Oprah said that when something isn’t working right in our lives first the universe gives us a whisper, then a nudge, then a push, then a shove. Then we’ll get hit with a brick and if we still don’t listen an earthquake will come along and totally disrupt our lives. Well, I waited for the earthquake. I got hit with a brick when I was diagnosed with depression in 1991 after being in tears every day for many, many months. For four long years I was in denial. Yes, I did take anti-depressants but I never sought therapy.
My earthquake happened 4 years later when I was hospitalized for the first time. I woke up one morning with the words “the truth would set me free” going around and around in my head relentlessly. By day three I hadn’t slept in over 72 hours, I was hallucinating, paranoid, and psychotic.
“The reality of my life had become so painful that I had to lose my mind in order to find myself again.”
A year later I ended up in the hospital again. This time the diagnosis was bipolar disorder. Once I learned some very talented and famous people had this illness I knew I would eventually make this illness work for me instead of against me.
Like the year before, I was very depressed when discharged. I managed to get a job just after Christmas. I felt great every morning but every afternoon the tears would start about half an hour before quitting time. My doctor increased the anti-depressant I was taking to stop the crying. That put me into a state of mania and I ended up in the hospital again!
This time the hospital staff asked me questions about my childhood, volunteer work, family and friends and they stressed the importance of answering each question truthfully. I thought it weird but I decided to play their little game. Finally, a nurse asked me how my marriage was. I hesitated for about two seconds and replied “fine.” No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I could feel some sort of shifting or movement inside my brain. I knew immediately that I had told a lie. I had to leave my marriage before it destroyed me even more.
The universe had been giving me signs for many years that my biggest problem stemmed from me being unhappily married. I used to fall in love with songs that talked about running away and following my dreams.
My mind had been fighting what was in my heart for over 15 years so I developed a disease. “
Dis-ease” is one not being at ease with oneself. I didn’t like the person I had become but had no idea how to become someone I not only liked but loved.
It is possible to get off this roller coaster and live on a merry-go-round instead and live a normal, happy, productive life. I still yearn for those highs because they can be absolutely magnificent. But I look to other places to get a natural adrenaline rush. For me, that means going dancing or playing cards. I still haven’t found anything that can mimic that high. But I can’t afford to go there again; I have too many good things going for me now.
Margaret Trudeau said that bipolar disorder is an exaggeration of emotions. Learning to control one’s emotions is a skill that can be learned. With enough practice, it gets easier.
It is difficult to change your thinking and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It takes practice, practice and practice to change what has been automatic for years.
One trick I learned is to put up post-it notes in my home where I could read them several times a day. The note might say “There is no problem so great it can’t be solved.”
I believe I never learned how to deal with negative emotions as a child. Growing up, I was taught to think about something happy if I was sad. This is good to a point but one has to learn that it is okay to be sad for a few minutes or even a day or two depending on the problem. “When you inhibit bad emotions you also inhibit the expression of good emotions.”
I needed to talk and talk and talk. 310-COPE has amazing people to talk to 24/7 if you are feeling overwhelmed with life.
Another place that was very helpful to me was Support for Depression. I would go to their weekly meetings and just listen or talk about my week and I knew the people there understood me.
It has been said that depression is anger turned inward. I know that was the case with me. On three or four occasions I took classes at the hospital in which we learned about relaxation techniques, self-esteem and anger management. I knew I had low self-esteem but anger? I was nice to everyone.
It wasn’t until all this anger came out that I finally learned how to control my emotions more. I used to drive very fast and yell at a friend of mine. All I needed was someone to talk to and vent. I went to emergency many times in the past because I didn’t have anyone to talk to.
I also learned to assert myself with certain people that I used to be intimidated by. These people respect me more now and know I will stand up for myself. Also, my driving also slowed down. My normal cruising speed used to be 140kpm on the highway which meant there would be times that I would drive much faster. What was I running from? No matter how hard you try to outrun the past and the pain, it catches up with you. The harder you try to ignore it, the harder it will take you down. I think I was running from myself and unhealthy relationships.
My last episode of depression came about two months after the man I had been dating moved in with me. I quit my part time job and just lay on the couch most of the time.
A few months later my mother died. My doctor wanted to put me on anti-depressants but I declined. I knew it was life events causing the depression and I would have to work through them. Taking anti-depressants would just numb the pain and delay the process.
I had to Recover, to Lead by Example;
I had to Recover to Teach them,
that Life was meant to be Fun, not something to be Endured;
I had to Recover, to Teach Them,
To be Fearless and take Risks;
I had to Recover, to Teach Them,
To Pursue their Passions and Follow their Dreams;
I had to Recover, to Become Someone,
They could be Proud, to call “Mom.”
I knew I had to ask the man that was living with me to move out. Within 24 hours of me telling him he had to be out in six weeks I got up off the couch and started cleaning out cupboards, drawers and clothes. I started a weight loss and exercise program. The day he left I started writing again. I hadn’t felt that good in years. I became hypo-manic but this time I recognized the signs early on and went to my psychiatrist for help. Also this time I experienced rapid cycling in which I would be up and down several times a day instead of on a high for a few weeks and then crashing. Even positive stress can cause someone to become hypo-manic. I made too many positive changes in a short period of time.
The real reason for me developing full blown depression and then bipolar disorder was because of unhealthy relationships in my life. I was too close to my father and distant from my mother. And, of course, my marriage was the biggest problem.
I could feel depression creeping up on me once more a few years ago. I was restless. I couldn’t sit still to watch TV, I paced around my apartment, I couldn’t read. I knew my mood was going down and I was going to have to do something about it – And Fast!
I sent an E-Mail to my mentor and friend and I told him I needed a “pep talk.” His solution: keep busy, invent a reason to get up every day, write, volunteer, pray, stop feeling sorry for myself. So I took his advice. Keeping busy meant going to mental health drop-in centres three times a week, I joined a second bible study group and played cards two evenings a week.
Psychiatrist Karl Menninger said if you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown: “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.”
After going to drop in centres for a few weeks I knew the time had finally come. It was now time for me to give hope and mentor others just like I had been dreaming about for years.
In my opinion, the cure for any illness, physical or mental, is 25% medication and 75% working on yourself and your issues.
The things that helped me most in the past was going to Depressed Anonymous, calling 310-COPE if needed, taking my medication, seeing my doctor regularly, going to emergency if I was really stressed out, reading self-help books, finding things to laugh about, journaling, surrounding myself with motivational sayings, volunteering or working, exercising, praying, trying new things and seeking out new friends. I have now developed a 40-minute workshop that I call “The Seven F’s to a Fantastic Life.” Those F’s are: Family, Friends, Fun, Fitness, Fulfillment, Finances & Faith. These F’s all contribute to the good health that I enjoy now. Perhaps implementing some of these F’s into your life could help you too.
I have now enjoyed 9 years of good health with only minor setbacks. I have ups and downs during the day and week just like everyone else but they are not to the extreme that they once were. And if I am getting too stressed out I know what to do. Take some time for me.
Fifteen years ago I had two psychiatrists tell me I would never work full time again. In my head I said Screw You! I have been working full time since 2009. So don’t ever let anyone stop you from achieving your goals. Lynn’s motto for the last 15 years has been: “I Don’t Give Up, I Don’t Give In, and I Don’t Take No for an Answer.”
Let that be your motto too!
When Lynn Rae was 39 years old two psychiatrists told her she would NEVER work full time again. She had accepted the diagnosis of bipolar disorder but would never accept the prognosis. After working part time at several different jobs between episodes of depression & mania Lynn was finally able to work full time and has been since 2009. She has enjoyed over 10 years of good health.
As a Motivational Speaker Lynn connects with her audience because she walks her talk. The workshop she conducts is called “The Seven F’s to Your Fantastic Future.” As a Life Coach Lynn Rae can guide you in making those important decisions in your life surrounding Family, Friends, Fun, Fitness, Fulfillment, Finances & Faith. Lynn has written 3 books and self-published one of them which are available for sale on her website by E-book. “My Journey Back to Myself” is available in hard copy as well. She received the Marilyn Nearing Award from YSSN (York Support Services Network) for the contribution she was making as a volunteer in the mental health field. Currently she has a weekly blog at www.yorkregion.com. Look for it under “The Seven F’s to Your Fantastic Future.” In the Winter Issue of Anchor Magazine Lynn Rae was the feature story.