by Bernadette Crawford, See Change Ambassador
My Name is Bernadette and I live with Bipolar Disorder which is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows.
The biggest challenge is believing the moods both highs and lows ‘will pass’.
Steven Fry said it’s like the weather in your head…when it’s raining, it’s raining…you have to believe it will be bright the next day.
And this is the challenge: believing things will pass as they always do. It’s just not always easy to believe when you are in it.
You have to be hopeful and not fight it which never helps…
The challenge is achieving the balance and when it does happen, it feels great – great to enjoy life again, to reconnect with friends and family, to make solid decisions and to value your life again.
Although Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong condition for many people, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms. Self-care is so important for everyone. For me, it’s essential and it gets me through the challenging moments.
To manage my illness and balance the see saw of the highs and lows, I see three core areas as really important for me:
1) Firstly, having a psychiatrist that I really trust who helps to get my medication right and is always there to support when I need it.
2) Having psychological support through a therapist, counsellor or support group is really important. It’s not always easy to find a therapist who is the right fit but it’s fantastic when you find someone. Attending my Aware support group is essential. The support of others living with Bipolar Disorder is enormous and I highly recommend that you find a support group in your area. You won’t regret it. Check out the Aware website for more information: www.aware.ie
3) For me self-care is that balance in life of good sleep practice, healthy eating, exercise, drawing, acupuncture and photography.
For me, photography has helped me through so much. I call it my mindful practice. It is the one area I don’t drop when the mood change. Well I perhaps take less photos during low mood but I don’t stop completely and this is really important for me. Also getting out to walk the dog, heading to the beach whenever I can, as I find the sky and the water to be really calming and healing.
I journal every day and track my mood and ensure I identity 3 things I am grateful for that day. It can be as small as having a lovely cup of tea, capturing a nice photograph, or walking the dog in the park. No matter how dark the day is, there is always something positive; it’s just not always easy to see it. On a good day, it’s effortless and so easy to think of 3 things that am grateful for.
And finally, I have to remember to be compassionate to myself as I can be very hard on myself when the mood dips, with my inner critic telling me lots of negative things about myself, how useless I am, and so on. None of which of course are true, but it feels very real in the moment.
January is a challenging month for everyone, but particularly so for anyone suffering with a mental illness. But remember, it is likely to pass. Use your self-care practises to help get through it.
One of Bernadette’s photographs entitled ‘Misty Forest’
If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following