Study Type: Member Story
Patient Sex: Male
Patient Ethnicity: White
Patient Age: 45
Published Date: 05/07/2018
Conditions: Anxiety Disorders
Twenty years ago, I felt as if my entire life lay wide open with possibilities stretched out before me. I was doing what I loved, and I found beauty in everything. And then it happened. Things fell apart. I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
I would lay awake at night with anxiety, unable to calm my thoughts while fretting over trivial issues, overwhelmed by the enormity of my panic as it consumed one area of my life after another, growing in size like an inescapable black hole. After several sleepless nights, I went to my doctor.
At the time, I had no familiarity with mental illness. I assumed the anxiety was a product of insomnia, and not the other way around. I thought the black, lightless pit of depression in which I was sinking was just a matter of needing some sleep. I was given medication for anxiety, but it didn’t help. Eventually, an antidepressant was prescribed, and all eventually seemed well until the hypomania occurred. It was then that I was diagnosed and prescribed mood stabilizing drugs.
Although medicine and therapy has helped me all these years, those chemicals are not without a cost -- not just dollars, but undesirable side effects. My mood swings were kept in check, but I also felt numb, uninspired, somewhat detached from my own body, more as if I were observing my life than living it. Being a creative person who finds his purpose and expression in the arts, this “balanced” version of myself impeded my desires. So, like most people afflicted with bipolar, I am guilty, now and again, of not taking my medication -- and that is definitely not a good thing.
My newfound motivation is mindfulness meditation.
I recently discovered it. I mean, I’d heard of it before, but I’d never thought about trying it. I did a little research, found some mindfulness exercises, and gave them a shot. After a few days, I began to feel more alive and in the moment, which are the very claims mindfulness promises.
Yes, I still take my medication, but this new practice has helped me to cope their personality-diminishing side-effects. I am creating once more, and I’m doing it with greater passion than I’ve felt in a very long time. My relationship with my wife and children has also improved, dramatically, in fact. In addition to mindfulness, I am very interested in learning more of transcendental meditation. We’ll see how that goes.
My advice for anyone out there suffering similar illnesses is to give mindfulness a shot. I don't know that it will work for you, but you have nothing to lose in trying. With a little research, you can find all the information you need to get started.
As I said, I must continue to take my medications and attend regular therapy, but, so far, the only thing I've found to work is the mindfulness meditation I keep praising here.
I have not done well with nutrition, and I hope to change that sooner rather than later. It's not something I have ever taken seriously, and so I know very little about how to eat properly.