Introduction

I have been there. I have been strapped to the bed in the Quiet Room. I have been through hundreds of hours of therapy. I have taken therapeutic drugs for the last fifteen years. I've been in the hospital five times because of my Bipolar Disorder. Can you tell a difference between myself and any other successful professional? Absolutely not, and I'll explain why: I know the secrets to beating the disease. I know how to push through all the pain. I know what patients need most when they are really hurting. And I know that when someone is sitting in the hospital, looking for some answers, they need to speak with someone like me - so I developed The Bipolar Disorder Manual. It contains all the information that a patient needs. The manual explains how to successfully complete a hospital stay, how to get back into the school/work routine, how to use a support system, how to get enough sleep, how to take medication and go to therapy, and most of all, it teaches patients how to stay alive!!!

Initial feelings

Well, here you are! You’ve got a mental disorder. It’s an illness that affects your emotions, your thoughts, your mood, and your life in general. You will now be dealing with medications, therapy, and regular visits to the doctor’s office. Is it a big problem? Yes. Can it be turned into a little problem? Yes. Will it destroy your life? Absolutely not, and here’s why:

You are angry. You don’t know why you have to deal with what you’re going through. You’re probably upset about the whole experience and you feel like you’d rather just rewind to a few months ago before you discovered that you are a little different than the mainstream population. You may have missed a little school or work time because of a hospital visit that probably lasted a week or two. Now you need to know how to deal with the overwhelming emotions going through your mind. Well, here’s the good news - today there are a number of solutions for patients with bipolar disorder. There are a large group of therapies, medications, and job opportunities that are available to folks who need them. So stop being angry! Help is definitely available.

You are probably feeling relatively helpless. Lately the thoughts that have been going through your mind have been some of the worst things you’ve ever imagined. You’ve been suicidal, angry, sad, and exuberant - all in the span of a few minutes! They have been an incredibly tough combination of emotions and you’re wondering how you’re going to deal with all of them for the remainder of your life. Plus, you’re probably losing a lot of sleep and you’re wondering if you’ll ever be able to relax again. Well, I have some good news for you. There are many of us that have done it! I can’t lie to you. We lose some folks. In extreme circumstances where the stress gets too high and the medical and social support isn’t strong enough, some patients die. But I’m one of the survivors, and I can show you how to be one too.

Take all of the feelings that have been flying through that noggin of yours...and share them! Tell everybody about them. Tell your doctors, your friends, and your family. Let everybody know what’s going on. The #1 rule to being bipolar is NOT KEEPING THINGS IN! Let everything out. And don’t spare a single feeling. Let everybody know everything. Even if you’re a secretive person, learn to share. Sharing your feelings is the most important lesson to successfully living with bipolar disorder. You will be using this technique for your entire life, so you might as well practice it now.

Relax! Don’t do stressful activities. Put everything on hold. Let go of the world for the next week or two. Give yourself some time to come down from everything you’ve just been through. Being in the hospital or going through several doctor’s visits is extremely hard for ANYBODY. Don’t bother stressing yourself out with extra duties. Take a break and get back to work after you have recovered.

Have some fun! Don’t take this to mean go out and get liquored up. At this point in your life the one thing you don’t need is drugs and/or alcohol. Not only can they interfere with your medications, but also folks with bipolar disorder can experience a TRUE loss of control when they are high/drunk. When I say, “Have fun!” I mean that you should do things you like to do. Whether it’s fishing, playing ball, traveling, whatever.... just do it! Like Nike says. Go out and have some fun! With the new adjustments in your life, you’re going to have to offset them with an additional amount of recreation. Odds are that some of your medications will create some unpleasant side effects. The more time you spend doing things you enjoy, the less brainpower you’ll waste focusing on your new situation.

Being in the hospital

You either already have been, or eventually will be, in the hospital. Even if it is only for a day or so to sleep off a bad episode, bipolar folks tend to spend some time in the hospital. The biggest thing to remember is that it’s not a big deal! Being in the hospital can even be fun. It is boring every now and then, but being able to talk to the other patients, getting their perspective on life and mental illness, can be extremely enlightening. While you’re in the hospital the best thing to do is make friends, sleep as much as you need to, and participate in as much therapy as possible. Remember not to be violent, listen to the facilitators, and let your doctor in on everything that’s going through your mind.

The ability to deal with your doctor is a skill that is acquired over time. After being in the hospital five times and dealing with several doctors, I’ve realized that there is one key ingredient to establishing a wonderful relationship with him/her – the truth! Speak nothing but the truth to your doctor. Let him know absolutely everything. He’s there to help, he’s there to help you avoid having to come back, and he’s there to improve your life in the long run. Lying to your doctor is a big mistake, mainly because it will probably result in him/her setting you up with the wrong medication and therapy regimen. Trust me…what you want more than anything is to get treated properly. Walking out of the hospital with the wrong treatment program is a TERRIBLE thing. This is a road you definitely don’t want to go down, so tell the truth.

Make friends! There’s nothing that the hospital staff wants more than seeing you getting along with all of the other patients. Not only does this improve your image to the people who are in control, but also it’s fun! Being able to talk to everyone and have conversations about your lives is a very important component to enjoying your time in the hospital. Patients not only want to open up, but you can LEARN from them! Most of the patients will probably be older than you, so they will usually have some decent insight into mental illness. Plus, it will give you an opportunity to TALK ABOUT YOUR OWN PROBLEMS!!! And there is nothing better while you’re in the hospital than talking about your problems. You will only get 15 or so minutes with your doctor each day, so talking to others will give you more opportunities to get things off your chest. There will be other therapies each day, but one-on-one with another person is always helpful.

SLEEP!!!! If you need to lie down, do it! Take a nap! Take two naps! Guess what? You’re in the hospital. It doesn’t matter! That’s what they want you to do, anyway. They want you to rest and get better. And sleep often does that for bipolar patients. Often times you need opportunities to physically adjust to new medications or to just recover from a really bad episode. And the beds are usually pretty comfortable. So, if you need some rest, take it.

Do the therapy! Every single opportunity you get to participate in a therapeutic session, TAKE IT! Participation is part of the success formula for getting out of the hospital as soon as possible. The facilitators and your doctor keep track of all the times you go to therapy and participate in that therapy, so the more you go, the better. Plus, the therapy is usually quite fun. Remember that the key to getting out of the hospital is GETTING BETTER!! Therapy is a main component to getting better. I noticed during my first couple of trips to the hospital that there were numerous patients who “refused” to participate in the therapy. Well, a few days later they weren’t refusing, mainly because they were watching patient after patient leave the hospital and go home because of the progress they had made in therapy. So don’t waste any time and go to as much therapy as they offer.