Question: Aside from medication, what have you found to be most helpful in coping with bipolar disorder?
Answer: Medication, more often than not, saves lives in the bipolar disorder realm. Lithium is notably regarded as a suicide preventer by most mental health practitioners. If something saves a life, does it then need to take up an active role in maintaining a life? That is a question that many bipolars could ask themselves daily, for reasons ranging from the hope of ridding their lives of medication side-effects to wanting to feel life and manage life first hand, without the aid of psychotropic drugs. My sense of bipolar medication's worth is that it saved my life many times and, yet, did so in such a heavy-handed way with regard to side-effects that I felt constantly moved to seek an alternative treatment plan.
The formal treatment plan can change for all of us bipolars, but we must first change something about our condition to justify a modification of the cure. Many bipolars want to be medicated, nearly induced into a coma, during depressions and to go al fresco and drug-free during manias and hypo-manias. If only that were a sensible option, bipolar disorder would have many more champions of its cause, fewer dead bipolars as its caveat. If you perceive mania and hypo-mania as your natural bipolar gift, your exclusive bipolar birthright to spread your broken wings and fall, then a strict regimen of medication would surely be the best prescription for you. Most people, bipolar and non-bipolar alike, somehow are not threatened as much by mania and hypo-mania as they are by depression, even though most of the poorest judgment and extremist acts are mania-driven, not enacted by depressed minds that have enough trouble negotiating a day's journey from the bed to the shower. Remembering that bipolar disorder is a disorder of two poles, not one, mania is the wild catalyst of many, if not all bipolar depressions. You cannot praise the immortal feeling of mania once you know that it is essentially the Grim Reaper dressed as a perpetual sunny day; you must be wise enough to discern that not every symptom of a disease feels awful all the time. Mania is just a symptom of bipolar disorder and must be treated no differently than depression, psychosis, agitation, suicidal ideation, and suicide.
Perspective is the first and most critical change for a bipolar to embrace because a perspective change will directly lead to a change in behaviors and eventually to a detectable life change. To change one's perspective is to realize that he or she is not being blessed by an existing belief system. Beliefs can run deep in us and that is the reason we must take tremendous care on the journey toward a medication-free, symptom-free bipolar existence. Pulling beliefs up from the roots is the best way to examine them and to determine for ourselves how much these beliefs are helping us and how much we believe they are helping us because we are attached to them emotionally. Bipolar disorder does not bode well for those of us who are sentimental; we bipolars have to be pioneer spirits in this world, detach ourselves from anything or anyone standing in the way of our whole mental health. Our beliefs cannot change us for the better; we need to change our beliefs in order to heal. Medication can save us from having to dig as deeply within our own self-understanding, but it will not replace that personal awakening with anything but a clamp on our worst bipolar symptoms and a myriad of undesirable side-effects.
Laziness will get you nowhere as a bipolar. Medicated and lazy, you will suffer symptoms and side-effects, identity crises from courting others people's perspectives and beliefs, and you will deny yourself the one bipolar birthright that is about spreading your wings and flying: the liberation of the human soul. The soul of the bipolar is the soul of every human being; it must have its chance to change the world from within one's self. When such a soulful change begins to take root inside of a bipolar's mind, then a change in his or her treatment may well ensue. Medication can save a life and it can also diminish its quality, if that life beckons freedom from the unhappiness of an unhealthy perspective and useless beliefs.
-The Blue Bear
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