Art by Claire Hollywell

4 lessons for living with Bipolar Disorder, by guest blogger, Claire Hollywell

“I realise today that I haven’t blogged since it all happened. 
In 2016 I had a pretty big nervous breakdown within which I got diagnosed with bipolar type 2, emotional instability, anxiety and ADHD. It was a very long recovery. That was lesson 1. 

Lesson one: Be kind. It is ok for it to take a long time, be compassionate to yourself in it. If you shout at yourself that you should be over it all by now, it will take a whole lot longer. 
I embraced therapy which has been totally life changing, learning painstakingly slowly that I am a sum of my parts, that my story is part of me. Within each of us is our childhood story, our experiences of being small and dependant and loved or hurt. We can’t get rid of that, kicking it and shouting that we hate being the way we are only enforces how we may have felt as children. 

Lesson two: Be compassionate. Empathise with how it felt when you were small, when things happened that you had no control over and caused you to feel out of control. By learning to be compassionate to that part of your story, you will learn to be compassionate and patient with yourself and you will find it within you to self regulate. 
They started me on medication mid 2016 and the ride was beyond bumpy as they tried to find the right combination to help me. I developed tics, couldn’t sleep…it was not pretty. But the medication combination I am on now mean I am happy, I have emotional capacity and I don’t go low. Meds don’t fix everything because that is the joy of being human – feeling things – but they give me enough time to put coping mechanisms in place and manage my anixety in a way that is empowering. 

Lesson three: Medication is not a sign of weakness. If you need treatment, embrace it. Listen to what the doctors say. They are not always right, but they are not always wrong either. Give it time.  
Finally, I discovered that my faith was really important. I would recite bible verses as I rocked on the floor at my very worst times. Repeated prayers and liturgy gave a reassurance and a familiar rhythm with which to soothe and focus. You may not be a Christian like me. You may not believe in anything. But embracing mindfulness, meditation or even prayer to yourself and your inner spirituality can make a big difference to your resilience. 

Lesson four: Look at the starsYou are not an island. Your view on the world around you is small and not the entire picture. I always would look at the sky at night and find orions belt, or go to the beach and remind myself that there is a big ol’ world constant out there of which I am just a small part that started before me and will continue on. 
No-one is the same, but I tell you this. You are seen, you are heard, you are more than you think you are, you have an inner strength you haven’t found yet. You are known and were knit together before you were even born, by that which is bigger than you. 
You’ve got this.”

Claire is a close friend of mine, she has been incredibly brave to share this, she is a ray of light and hope. Claire is a talented artist, please follow Claire’s art on her Chollywell ART facebook page. The featured image and the image below have been painted by Claire.

Art by Claire Hollywell

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