I’ve decided to revisit blogging and really commit to sharing knowledge based on my life's experiences and studies. I’m going to expand topics to not only include AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) components but also general mental health challenges.
Today’s topic is learning how to live and thrive with an unstable, unpredictable mood disorder. This question has come up more times than I can count in my own life and has proven to be a huge barrier to my recovery along the way. For me, I could be doing relatively well, living a life that I felt was stable and for the most part symptom free. Then, out of the blue, things would turn. Decisions became nearly impossible, relationships were in turmoil, irritability was at an all time high, and my thinking went from future oriented to gloom and doom. This may sound very familiar to others who have experienced similar and as such you are surely aware what it feels like to be knocked down over and over again. It seemed whenever I got into a groove, had a good job, had relationships that I thought were healthy, and finally getting my feet on the ground, the bottom would fall out. Each time this occurred, I lost a part of me. Every time I had some success to be followed by failure, I remember thinking, “what is the point of trying”? The reality is, all we have is our ability to fight and persevere no matter how much adversity we face.
Now, in looking back on those horribly unstable years, I learned several lessons. First, I will have to manage my mood for my entire life. In the past, I wanted nothing to do with “mental health” once I wasn’t symptomatic. I wanted to be like everybody else, working hard, having fun, and being “normal”. What I didn’t realize was that as I grew further and further away from supports I set up while sick, I lost touch with my illness. This is not suggesting that you live in fear of sickness but instead live in awareness and recognize your limits. A second realization was that my life was not all that stable in those “stable” years. I was not aware of the role that diet played and the effect unhealthy food had on my system, both physical and mental. Now, I live my life in a more awakened state, paying particular attention to the food that I put into my body. Third, I realized how important maintaining a schedule is in order to have more stability and help stay ahead of mood changes. Lucky for me, I have Earl who has to maintain a schedule of going out first thing in the morning, getting exercise and fresh air, eating shortly thereafter, and continuing with exercise and bathroom breaks throughout the day. This schedule has proven invaluable to me, as I can’t afford to have sick days where I just do not feel like getting out of bed. Finally, I learned the importance of staying connected to peers that understand my struggles. Meaning, continuing to attend support groups, talking with old friends I have made from those groups, and having some accountability for my actions and thoughts.
Please Note: If you are reading this and are in a bad place with no one you would call a friend or support please remember this one thing. I too was where you are now, reading about the importance of social support while not being able to function around people, thus having no one. I would get so angry at comments about how important social support is and I would curse those articles emphasizing the importance of a network and support. I can tell you first hand that it is never too late and that trying, even if it is attending a support group nearby or sitting at a coffee shop with strangers, will bring about major changes including that much needed support from others.