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serenityNOW's avatar

How to un-flip my bipolar switch (see details)

Asked by serenityNOW (3367 points ) February 6th, 2013

Couple of issues:
I’ve been in the midst of lots of financial woe. I’m applying for Social Security Disability (due to mental illness) but even if I’m accepted, that could be months. I’m also way over my head in debt, and talked to a bankruptcy lawyer this morning, who said my struggle is quite “manageable”. He was referred to me by my best friend’s dad (a judge) so I know he’s not a shyster, fyi So, that’s a relief. Light at the end of that tunnel. And,
I met a guy. He seemed pleasant, distant and then pleasant again. But, he’s a flake. I’m going to break it off with him, preferably in person, but if he’s not available in a day or two, over the phone. Not the classiest means of breaking off a relationship but I can’t delay – part impatience, part integrity.

So, that’s my scenario. I’ve been in touch with my therapist and he’s said the above has “flipped” my switch; from near stability (I swear I was doing well!) to abject misery. I figured eliminating my stressors would eliminate my bipolar episode, but if anything, I’m feeling worse. I can’t afford a visit with the psychiatrist right now… so, Jellies – how can I make myself “un-flip-it?” How can I just feel goddamn sane!

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21 Answers

Shippy's avatar

Are you on medication? Make sure you take your medication. Do you have anxiety medication? This helps me when I am triggered. I don’t like the word ‘flip’. I call it triggers. They are in reality stressful events. Try and chat to a trusted friend? Remind yourself that at least you have the possibility of financial help soon. If not now. I know how you feel! If that helps. (You can even call a Bipolar crises line?). Check if you have eaten today, and are rested.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I have always been the person to talk my mom down from a manic episode, but your’s sound more like a depression phase, which she has as well.

If you don’t have someone in your life who can make you laugh again to get your out of that mood, then you need to find one.

Being alone is not a good thing in that state either, so call a friend and spend the day with them or if family is close, maybe a few days out of your normal environment. And count your blessings one by one, make a list of them if you need to, it’s really important to focus on the positive.

I wish I were there to make you giggle and hug you! :)

serenityNOW's avatar

@Shippy – Definitely on the meds and taking them. I can’t take anxiety meds (xanax and that class of drugs due to past episodes of addiction) but I think I’ll try to get some exercise if the thermometer goes above freezing :)
@KNOWITALL – You did just make me giggle, and I can probably elicit a hug from my mom!

KNOWITALL's avatar

@serenityNOW Good, I’ve had 40 years of experience getting mama’s moods regulated. PM me anytime, my repetoire is extensive..lol

wundayatta's avatar

I have a friend who is very good at talking to me when I’m really down. So I endorse @KNOWITALL‘s suggestion.

Exercise is good, too, and I wouldn’t let cold stop you. All you need to do is wear proper clothing—which means hat and gloves and layers, so you can strip down as you get warmer through exercise. The problem is really burning up more than being too cold. You will just be too cold at the beginning.

Do you have any mindfulness skills? I would learn some, if you don’t.

Do you engage in any form or art: dance, art, ceramics, music? I would get involved in that, too.

Now this next suggestion may not sound healthy, but if you get desperate, desperate measures are called for.

Fall in love. There’s nothing like falling in love to pick you up. Of course, if it ends quickly, then you have the falling out of love to take you down, so that can be a problem. When I was sick, I fell in love six times in six months, and I think it was helpful more than it was hurtful. It showed me there was something that some people found of worth in me. Obviously, it’s better if the love lasts, but even if it doesn’t, I think it can pick you up. I’m not talking sex here. I talking love, which, of course, has sex involved in it.

Another thing to do is to vow to wait three months before making a major decision. When depressed, as you know, you don’t think the same as you do when not depressed. You make bad decisions. So wait on any major decisions.

Yoga. Mindfulness. Exercise. Be with friends. Volunteer. Do things for others.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The first thing I want to say is thank you. Really. Thank you for sharing with us. It shows that you want to get better and are reaching out of your safety zone for that, and it shows that you trust us enough to tell us some of your woes.

You’ve got some great ideas here. I’m very glad to know you’re on medication. That’s always #1 on my list.

Once the medication question is out of the way when the flip has been switched, I suggest finding a way to get outside your head. Mindfully concentrating (putting your whole being into) an activity is what’s called for. Me? I wash the dishes.

It sounds simplistic, and it is! That’s the beauty of it. I make a sink of warm, sudsy water and take my pile of dishes and wash them carefully one by one. I speak out loud while I’m doing it. “I’m picking up the plate.” “I’m putting the plate in the sink.” “I’m scrubbing the plate.” I do this with each small motion and with each dish or fork or glass or whatever.

The end result is that I get outside my head. This exercise can be done with any kind of chore around the house. The secret is to talk out loud about the exact motion you are doing at the exact time you are doing it.

Here’s a list of other things I do daily to maintain my mental balance:

take my medication as prescribed
maintain sobriety
self-care
drink plenty of water
exercise
meditate
eat healthy meals
chat with a friend
check in with myself
talk to supporters
educate myself about my recovery and my illness
write
be open about my sexuality
breathing exercises

As you may or may not know, I’m in job training presently to become a mental health peer specialist here in Hawai`i. I’ve only complete the first of four weeks of training before a three-month internship. I learned this week that I have to keep myself well before I can help anybody else. That’s a new idea for me. I’ve always put the needs of others before my own.

I have some resources that I can share with you through PM once your switch has been thrown back the other way, and you’re calmer. There’s absolutely no pressure though. It’s completely up to you. Let me know when and if you’re interested.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Ok, that sounds like my life 15yrs ago. Im wondering if you are on the right drugs? The right drugs are really the key. If you are on the right drug maybe the dose needs to be played with. Im on a mood stabilizer, which is working awesome. And actually I was just going through a depressed spell, so my pills were upped. The doctor said if I dont feel better he would think about adding a pill for depression. So far I feel ok.

Next, stressors can make us flip out more so thats why your pills may need adjusting to coincide with the stress around you and help you.

Ive been through every bipolar medical drug known to man. I went through emotional hell to find the right one. Ive been doing this since I was 18 and im soon to be 36. But now that ive found the right medication and even I notice the difference. I dont feel so tortured and I react much better than ever, allthough the disabilty is always there and it will never go away and even though ive grown leaps and bounds every so often there is still a hole in the road.

I pray you will get there one day.

kitszu's avatar

You can’t “un-flip” any mental switch.

You HAVE to choose to deal with it babe.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@kitszu With my mom, it really is like ‘un-flipping’ the mental switch when she’s in a manic or depressive episode, it often required outside influences to change it. They can’t really ‘choose’ their moods because of the bi-polar.

Shippy's avatar

@kitszu If it were only that easy.

serenityNOW's avatar

@all: Just an update: I’m feeling better. Mostly
@wundayatta – I did the exercise, and yes: I was cold. Brrrr. But I really pushed myself, and worked up quite the sweat. I even did intervals (walking, jogging, walking) and I definitely could feel that runners high. I also took my night-time meds a little earlier than usual, so by 11–12ish, they kicked in and I got a good night’s rest.
One thing that would put me in the danger zone, would be the “falling in love” thing. Love, or dare I say lust is definitely a tipping-point, flipping my switch/trigger for me. Problem is, it’s really usually “lust” for me. It’s just hard to distinguish it, and I find the idea of a new relationship untenable right now.
@Hawaii_Jake – One reason I like opening up here on Fluther, is the answers and suggestions I get from the Jellies here can also help others, too. So, your suggestions are excellent. The only hard thing is, when you’re really down – well, it’s just damn hard to implement them. Fortunately, I was somewhat cognizant of what was happening, and nipped it in the “bud” before it got too unbearable.
Folks, thank you all!

Shippy's avatar

@serenityNOW That’s good to hear :)

wundayatta's avatar

@serenityNOW I’m glad you have control over the love thing. I don’t. Not when I’m desperate, anyway.

serenityNOW's avatar

@wundayatta – It’s come-and-go with me. It’s a conundrum: When I’m with someone, – I’m loathe to say.. well, it’s like I’m in Baskin’ Robbins , I want a sample of all 31 flavors. Then, when the inevitable breakup occurs, suddenly I lose my appetite. But, when love/lust comes a knockin’, I do the same thing, over & over. Sad pattern. So, I swear to myself, I’m better off alone. But, the “habit” is what I’d liken to something I’ve heard at 12-step groups: You “pock up right where you left up.” So @wundayatta, I think I’m as out of control, I just take breaks every so often. Do they help? Maybe. More so: are they necessary: for me, yes. But is it hard: without a doubt.
—P.S. Hopefully all this made sense; I promised myself 10 minutes on Fluther, and suddenly it’s way past my bedtime—-
P.P.S.- I hope I haven’t contradicted myself, either. Again, I’m too damn tired to scroll up and see what I’ve even said!

wundayatta's avatar

@serenityNOW That sounds like a bipolar pattern. I’ve heard many similar stories, anyway. Not exactly the same, but close enough. I believe the disorder creates an need for intense experience in us, and that love fits that need… or falling in love, anyway. The falling in love experience also helps us feel better about ourselves, as well as feeling like we aren’t alone—both things that we seem to need more of than the average person.

I’m sure there’s brain chemistry that is targeted to this in some way. I can almost see it. If I knew more about brain chemistry, I bet I could actually see the molecules and how this relationship gets played out. There is something common to loneliness, love and intensity that is driven by brain chemistry. They’re all related. And because of whatever bipolar disorder does, the demands of those feelings are much higher.

I’m repeating myself, circling around, hoping to gain an insight into this, but perhaps not today. The thing is, that if it is built into us, that makes it much harder to gain control over it. Meds help, but we can also do it purely mentally. That is a trick, though. I’m sure Meditation and yoga and creativity play a part in it.

In fact, I know that’s probably what drives us to be more creative. Creativity is a coping mechanism because it feeds back to our brains the same things that love and intensity feed back into them. I wish I could see these emotions as chemical formulas. I know there is a formula to this. There is an exact chemistry to love and creativity and loneliness. There is an equation here. I can almost taste it! Shit. I bet I could taste it. Taste is just more chemicals. And smell. I bet we could make pills that affect our brains via flavors and smell. Maybe that’s why I’m a cook, too? It all fits together. All centered around chemistry. A specific kind of chemistry that reinforces itself via many channels.

And to think it is something we can control simply by wanting to is delusional. It is a self-reinforcing pattern made up of behaviors, taste, smell, loneliness, intensity, and working on only one thing won’t help much. If we want to be able to control ourselves, we have to learn how to control most of these avenues of operation.

serenityNOW's avatar

Hi everyone – I wish I could bring glad tidings, but after a few days under my belt of feeling okay, I’m back down in the mire. Fortunately, I’ll be able to see my psychiatrist in person. (Due to financial constraints I couldn’t afford a session, but right now, fortunately I can.)

I’m calling tomorrow to make an appointment; I’ve never had to tell his secretary that it’s an urgent need, but tomorrow I will. He does Mon & Wed. hours, from 3:00pm on, and I’m going to try for tomorrow night.

I’ll keep you all posted, and the responses are so meaningful to me.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

I am really sorry you are not feeling great. Are you on a mood stabilizer? I wonder if the dose is high enough. Thanks for the update. I really hope the doctor can help you. I am so sorry for your struggles right now. Big hug.

serenityNOW's avatar

@nofurbelowsbatgirl – Yeah, I take a bunch of drugs. Lol. Primary mood stabilizers are: Lamictal and Abilify. I take a few more drugs too, and my working theory is maybe one “pooped” out on me. Anyway, that’s what he gets paid for, and I’m confident we’ll get a handle on it. It’s just a matter of when…

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

@serenityNOW well for you I hope it is soon :) My doc just upped my dose of mood stabilizers and I am actually feeling a bit better every day. I guess I was in a deep depression. I also just recently started going to the gym, that is giving me a goal to work at. I really hope things works out for you sooner than later. Good luck.

serenityNOW's avatar

Hi all – I saw my doctor who is confident that putting me on a new drug, will zap me back out from the twilight zone: Latuda. It’s new and apparently will be FDA-approved this summer for bipolar. Not sure he knows that.

Anyway, it may take a few weeks to reach a therapeutic effect, but I’m relieved. I think I can hold up a little longer, since there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. So, is the Bipolar switch “flipped” back into place? Gettin’ there. Thanks for all who have reached out; it means a lot to me.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

@serenityNOW That’s great. I on the other hand want to quit my pills. I thought I liked my doctor, but it has recently come to light that I don’t. I am almost sure he is doing some type of underground research on me with a drug that is not even approved for bipolar. But I don’t know I am bipolar and most of the time I think someone is out to get me. My pills were just upped again today. Love it!

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