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Dear Sarah Competition Runner’s up.

As part of the competition I promised to publish other letters which were submitted to the competition and which whilst not winning did contain some excellent information and some very useful and encouraging stuff.

So, being true to that promise, here is a letter from Carla and one from Disorderly Chickadee.  I really hope you will read them and be encouraged by them.

First here is one from Carlarenee45…

Dear Sara,

Thank you for writing. I understand your concern. When I got my Bipolar diagnosis the information I received with the diagnosis was obscure and confusing. I understand that you had one visit with a psychologist who took you through some psychological testing which revealed that you showed a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder. That was your only visit due to your financial situation? That is a problem with a lot of people and it is such an unfair situation. I would check into comprehensive care in your area that may treat you and charge according to your ability to pay. That way you could have regular appointments with a therapist and a psychiatrist that can possibly prescribe medicine for you disorder if necessary. They will be able to answer most of the questions that are going through your mind right now.

Once I was aware of Bipolar and its symptoms, I looked back over my life and realized that I presented symptoms for most of my life and didn’t realize that it was a mental condition. You see Bipolar disorder works in cycles. You go through periods of depression where everything seems hopeless and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no purpose for your life sometimes to the point where you wonder if life is worth living. You just want to sleep your life away and sometimes you don’t even want your friends around or even family. You feel that these feelings can not be controlled. But then out of nowhere , you will begin feeling like you are worth so much and that so much depends on you. The world needs you and you want to do so many things, finish so many projects because the world needs you and all of your talents. You want a clean house, you want to start eating right and being healthy. You have great plans for your life and high goals to achieve. You feel you are getting so much done. Or you may feel completely invincible and that you can do anything. Like you are charmed and that as in my case, you feel euphoric. You think you are invincible. It can get to the point of danger. If you are not under someones care. Or you may only get to the point of hypomania where you are just really feeling good and thinking positive and creative. You are getting a lot accomplished. This is the best phase of the cycle. However some people stay in this phase most of the time, while others experience it only briefly at less times in the cycle.

You could be depressive bipolar which means your cycle will stay in the lower mood most of the time. God forbid some may be manic for the most part.

That is where medication comes in. Usually it is needed along with talk therapy. One is just as important as the other. Other symptoms could appear along with each cycle even psychosis and Hallucinations. It can take some trial and error to find the right combinations of medicines to balance out your symptoms and keep someone with bipolar disorder sufferers balanced and it will be different for everyone.

Now that you are probably scared to death, I have to tell you that as long as you find and stay on a good cocktail of medicine and realize the things that can trigger your symptoms to gain control so you can stay away from those things, you can lead a normal life for you. Maybe not a normal life for someone else. But you can find your normal.

I know that once I found out about the cycle and the changes in moods, I could look back on the last ten years or so on my life and see how bipolar disorder was definitely a part of my life and I just didn’t know what it was. I knew something wasn’t normal, but I wasn’t educated enough to understand how the mind works and how complicated the brain is.

The first thing is to accept the illness and also realize that you do not have to let it control your life. Commit yourself to doing your part to keep the illness under control and follow your pdocs advice. Yet, when you see that something is not working for you that your pdoc or therapist has asked you to do or begin taking, tell them right away! They will be able to find an answer more suitable to your needs. Read up on the different symptoms and effects of medications that you are prescribed. If you notice that a new symptom arises, research it and bring it to your mental health professionals attention right away. Also, feel free to keep in touch with me as you progress a long. I would love to get updates from you and learn how you are doing.

First things first! Find out where you can get treated for mental health in your area for free or according to your income. Do you qualify for government help?/disability? If you have problems with taking care of these things, just e-mail me and I will work on it from here by way of the internet. I am sure we will find some way. Good luck and relax, we will get you some help.

~Carlarenee45

And here is the one from Disorderly Chickadee…

Dear Sarah,

I wish I could hold your hand and tell you everything will be OK, but I can’t be there, and I can’t lie to you. There will be a lot of times when things are so far from OK that you wouldn’t believe it anyway. Being bipolar is never easy, but the truth is, everything really will be OK. Maybe not right away, but all the ups and downs have a way of evening out in the long run. Your life will be full of difficulties and drama, but it will never be boring. There are times when it is truly miserable, and other time when it is transcendent. It’s really hard to bear at times, but you will experience life more fully than most people can imagine. It’s a double-edged sword, but I think of it as a gift.

I became ill when I was 13; I fell into a neverending pit of darkness and couldn’t find my way out. I tried to kill myself twice before I turned 17. I have scars that will never, ever go away. In college, depression turned into bipolar, but no one knew it, not even me. I did a lot of things that are too embarrassing to talk about and I didn’t know why I did them, so I felt really bad about myself for a really long time. It took 15 more years to figure out what was wrong. In the meantime, I found the man of my dreams, bought a house, had some great jobs, got a graduate degree, and made amazing friends. I was so unpopular in middle school that only the deaf kids would eat lunch with me, but now I’m unquestionably one of the most popular people among my fellow PhD students (yes, I’m getting a PhD!)

Everything is really good, except when it’s really bad. Learning that I’m bipolar just a few months ago – at age 33 – suddenly explained so much. It was a relief to know that there was something I could do to help myself and there was a reason I had done all that stupid stuff in college. Starting mood stabilizers was like getting kicked in the brain over and over, but eventually it got worked out and I now feel better than I have in years. I feel like myself. I didn’t even realize how bad things had gotten until medication helped straighten me out.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy for me, and it won’t be easy for you. But you have the advantage of time to learn how to manage the illness before you run into some of the problems that held me back. The best thing you can do for yourself is learn everything you can about bipolar disorder, starting now, so you can be your own best advocate – no one can help you like you can. A lot of people won’t understand what you’re experiencing, and it’s so hard not to have anyone you can talk with about it. Sometimes it’s also not a good idea to tell people about it, and I hate feeling like I’m lying to everyone by keeping it to myself, but it’s my business and not theirs. It’s so lonely to feel that you’re alone and struggling with mental illness, and that’s one of the reasons I started blogging – it lets me work things through for myself and has brought me into a wonderful community of fellow sufferers who help me feel less alone in this adventure. I also found support through my local NAMI group, which has really helped me come to terms with my diagnosis.

When I was your age, I just wanted to be “normal” like everyone else – no pills, therapists, psychiatrists, depression, or isolation. Now I know that I would never have been as happy as I (usually) am now if I were normal. I have an extraordinary, exciting, intense, and fulfilling life. Being bipolar really sucks sometimes, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way: with all the challenges come advantages that balance them out. Balance is the eternal challenge with bipolar disorder. Managing your lifestyle, medications, and relationships so that you can stay as stable as possible is a lot of work and sometimes a huge drag. At the same time, it’s really the only smart thing to do, and if you’re reaching out for help, you’re clearly a very smart girl. Keep reaching out, because you’re not alone. There are many helping hands out here that will hold you up when things get bad and applaud your accomplishments as well, and you can be one of those people for others too.

Thanks for sending your email – it gave me a moment to reflect on how beautiful this long hard trail really has been. I hope you find your path is just as lovely, even when it’s steep, rocky, and full of thorns. With time, you’ll find people who will walk beside you, pull you out of the mud, and help you climb the mountains. The view from the top is amazing.

Keep in touch,

DeeDee

 

As I am sure you will agree, these really are excellent letters and full of good stuff.  My thanks go ut to both authors for their contribution.

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