Tag Archives: mental health

Grateful for Gratitude

A few weeks ago I decided to start a gratitude journal.  Instead of getting caught up in the highs and lows of my bipolar disorder I figured I’d redirect my focus and look at the good things working for me in life.  There was just one problem; I didn’t count on something getting in the way.  That something is borderline personality disorder.

In addition to my bipolar disorder I have a daily struggle to keep myself balanced because of my BPD.   In short, having borderline personality disorder means that I have a hard time living a life of balance.  It is my disorder inside a disorder and it can make life very complicated for me.  BPD is the reason I often overreact to any given situation and have ongoing unhealthy relationships and thought patterns.  I typically only see life in terms of black and white not realizing that life is full of areas of gray.  I tend to fly off the handle at seemingly benign situations and my interactions with people are often based on pure emotion which, in and of itself, is quite detrimental to living life on an even keel.  Borderline personality disorder can also make it hard for me to balance my emotions and react appropriately to them.  For instance, I can get happy about something good happening to me and instead of just being content with the situation; I may go out and spend money that I really can’t spare as a reaction to it.  If something upsets me I may go into a deep depression and start toying with thoughts of self-harm or even suicide.  Often when a relationship is unhealthy or toxic I may still try to keep the relationship going because; in my thought process, some relationship is better than no relationship.

Earlier I said that this is my disorder inside of a disorder; let me explain.  Bipolar disorder is characterized by intense highs and lows, mania and depression, light and dark.  Well borderline personality makes these instances even more intense. I often suffer from extended periods of anxiety and I have trouble with major bouts of low self-esteem and overall self-loathing.  The mania and depression of my bipolar disorder are made more intense as a result of my BPD.  Already being overly stimulated, borderline personality disorder can make me appear like the Incredible Hulk when it comes to emotions.  One minute I’m fine and the next minute, after seeing a disturbing story on the evening news, I’m a wasted pile of tears and despair.  I know, this may sound extreme but that’s the nature of borderline personality disorder.  BPD is a constant struggle to maintain emotional equilibrium and avoid unhealthy situations and relationships.

I say all of this to make the point that starting a gratitude journal was more of a challenge than I ever thought it would be.  Because my view of reality is often skewed, it’s hard for me to be mindful and find things to be grateful for since I’m always in an extreme emotional state.  This being true, I was even more determined to be able to use mindfulness and find things in life to be grateful for no matter how small or mundane.  Even though mentally I tend to be in a state of flux, I have to realize that if I can compose myself and focus I’ll be able to see that there is just plain good in life.  I’ve decided that I will be grateful despite my diagnosis and I’m going to start that journal no matter what.

 

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Mental Illness and Two Types of Therapy

I have been in and out of treatment for my bipolar disorder and substance abuse for nearly fifteen years and I have gained a lot of knowledge about different treatment therapies.  Most recently I have been exposed to two types of therapy that have helped me tremendously. Following is a brief summary of each one of these therapy models.  I encourage further research on both.

The first of these is DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan to help people suffering severely with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). DBT deals with helping to reshape detrimental behaviors that can stand in the way of effectively living with BPD and, over the course of its history; it has been expanded to treat other mental illnesses and recovery from a number of addictions and disorders.

DBT is made up of four specific skill sets being taught that help with the stabilization of extreme moods and addictive behaviors.  These skill sets are mindfulness; being fully present and aware in the moment, distress tolerance; how to tolerate uncomfortable situations without the need to change them, interpersonal effectiveness; how to ask for what you want and learn to say no while maintaining positive relationships and emotion regulation; how to change emotions that need to be changed when you want to change them.

The dialectic module of treatment focuses on self-acceptance but also realizing that some behaviors need to change in order to facilitate mood stabilization and recovery.

The second therapy I have been in is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  This was developed by Dr. Aaron T. Beck and it deals with helping people with depression combat “automatic [negative] thoughts” that can increase this depression.  CBT helps patients to realize that how we see the world will affect how we feel; this, in turn, can increase or decrease depression.  Therapists help patients with anticipated challenging situations that may arise, and they help them to come up with a plan to combat these situations in a positive way.

Of all the different types of therapy and groups I have been a part of I would have to say that these two have been the most beneficial to my current journey towards recovery.  They have also helped me to develop skills that help me to deal with everyday life situations with bipolar disorder.  I highly recommend these therapy models to anyone suffering from mental illness and substance addiction.

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Medication and Mental Illness

To those of you, who have been recently diagnosed with any sort of mental illness, riding the roller coaster of medication regulation; hang in there.  I know how frustrating and nerve wracking it can be those first months trying to find the right medication or combination of medications to get you stabilized.  Let me tell you that, in the beginning, you will most often feel worse before you feel better.  You will feel like giving up and going off your medications altogether; don’t do it.  Finding the right recipe for your illness and circumstances will take time.

I know too well the ups and downs of medication management.  One drug is meant to stabilize your mood and is supposed to make you feel better while causing you to gain ungodly amounts of weight which just makes you feel horrible all over again.  Then there are those medications that zoot you out so much you can barely keep your eyes open causing you to spend hours in bed.  During this time you wonder how in the world these medications can be helping you.  You ask yourself why you even bother to keep up with something that can make you feel so bad.  This is par for the course unfortunately.  Fortunately, the longer you still with the prescribed medications the sooner you’ll start feeling better.

Initially all I had to worry about was finding the right medications for my bipolar disorder but during this time I developed several physical ailments which have made my journey quite challenging.  I suffer from diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, hypertension, hypothyroidism, pernicious anemia, severe acid reflux in addition to my bipolar disorder and anxiety.  I also had a neuroendocrine gastrinoma causing me to need major surgery during which a portion of my stomach and small intestine was removed and now I suffer from major nausea and vomiting at one time or another.  Because of all of this, finding the right combination of mental health medications has been an ongoing battle for me.  Since I have to take medications for what is wrong with me physically there is a delicate balance that must be reached in managing these medications and any medications I take for my bipolar disorder.

To date I have been on all of the following at one time or another; Effexor, Paxil, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Prozac, Latuda, Saboxone, Geodon, Cymbalta, Haldol, Lamictal, Trazadone, Topomax, Risperdal, Invega, Abilify, Saphris, Depakote, Xanax, Buspar, Pristiq and Neurontin (for my mood and pain).  I’m quite sure that this list will change and probably increase as my bipolar disorder and other physical ailments change their faces.  I say this simply to encourage you and let you know that you’re not alone and to appeal to you to stick with your medications.  It may take some time but the right medication or combination of medications is out there for you.  Try to look at the big picture and not get so consumed with how you may be feeling at this moment.   Over time you will find that you are feeling more balanced and you will see the benefit to sticking with your prescribed medication(s).  It may not be easy at times but, trust me, it is worth the fight.

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