Make Mine a Virgin Please

I know this or at least should know this by now: that anyone taking psychotropic medication should not drink alcohol. And not just heavily or casually, NOT AT ALL. Yet, I have largely ignored this warning for the past 9 years since my initial diagnosis, claiming I can handle my symptoms. Oh how wrong have I been.

I started to reflect on my life and my health especially about a month ago when I completed my 7 years without a manic episode. It hasn’t been an easy 7 years and one thing that has contributed to my ups and downs during those seven years, besides lack of sleep, has been drinking alcohol. Now, I have not been a heavy drinker, daily drinker, or alcohol abuser in any sense, but I have been known to drink casually, and occasionally get drunk. I admit it. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. And as someone with a mental health diagnosis and above all, a mental health advocate, I have been a hypocrite.

Yet, last month, I had a rude awakening. After a night of drinking at home, I woke up distressed, anxious, and languishing the entire day. I was a horrible person to be around, and even worse, a horrible mother to my two little girls. That day I took the final decision to never again have an ounce of alcohol in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted. At the grocery store they sell so many flavorful options, but I am better than their marketing.

In addition, I have decided to wean off all my stimulants such as caffeine. When once I would chug a RedBull in the afternoon, now I opt for a glass of water, and perhaps a nap or some yoga. I feel all the better for it and the results have been slow but apparent. I am actually more energized, have more stable moods, and am a better person all around.

I am amazed at my results, and although I have to persevere to keep my promise to stay away from any and all stimulants, one look at my little girls’ faces and I know I can do it. Ever better, knowing that I am healthier and more energized keeps me motivated to do better.

7 years

RE Camera

It has been 7 years since I had a full fledged manic episode. It has also been 7 years since I’ve been in a psychiatric hospital. I waited until November to write this post because my last hospitalization began in October 2008, and I did not want to write a post in October about how I have been without a manic episode for 7 years for fear of jinxing myself. Luckily, October has passed and I can proudly say that it has officially been 7 good years without a manic episode. That’s not to say I don’t get the typical Bipolar ups and downs, because I do. The difference, and it’s a big difference, is that I have not been 5150’ed and had to stay against my will in a psychiatric ward.

But let’s not turn this post into the horrors and inadequacies of psychiatric wards lest I scare off readers. Instead, I want to focus on all the progress I have made that has kept me out of those “looney bins” (I gotta poke fun to keep from becoming depressed).

In the past 7 years, I graduated from UC Irvine, got married, had 2 wonderful little girls, worked on and off through my pregnancies, bought a home, and have recently interviewed for my dream job (fingers crossed). So, I haven’t discovered any cures or vaccinations, established peace in any turmoiled countries, or created anything other than arts and crafts. Yet, I feel accomplished because not only have I triumphed over my daily mood swing obstacles, but also over life obstacles. I have succeeded in life when I was told after my diagnosis in 2006 that I would not could not do it.

I would like to make clear that this post is not meant to glorify my accomplishments, but rather shed light on a subject that many fail to address: how can you deal with life issues at the same time that you deal with your mental health issues? It’s simple, really. You take it one day at a time and with lots of support. I cannot emphasize enough how establishing a support network for myself has been my saving grace. From close friends and family, to the internet, including this blog and Twitter. I have found a relief and a sense of belonging amongst fellow Bipolar survivors, and have learned so much from them.

Let’s keep the learning going and pass on your knowledge on how to cope and triumph over your diagnosis!