Coping After Bipolar Hospitalization
For some people with bipolar disorder, it may sometimes be necessary to enter a hospital environment in order to access emergency treatment and to ensure that they are safe. At the time, my entries into inpatient were terrifying moments, but reflecting now it is possible to see that this was the best option for me at the time.
You may have to go into hospital if you are a risk to yourself or others, or if everything becomes too overwhelming with a manic or depressive episode, or if you are suffering with severe psychotic symptoms.
Just as going into hospital can be a challenging prospect, so too can coming out again. A hospital can provide a safe environment, but can also lead to feelings of isolation after a long-term stay. Coming out of hospital may leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable, and it is important to look after yourself and monitor your moods more intensely in the months following hospitalization.
Have a Plan
The most important tool in your recovery kit post hospital is to ensure you have firm support from your medical team. Ideally you should be discharged with a written care plan detailing the follow up care that will be provided to you, and you should be made aware of all the contents of this plan.
Communication with a medical team is vital in preventing relapse, and if you have had any medications prescribed that were different to what you were taking before, it is important that you fully understand how they should be taken, and what side effects might be expected. If you begin to feel unwell again then it is absolutely vital that you inform your medical team as soon as possible, and if you feel that you might be a risk to yourself or others then you should attend the nearest ER immediately. Keeping your team aware of how you are feeling, and any changes in mood or thought is vital in maintaining mental wellness.
Friends and family can also provide valuable support post hospitalization, especially as you get used to life outside the structured world of the ward. You may want to ask a trusted family member or friend to visit you regularly in order to ensure that you are taking your medication responsibly and regularly, and that you are leading a healthy lifestyle. There is no shame in asking for extra support, especially after such a difficult time. Friends and family may also be able to recognize the warning signs of a relapse before you might potentially see them and so are a valuable asset in your recovery tool kit.
Adjusting Work Environments
Returning to work can be a complicated and difficult process, but do not be afraid to ask for reduced hours, or other forms of extra support. If you work for a company or organization that is reluctant to help in this way then it is important that you consult your doctor in order to obtain medical paperwork showing the need for you to be reintroduced to the workplace gradually.
Workmates will naturally ask questions about where you have been, but remember that there is no requirement that you tell everyone every detail. You can tell people in your own time, and at your own pace. If you receive negative comments regarding mental health then try to remember that this is most often due to a lack of understanding and education and not a comment meant to be a personal attack.