I have already discussed in a previous post about the attitude and discipline one needs to adopt in order to overcome the menace Bipolar poses.
How did I get myself out of the deep morass? To be honest in the initial years there seemed to be no hope whatsoever, or the little there was seemed to be as fleeting as a mirage.
I had an advantage, albeit not a pleasant one, of having tackled a life threatening condition previously. I am a chronic and acute Asthmatic. It began to rear its ugly head when I was fourteen and spiraled out of control by the time I as twenty. I was hospitalised twice in intensive care during that period. The angel like guidance and treatment by Late Dr.Pramod Niphadkar started bearing fruit: to such an extent that he thought I was a case-study for all Asthmatics: this was because my recovery had been so rapid that it was nothing short of astonishing!
What has that got to do with Bipolar?
Dr. Niphadkar was among the rare breed of Allopathic medicine practitioners who went beyond pills and inhalers. He conducted a Yoga workshop for us, taught us breathing and relaxation exercises. The Yoga and fitness regime I learnt from him has stood me in good stead even today: it has been almost twenty years: during this period there has rarely been a day when I have missed my Yoga routine.
This gave me hope..
If I could have bravely fought asthma, couldn’t I draw on the same inner strength to battle Bipolar?
In my darkest days I kept telling myself this: I might be in a hopeless frame of mind now but this is not how I’ll end up!
Asthma had taught me another huge lesson: eradicating the illness wasn’t the goal: living life fully despite it was. I was repeatedly told by Psychiatrists that mine was an incurable condition, I would have to be on medication for life. Worse, I could never be sure I would be stable irrespective of constant monitoring and treatment. This depressed me no end. Tell me Doctors, do you have to tell a patient she/he is never going to heal? It was almost like a death blow to my confidence. Gradually began accepting this fact, bitter as it was. Began to shift focus to how could I still be in better charge of myself?
DON”T LET ANYONE EVER TELL YOU MOTIVATION AND SELF-HELP WORKSHOPS/BOOKS DO NOT WORK!
Having made the vital transition from resistance to acceptance, I eagerly began looking for resources that would supplement my treatment. I read many books on Positive thinking, the Mind, on depression (most notably, Dr.David Burns’ FEELING GOOD). What seemed to be temporary boosts to my confidence and resolve firmed up in shaping a whole new me. I attended Self-Help Seminars, had the benefit of listening to Spiritual Masters of world renown. It had to rub off on me. Importantly, I adopted and implemented what I felt best suited me.
It is now scientifically proven that Meditation helps in healing the mind and body. It directly reduces stress levels which are a trigger for Bipolar and Depression. In my case Meditation has helped me unleash my Mind’s hidden powers. An active brain at most times prevents our creative energy from being fully tapped. I became aware of so many unknown facets about myself during my blissful meditation sessions: they made me calmer, more energetic and resourceful.
This is an area of personal choice, a matter of faith. I am a believer, you might not be. However, I can assure you, in my blackest of days, I have drawn strength from Him. The reassurance that He has a brighter future in mind for me always gave me hope.
Discipline also includes my dogged will-power, my perseverance. The treatment does have many unpleasant side effects. Keeping a focus on healing and ignoring the discomfort is crucial. For eleven years now, there has not been a single day when I have skipped my prescribed dosages. Apart from my treatment, I have maintained a fairly strict physical fitness regimen. Simple ‘Healthy mind in healthy body’ logic. Every morning I allot 90 minutes to set up my day with positive energy. 20 minutes of Yoga is followed by 30-40 minutes of meditation and 20 minutes of rigorous exercise (as recommended by a physician). One issue I face even today is sluggishness and daytime sleepiness. This morning regimen helps counter that to an extent. It is also important to be fit for one’s self esteem- a great self image is a vital confidence booster.
Controlling the urge to find an easy escape by taking to drugs, alcohol and promiscuity was easy. Most of the medications you might be on have adverse effects when taken with alcohol/drugs. Some of these can be serious. Alcoholism in Bipolars can lead to a downward spiral and a journey of no return. My will power has stood me in good stead: I used to be a social drinker in my younger days. It has been 24 years since I quit (it happened overnight once I resolved myself to it).
A strong support system is a blessing. Having a doting family which has adjusted, accepted me as I am has helped in no small measure. Also, they kept a hawk’s eye vigil on my condition, spotting a mood swing before I do prevented a full blown manic episode ever since I was first diagnosed. I am ever grateful to my wife, daughter, mom and especially sister who is ever vigilant. I am a firm believer of strong and enduring relationships. We had our blips in our marriage..love won the day.
We Bipolars are essentially creative at heart. Throughout history we have examples of creative geniuses who were tormented by Bipolar, Beethoven and Van Gogh the most notable among them. By opting for a career a which allowed me to express myself freely by writing, I have grown immensely as an individual.
If nothing seems to work for you, hold on to your belief – that’s what I did.