consists of health professionals, family, friends, and work colleagues, with our own minds being the driving force. I understand this level of support is not always possible but it does provide the optimum results in crisis prevention.
Stage 1: Recognition
If I think about my stages of my relapse I would say I get a feeling in my stomach first and foremost that tells me something is wrong. I start to notice mental changes like irritability, sadness, lack of motivation or forgetfulness, and at the other end of the spectrum I feel hyperactive, talk a lot, feel motivated to make lots of changes in my life and become more interested in the opposite sex.
I used to speak nothing of these changes, not realizing they were indicating bipolar mood swings and were most likely obvious to everyone else. Interestingly, many people didn’t used to highlight them to me and I believe this is due to fear and not wanting to rock the boat, which I understand completely. It’s easy to believe that if we ignore things they will go away but this isn’t the case in mental health.
Now I have a very open relationship with friends and family and they speak to me when I am feeling down to see if there is anything they can do to help and keep an eye on me when I am over-energetic, warning me that I’m being very ‘up.’
Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass, because it’s helpful for people to try and lift me from a hole, but to push me back into one when I’m feeling great is not something I cherish. Being told the truth and having honesty around you is not always easy. In fact, it can sometimes feel as though you’re being monitored, but that always comes with the territory of bipolar and as you learn your illness you will be able to differentiate between the ‘worriers’ and the ‘genuine concerns.’