issue 94 (our 8th year)
issue 94 (our 8th year)
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type II disorder on January 28, 2014 and I wish someone had sat down and told me what I have since learnt on that Tuesday morning:
It will get better. Your meds will become finer tuned and you will learn how to better live with this disorder. It will all become more natural for you with time and, although there will be some bumps in the road, your quality of life will overall continue to improve as long as you take care of yourself and follow your treatment plan.
Find a doctor and a therapist you really trust and believe in (and who trust and believe in you). You need to trust that you have been given the correct diagnoses, that your doctor knows what is best for you and that they will listen to you and take your opinions into consideration. You need to find a therapist you like and respect, who makes you feel heard and understood. Keep looking until you find these people – they are worth the extra seeking. Choose a care team who are easy to get ahold of, who call you back and who you can schedule emergency appointments with when things come up.
Learn your own warning signs for ups and downs and let the people in your life know what they should look out for. They may spot the beginnings of an episode before you do, and if you notice it quickly enough you might be able to do something to prevent the cycles from beginning again.
You do not need to be afraid every time you feel sad that you are falling back into a depression; you do not need to feel anxious every time you feel up that you are getting manic again. Life after bipolar treatment still includes the natural ups and downs of life and it can take a while to learn how to tell the difference between normal feelings again and bipolar symptoms.
You should learn all you can about this disorder. Watch any documentaries you can get your hands on, read and follow blogs, seek out books and articles & look for groups (whether they are on Facebook or in person) for bipolar people who can help you not feel so alone in dealing with this disorder. Make bipolar disorder your new hobby until you are comfortable with this new identity (you have so many) and you don’t have to think about it so much. But for now? Obsess.
At the same time, if you feel like these groups are dragging you down, take a step back. Sometimes we need to be around people who understand our pain when we are hurting but once we are feeling better again, we don’t want to be continually reminded of the dark places. Seek community when it feels right and if it starts to feel wrong, just take a step back. It’ll still be there when and if you need it again.
Find your own ways to cope (in addition to following the treatment plan you create with your doctor and your therapist). Some of mine include making art (primarily photography), taking care of my houseplants and my dog, keeping my space organized and clutter free & eating a balanced vegan diet. Your coping strategies might be very different than mine, but try things and learn what helps you to feel (and stay) balanced.
Look for ways to get involved in mental health advocacy – use your talents and resources to help other people who are also living with bipolar disorder. Doing this will also help you to heal and grow and will give you the support of a loving and encouraging community. Start a blog, make artwork inspired by your experiences living with bipolar, get involved in a national or local organization – think of how you can use the things you are passionate about to become an advocate for yourself and everyone else who is living with this condition.
Victoria Legal Aid has welcomed the changes QBE (Australia) Ltd has made to its travel insurance policy, saying it is a move toward the insurance industry abiding by the law and putting an end to discriminatory practices.
Executive Director Civil Justice Dan Nicholson said that QBE’s new and updated product disclosure statement for travel insurance released on 1 July 2017 looks to have taken positive action to reverse its unlawful treatment of people with a mental health condition.
‘We’re really pleased to see QBE finally abiding by the decision in QBE v Ingram and removing the blanket mental health exclusion clause.
‘It means that people will no longer be left without cover if they have to cancel their travel, or change plans because of a mental health condition that develops after they bought their policy,’ Mr Nicholson said.
‘QBE’s new definition of mental illness is now also based on standard medical criteria, which is welcome.
‘We call on other insurance companies that have discriminatory policies to follow the law and live up to community expectations about mental illness. There is no longer any excuse for insurers to discriminate and operate their business on the back of outdated attitudes towards mental illness.’
In 2015, Victoria Legal Aid represented Ella Ingram in a case that brought into sharp focus the insurance industry’s systemic discrimination against people with a mental health condition.
That case was successful, with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that QBE’s exclusion of all claims made because of a mental illness, regardless of the type, severity or circumstances of the illness, was discriminatory under the Equal Opportunity Act.
It found that QBE had directly discriminated against Ella by providing her with a travel insurance policy that included this blanket exclusion, and by relying on that clause to reject her claim for reimbursement of travel expenses.
Sean was diagnosed at 27 with Bipolar 1 although he told me he had been depressed since he was 16. Sean first experienced death at the young age of 8 when his baby brother died suddenly and this had a profound effect on him.
Sean had a very addictive nature and started drinking at 16 or so. He started taking drugs at 18-19 or thereabouts. Once diagnosed and on medication he did not change his lifestyle all that much and mixing alcohol with medication was a disaster. Many parties were ruined because of his behaviour.
Sean was a very intelligent young man. He had a responsible job selling business insurance but his lifestyle got in the way and he lost that job. He then worked with APIA insurance. He had a lovely fiancé but once again his druggie mates and lifestyle ruined his relationship. He did various other jobs when well enough to work but when depressed he could not work. When manic he was out of control. He would say to me when manic, “I need to go to hospital to come down off the high”.
As a mother it can be hard to see a lovely looking young man spiral out of control, to rely on me for support and help. It was hard on both of us. He once said to me how lonely he was and that is hard for a mother to see and hear. He lived with me for the last 12 months of his life. A massive heart attack at 39 years ended his not-so-happy life.
He was very devoted to me and once told me I was his rock and he appreciated all I did for him. He was always ringing me if I was away.
The cocktail of an unhealthy lifestyle mixed with inconsistent use of medication and being overweight contributed to an enlarged heart that was not discovered until after his death.
Sean died years before I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1. I remember when he died and how difficult it was for my aunty who found him dead in his bed. An autopsy had to be done as they were not sure if it was suicide. It was a terrible time for my aunty, especially wondering if he had killed himself. Although it turned out not to be suicide, I still blame Bipolar Disorder for his death. He had strange sleep patterns (sleeping all day, prowling around at night), ate and drank unhealthily (drinking whole 1 litre bottles of coke regularly) and did almost no exercise. I don’t believe he would have behaved like this if not for the mood swings. Now that I have Bipolar Disorder I regularly remember my older cousin and the many mistakes he made. It makes me more determined to take my medication consistently, get good sleep, exercise, eat well, stay sober, avoid drugs, etc.
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Giving Tree Group (GTG) was founded in 2013, with its mission is to help people with mild disability to become valued and contributing members of the community. Spiritual values, such as compassion, wisdom, continuous learning and growth, play critical roles in our activities. GTG seeks alternative low-cost pathways towards better quality of life that our society can’t provide elsewhere.
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We are pleased to announce the opening of a bipolar support group at FRANKSTON.
Meetings will be held at 7:30pm at the Orwil Street Community House, 16 Orwil Street Frankston
on the Fourth Monday of each month.
Enquiries: 03 9504 0033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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