For those of you who don’t know me or who haven’t worked with me before, I am not shy in admitting that I have bipolar disorder. When I was first diagnosed, at the age of 35, I was shocked, scared and upset. I didn’t want to ‘be bipolar’. Bipolar people were very mentally ill and I did not identify as mentally ill. I wasn’t having that.
Well, pretty quickly, I learned that medication made my life easier and more manageable. Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy groups – both in a mental hospital (Out Patient) and with a DBT specialist in private practice – I learned about mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. The skills in DBT, which was created by Marcia Linehan in the 80s to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which she was diagnosed with and studied extensively, helped me improve my life and my well-being.
Over the years, I’ve accepted my diagnosis. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, at times, I ride the middling highs (I’m hypomanic) and, more often than not, the lowest of the lows. As I recently told a friend, “To be bipolar is to feel real joy and deep sorrow. It is the fulness of human experience.”
When I am in my ‘mania’ phase, I am extremely creative, confident and happy. However, I do not always relish these periods because I am looking for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. When I go into a deep bipolar depression, I call it THE BLACK because it feels like I’m stuck in black, sticky goo, unable to move or feel anything but emotional pain. I have gone into the black more times than I care to admit – or count, but I have always come out of it with some deeper insights into my personality and myself.
However, that does not make it any easier. Last year, when I was titrating off of Effexor, a medication I had been on for more than 20 years (previous to my bipolar diagnosis, I was dx’ed with major depressive disorder). Each time I went down 37.5 mg, I went into THE BLACK. A few times I didn’t think I’d make it out alive. I really was in a bad way.
Now that I am off the medication, which can sometimes exacerbate mood fluctuations, I feel much better. My outlook is better and my overall disposition is more even. I am not cured by any means. I still need to take my medications daily and practice some extreme self-care. My psychiatrist and my therapist as well as my life coach have been instrumental in teaching me the importance of self-care.
I try to teach that to my clients. You are the only you you have and you should take care of yourself. You should want to. Sometimes, I didn’t. It’s not like that anymore. I feel more capable, competent and sure of myself not just because of the medication but because of my study of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – the restructuring/reframing of negative self-talk/beliefs – and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), as previously mentioned.
I also find working with my clients to be extremely therapeutic. They help me see things about myself that I wouldn’t realize otherwise. They teach me ways to problem-solve. I love the work I do as a mental health coach and wouldn’t change it for the world.
Would you like to work with me? I have slots available for the New Year. Please reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or a 60-minute free consultation.