27 posts in the category “Bipolar disorder”

5 tips for practicing self-care when your chronic illness is trying to take over

Posted August 14th, 2017 by

As a woman with bipolar disorder I and PTSD, I can pretty safely say that no two days are the same. There are days when the world is sunshine and roses; life is grand! Then there are days when the inside of my brain is trying to run the show without me, and it’s leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. There are floundering relationships, self-harm incidents, and half-hatched big plans laying strewn about, and I stand in the middle of it all, trying very hard not to let the illness win.

When I can really stand back and take stock of things, I find that self-care is paramount to my feeling better, or simply not getting worse. The following are some of my “go-to” self-care strategies.

1. Coloring. I know, I know. You’re already rolling your eyes at the screen, wondering what the heck I’m even talking about. But coloring has turned out to be a Zen activity in my life. My manias are not euphoric, but angry and aggressive, and I have found the act of coloring to bring me down in the moment.

It’s also extremely helpful with my anxiety and PTSD symptoms. We’re lucky that the adult coloring movement is upon us, so you can go anywhere and find books and pencils and markers for very little money.

2. Singing. This strategy is actually backed by science. More and more studies show that the act of singing (in the shower, in the car, on a stage) helps to bring a person calm and joy. Non-judgment is the key: find an album or song list you like (vinyl or online), throw it on, and start singing. It can be of any genre of music, any artist, any arrangement. All that matters is that you sing with abandon!

3. Massage. This is a once-in-awhile self-care treat for me. If I had the money, I’d get a massage every week. But I don’t, so I try to do this for myself once every few months. Massage has been used as a relaxation and health treatment for thousands of years, and there are myriad reasons why — but the bottom line is, it makes you feel good! I know many people with chronic illness of all kinds who make sure they put time aside for massage on a regular basis.

4. Journaling… outside. Anyone who’s been treated for a chronic illness for a while probably wants to scream every time someone says “Have you tried journaling?” No, I’ve never heard of this. What is it? Ugh.

All sarcasm aside, though, journaling in the outdoors when I can, or if I’m really not feeling well, has been incredibly helpful for me. The outdoors make you feel like you’re a part of something more, if you want to, or that you’re the only person in the world, if you want to. It’s really all about how you want to take the best care of yourself at that time.

Also, just like in coloring, the actual physical act of writing can help to bring calm and focus. Write a journal entry, write a thank you note to a friend, or write your grocery list for next week. Content matters less than the fact that you’re writing for yourself in the great outdoors. Put a lawn chair out in the backyard, find a nice park with lovely-smelling flowers, or float in your pool with a trusty notebook and pen! (If you’re from the Boston area like me, I’d suggest this activity be taken indoors December-March, unless you really like snow.)

5. An ingestible treat. Self-care is really about utilizing the five senses in an attempt to make you feel better, or at least to bring you to a more manageable spot until you can talk with a doctor or therapist. I have a short list of things that smell and taste good that I make myself (or ask for). Really good coffee or a chai latte are at the top of the list. Being able to hold a warm cup, smell something wonderful, and then take time to taste that wonderful thing involves three senses in a matter of seconds.

These are just a few tools that anyone can use to help make things a little better in the moment, or to be consistently good to oneself. Sometimes one tool on its own is enough, sometimes a few need to be combined. I have a little list on my refrigerator so that when things get bad, I have it in front of me and can start caring for myself.

What’s on your list? How might you practice self-care today?

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Meet Christopher – “PTSD is not just soldiers whining and complaining about struggles in life”

Posted February 15th, 2017 by

Say hello to Christopher (ChrisBC), a father, musician and Purple Heart recipient living with PTSD and bipolar disorder. We recently caught up with him to hear about how PTSD affected his marriage and how his diagnosis pushed him get the help he needed and connect with his feelings.

Keep reading to learn how he copes with stigma and the one thing he wishes people understood about PTSD.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? What are you passionate about?  

I was born in Seattle WA, and my family moved to Alaska where I grew up. I joined the Army when I was 19 years old and went to my first assignment at Fort Polk, Louisiana. I spent the next 22 years in the Army. During my time in the Army, I was stationed in seven different locations including Germany. I had five different deployments of varying lengths with three combat, and two peacekeeping. I received a Purple Heart as well as many others in my platoon during my Iraq tour for being wounded under enemy fire. I retired in 2014 and have one daughter who is 11 years old.

I am passionate about music and I play the electric bass guitar for the church that I attend now here in NY. I have played guitar since I was 8 years old and have been playing bass guitar about 12 years. I’m also passionate about family, church community, and raising my daughter.

How has PTSD affected your life? What’s the most challenging aspect of your diagnosis?

PTSD affected my life in a big way in my marriage. It was my then wife who noticed the differences in me and encouraged me to go get help. I finally went after struggling with the symptoms and believing that I didn’t have it and I was strong enough to forget the things I had been through.  Once I knew that I had PTSD and was diagnosed, then I started getting help for even more things that I was struggling with that needed to be addressed.

The most challenging aspect of my diagnosis is being in touch with my feelings. I would tend to block out my feelings and hide them deep inside and put on a false persona because I was scared. I still struggle with this today and have so much support helping me to make it through this.

How do you cope with stigma? 

I believe there should be a law against stigmatizing those of us with PTSD and other mental illnesses. I cope with stigma by not talking about it with those that stigmatize, that don’t understand it, because they already have their views and I don’t like to confront people. I believe the stigma is a real thing and when I see it makes me angry and upset. People are going to do what they are going to do and I just don’t want to discuss issues with them when they won’t understand it. Basically, I use avoidance to deal with stigma.

What’s one thing you wish people understood about PTSD?

I wish people understood that PTSD is not just soldiers whining and complaining about struggles in life. We all have those, but when you have PTSD you are dealing with a 24 hour, 365 days a year illness that is a constant struggle.

What advice can you give others who are struggling with PTSD? What do you find most helpful?

The advice I would give others is to have a support team to help you. Find a psychiatrist, and a psychologist, for those that don’t already have those. Those are the two most important people that will help you through those real hard times when the symptoms are overwhelming.

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