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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Koios and I moved to a new apartment! This time I decided to do things differently than the other times we’ve moved because of my lack of motivation that comes with bipolar.

I used to never get anything done. I simply could gather the energy to attempt to do what needed to be done. Last time we moved, we packed everything in boxes but I never unpacked most of them. We had boxes that hadn’t been opened in 2 years! I’m so bad at moving that I have boxes in my car from when I moved out of my parents’ house. I want to be done moving so badly that I always half-ass it.

This time, I made sure that we only had 10 boxes. That way I’d have to unpack them before I could move anything else. I found that I have been more thoughtful about where I put stuff in the new place and more selective about the things to give to Goodwill.

It took more time (a lot more time, haha), but I tricked myself into working with my bipolar.

-Ashes

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While I was volunteering for my old high school, I got into a discussion with one of the teacher’s wives about starting meds and how it sapped my ability to paint. She had a novel suggestion that I thought I’d share with you guys.

She asked me how large my paintings and mixed media pieces were at the height of my ability, and I told her that they were always very large. She said that maybe I could start painting again using small canvases and work my way up to my old size.

It hit me then that the huge blank space that I was trying to fill had intimidated me to the point that I stopped trying. I’m hoping that this simple change in my art may give me my creativity back.

As I was leaving, my teacher’s wife took me aside and hugged me. She whispered in my ear that she has bipolar as well, and wished me luck. I’ve been shown the necessity of finding other bipolar survivors to bounce ideas off of once again.

Do you have other tips and tricks for people on meds who want to be creative again? Do you work in another medium and need some advice? Leave a comment!

-Ashes

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Hey all! This post is a bit off topic. I’m writing it with the hope that it will be selected for the Rheum Blog Carnival, but
I think my regular readers will find it applicable to their lives as well.

I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve been told by friends and family “You don’t need to be on those medication! They’re bad for you. You just need to exercise and eat better.” Living in a town with very liberal roots, I also get “Why haven’t you tried this herb that they collect in a secret mountain stream? You don’t need to take poisons! Have you tried a gluten-free diet? It’ll fix everything.”

—–
To everyone who tells us to stop taking medications,

Listen guys, I know you mean well. You’re trying to help me in a way that worked for you. And I’m so glad that lifestyle changes and naturalistic medicine helped you or a loved one. But listen:I am me. You haven’t lived a day in my shoes, nor would I want you to. But please understand a few things.

1. My illness isn’t my fault. Even if I ran miles everyday and only ate home-prepared organic food, I will still be sick. I know that you’re not explicitly saying that my actions and lifestyle is to blame for my illness, but that’s how it comes out. That’s what it feels like and it hurts. It makes me lose confidence in your opinion of me. It makes me not want to be open about my needs or limitations when I feel like you’ll view my illness as something I could easily change, if only I wanted to. I do want to change my illness, I wish that it would Disapparate out of my life as if it was magic. But these meds are the only thing keeping me functioning and I can’t jeopardize that.

2. Telling me to get off of my medications is akin to damning me to a life that’s almost not worth living. The negligible benefits that may come from the natural supplements or exercise and diet could take months or even years to manifest. Being off of my “evil chemicals” for that long would harm me in a way that your advice couldn’t fix. As I said before, these medications are the only things that keep me able to live my life and I can’t jeopardize that.

3. You don’t know enough about my disease and it’s effects on me to pass judgment on how I’m treating it. You don’t know what my medications actually do, and you don’t know the health risks and side-effects of these meds that you continually put down as “over-medicating” or “dangerous chemical compounds”. Every disease is different for every person unfortunate enough to have it. Your friend with the “miracle” cure? She might have a completely different subset of the disease! One size does not fit all when it comes to treatments for chronic diseases.

4. Those of us with chronic illnesses are completely aware of the effects of our medications. We know that they can cause liver failure or vision changes or high cholesterol levels. You don’t have to tell us that these medications can be dangerous because we know it already. But we have decided that those risks are worth taking to improve our lives. It’s all about quality of life for us, and sometimes it’s a trade-off. We trade possible future complications for the ability to actually live today. But we have already decided. Please respect that decision.

5. Respect. Please try to respect us. Respect our choices, respect our limitations, and respect our knowledge. We try not to talk your ear off about our illnesses, but please try to listen to what each day is like for us. We appreciate your interest in our lives and we love that you want us to feel as amazing as we can. Your friendship and concern are intensely needed and loved. Please just try to be empathetic to our illnesses.

Sincerely,
All the people living with chronic illnesses
——-

Ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder five years ago I’ve been bombarded by people who, with kind hearts, would lament that I chose medication. Now that it’s likely that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis or another autoimmune connective tissue illness, I’m sure that I’ll be bombarded with the same advice even more. It’s hard for a healthy person to understand what RA or bipolar is like. I don’t expect them to. I just wish that they would understand that we focus every day on how to manage our illnesses and live our lives. That’s what we think of from sunup to sundown: how to feel a little bit better the next day or how we’re going to change our lives to fit into the cages that the disease traps us in.

-Ashes

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I read about Moodscope in the most recent issue of Newsweek and loved the idea immediately. It’s an online service that asks you to rate your mood based on twenty feelings each day and issues a score to rate your overall happiness that day. It lets you chart your daily mood fluctuations and add notes on the scores to explain what happened in your life that could have caused your mood to increase or decrease that day. You’re supposed to take the test as a part of your morning routine, before your day really begins, so that you can see your mood baseline before your life alters it that day. It helps to weed out results caused by acute situational changes, making the data more useful for the user.

It also lets you choose a “buddy”, a trusted person in your life that gets an email each day of your scores. If your score drops your buddy can contact you to see what’s going on or offer to talk. The site founder discovered that the simple knowledge that someone was informed about your moods led to an increase in mood. The Hawthorne Effect, a phenomenon where people who know that they are being studied change their behavior or the outcome of an experiment, is actually encouraged on the Moodscope site. It also can save someone’s life. Everyone has heard the story of how a man planning to commit suicide one day changed his mind after a stranger showed an interest in his life; Moodscope can do the same thing. If you’re feeling really low and your daily score reflects that, a simple email from a friend can help pull you out of your funk because you know that someone cares about what happens to you.

I’ve been using Moodscope for less than a week, but I can already see a benefit for me. The numeric score takes my confusing feelings and lets me see them logically. It’s easier to think objectively about how I’m feeling when I have a number to focus on. It also makes me aware of where I’m at emotionally before my mood boils over into my life. This morning I received my lowest score yet, a 34% out of 100. Because I knew that my mood wasn’t very good, I did as many errands as I could on my way home from school rather than wait. If I do errands later in the day I become really irritable and grumpy, so I finished what I could early to make my life easier today.

Check it out if you think it could be useful for you! I’m really excited about the possibilities that Moodscope has and look forward to utilizing it to the fullest.

-Ashes

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Thanks to some weird scheduling, I haven’t had to work since Monday night. I work at a big box chain store, in the apparel and jewelry departments. During the holiday season I certainly appreciate some stroke of luck that led to four days off in a row, even if it’s at the expense of my bank account.

Working during the holidays can be a new kind of hell for bipolar people in retail. Working crazy hours that throw off sleep schedules, demanding customers that can tweak guilt complexes, breakneck speed that can leave you feeling manic, and unrealistic expectations for productivity can bring out bipolar triggers like nothing else. I’ve found a few ways to deal with all of these things however.

1. If you do the best work that you can, it’s harder for guilt trips about productivity from management to take hold.

2. Take any and all breaks on time. Knowing that the day will be split up in predictable and routine ways helps me to manage my bipolar triggers by giving me back some control over the day. It lets me say to myself “I only have to hold it together for 20 more minutes! Then it’s time for me to relax”.

3. Don’t take on other people’s work. I’m tempted to try to help my fellow coworkers out by helping them with a task, but during the holidays you have to look out for yourself.

4. Get a note from your psychiatrist of psychologist if you’re scheduled hours that throw off your sleep schedule. Sleep is one of theĀ  most important variables in keeping bipolar under control. Ask for your doctor to write a note explaining that you can’t work past X’oclock if necessary. It’s made my life so much easier. I don’t have to worry about having a breakdown in front of my coworkers because I’m scheduled to work til 11PM.

5. Have a mantra. I normally stay away from advice like this, but ever since my first holiday season in retail I found myself saying “Breathe in, breathe out”. It just helps me let go of irritating customers and coworkers. My mantra has become sort of a motto at my workplace; if we see another worker looking overwhelmed we tell them to breathe in and breathe out.

I hope this list helps you a bit should you also work in retail. Wish me luck as I go back from my mini-vacation!

-Ashes

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