I haven’t written about the state of my mental health for awhile, as I’ve been focusing more on thought pieces on the blog. I’ve spoken about my journey in this post My Journey so Far, Living with Bipolar Disorder Today I’d like to focus on where I find myself now and the recent state of my mental health.
You’ll all be happy to know it’s almost all positive! I seem to have finally found the right combination of medication. It’s been a long road (I was diagnosed in December 2012 with Bipolar) to find the right mix for me. Many of the number of medications I’ve tried I’ve struggled with intense side effects that have altered and decreased my quality of life. Now I find myself on a combination that’s only side effect is to make me feel drowsy. This isn’t a problem as I take them just before I go to bed. I am currently taking Lamotrigine, that stabilises my mood, Aripiprazole, which is an antipsychotic and Sertraline, an anti depressant. These have by far kept me the most stable I have been in years. Since May of this year, my mood has been stable without any major depressive or manic episodes. Three months of stability may not register as meaningful to some, but for me it’s huge. My life has been so constantly controlled by my fluctuating moods since I was a teenager, that these past three months have been like living in paradise. I can’t quantify in words how much it means to me.
The only blip I have had is struggling with back pain. It’s totally unrelated to my mental health but has impacted on my sleep. A lack of sleep for me is a trigger for a manic episode that then ultimately leads to depression. I spoke to my doctor and I was given pills to help me sleep until my back improves. Being honest with my GP and being aware of triggers and warning signs has prevented me from becoming ill. It’s taken years to specifically identify when an episode is on the horizon and what circumstances can alter my mood. I’m still learning about the disorder and how it effects me. I look at this process as becoming an expert on my own mental health. Expertise in any subject takes years of study and that is precisely what I have to do when it comes to my mental health.
I’m currently thinking about returning to some form of part time work. It would give me more of a concrete routine and bring in regular money. At the moment I’m freelance writing when I feel I’m well enough to do so. It means I can turn down work if I need to and take a day or even a week off from writing. Money is tight, but being stable doesn’t have a price and is more valuable to me than any possession. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I have a partner that works full time, which provides me with some security. I’ve had to apply for PIP (personal independence payments) as my DLA (disability living allowance) has ended. I’m nervous that I will be turned down as they have become much stricter regarding mental health conditions since I applied for DLA four years ago. If I’m turned down, I’ll appeal immediately!
I’m hoping to have some form of therapy to help me manage Bipolar and continue to live with stability. Again the last three months have been incredible. The relief I have felt has given me more clarity, but at the same time has been a surreal experience. It isn’t the norm for me to be stable, and it feels strange and alien to me, like someone experiencing depression or full blown mania for the first time. I’m getting used to the stability and realising this is how life should be. It should be calmer and softer, more even and tranquil. Of course there are ups and downs, but they shouldn’t be as harsh, with sharp edges ready to cut me. I have relaxed for the first time in years, I feel safe in my own mind, rather than being terrified of it turning on me when I least expect it. All I can hope for is that it lasts, but if it doesn’t I feel prepared and ready to deal with it.