For some people, it is a relief when they find out that there is a name for something they have been enduring sometimes for years. Unfortunately, due to the stigma attached to mental illness, some people feel ashamed or don’t want to face the fact that they are “crazy”.
The diagnosis for bipolar disorder 1 is usually done after someone is in a manic episode. This means that they have grandiose ideas, are spending a lot of money, they are taking risks they normally wouldn’t take, they are verbally overproductive, and are oftentimes psychotic. This oftentimes results in a hospital stay where the person is medicated to try and stabilize their moods. There are many medications out there that help with mania (anti-psychotics, etc) and there are also mood stabilizers. Sometimes it takes months to find the right combination of medications as every patient is different.
Usually, after a manic episode, the person will fall into a deep depression where they are in a deep hole that they feel like they will never get out of. They are unmotivated, feel like life is not worth living, sometimes are suicidal, they do not enjoy things they used to enjoy and usually there is a change in appetite and sleep.
If someone with bipolar disorder has been admitted to the hospital, they most likely have been placed under what is called a 72 hour hold. This is a time period where they are not allowed to leave and are assessed by the doctors and nurses to see if they are safe to return to society. If a person stays past that time, either voluntarily or involuntarily, they usually start going to group therapy, participate in art activities, take classes that help them with self-esteem and are given coping skills. It is a learning time if they are in there for the first time. The family gets involved too and there are usually sessions with the patient and their loved ones.
When the person starts to come out of their manic episode or are no longer suicidal, the staff start talking about discharge. The patient is given resources to use when they leave, directions from their doctor as to what medications to take and when, and an appointment is made with their doctor and other people like social workers.
Depending on high functioning the person is, they are able to take care of themselves after leaving the hospital and life goes back to normal. It is not something that will stay permanent unless they are lucky enough to have found the perfect medication cocktail. It is constantly something that gets evaluated as the patient goes to their doctor’s visits.
Some people are able to work full time jobs and no one even knows that they have been in the hospital and would be shocked to hear that they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Some people have to go on disability as the stress of their job is too much and will cause mania or depression.
If you have recently been diagnosed, there is always hope and things can and will get better. Hang in there and don’t expect everything to get “normal” again all at once. If you truly have bipolar disorder, be ready for a long fight. Many people are able to use their manic highs and accomplish a lot. However, some tend to stay depressed and are unable to see the good things in life.
It is the hope of loved ones and professionals that the person who has bipolar disorder is stabilized and does not have mood swings anymore. If you could view bipolar disorder like a roller coaster where the highs are the mania and the low points are the depression, you aim for the times where the roller coaster comes to a stop.
After getting back into the world after being diagnosed, you will learn where you can get help, where the resources are, who you can count on, and what your limitations are. It is advisable that you create an action plan.
An action plan is something that you and your support system make together so that when you start to get into trouble and see the red flags (spending a lot of money, grandiose ideas, talking a lot, etc) that your support team surrounds you with love and helps you through it all. Things that can be included in an action plan are: Someone takes away your keys and credit cards so you don’t drive crazy and get into an accident or spend money you don’t have. Another thing that might be in an action plan is that when the person feels they are getting manic, they let everyone in their support system know. Some things that the support system can do are to make sure the person is eating right as they oftentimes forget. Some other things are to encourage them to journal, take long walks, make sure they get enough sleep. Sleep is very important when it comes to preventing a manic episode and can make it a lot worse. People in the manic phase oftentimes can go more than 48 hours without sleeping.
After the action plan is created, it is a good idea to have everyone sign it including the person with the illness so that when they do get sick and have poor judgement they might not want to listen to their supporters. However, with the action plan they can be reminded of what they agreed to. One such thing is to limit social media time or to stay off the phone or not write any letters. By doing this, it prevents them from embarrassing themselves and doing things and saying things they will regret later. Encourage them to wait until they are stable to take on huge projects.
Living with bipolar disorder is not easy, but it can be manageable. With determination, a good support system, and a good medication regimen, people can lead normal lives.