Friday, 24 July 2015

My experiences of Bipolar Disorder and what keeps me well


– Gideon Harris

Fact: 1% of the U.K population suffers with Bipolar Disorder.[1]

My name is Gideon and I am one of those sufferers. Having been diagnosed last year at the age of 20, I have learnt many lessons about what keeps me well and I’d like to share these with you. Having been in hospital for nine weeks during my last episode, I had to take a lengthy time out of university education. I hope my story and advice inspires you and helps those who are suffering with mental health difficulties.

Routine

Generally, a routine and structure to a day is vital for anyone but particularly for those experiencing mental health difficulties such as Bipolar. For me, having a routine is crucial. After being discharged, I would lie in bed for hours. Ultimately this would be detrimental to my mood and I wouldn’t really achieve a great deal. With medication and the depressive stages of my difficulties, I know too well how difficult my low days can be. From this I have learnt that just getting out of bed in the morning can make a huge difference to self-esteem and confidence. Even now, in the summer holidays, I am up every day by 9/9.30am. Little things as well have really helped me to battle the disorder such as walking my dog every day, going to the gym, reading books, working but most importantly finding discipline and structure.

Diet

During my first year of university I would live off take a ways; fish and chips, Chinese, Meal Deals, you name it, I would have it. They are ok to have from time to time but for me, to have this regularly were bad for the dopamine and serotonin levels in my brain, they started to act as depressants and could also be a trigger towards Mania. Currently, I am working on my diet. I am eating a lot of green vegetables, fruits, salmon, soups, nuts, cereals. These foods have helped my mood to improve and stabilise over time. These are foods I would whole- heartedly recommend for others experiencing Bipolar Disorder.

Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps to retrain your thinking patterns to think more positively. It focuses on relapse prevention, breathing techniques, behavioural models and really allows you to understand the triggers and indicators of Bipolar or other mental health difficulties such as OCD and Schizophrenia. Personally, this process did take time to work for me but having a good relationship with my psychologist was so important. Furthermore, it gave me insight into my illness and by learning about the indicators of Bipolar; it has given me the chance to take a step back when I need to.

Mindfulness focuses on deep breathing techniques and meditation and really just helps you to relax. This is something relatively new for me but the meditation involved allows my mind to calm down during stressful periods, whilst the deep breathing has been great for my concentration skills.

Support Network

Finally, having a good support network is also crucial, for me a supportive network of family and friends has been so vital in my recovery.

I have been well for nearly eight months and have achieved huge strides in combating my mental health difficulties. I will be returning to university in September and I hope whoever may be reading this and is experiencing a mental difficulty can or can continue to work towards recovery through small manageable changes to their daily routine .


[1] http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bipolar-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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