How to Tell the Difference Between Bipolar and Borderline Personality

This is an interesting article I found on: www.goodtherapy.org

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Impulsivity, mood swings, irritability, high and low periods, patterns of troubled relationships—these symptoms often indicate bipolar, but they can just as easily appear in people who have borderline personality (BPD).

Neither condition is uncommon. Approximately 2.6% of adults in the United States live with bipolar. Estimates for BPD vary, but it’s believed somewhere between 1.6% and 5.9% of adults in the U.S. live with this condition. Many people have a dual diagnosis, or both conditions.

The resemblance between the traits characterizing each issue and the possibility of co-occurrence has led some professionals to question whether BPD is a subtype or variation of bipolar. The general consensus among mental health experts, however, is that while these conditions often present with similar features, they are two separate mental health issues that can usually be distinguished in a few key ways.

It’s during periods of mania that bipolar may be most suggestive of BPD, as manic episodes often involve thrill-seeking, impulsive, or aggressive behavior.

Bipolar vs. Borderline Personality

A mood disorder, bipolar is primarily characterized by shifts between high-energy (manic) states and low-energy (depressive) states. Bipolar-related mood changes can range from mild to extreme, and they’re typically accompanied by changes in a person’s energy and activity.

Not every person who has bipolar will experience a classic manic episode. These episodes generally last several days and frequently involve increased activity and productivity in schoolwork, work-related tasks, or creative pursuits. Feeling very energized or charged, with little or no need to sleep, is common.

People living with bipolar II experience milder manic periods known as hypomania. Cyclothymia, a subtype of bipolar, involves hypomanic and depressive periods that don’t meet typical bipolar criteria. But mania is a symptom specifically linked to bipolar, so having even one manic episode indicates bipolar in most cases.

It’s during periods of mania that bipolar may be most suggestive of BPD, as manic episodes often involve thrill-seeking, impulsive, or aggressive behavior. Impulsive actions might include risky sex, excessive spending, or substance abuse, along with other behavior that isn’t typical. Rapid cycling bipolar may particularly resemble BPD, as mood fluctuations happen more frequently than with typical bipolar.

Frequent manic episodes could also contribute to relationship difficulties, since the way a person behaves during a manic episode could have a negative impact on the people close to them. For example, during a manic episode, a person in a monogamous relationship may cheat on their partner or decide to redo all of their home furnishings and max out multiple credit cards in order to purchase new interior decorations. A person who uses drugs during a manic episode could face legal consequences, especially if their actions while under the influence of drugs cause harm to others.

But with BPD, particularly untreated BPD, emotional shifts tend to be sudden and happen frequently. BPD is a personality disorder, so the associated traits don’t simply relate to mood changes, they’re persistent behavior patterns. Extreme, all-or-nothing thinking patterns also help characterize this condition. For example, a person with BPD who experiences mild criticism at work may become very upset and distressed. They may feel they’ve failed and fear they’ll lose their job.

Another characteristic of BPD is difficulty interpreting emotions. People often view neutral or other expressions as negative, and this misinterpretation could lead to conflict or strained personal relationships.

Similarly, a minor disagreement with a partner could lead someone to believe they’re unlovable and the relationship is over. They might end the relationship first, fearing rejection. Relationship conflict can also trigger devaluation of a partner who was previously idealized, depending on the circumstances. With devaluation, feelings of anger, disdain, and contempt may abruptly replace feelings of love and happiness in the relationship.

Lifetime suicide risk is high with either bipolar or BPD, while recurring non-suicidal self-harming behaviors as well as multiple suicide attempts are common with BPD. Cutting and other self-harm doesn’t necessarily indicate suicidal intent. Research indicates many people with BPD self-harm as a way of coping or as a way of feeling something during a period of dissociation.

How Do Treatment Approaches Differ?

These two conditions have separate underlying causes, though people with a family history of either bipolar or BPD have a higher risk for that condition.

The causes of BPD aren’t fully known, but it’s believed to develop from a combination of factors. A tendency to experience extreme emotionality, which can also run in families, is believed to contribute, especially in people who’ve experienced abuse, trauma, and neglect. Brain chemistry is a significant contributing factor to bipolar, though environmental factors can also increase risk.

Correct diagnosis is important, because treatment approaches vary depending on the condition. It’s important to understand that therapy alone typically can’t treat mania in people living with bipolar. It may also not be enough to treat severe depression in some people.

Therapy can help address some symptoms and challenges of living with bipolar, but in most cases people with typical bipolar will need medication to help stabilize mood shifts. Untreated mania and depression can have serious emotional and even physical health consequences, so it’s important to seek, and continue with, treatment.

Mood stabilizers such as lithium won’t help BPD symptoms. In some cases, bipolar treatment might even make certain symptoms worse. There’s no medication that specifically treats BPD. The typical treatment is dialectical behavior therapy, though other therapy approaches such as schema therapy can also have significant benefit.

Can Bipolar and Borderline Personality Co-occur?

A person experiencing symptoms of both bipolar and borderline personality may have both conditions.

A person experiencing symptoms of both bipolar and borderline personality may have both conditions. This isn’t uncommon, in fact. A 2013 review of multiple studies on the two conditions found that around 10% of people diagnosed with borderline personality also had bipolar I, while about 10% had bipolar II as well as BPD.

Living with untreated borderline personality and bipolar can cause significant distress, in part because the two conditions may play off each other.

  • Feelings of emptiness or failure may be even worse during a bipolar depressive period, causing emotional turmoil or disconnect, both of which may increase risk for self-harming behavior or suicide.
  • A person struggling with trust or abandonment issues in their relationship could have an even harder time maintaining a healthy relationship during a low mood state.
  • A period of mania may be more likely to trigger risky or impulsive behavior in a person who feels distressed or disconnected from their sense of self and wants to feel something.
  • Substance abuse isn’t uncommon with BPD or bipolar, and alcohol and drugs can often trigger mania.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recommends mental health professionals avoid diagnosing personality disorders during untreated mood episodes. Taking a detailed mental health history that looks back at patterns and symptoms over a longer period of time can help differentiate the two conditions.

Between manic and depressive episodes, people with bipolar generally experience fairly normal moods. Months or even years could pass between high and low periods, especially when treatment is effective at managing symptoms. So once a mood episode has stabilized, diagnosis may be somewhat clearer. When a manic or depressive mood seems to respond to treatment but symptoms of emotional dysregulation persist, a dual diagnosis is likely.

Treatment for Co-occurring Bipolar and Borderline Personality

Living with co-occurring BPD and bipolar may be more challenging than having either condition alone, especially if it takes time to get an accurate diagnosis. Bipolar-related mood swings, when combined with more frequent and rapid changes in emotional state, can make daily life difficult and negatively affect work, school, and personal life. People living with bipolar and BPD may feel even more unstable or unable to control what’s happening around them than those living with only one of these conditions.

While treatment such as therapy can be very helpful for reducing symptoms and improving quality of life, the recommended treatments for each condition differ. This makes an accurate diagnosis essential for successful treatment.

For bipolar, therapy may involve learning to recognize mood triggers, developing ways to cope with bipolar symptoms, and working to reduce the effects symptoms have on daily life. The combination of mood stabilizing medication and dialectical behavior therapy may be recommended for people with both bipolar and BPD, since DBT is generally the ideal approach to therapy for BPD. This therapy involves developing the skills to manage and cope with difficult emotions and practicing positive ways of relating to others.

For people experiencing BPD-related distress during a manic or depressive episode, mood stabilization is an important first step. Research suggests BPD symptoms may improve slightly once mood has stabilized, which can increase the chance of successful treatment. It’s also essential to talk about suicidal thoughts or self-harm, since these may be more likely in people with both conditions than people who only have bipolar.

Psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations can also occur during a manic episode, and these can be dangerous. They’re not as common with BPD, but they do occur, so it’s important to discuss any hallucinations, delusions, or magical thinking when a person presents with symptoms of both conditions.

Finding a Therapist for Bipolar or Borderline Personality

For some mental health concerns, diagnosis may not significantly impact treatment since symptoms can still be addressed in therapy. But when bipolar and BPD, which sometimes present similarly, are misdiagnosed for each other, treatment may be less effective. Symptoms of both conditions can further complicate diagnosis. Some mental health professionals may fail to recognize the presence of both issues, particularly if they’re less experienced with the differences between the two or unaware bipolar and BPD often occur together.

When seeking a diagnosis or working to address symptoms of both bipolar and BPD, it’s recommended to seek support from a therapist who has experiencing helping people with both conditions. While other trained, empathic therapists can certainly provide compassionate care, a therapist who specializes in working with people living with these conditions may offer support that’s designed to address specific symptoms of these conditions. This may be especially important when beginning therapy for the first time.

References:

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
  2. Bipolar disorder. (2017). National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-conditions/bipolar-disorder
  3. Bipolar disorder. (2018). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml
  4. Borderline personality disorder. (2017). National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Borderline-Personality-Disorder
  5. Borderline personality disorder. (2017). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml
  6. Fenske, S., Lis, S., Liebke, L., Niedtfeld, I., Kirsch, P., & Mier, D. (2015, June 26). Emotion recognition in borderline personality disorder: Effects of emotional information on negative bias. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 2, 10. doi: 10.1186/s40479-015-0031-z
  7. Ghaemi, S. N., Dalley, S., Catania, C., & Barroilhet, S. (2014). Bipolar or borderline: A clinical overview. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 130(2), 99-108. doi: 10.1111/acps.12257
  8. Kvarnstrom, E. (2017, October 5). Borderline personality disorder misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder: Differences and treatment. Retrieved from https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/blog/borderline-personality-disorder-misdiagnosed-as-bipolar-disorder-differences-and-treatment
  9. Linehan, M. M., Korslund, K. E., & Harned, M. S. (2015). Dialectical behavior therapy for high suicide risk in individuals with borderline personality disorder: A randomized clinical trial and component analysis. JAMA Psychiatry, 72(5), 475-482. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.3039
  10. Paris, J. (2004). Borderline or bipolar? Distinguishing borderline personality disorder from bipolar spectrum disorders. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 12(3), 140-145. doi: 10.1080/10673220490472373
  11. Zimmerman, M., & Morgan, T. A. (2013). The relationship between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 15(2), 155-169. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3811087

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Podcast: Does Sleeping Alleviate Mental Illness Symptoms?

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Not getting enough sleep impacts every single person. It makes us irritable, slows our reflexes, and reduces our ability to think and reason. When a person is sick or suffering from an illness, getting more sleep is beneficial to the healing process.

Mental Illness is no different. You will benefit from regular sleep. In today’s episode, we talk about sleep hygiene – what it is and why it is important. Trust us, if anyone can make a discussion about sleep engaging, it’s Gabe and Michelle. Listen Now.

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“When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re a crabby ass. If you’re mentally ill and don’t get enough sleep, you’re a crazy crabby ass.”
– Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘Sleeping Mental Illness’ Episode

[0:30] Let’s talk about sleep hygiene.

[3:00] Good sleep, bad sleep, and more sleep.

[9:15] Sleeping and waking up with psych meds.

[13:00] Kanye West makes an appearance. . .oy vey.

[17:00] Resetting your sleep cycle.

[19:00] Should you tell your doc if you are having trouble sleeping?

[21:00] The dangers of book lights.

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Sleeping Mental Illness’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: Welcome to this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. My name is Gabe and I have bipolar.

Michelle: Hi, I’m Michelle and I’m schizophrenic.

Gabe: And today we are going to talk about.

Michelle: Sleep hygiene.

Gabe: You couldn’t even say it exciting.

Michelle: Well, I mean, I like sleeping. Hygiene is something I struggle with, but together they form a thing. What is it Gabe?

Gabe: The rituals, behaviors, and norms that you follow around sleep. And they are referred to as, hey shocker, “sleep hygiene.” Regularly pulling all nighters, or sleeping in on the weekends so that you can make up for lost sleep, are both examples of poor sleep hygiene. Conversely, following a regular sleep schedule and avoiding things like caffeine, staying up all night, and bingeing on Netflix are good sleep hygiene practices. Listen, don’t beat yourself oup if you don’t practice perfect sleep hygiene. Even I don’t practice perfect sleep hygiene.

Michelle: Damn right you don’t. Because we stay up all night watching “The People’s Court.”

Gabe: That is an example of poor sleep hygiene. You hate sleep hygiene. You and I have been doing this a while now and we get asked different things that lead to or where the answer is sleep hygiene, and every time I say, “Look, you’ve got to pay attention to your sleep,” you literally look at me and roll your eyes. Why is the concept of sleep hygiene bother you so much?

Michelle: I don’t know why it bothers me so much. It’s just the question of you should really get sleep, because sleep is important, and if you don’t get enough sleep you won’t feel good in the morning, and then you might have a bad day. So sleep hygiene really is important. Case closed.

Gabe: I wish it was called, like, if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be a crabby ass and if you’re mentally ill and you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be a crazy crabby ass. Like wouldn’t that be cool? Now you’re getting into it. If the name explained how sleep makes you not a crazy crabby ass.

Michelle: Well then, you need more sleep, Gabe.

Gabe: Oh my God. I would call it get enough sleep so you’re not an asshole.

Michelle: Yeah? Get enough sleep because you’re not an asshole? That’s your next book Gabe.

Gabe: All of my books are just gonna have “asshole” in the title. And like when we get really big and famous you know my book is gonna be called?

Michelle: Asshole?

Gabe: I worked with an asshole.

Michelle: I worked with an asshole?

Gabe: We should get shirts that say I’m with asshole and it points to the left and yours points to the right and then we’ll just walk down the street together.

Michelle: No, we don’t want to do that. I’ll walk on one side and you walk on the other side of the avenue view so everybody can think that we’re talking about everybody else.

Gabe: That’s right because we are a unit, and we would never call each other assholes in public.

Michelle: That’s right. I would never insult you, Gabe. Never. I never ever insulted you. I’ve never said anything mean about you.

Gabe: You know it’s being recorded right?

Michelle: Oh? There’s proof of that?

Gabe: There’s so much proof now.

Michelle: Oh no. What’s going on? Are people catching me in my lies? Maybe I told in my sleep. Do I need more sleep? Maybe I didn’t get my sleep hygiene enough? Oh no.

Gabe: All sleep hygiene is, is paying attention to your sleep and doing the things that allow you to sleep well so that you wake up refreshed. Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. How we sleep is very important. Like for example, do you get in bed and toss and turn all night? That would be an example of poor sleep. Good sleep is if you stay relatively set and there’s things that you can do that contribute to good sleep hygiene. Like, only use your bed for sleep and sex. Other people use their beds for everything. Like for example, Michelle, your bed is basically the corporate offices of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast.

Michelle: I live in New York City. Where am I supposed to put a desk?

Gabe: You have a living room.

Michelle: Where am I going to fit a desk in my living room?

Gabe: You could put the desk in your bedroom.

Michelle: Where the hell will a desk fit in my bedroom?

Gabe: There is enough room for a desk.

Michelle: No there is not. You obviously have never been to my apartment.

Gabe: That’s not true. We taped an episode there.

Michelle: I have three people in a two bedroom, Gabe.

Gabe: All right I’ll give you that. I’ll give you that.

Michelle: There is no room for it.

Gabe: These are the struggles that people have then, right? What you’re saying is, “Look, I need to do things in my bed. This is important to me because I just don’t have a lot of space so I have my laptop. I sit in bed and I do things like record my show, do my writing, run my business. You do an amazing number of things in your bed.

Michelle: You don’t even know my bed, Gabe. Not my bed. It has seen things you wouldn’t even believe.

Gabe: That is not a sex joke. I’ve seen you prepare orders on your bed. You know, your T-shirt business and your clothing line and your leggings and all of that stuff. You know you get big orders and you’ve got packaging material, labelling, and everything all on your bed. You got like tape.

Michelle: But that’s not usually on my bed. I don’t want people thinking that I’m like putting stuff on my bed like that. I make like you know layouts and stuff but I usually do it in my living room.

Gabe: The point I’m making is that your bed is a flat surface in a place where a flat surface is at a premium so you can see why. But can you see why doing all of those things in your bed can create this idea in your body that when you were in your bed it’s not time to sleep? When you climb into bed, your body doesn’t know if you’re working on the next great project. Or if you’re trying to sleep. It kind of confuses you on a subconscious level a little bit. And that’s why the idea of just using your bed for sleep is good for sleep hygiene. For me in my house when I get into bed there’s nothing else to do there.

Michelle: You have an office and a desk, Gabe.

Gabe: Listen, you’re coming up with a lot of reasons that you can’t do it. But the bottom line is if you are having trouble sleeping.

Michelle: I’m not having trouble sleeping.

Gabe: Ok. In this case you don’t need to practice some of these sleep hygiene levels but there’s many people who do.

Michelle: That’s true. What about? Do you remember that time I was like I’m going to get back out of bed at 10:00 every day? And you’re like lie!

Gabe: Yeah.

Michelle: Isn’t that kind of go sleep hygiene of sleeping far too late?

Gabe: So not getting enough sleep is poor sleep hygiene, and getting too much sleep is also poor sleep hygiene. It’s getting the right amount of sleep and the next thing that I want to talk about is this magical eight hours. No, this is bullshit. It’s bullshit. It’s an average. The average person needs eight hours of sleep. When was the last time people with mental illness were ever considered the average person? So people are beating themselves up if they need too much sleep or if they’re not sleeping enough based on some number that they read on the Internet.

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: You can see where this would be. It’s like I slept 10 hours and I woke up feeling refreshed but I’m so lazy I slept two hours too long. If that’s the amount of sleep that you need that’s the amount of sleep that you need. And the reverse is also true. Well I only slept six hours I’m not getting enough sleep. Well do you wake up refreshed? Do you get tired throughout the day? Do you have enough energy? Then six hours is enough. You need sleep to survive.

Michelle: Yes. Agreed. Yeah.

Gabe: Yeah. You need sleep.

Michelle: Right. We are not robots right. But if we were robots, maybe we’d need a plug?

Gabe: Yeah. We don’t have plugs we’re not Priuses.

Michelle: Oh we’re not?

Gabe: We’re not. We’re not a Nissan Volt. I’m not a car. We’re not a Tesla.

Gabe: Well, maybe if you run like jump on my back I can carry on and I’ll be a car.

Gabe: There are so many reasons you’re not a Tesla. You’re not high quality.

Michelle: Hey!

Gabe: Nobody wants you.

Michelle: Hey!

Gabe: And you don’t run right.

Michelle: I had a Hyundai.

Gabe: Yeah? I can see you as a Hyundai.

Michelle: Hey, shut up.

Gabe: Hyundai’s are pretty, but they’re not very reliable, are you?

Michelle: Not very reliable? Well, I had 2002 before they got pretty.

Gabe: Oh, so you’re an ugly Hyundai?

Michelle: I’m an ugly Hyundai, yes. One time it got hit by a preacher.

Gabe: What? You actually had your car hit by God?

Michelle: I’m pretty tired. Let’s hear from our sponsor.

Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist, whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you.BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Gabe: We’re back talking sleep hygiene. Michelle’s favorite subject. If you’re having sleeping problems, it can be a couple of different things. One, it can just be the makeup of who you are as a person and there’s things that you can do to sleep better. Again like the whole dreaded only use your bed for sleep and sex and yes I know you live in New York City but there’s other things that you can do as well. Like, I have a ritual surrounding my bedtime and I know that people think that they’re you know they’re boring and lame or whatever and they are boring and lame, but they pay big big dividends.

Michelle: What I was also going to say is that I do take a pill at night, and if I did not take that pill at night I would not sleep whatsoever.

Gabe: Now is that pill to help you sleep or is that pill to treat schizophrenia?

Michelle: No it was prescribed to help schizophrenia and.

Gabe: So an added benefit?

Michelle: Yes, it had the added benefit of knocking me out at night. If I did not take it.,I’d be up all night long.

Gabe: That’s an interesting thing too. I have the same thing. There is a pill that pretty much knocked me out as well but it’s not a sleeping pill. It just one of the side effects is that it makes me sleepy, so I moved it to nighttime and this is where it becomes very good to understand what your medication does, what the side effects are, and how you can benefit.

Michelle: Yeah, it’s one of those pills that always says on the bottle do not operate heavy machinery or drive a car when you take this medication.

Gabe: You know, talk to your doctor about taking that at night because if you took it in the morning you’d be sleepy all day. By moving it to night, you can use the side effect to your advantage.

Michelle: Absolutely.

Gabe: You can take that pill at the same time every day, which by definition will make you fall asleep at the same time every day.

Michelle: What usually happens is at night I get a little chatty with myself and I get told take your medicine. Have you taken your medicine yet? You need to take your medicine and I go Yeah OK I’ll take it because I start just talking to imaginary people going into the delusions and it’s kind of what happens.

Gabe: But the people that are telling you to do that they’re not saying that mean? Like I’m.

Michelle: No, not at all.

Gabe: Kind of in a mocking way. You’re just trying to be funny right now.

Michelle: Exactly. It’s not mocking it’s more like out of care. It’s like Are you OK. Did you take your medicine? Take it right now? Now you maybe you should go take your medicine now.

Gabe: Like because we see you not in reality at the moment, and then you take that pill, you go to bed and then you get up the next morning refreshed?

Michelle: Right.

Gabe: Now another part of your sleep hygiene is when you wake up in the morning. You also need to immediately take your morning pills. So even though that’s not technically sleep hygiene, because it’s more part of your morning routine it’s sort of tangentially based. It is it is a thing that you need to do when you awaken.

Michelle: Right. And if I get up and I don’t take my morning pills, I am just pacing around my apartment just just maybe for an hour just back and forth and I need somebody in the morning pretty much telling me go take your medicine. Otherwise I am just just going to dilly dally forever.

Gabe: So even though you hate sleep hygiene, you’re sort of admitting that you’re practicing it. You take pills at the end of the day at the same time. Those pills help you sleep. Once you take the pills you go to sleep. Then you wake up at the same time every day. You take those pills and that helps you and when you’re away from people who don’t keep you on this schedule you stay up all night. You sleep all day and it wrecks your productivity.

Michelle: Absolutely.

Gabe: So even though you hate sleep hygiene you acknowledge that you benefit from it wildly?

Michelle: Absolutely. But I just hate talking about sleep hygiene. Hate to talk about sleep hygiene and sleep. I think it’s just so annoying.

Gabe: One of the reasons that I love sleep hygiene so much is because as somebody who has experienced mania and stayed up for three, four, or five days at a time, that was very dangerous and it was very bad. It was very bad for my relationships, it was very bad for jobs. I could have died. I lost complete control of my senses and faculties and if I would have gotten in a car or jumped off a roof. These are things that really could have harmed me. So that’s really really important and I know when I don’t get enough sleep the next day is awful. Here’s an example from recent memory, I stayed up pretty much all night because I have insomnia and the next day all I did was walk around and tell everybody I know that if I was dead the world be a better place. I wasn’t suicidal but it was close because I felt so bad. I just felt so rundown and so awful and it fed the depression. You remember I texted you and I’m just like this is stupid we shouldn’t do it anymore and you’re like What are you talking about?

Michelle: I did not even know what to do at that point because I was just trying to comfort you I guess I was trying to be like What are you talking about, Gabe? I don’t know where this is coming from because that’s just not you. It’s not something you usually say. You’re usually very motivated.

Gabe: And this was an example of behavior that came directly from not getting enough sleep. So as boring as sleep hygiene is you can see why it’s so important to me because I don’t want to walk around telling people that I’d be better off dead.

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: And I imagine that you probably don’t want to hear that I think that I’m better off dead. That’s got to be scary.

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: I mean I’d like to think that you love me.

Michelle: I also want to bring up, do you not remember the little interview of Kanye West saying he’s not bipolar? He’s suffering from sleep deprivation? Do you know what a huge symptom of bipolar is?

Gabe: Sleep deprivation?

Michelle: Yes. As who is not practicing good sleep hygiene?

Gabe: I’m going to go to Kanye West.

Michelle: You’re right, Gabe. You’re right.

Gabe: Here’s some quick hints and tips for people that are having trouble sleeping to help fall asleep at night. One I really strongly suggest only using your bed for sleep and sex but I also I have a sleep machine.

Michelle: What if you have sex on your couch?

Gabe: Look you’re going to do what you want. Nobody is saying that you can only have sex in your bed.

Michelle: I’m just saying. Because then what if you’re having sex on your couch, you take a nap on your couch, and then you?

Gabe: Let me stop you there. You should not nap on your couch. You should not sleep anywhere but in a bed or your own bed. And this of course, for people like us who travel a lot, this is very difficult and I’ll get to that in a minute because I want to go back to the sleep machine. People are like What the hell is a sleep machine?

Michelle: What’s the sleep machine?

Gabe: Yeah it’s really a sound machine. It’s like a white noise machine. I call it a sleep machine because I only use it for sleeping. So I turn it on and it helps regulate the room. You know it sounds like this. Are you ready? [cooing noise] So when I lay in bed that’s all I can hear, so it blocks out a lot of the external noise. It keeps the noise from going high and low and high and low. Research tells us that it’s noises that are out of the ordinary that wake us up. So, for example, people that live next to train tracks, they can sleep through the train because after a couple of weeks their body is expecting that noise. So that noise doesn’t wake them up.

Michelle: That’s true.

Gabe: It’s the same thing behind those fire alarms. Those smoke alarms where instead of beeping, you can record your voice or you can record your spouse’s voice or your mother’s voice. So it yells like, “Wake up, Michelle, the house is on fire!” Instead of beep beep beep.

Michelle: I see what you’re saying.

Gabe: Now listen, I’m gonna wake up immediately when I hear beep, beep, beep. But that’s just me and this is also why some people have alarm clocks that play the radio because they get used to the beeping in the morning, whereas the radio is always going to be different songs different sounds different you know rhythms etc. So it kind of forces them up in the morning and then some people have so much trouble getting up that they have you know like a vibrating pillow case. Which I didn’t even know existed until doing research about sleep.

Michelle: I didn’t know that it existed until just this moment right now.

Gabe: Yeah. The way that it works is it’s got a cord. You put it inside your pillow and you sleep on it and then when it’s time to get up the pillow shakes.

Michelle: I would have never have guessed you sleep on your pillow.

Gabe: I do sleep on my pillow. I sleep with my head on my pillow. I don’t need a vibrating pillow case, but I found out about this through the research, and I found out about it because the deaf community uses it and that makes sense because they can’t set an alarm.

Michelle: Genius.

Gabe: Yes, they use a vibrating pillow case and they also have vibrating pillow cases that are so advanced that they can hook into things like smoke alarms. So if the smoke alarm goes off it automatically vibrates the pillow.

Michelle: You know I have an Alexa which connects to my partner’s cell phone and sometimes she’ll break into the Alexa going wake up wake up Are you awake? Wake up. But I’m like, oh my God, this bitch!

Gabe: Wait, wait. How do I do that next time?

Michelle: I’m not telling.

Gabe: The next time you miss a meeting.

Michelle: I’m not telling you how to get into my Alexa. Or it has like different alarms you can wake up to that whatever the hell his name is? Oh, I know what it was. That, that guy married to Gwen Stefani? What is his name?

Gabe: Who is Gwen Stefani?

Michelle: No, no.

Gabe: Don’t speak. Just tell me what you’re feeling.

Michelle: Shut up. His name is the guy that was voted sexiest man in America. What is his name?

Gabe: The Rock?

Michelle: No, Blake Shelton. Sometimes I wake up to just the alarm clock of Blake Shelton like Oh is it a morning? Can I get a beer or maybe I can get a coffee?

Gabe: So it’s actually his voice?

Michelle: It’s his voice waking me up. Yeah.

Gabe: Talking about beer and coffee and these things help you get up at the same time every day because one of the dangers of not getting up at the same time every day is that you sort of reset your cycle. So let’s say for example that you go to bed at 8:00 and you get up at 8:00. Now that’s twelve hours of sleep and that’s a lot but let’s say that that’s how much you need and it’s also easy math for me. So you go to bed at 8:00 and you get up at 8:00 and that’s your twelve hour sleep pattern. But let’s say that one of those days you go to bed at midnight. Now if you follow your same 12 hours sleep pattern you’re gonna get up at noon. Well if you go to bed at midnight and you get up at noon that day what are the chances you’re going to fall asleep at 8:00 that night? You’re not. You’re going to go to sleep at midnight again and then you’re gonna be on a midnight to noon, midnight to noon, and that’s really going to reset your sleep schedule. So the best thing to do is that even though you stayed up too late and went to bed at midnight, you’re actually pretty wise to get up at 8:00 anyway. Or maybe push it to 9:00, but don’t get the full twelve hours. You might drag a little bit that day. But then at eight o’clock that night you’ll go to bed again. Sleep just really really impacts. It just does. It just does.

Michelle: It does. I can’t tell you how many bosses have spoken to me about getting in on time and getting enough sleep.

Gabe: Yeah. Whether you have mental illness or not, sleep can really impact the kind of day that you have. Find the most mentally healthy person that you can find and keep them up all night and then see how they act the next day. And when you’re living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. The way that the sleep interacts with those illnesses is huge. I know that sleep is boring but it really is important. And so often getting more sleep, just like getting more exercise or eating healthier or showering or doing self care or coping mechanisms or taking our meds on time, sleep plays a vital role in keeping us healthy. And I know it’s boring, Michelle.

Michelle: It’s just boring to talk about sleep hygiene. That’s what I think. But I understand sleep is important. I completely understand. I get it. Sleep yes sleep. I’ll go take a nap if you want me to take a nap.

Gabe: No, napping is bad.

Michelle: I’m sorry. Don’t take a nap. Don’t take a nap. Don’t ever take a nap. Naps are evil. Naps are evil.

Gabe: Another thing that I want people to understand is that sleep matters. Sleep is a medical thing. If you are having trouble sleeping, that is a symptom. Report that to your psychiatrist or to your general practitioner or to your family doctor. So many people don’t report issues sleeping and so many doctors don’t ask people if they’re having trouble sleeping. If you are not getting enough sleep, if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, please talk to your doctor. I know it’s not sexy. But, for real, this could be why you’re having side effects from medication. This could be why you’re having issues managing your mental illness. It might have nothing to do with mental illness at all. It might be a sleep problem but because so many people aren’t asking about it they’re not getting help with it. You know sleep. It is boring but it’s real necessary.

Michelle: Gabe’s going to come out with a new shirt that says, “Sleep Matters.”.

Gabe: Sleep does matter.

Michelle: Sleep matters.

Gabe: Do you think people would buy it?

Michelle: I don’t see anyone who would buy that shirt.

Gabe: I’d be like, “Define Sleep.”

Michelle: Define sleep? What? No, sleep matters.

Gabe: Don’t be paranoid, you sleep fine.

Michelle: “Sleep matters if you don’t agree then stay awake.”.

Gabe: How many words are you going to put on this?

Michelle: This is going to be the longest shirt ever because when you’re done reading the shirt, you’re tired enough to sleep.

Gabe: Hey, maybe this is like it’s an all natural, vegan, gluten free sleep aid?

Michelle: Or by Gabe’s book. Mental illness is an asshole and it’ll put you to sleep.

Gabe: That’s just so mean, that’s so mean.

Michelle: No, you read enough, your eyes get tired you go to bed. Just get a little itty bitty book light.

Gabe: A little itty bitty book light to strain your eyes and get glasses? We’re going to do another show on make sure you have enough light to read.

Michelle: I didn’t know that that was a thing, that book lights were a bad thing. I’m so sorry I insulted book lights. Oh no I didn’t know.

Gabe: We’re gonna get letters for this one.

Michelle: I didn’t know. It’s a book light. Book light or bulb lights were bad. I thought book lights were good.

Gabe: Also, they’re not “book lights.” They’re “lights living for books.” Get it right.

Michelle: Oh my goodness. I can’t stop insulting the world about books and sleeping and and the world and Kanye West doesn’t get enough sleep. All sleep deprived and what’s going on? And setting alarms and Alexa wakes you up and there’s a dog sleeping on the floor right now. Who knows what’s going on in the world? Gabe, there’s a dog right there sleeping. Taking a nap. Peppy, no naps. Oh, you woke up. Good.

Gabe: You just yelled at my dog.

Michelle: He’s taking a nap and you said No naps. You said No naps. You said and he’s napping.

Gabe: You yelled his name and he jumped up like you fired a gun at him.

Michelle: You said No naps and I see him napping.

Gabe: He thinks he’s in trouble. What did you do?

Michelle: You’re not in trouble but your father doesn’t allow naps, Peppy. Behave.

Gabe: Now would be a good time to point out that the rules for animals and the rules for people often differ. For example, people should not see veterinarians. They should go to people doctors.

Michelle: People doctors?

Gabe: People doctors.

Michelle: People doctors? That’s what they’re called?

Gabe: Yeah.

Michelle: I agree.

Gabe: We need a closing. What do we got? What do we got?

Michelle: In conclusion. In conclusion, if you want to have a good prosperous life, practice good sleep hygiene and make Gabe happy because he really likes this topic. Everyone, if you like A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast, subscribe to us on iTunes. Listen to us everywhere, write us a review, give us five stars, tell us you love us, tell the world you love us, share everything. We love you and we hope you love us. Thank you everybody.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe, go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. This show’s official web site is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening, and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.Podcast: Does Sleeping Alleviate Mental Illness Symptoms?

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What I Want Someone Who’s Overwhelmed with Their Mood Disorder to Know

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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You have depression, or bipolar disorder. And on some days, you feel like you’re treading water—at best. You’re tired of struggling. You’re tired of regularly feeling tired. You’re angry that your to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer. You’re angry that you have to deal with so much darkness day in and day out.

Some days are just hard. Some days you feel so overwhelmed.

It is on these days that you probably feel like the only person on the planet who’s struggling with persistent symptoms.

Thankfully, you’re not. And thankfully, it will get better.

We asked individuals who live with depression or bipolar disorder to share what they’d like others who are feeling overwhelmed with these same conditions to know. Most of the individuals are speakers from This Is My Brave, a fantastic nonprofit organization that hosts live events and aims to “end the stigma surrounding mental illness through storytelling.”

Get treatment. T-Kea Blackman, a mental health advocate and speaker who lives with depression and anxiety, stressed the importance of seeing a therapist who can help you identify triggers, learn healthy coping tools, and set boundaries, along with a psychiatrist if you need to take medication. (For bipolar disorder, both medication and therapy are vital.)

Blackman emphasized not getting discouraged if the first or third medication you try doesn’t work, or the first or third therapist you see isn’t a good fit. “It can take time to find the right dosage and medication, and therapist for you.” This can be frustrating, but it’s common—and you will find the right help.

Focus on small victories. Sivaquoi Laughlin, a writer, blogger, and mental health advocate with bipolar II disorder, has good days, bad days, and sometimes great days. She underscored the importance of realizing that it’s OK not to be OK, and acknowledging small victories, which are actually “huge.”

Some days, those small victories might be getting out of bed and taking a shower, she said. Other days, they might be excelling at work and going to dinner with friends. Either way, it’s all important and worthwhile.

Forgive yourself. Fiona Thomas, a writer who has depression and anxiety, stressed the importance of not beating yourself up when you don’t do everything on your list, or when you have bad days. One of her friends always says: “Remember that your best changes when you’re not feeling well.”

Thomas, author of the book Depression in a Digital Age: The Highs and Lows of Perfectionism, suggested not comparing today’s output to your output from last year or last week. “It all depends on how you’re feeling mentally, and if you’re not 100 percent, then just do what you can—the rest will come later.”

Thomas also suggested doing one small thing every day that makes you feel better. This might be anything from drinking a few glasses of water to walking around the block to talking to a friend, she said. “There are so many ways to boost your mood little by little, and over time, they become habits and make you feel better without even really having to try.”

Do one enjoyable thing every day. Similarly, Laughlin encouraged readers to find one thing that brings you happiness, and try to incorporate that into your daily routine.

For Laughlin, it’s many “one things.” That is, she loves being with her grandson and her dogs, meditating, hiking, reading, and writing. “Start small and build upon it. Forgive yourself if you miss a day or days.”

Remember you are not broken. Suzanne Garverich is a public health advocate who is passionate about fighting mental health stigma through her work on suicide prevention as well as telling her story of living with bipolar II disorder. She wants readers to know that you “are not damaged, but [instead] so courageous and strong to live through and fight through this illness.”

Document your OK days. This way, “when you are having an off day or month or series of months, you can go back and remind yourself that you have felt differently,” said Leah Beth Carrier, a mental health advocate working on her master’s in public health, who has depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. “You are capable of experiencing emotions other than the numb, black hole you reside in at the moment. There is hope.”

Surround yourself with support. “Surround yourself with people who can support you and find an online community who can relate to you, such as the Buddy Project or my community, Fireflies Unite,” Blackman said. She also noted that the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers free support groups.

Other online supports include: Psych Central’s forums, and Project Hope & Beyond and Group Beyond Blue–both of which were started by one of our associate editors, Therese Borchard.

Teresa Boardman, who has treatment-resistant bipolar disorder, attends weekly therapy sessions, but sometimes, she said, she needs more. “It’s OK to talk frankly with someone. I like to use the crisis text line because I do not have to break my cone of silence. Expressing yourself truly makes you feel less alone.”

Living with a mental illness can be hard. Acknowledge this. Acknowledge your overwhelmed, exasperated, angry feelings. Remind yourself that you’re not alone. And remind yourself that you are doing an incredible job, even on the days it doesn’t feel like it.

What I Want Someone Who’s Overwhelmed with Their Mood Disorder to Know

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Mental Illness Deniers Are as Dangerous as Climate Change Deniers

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Back in the mid-80’s, I was one of a few, fortunate psychiatrists in Massachusetts in charge of administering the just-released atypical antipsychotic medication clozapine. In our clinic, its use was still limited to a small number of carefully-selected patients with schizophrenia who had not responded to any of the conventional antipsychotic agents.

Harry was one of my first clozapine patients. He had been an inpatient for much of his adult life, and was widely thought to be a “lost cause.” For many years, Harry had been tormented by threatening “voices” urging him to harm either himself or others. He had become a shrunken wreck of a man, pacing the halls with a haunted look on his face, and confined to the inpatient unit with little hope of a normal life.

Clozapine changed all that for Harry. After a few months of treatment, the voices quieted down, and we were able to discharge Harry from the hospital and arrange for placement in a neighborhood residence. As I described in an earlier essay, Harry actually went on to earn his driver’s license.1

But, in the world of mental illness deniers, I was the deluded one. There is no such thing as schizophrenia, these critics claim. Mental illness itself is a “myth”, as famously (or infamously) argued by the late psychiatrist, Thomas Szasz. (Disclosure: Dr. Szasz was one of my teachers during residency). At most, the deniers claim, what psychiatrists call “mental illness” is nothing more than a socially-constructed label, or a misguided metaphor. According to mental illness deniers, the term “schizophrenia” does not identify a “real disease”, like cancer or coronary artery disease; rather, it is a term grounded in a mistaken theory of disease, based on an agenda of social control and coercion. Szasz argued, to his dying day, that only bodily disease is “real”. For him, a “diseased mind” was a contradiction in terms. Szasz argued that classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases was a category mistake, like classifying the whale as a fish.2

Szasz was a genial man, and a brilliant polemicist who still has many admirers among antipsychiatry groups and bloggers. But Szasz was flat out wrong regarding what should count as “disease.”3 When someone is suffering and incapacitated by a condition that destroys the ability to separate delusion from reality, that is real disease. When this person winds up lying dirty and disheveled in an alley way, hearing the Devil’s voice saying, “You don’t deserve to live,” that is real disease. When someone’s thoughts are tangled up in knots; when their emotions are blunted; when they think constantly of suicide, this is not the result of a metaphor or a myth. This is the reality of serious psychiatric illness, like schizophrenia.

To be sure, not all critics of psychiatry are “antipsychiatry.” Some are prominent psychiatrists themselves who rightly point to specific problems within the profession, such as over-prescription of some medications in certain settings, or the use of imprecise diagnostic criteria. In contrast, dyed-in-the wool antipsychiatry groups dismiss psychiatry as a fraud. They write off psychiatric diagnosis as nothing more than pathologizing “disapproved of behaviors” or “problems in living.” (Try telling that to someone like Harry, or to his anxious and beleaguered family). In a sense, mental illness deniers represent the flip-side of mental illness alarmists — people who, for example, see mass shootings, gun violence, and other violent acts as the product of mental illness, despite the fact that when psychiatric illness is adequately treated, it is very rarely associated with violence. Left untreated, however, serious psychiatric illness can increase the risk of violence; and, unfortunately, many people with untreated psychiatric illness wind up in the largest “mental health system” in the U.S. — our jails and prisons.

Both the deniers and the alarmists misconstrue the nature of psychiatric illness, and both do harm to people like Harry. The mental illness deniers erect barriers to the effective treatment of serious diseases like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and make it harder to persuade Congress to provide adequate funding for psychiatric research — after all, why should we fund research on a “myth”? The mental illness alarmists fuel social prejudice and job discrimination against those, like Harry, who suffer from severe psychiatric impairments. In my view, the mental illness deniers pose as much risk to the health of this country as climate change deniers.

To be sure, some people who post angry comments on antipsychiatry websites have had bad experiences with their own psychiatric care. Whether their accounts are entirely accurate or not, these people are understandably aggrieved by perceived mistreatment. Having worked in a variety of psychiatric settings over several decades — hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and private practice — I have seen both excellent and poor psychiatric care, and everything in between. Certainly, there are legitimate reasons to confront psychiatry on its shortcomings. But this is a far cry from the outright denial of the reality of mental illness, and the blanket condemnation of psychiatry as a medical specialty. Like climate change deniers, mental illness deniers are doing a grave disservice to the health and wellbeing of their fellow citizens.

I have seen hundreds of people like Harry, suffering with psychiatric diseases as real as lung cancer or heart disease. And, with proper care and treatment, I have seen many of them recover their sanity, their lives, and their dignity.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Dr. John Grohol for commenting on an earlier draft of this essay

For further Reading:

Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill by DJ Jaffe (Author), E. Fuller Torrey MD (Foreword)

Mental Illness Deniers Are as Dangerous as Climate Change Deniers

Footnotes:

  1. Pies, R. (2009, May 4). A Guy, a Car: Beyond Schizophrenia. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/health/05case.html []
  2. Szasz, T.S. (1998). “Thomas Szasz’s Summary Statement and Manifesto.” Retrieved from: https://selfdefinition.org/psychology/articles/thomas-szasz-summary-statement-and-manifesto.htm []
  3. Earley, P. (2018). Psychology Today Article Debunks Claims By Antipsychiatrists: “Easily refuted by scientific evidence.” Retrieved from http://www.peteearley.com/2018/09/07/psychology-today-article-debunks-claims-by-antipsychiatrists-easily-refuted-by-scientific-evidence/ []

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Small Things I Do Every Day to Manage My Bipolar Disorder

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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Living with bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming. Maybe you’re tired of the ups and downs of different episodes—the soaring energy, the debilitating fatigue, the racing I-need-to-do-everything-and-I-need-to-do-it-now thoughts, and the dark, decelerated, bleak thoughts.

Maybe you’re exhausted from struggling with an especially stubborn and deep depression, which makes it tough to concentrate on anything, and feels like you’re walking through a river of waist-high molasses in a fog.

Managing bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming, too. What can make it much easier is getting effective treatment. Bipolar disorder is highly treatable—but a lot of people with the illness don’t get professional help.

Author Charita Cole Brown pointed out that “Of the estimated 5.7 million Americans living with the disorder, over 50 percent won’t seek treatment.” She wrote the memoir Defying the Verdict: My Bipolar Life “to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness in general and bipolar disorder in particular. People need to understand how important it is to seek appropriate treatment.”

“My recovery is no anomaly,” Brown said. “By sharing my story, I want people to understand that mental illness is physical illness, therefore we must seek treatment as we would for diabetes or a broken arm.”

In addition to seeking treatment, there are small things you can do every day. Below, alumni from This Is My Brave share the small and significant ways they manage their bipolar disorder. This Is My Brave is an international nonprofit organization that hosts live events and publishes essays on their website written by people who are living with mental illness and living well.

Checking in. Amy Gamble is a speaker, executive director of NAMI Greater Wheeling, and a former Olympian. Every day and throughout the day, Gamble checks in with how she’s doing: “’Are my thoughts racing a little or do I just have a lot of creativity going right now?’ If I find I’m a little charged up or anxious, maybe even hypomanic, I take extra precautions not to make a lot of decisions.”

Gamble monitors her behavior, too. “I think about what is typical for me when I’m balanced. I am a very deep thinker and don’t typically make impulsive decisions. If I start acting on impulse, I reel myself back in. I don’t always notice a change in my behavior right away, but I monitor with hypervigilance.”

Suzanne Garverich also carves out time to pause and do a “self-inventory.” “I assess quickly how I am doing emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually,” said Garverich, a public health advocate who is passionate about fighting mental health stigma through her work on suicide prevention as well as telling her story. This helps her identify her needs—“before I go too far down the rabbit hole”—and meet them.

For instance, if Garverich determines that she’s feeling emotionally low and having dark thoughts, she figures out what she needs to do to “help me not go deeper into the dark thinking and depressive feelings.” She might call a friend or take a 10 to 15-minute walk. “It could be as simple as walking to the water fountain and drinking some water—just moving a muscle to change a thought. It could also be that I need to do some redirection of my thinking using my CBT and DBT skills…”

Having an effective bedtime routine. “The major thing I do is to make sure I get 8 hours of sleep a night,” Garverich said. “This really helps in keeping me balanced—sleep has a huge effect on my bipolar.”

To help herself get restful sleep, Garverich maintains a routine. Two to 3 hours before her bedtime, she stops doing anything work-related. She usually watches 30 minutes to an hour of TV. Then about an hour before her bedtime, she takes her nighttime medication, and gets into bed to read. Some nights she also takes a shower or bath.

“I also spend time before I go to bed breathing on my back and reviewing my day—seeing what I have done well, what I would like to improve, and if there is anything I need to share with anyone.”

She sets her alarm for the same time every morning. After she wakes up, she meditates in bed for 30 minutes. (More on meditation below.)

Practicing mindfulness and meditation. Gamble, also author of the book Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor: An Olympian’s Journey with Mental Illness, practices meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness. “Staying in the present moment keeps me from getting down about how my illness has limited me.” (She also reminds herself that “everyone has something they are dealing with.”)

Every day Gamble listens to a playlist of her favorite meditation songs. “I put on my headphones and attempt to quiet my thoughts. I focus on slowing my mind down and paying attention to my breathing.”

Garverich also finds it helpful to practice deep breathing throughout the day, especially if she’s overwhelmed. For instance, at work, she usually takes a break and goes to the bathroom to take deep, slow breaths.

Connecting with others. “For me what is really important to achieve daily, to manage my illness and nourish my well-being, is feeling connected and not alone in my thoughts,” said Susie Burklew, who shared her story at the 2018 This Is My Brave show in Arlington, and co-produced the fall 2018 show. Eight years ago, for the first time, Burklew told her therapist that she thought she had a problem with alcohol. Her therapist suggested Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

“I went to my first meeting that evening and I haven’t had a drink since. For the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t alone. I connected and was inspired by people who had been through the same struggles and were living a happy life in recovery. I formed a strong network of people in AA and became comfortable opening up about my addiction to alcohol.”

For the past 6 years, Burklew has worked as a behavior specialist and counselor at a government residential rehab that specializes in co-occurring disorders.

Today, reaching out to someone on a regular basis—such as someone from her recovery network—helps her to stay in the moment, instead of getting “caught up in the stress of something that’s happened in the past or the fear of what’s ahead.”

Garverich connects with at least one person in her support system every single day. She might talk to this person over the phone, or they might simply text. Either way, this helps her know she’s not alone—something her illness wants her to feel, she said.

Sivaquoi Laughlin, a writer, blogger, and mental health advocate with bipolar II disorder, makes sure she spends time with her grandson and her dogs every day. “The energy from both provide me with a level of joy that I’m constantly yearning for.”

At the end of the day, Laughlin also sits down with her “16-year-old daughter and [we] discuss our day and name something good/great that happened. Even if it’s been a hard day or we haven’t had time to really connect, I make sure she knows that every day has a highlight.”

Engaging in art projects. “I undertake artistic projects daily. I am no good at it, but I can feel like I can breathe,” said Teresa Boardman, who has treatment-resistant bipolar I disorder with PTSD, OCD, suicidal ideation, and hypersomnia. Her latest project is a birdbath. “It is quite discombobulated that I decided to go with a steampunk theme. Now it is beautiful because I changed how I see it.”

Reducing the to-do list. Every morning, Laughlin lets her dogs out, and immediately makes a cup of tea. Next, she looks at the day ahead and jots down three things she’d like to accomplish. “They could be simple, such as returning a library book or dropping off dry-cleaning to bigger projects like organizing my closet or mowing the lawn. I’ve found that by committing to only three things, it keeps me from being overwhelmed and being triggered by ‘voices’ telling me I can’t do something.”

Boardman makes notes on her bathroom mirror of things she needs to do. For instance, she might list her exercise routine (e.g., 20 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of yoga), and that she needs to take her morning medication and her evening medication. Boardman noted that she tries to work with her illness and its varying moods. After having over 20 electroconvulsive treatments (ECT), she realized she needed to take a different approach and embrace her illness.

It’s understandable that living with bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming and frustrating. But remember that there are 5.7 million Americans struggling alongside you. Remember that this illness, though difficult, is also highly treatable.

“Don’t give up hope,” Gamble said. “Things will get better, and you can learn how to manage the symptoms. They might not go away completely, but you can learn how it affects you. You can learn how to beat bipolar disorder.”

Small Things I Do Every Day to Manage My Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar Professor

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

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It’s hard working as a college professor with bipolar disorder. I suppose it’s hard working anywhere with bipolar disorder, but my particular vocation is teaching 18-year-olds how to write at a local university. I’ve had bipolar illness for almost 30 years now; I was diagnosed in 1991. I’m 56. I’ve been at my university for about as long as I’ve been bipolar.

Why is it so hard to be a bipolar teacher in the higher education system?

The main reason is the stigma of the disease. As you probably know, even in 2019, there is horrible stigma about bipolar illness. There is sympathy for anxiety/depression and now for PTSD, but for bipolar, there is still relentless stigma.

If I tell someone I’m bipolar, they look at me as if I have a hidden tail tucked into my pants. This is why I don’t talk about my illness as a rule. Academics are often not as accepting as they make themselves out to be. The university is a place to freely exchange ideas about things, but not about your bipolar illness. In the age of disability awareness, no one is talking about this issue.

Then, there is the basic stress that comes with living with the illness. This is one disease where medication is absolutely necessary. If I forget to take my meds, I have a bad day. Sometimes, the meds don’t do their job. I may find myself sinking into depression or rising into hypomania. Because of my illness, I live with more unpredictability than the average person. This is stress-inducing, and we all know extra stress makes things harder.

Loneliness. This is a lonely illness. I literally know no one who lives with this issue at my university. At school, I walk around with the knowledge of my mental health problem and I never talk about it. The LGBTQ folks have each other. Many of them are out of the closet. I would love to be completely out so that I could be myself. Bipolar illness doesn’t define me, but it’s a big part of who I am.

What can I do about this difficulty I face every day?

Come out of the closet with my teaching peers. Begin talking about my disability openly. (I should tell you that I am “out” as a bipolar person in my writing, but since I use my maiden name as my pen name, no one recognizes me. This is illustrative of my ambivalent nature about this issue.)

Come out of the closet with the students and start a club for people with mental health issues. (Would I want to be part of a club that would accept me as a member?) I’ve thought about doing this for years, but I’ve doubted my ability to lead this type of organization because I don’t have any psychological credentials; I think I’d be better at running a club if I were some sort of counselor or psychologist. This is what has held me back from taking on this enterprise.

Nothing. Go on living the way I’ve been living for 30 years.

So at the university, where you can be whatever you want to be, it’s hard to be bipolar.

My brain is different; it’s what manifests this illness, but it’s also what makes me creative and drives my writing.

You might be thinking it’s here she’s going to say that if given the choice, she’d remain bipolar if a cure for it were developed.

Well, surprise, if there were a cure for bipolar, I’d take it. This is not a picnic, and I’d get myself out of my life situation if I could.

Not surprisingly, there is no national mental health coming out day. There is a day to observe mental health; this occurs on October 10 of every year, but this day is simply to “raise awareness” of mental health issues. This is very different than a day of coming out. (It should be noted that LGBTQ coming out day is October 11.)

I propose (as a few might have done before me) that we create a day for coming out with a mental health issue, a day when all the bipolar folks and schizophrenic people and depressives and the anxiety-ridden and individuals with OCD and all the people with personality disorders and PTSD can simply say “I am the way I am.”

If this happened, things might get better for everybody.

No one knows when and if they will develop a mental illness.

It could happen to anybody.

Bipolar Professor

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Podcast: Self-Care for Your Mental Health

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

See credits below.




Self-care is important for everyone, but our hosts feel it is extra important for people managing mental illnesses and other mental health issues. It stands to reason that, if you don’t take care of yourself, then the symptoms of an illness will have an easier time making our lives miserable.

In this episode, our hosts discuss what self-care is, what self-care isn’t, and what they personally do to care for themselves. Listen now!

SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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“Would it be self-care for me to watch a bunch of guys getting hit in the privates?’”
– Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘Self-Care for Your Mental Health’ Episode

[2:00] What do Gabe and Michelle do for self-care?

[6:30] Why did Gabe and Michelle start a podcast?

[11:30] Why does Michelle watch “fail” videos?

[13:30] Gabe loves fidget spinners and believes they help with his self-care.

[17:00] Watching Jeopardy is an example of self-care.

[19:00] Michelle + Gabe + The Peoples’ Court = group self-care.

[22:00] Who thinks watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the BEST self-care?

[23:00] Is personal hygiene an example of self-care?

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Mental Health Self-Care’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: [00:00:06] For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: [00:00:17] You’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. My name is Gabe Howard. I live with bipolar disorder.

Michelle: [00:00:23] Hi, I’m Michelle. I’m schizophrenic.

Gabe: [00:00:27] And today we are going to discuss self care. But like low end self care, like easy self care, basic self care, the self care that nobody thinks about because everybody’s always thinking about like these grandiose self care ideas.

Michelle: [00:00:42] Well like going to a spa and getting a facial?

Gabe: [00:00:45] That would be one. Or going on vacation, or being able to stay home for a week. Quitting their jobs.

Michelle: [00:00:51] I mean yeah quitting your job. What else is As grandiose self care?

Gabe: [00:00:57] I think the biggest grandiose self care is like marrying a rich person and just eating bonbons while watching TV all day.

Michelle: [00:01:04] Wait there’s something wrong with that?

Gabe: [00:01:05] There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just the kind of self care that most of us can’t participate in.

Michelle: [00:01:10] I mean that seems kind of like a pretty good self care.

Gabe: [00:01:13] I think that is an excellent self care and we’re gonna do a companion episode called self care for the rich and famous and that will be on there.

Michelle: [00:01:20] If you’re a sugar daddy looking for a sugar baby and you’re not a total creep, email me.

Gabe: [00:01:24] Really? The creep thing, do you care? That’s kind of creepy behavior on your part. You’re literally looking for somebody to take care of you.

Michelle: [00:01:31] Okay fine I’ll change that. If you just are a really rich person and you want to give me a lot of money for no reason, hit me up.

Gabe: [00:01:36] Michelle, you and I both live with severe and persistent mental illness and we’ve managed to live successfully for a number of years. And we always talk on this show that there’s more than just medication. There’s more than just therapy. There’s more than just peer support or group therapy or having stable housing or having good friends and family and one of the things that we almost never talk about, and an alert reader pointed out, is we never talk about basic self care tips. And I’m really surprised because between us we have like so many. And I love it when we get together and our little self care ideas don’t quite mesh. A big one of mine is going to get Diet Coke and just chilling.

Michelle: [00:02:13] At seven thirty in the morning.

Gabe: [00:02:16] That’s why it doesn’t quite mesh. And one of your self care tips is going to get coffee but like closer to eleven and it’s very difficult to find a place that has Diet Coke and coffee that you find acceptable.

Michelle: [00:02:30] Like McDonalds?

Gabe: [00:02:30] I mean McDonalds. That was a good compromise on our part. But remember when you tried to take me to Starbucks?

Michelle: [00:02:37] Yeah, and you refused to go to Starbucks. You think you’re better than Starbucks.

Gabe: [00:02:41] I don’t like coffee.

Michelle: [00:02:43] Why not?

Gabe: [00:02:43] Why don’t you like Diet Coke?

Michelle: [00:02:45] I do like Diet Coke but I don’t want it. I’d rather have coffee in the morning than Diet Coke.

Gabe: [00:02:51] You see the problem and this is why you shouldn’t have mentally ill friends ladies and gentlemen. We did an episode a few weeks ago where we talked about vices and Diet Coke was brought up as a vice because I drink so much of it and we’re not walking that back. But this is the flip side of that where it relaxes me. It helps me. It is a part of my self care especially when I get very stressed out at work or when I get overwhelmed on a project. I can step out, drive someplace, sit down, sip a Diet Coke, people watch, look around, and that really allows me to calm down. This is a self care option that cost me a couple of bucks and I know that you feel the same way about coffee.

Michelle: [00:03:31] Yes, coffee is readily available walking through New York City. Oh I want some coffee? I’ll be at a coffee shop in at least three minutes.

Gabe: [00:03:38] You once described that if you wanted coffee in New York, you just have to hold out your hand and say coffee and it just magically appears.

Michelle: [00:03:44] It’s ridiculous how much coffee you can get in New York City. Maybe that’s why everybody’s so amped up all the time? People just go go go go go. Maybe that’s what it is. That’s why everybody is just so fast and everything in New York City? Is it just the readily available list of coffee everywhere?

Gabe: [00:04:01] And espresso.

Michelle: [00:04:01] And espresso, is everywhere in New York.

Gabe: [00:04:04] Do you have people that call it ex-press-so? Where they don’t pronounce the s? They call it X-presso, instead of S-presso?

Michelle: [00:04:10] I thought it was X-presso for so long.

Gabe: [00:04:12] You pronounce the X? That doesn’t exist?

Michelle: [00:04:13] I didn’t know why. I didn’t know. I had to be educated, Gabe. I needed to be educated about coffee.

Gabe: [00:04:20] As longtime listeners of the show know, I also host the Psych Central Show with Vincent M. Wales and Vince is a master coffee person. Like he has all the equipment in his home. He knows everything about coffee; he knows everything about the beans. He has so much coffee knowledge and he tries to impart this on me all the time and I just give him this glazed over look like can I go now?

Michelle: [00:04:42] You never told me this about him. So I don’t know why me and Vin are not better friends now.

Gabe: [00:04:47] Oh, Vin loves coffee.

Michelle: [00:04:50] All the sudden I like Vince so much more than I ever did.

Gabe: [00:04:53] Well there’s another thing that I should tell you about Vin. He loves New York style pizza. It’s the only pizza that he will eat.

Michelle: [00:05:00] Why did you never tell me this about Vin?

Gabe: [00:05:04] I’m telling you now.

Michelle: [00:05:04] Ack!

Gabe: [00:05:05] Don’t assume that all the people around you are like old and god awful. Maybe ask them some questions? Maybe find some common ground?

Michelle: [00:05:14] All I know is that he likes comics.

Gabe: [00:05:16] Well I mean he does like comics. That’s true.

Michelle: [00:05:18] And I have nothing in common with Vin because I don’t like comics. But now that I know I have all this stuff in common with Vin, maybe maybe Vin and me can be BFFs?

Gabe: [00:05:23] I always thought you and Vin were BFFs.

Michelle: [00:05:27] No, you didn’t.

Gabe: [00:05:28] I know. Listen everybody, Michelle and Vin don’t have a rift. They get along just fine but they have a lot in common and they don’t realize it because you know Vin is well into his 50s and Michelle acts 12. It’s a big big gap. You know Vin lives in California, Michelle is from New York. We’ve got the whole male female thing going.

Michelle: [00:05:48] It’s going to be a long distance relationship.

Gabe: [00:05:49] It’s going to be a long distance?

Michelle: [00:05:50] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:05:50] Vin is very like muted. Like he’s nothing like me. He’s just very like, Yes, thank you.

Michelle: [00:05:55] Yes, hello, yes. My name is Vincent M. Wales.

Gabe: [00:05:59] He’s a novelist. He spends a lot of time alone with his words. I spend a lot of time alone with my words but I’m not writing them.

Michelle: [00:06:05] You’re just talking them.

Gabe: [00:06:06] I’m just talking. You know how you said early on that one of your coping mechanisms, not self care but coping mechanisms, was you put earbuds in? And that way when you walk down the street, people were like, “Oh, she’s not talking to herself she’s singing along to music. Or maybe she’s on a Bluetooth? Maybe she’s on the phone, etc?” It doesn’t look weird because you have the earbuds in.

Michelle: [00:06:25] Yes right.

Gabe: [00:06:27] I became a podcaster because originally when I was sitting upstairs just talking to myself, my wife thought it was weird. Now I’m like oh podcasting. She thinks I podcast 14 hours a day.

Michelle: [00:06:37] I know. I know my friends in college thought I was on the phone. Sometimes I’d be on the phone, but often they’d be like, “Who are you talking to?” And so I was, “I wasn’t.” I would try to say I was on the phone more times than I actually was, honestly.

Gabe: [00:06:51] One of your self care techniques was to educate the people that you lived with. I don’t think you’ve ever lived alone, have you? You’ve always either lived at home, lived in the dorms, or lived with a roommate?

Michelle: [00:07:01] Yes.

Gabe: [00:07:02] So you’ve had to do that. Part of your self care regimen is educating the people that you live with so that they give you the least amount of flack or shit or trouble as possible, right?

Michelle: [00:07:14] Yeah pretty much yeah. It’s never really been a big deal with anyone I lived with like outside of college. Since moving into Queens and Astoria and living in the apartment I live in now. The only thing that bothers anyone is that I don’t clean enough.

Gabe: [00:07:25] But that’s not schizophrenia.

Michelle: [00:07:26] No, that’s not schizophrenia. But like you know, being as schizophrenic, you always learn like they’re not the cleanliness of all the people blah blah blah.

Gabe: [00:07:35] We’re gonna get letters for that. Wait, did you just say people with schizophrenia aren’t clean?

Michelle: [00:07:38] We just watched that video that was like, “Schizophrenic people might not be dressed the best.” Or whatever that stupid video said. Like, okay, sure we don’t dress great. But what kind of ridiculous freakin’ fact was that?

Gabe: [00:07:49] You know it’s messed up. I know personally two people who live with schizophrenia. I have lots of, you know, co-workers and colleagues and fellow mental health advocates but two people who live with schizophrenia that I consider like like buddies. One of them is Michelle Hammer.

Michelle: [00:08:03] Mmm-hmm.

Gabe: [00:08:03] The great Michelle Hammer.

Michelle: [00:08:04] The great.

Gabe: [00:08:07] And the other one is Rachel Star. Rachel Star is like the best dressed person we know.

Michelle: [00:08:11] I know. And she knows how to walk in heels.

Gabe: [00:08:13] Yeah. She teaches it. She actually had a fashion blog for a while where she taught people how to be a girl and like how to walk in high heels, how to wear the belt, how to do the makeup. She’s like well put together and she has schizophrenia. So I’m starting to think that maybe these videos where they say things like, “people with schizophrenia don’t dress well, and they dress weird, and they act weird, and they’re they’re not clean, and they’re not organized, and they walk funny.”.

Michelle: [00:08:34] And they walk with an awkward gaunt.

Gabe: [00:08:38] Yeah I think maybe.

Michelle: [00:08:38] What is gaunt? The awkward gaunt?

Gabe: [00:08:40] I don’t know what any of that is either but this leads us into our next form of self care. Don’t watch that shit.

Michelle: [00:08:47] True.

Gabe: [00:08:51] So many people, they’re just constantly Googling stereotypes and offensive things on the Internet so that they can be mad at it.

Michelle: [00:08:58] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:08:59] Why?

Michelle: [00:08:59] It’s almost like they want to educate themselves as much as possible but then they find these online articles that really just are stereotypical and are wrong and they just start thinking bad things.

Gabe: [00:09:12] It pisses you off.

Michelle: [00:09:13] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:09:15] If you seek out things to be angry at, you’re gonna find it.

Michelle: [00:09:18] Yes.

Gabe: [00:09:20] But here’s the magical thing though. If you seek out things to provide you with joy on the Internet you will also find those.

Michelle: [00:09:26] What do you find for joy on the Internet? Porn?

Gabe: [00:09:28] Listen I’m not going to lie and tell people that I’ve never looked at pornography on the Internet today. Because that would just be a lie.

Michelle: [00:09:37] And nobody would believe you.

Gabe: [00:09:39] And nobody would believe me. But there are really cool things on the Internet that I do enjoy reading. One of the things that I’ve done and I think that this is vital to self care is I use a news curator. That eliminates a lot of news that I just don’t want to hear about, or sources that I consider to be offensive or dramatic or don’t follow journalistic standards.

Michelle: [00:10:02] Personally like just don’t.

Gabe: [00:10:03] Your personal beliefs are really irrelevant. It’s the part where you’re constantly being bombarded with you’re wrong you’re stupid you’re wrong you’re stupid you’re wrong you’re stupid. You realize once you put a slant on news it’s no longer news.

Michelle: [00:10:14] It’s just bias.

Gabe: [00:10:15] It’s just gossip.

Michelle: [00:10:15] It’s biased news.

Gabe: [00:10:17] It’s opinion.

Michelle: [00:10:18] It’s why I like E News.

Gabe: [00:10:20] Yeah I like I like to read my news. I also don’t like like live news, and by live news like I don’t turn on like the 24 hour news station on the TV because it always ends up like this. Like we’re getting word that something is happening. We have no facts or information so we’re just going to make shit up.

Michelle: [00:10:36] I personally love watching car chases.

Gabe: [00:10:38] Yeah, car chases are kind of fun.

Michelle: [00:10:39] I like when they watch the car chase and then the car goes under a bridge or something like that and then they start watching the wrong car.

Gabe: [00:10:47] They follow for a minute and then the helicopter goes back left?

Michelle: [00:10:48] Yeah. They watch the car and like oh the car seems to be pulling into a gas station. Oh the guy in the car seems to be wearing a different color shirt. They don’t seem to be really in a rush. Oh I’m sorry guys. I think you’ve been following the wrong car now.

Gabe: [00:11:01] Oh the police all left.

Michelle: [00:11:02] It seems like we’ve, uh, we’ve lost the car. Those are hilarious.

Gabe: [00:11:06] To answer your original question of what are some things that I like to read on the Internet that are fun? There’s all kinds of uplifting things. The biggest one for our community that we like to push out is The Mighty. TheMighty.com. We do ask us anything on the first and third Monday, we do it live. You can see our pretty faces. Just go to mental health on TheMighty.com.

Michelle: [00:11:25] You can see my pretty face and Gabe’s ginger face.

Gabe: [00:11:28] One of my self care things is to limit the amount of time I spend with Michelle.

Michelle: [00:11:31] No, but going on what I was saying about watching car chases. I look up on YouTube like fails.

Gabe: [00:11:37] There you go.

Michelle: [00:11:39] And it is just hilarious. But of course if anyone actually got hurt in the fails they wouldn’t be in the fails compilation but it’s just so funny to me watching these people get hurt. It’s hilarious. Rope swing fails are hilarious. Like any kind of like snowboarding fails. Those are pretty funny. Or just ridiculous like just kids doing something stupid. But I know it’s not good to watch this one but it’s hilarious. Baby fails. Baby fails are the funniest fails ever. They just fall over; they trip over things. Or like the babies cover themselves in peanut butter. Hilarious. And of course, the granddaddy of all them is when guys just get hit in the balls.

Gabe: [00:12:19] Just get hit in the balls?

Michelle: [00:12:19] Just getting hit in the balls. I cannot physically know the pain of getting hit in the balls but it looks painful and it’s hilarious to watch them. Have you ever been hit in the balls, Gabe?

Gabe: [00:12:28] Yes.

Michelle: [00:12:29] Sorry. I’m sorry.

Gabe: [00:12:31] It’s amazing to me because on one hand I’m like oh man, would it be self care for me to watch a bunch of guys getting hit in the balls because I know that suffering and that it always makes me cringe. But on the other hand I’d laugh hysterically.

Michelle: [00:12:43] Laugh hysterically. Hysterically, hysterically. Let’s take a break and hear from our sponsor.

Announcer: [00:12:49] This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist, whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Michelle: [00:13:20] And we’re back talking about self care.

Gabe: [00:13:22] How do you feel about fidget spinners.

Michelle: [00:13:23] I like fridget spinners. Why not?

Gabe: [00:13:25] Have they helped you? They’re not new anymore. I mean they’re well over a year old and I think the fad has kind of gone as far as mainstream.

Michelle: [00:13:32] Oh they were all over Chinatown when I was popping up in near little Italy. They were everywhere. Every kid that came into the market had a fidget spinner a couple of years ago.

Gabe: [00:13:42] They were everywhere for ten dollars and then last year I went to the fair and they were a buck.

Michelle: [00:13:45] Five dollars. Chinatown five dollars. That’s how much they were.

Gabe: [00:13:47] Yeah, everywhere in Ohio ten bucks ten bucks ten bucks ten bucks and then at the fair this year a dollar.

Michelle: [00:13:51] Yeah, well whoever invented them they made a lot of money.

Gabe: [00:13:55] So the mainstream fad is over. I’ve kept mine. I still find it to be very very helpful. I keep a little, not a fidget spinner, but a little fidget toy in my pocket. And I still use what I consider like fidget spinners’ great great grandpa, like Koosh balls or squeezy balls. I find all of those things.

Michelle: [00:14:13] You how? You squeeze your balls?

Gabe: [00:14:14] No, I don’t squeeze my balls. I have a little foam ball that I can squeeze.

Michelle: [00:14:19] Oh, okay.

Gabe: [00:14:19] But it’s interesting that you’re over there thinking about my balls.

Michelle: [00:14:23] No I was just like you like squeezy balls. I mean you said squeezy balls, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:14:28] Stress balls.

Michelle: [00:14:29] You said you like squeezy balls.

Gabe: [00:14:30] Stess balls have been around for a long time.

Michelle: [00:14:31] You said you liked squeezy balls.

Gabe: [00:14:33] Do you ever think that we like bicker back and forth like siblings as part of our self care regimen? Is that like our thing? Because we laugh hysterically when we do it. So.

Michelle: [00:14:42] I guess we do.

Gabe: [00:14:43] So it’s clearly not an argument.

Michelle: [00:14:44] Talking about self care specifically, I always like to bring up the late great Whitney Houston who said learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Gabe: [00:14:59] But how is that a self care thing? I mean isn’t it like a high level concept? It’s kind of like telling somebody that is having financial problems to just make more money or if you’re distressed just love yourself.

Michelle: [00:15:08] Well she decided that to paraphrase I don’t know the exact words but Whitney Houston did say that she decided long ago not to wander in anyone’s shadow. You know what I’m saying?

Gabe: [00:15:19] Because that way if she succeeds it won’t be her destiny or something?

Michelle: [00:15:24] If I fail, if I succeed, at least I lived as I believe. Live as you believe, Gabe. Don’t wander in anyone’s shadow. Don’t be in anyone’s shadow. Be you. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do.

Gabe: [00:15:37] I think that that is excellent advice. You’ve also stumbled upon another thing that I think is amazing. Music.

Michelle: [00:15:42] Yes.

Gabe: [00:15:43] This music really speaks to you and I know that you have described when you’ve been depressed stressed worried or even a little manic, that you use music to like regulate your moods. You think that’s a common thing? I have that big like 12 speaker surround sound stereo in my car, bluetooth enabled and I use it to listen to our podcast. But whenever you’re here, we connect it, and we’re like doing carpool Karaoke and like screaming to music and people are staring at us.

Michelle: [00:16:08] Yeah like that time I made you play White Houses by Vanessa Carlton and I was singing my heart out.

Gabe: [00:16:14] You were and what I love is I don’t like it when people sing because it grates me. But I was able to turn up the music so loud I couldn’t hear you.

Michelle: [00:16:21] Listen, you don’t like my singing voice? I am a professional singer.

Gabe: [00:16:24] Who sang that song?

Michelle: [00:16:26] Vanessa Carlton.

Gabe: [00:16:27] Let’s keep it that way.

Michelle: [00:16:29] Yes yes yes. Everybody used to say that back in the day.

Gabe: [00:16:32] Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. Knock knock.

Michelle: [00:16:35] Who’s there?

Gabe: [00:16:35] Interrupting cow. MOOOOOO!

Michelle: [00:16:38] Yeah. Everybody knows that one too, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:16:39] Wait, wait, wait. Why did the chicken cross the road?

Michelle: [00:16:41] To get the other side.

Gabe: [00:16:43] Oh you’ve heard this one.

Michelle: [00:16:44] Who killed Alicia Keys?

Gabe: [00:16:46] Who?

Michelle: [00:16:46] No one no one no one.

Gabe: [00:16:52] Alicia Keys is alive, right?

Michelle: [00:16:53] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:16:54] Okay.

Michelle: [00:16:54] That’s her song.

Gabe: [00:16:55] I didn’t know that.

Michelle: [00:16:55] Oh, okay, well.

Gabe: [00:16:57] Who’s Alicia Keys?

Michelle: [00:16:57] You know, she plays piano.

Gabe: [00:17:00] I think she’s a no one. No one no one.

Michelle: [00:17:02] OK. That’s not funny.

Gabe: [00:17:04] It’s a little funny.

Michelle: [00:17:05] Fine, whatever you want.

Gabe: [00:17:06] I think we like different music. We have found music that we both like and I would say that you know that’s another self care tip. Maybe be willing to compromise with your friends. I don’t like to listen to music in the car. It’s not something that I really do. But you and I have had to take several road trips as part of our job and you were like look I talk to you for money so I’m not going to talk to you for free. So I compromised and agreed to listen to music and we had a lot of fun doing it. It really was fun. But when you’re not around I don’t do it by myself. So I think that sometimes self care is being open to new ideas and maybe finding the joy in things that maybe you wouldn’t do alone. Another example of that is Jeopardy. I don’t watch Jeopardy when you’re not around.

Michelle: [00:17:46] I love Jeopardy. I love it. I just love to see more of the competition type aspect because when I watch it maybe I get like five questions right.

Gabe: [00:17:56] I get none.

Michelle: [00:17:57] No you get some.

Gabe: [00:17:58] Never.

Michelle: [00:17:59] I mean I wish I could be on Jeopardy but those people they just they have facts that I don’t even I didn’t even know where actual things. How do they know this stuff? They’re amazing. They’re amazing people.

Gabe: [00:18:11] You find that very interesting, right?

Michelle: [00:18:11] I do. That these people are so smart and I find it so interesting that they know these facts and like where did they learn these? Like, I went to high school, I went to college. I didn’t go to an Ivy League or anything like that, but how do they know these facts? And even there’s the teachers tournament and when I ever thought of a teacher I was like yeah your teacher teaches this subject. I was that you know they know this subject. No no no. You watch teachers tournament they know everything. Every. Thing. And then the college tournament, they know everything. But I do very well on the high school tournament. Those are those questions I do pretty good and then they had like the juniors. I was so good at the juniors. You have no idea. Those 12 year old kids, I’m on their level.

Gabe: [00:18:56] You know that show Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

Michelle: [00:18:59] I’m bad at that.

Gabe: [00:19:00] Well, I was not. I was not smarter than a fifth grader.

Michelle: [00:19:02] I was not Smarter Than A Fifth Grader either. Yeah that’s how it is. Well, Gabe, when you’re not around I like to watch The People’s Court. So when we’re together we always watch The People’s Court.

Gabe: [00:19:12] You watch The People’s Court when I’m not around?

Michelle: [00:19:13] I try to.

Gabe: [00:19:14] I never watch Jeopardy when you’re not around. Like that’s only something that I do with you because I only get joy when you’re around. And truthfully I think the only joy that I get is watching you watch it. Listen I think that sometimes people miss the idea that self care doesn’t necessarily mean getting your way. You know so many people are like self care is doing what you want to do and it is. There’s a part of that, but self care is also about finding joy in things maybe you wouldn’t find joy in. And I think of things like, let’s take marriage for example. When you’re married you have to go to places or eat at restaurants or experience things that you wouldn’t seek on your own. I did not want to see Hamilton.

Michelle: [00:19:57] Why not? It’s supposed to be amazing. I want to see it so badly but the tickets are expensive.

Gabe: [00:20:00] But my wife wanted to see it so I went.

Michelle: [00:20:03] I’ll go . I’ll go with your wife. You buy the tickets and I’ll go with your wife.

Gabe: [00:20:07] It’s too late we already went.

Michelle: [00:20:08] Well, you didn’t invite me!

Gabe: [00:20:09] Maybe, but there’s an example. Though I did not want to go but I agreed to go. I got dressed up, we went out to a nice dinner, and I enjoyed myself. I both enjoyed the play and I enjoyed sharing it with somebody, making my wife happy. It’s also about the pageantry of putting on a suit. My wife and I don’t wear nice clothes around each other very often and it doesn’t matter if it’s Hamilton in a nice restaurant or if it’s just going to the Taco Bell in the nice section of town around the corner. Make it special. There’s all kinds of ways to take the mundane and turn them into better, and that is an example of self care.

Michelle: [00:20:45] This self care really is classified under the problem solving.

Gabe: [00:20:50] Problem solving self care?

Michelle: [00:20:51] This is problem solving.

Gabe: [00:20:52] Dun dun dun.

Michelle: [00:20:53] Yeah. All of this is really is problem solving self care. This is what we’re really discussing right now.

Gabe: [00:20:59] I agree.

Michelle: [00:21:00] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:21:00] You read an article didn’t you?

Michelle: [00:21:03] Possibly.

Gabe: [00:21:03] I’m sorry.

Michelle: [00:21:04] I did some research. Yes, what can I say? What can I say? I know.

Gabe: [00:21:08] You know, nobody has ever called you illiterate, Michelle.

Michelle: [00:21:11] Nobody. Nobody’s ever called me a illiterate since I learned how to read. I learned how to read, Gabe, one day.

Gabe: [00:21:16] You know jokes are funny. You asked earlier about things that you can seek out on the internet. Jokes. There’s jokes everywhere.

Michelle: [00:21:23] There’s jokes everywhere.

Gabe: [00:21:24] And there’s there’s inspirational writing.

Michelle: [00:21:26] Yes.

Gabe: [00:21:27] That’s always fun.

Michelle: [00:21:28] Watching TV like TV can be self care. I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve been a huge fan since I was eight years old. And you know with the beauty of you know online streaming services and stuff like that I now can just go on to any one of those. Know the episode that I’m looking for. Watch it. And I feel that feeling of just like comfort. And it makes me feel better because I know the feeling that I get when I watch that specific episode. Like the episode where Buffy has to kill Angel and the devastation.

Gabe: [00:22:02] No.

Michelle: [00:22:02] It’s just I it’s like when I’m depressed I watch that episode and I’m like at least I didn’t have to kill my love. You know?

Gabe: [00:22:10] Wow.

Michelle: [00:22:11] She leaves town and goes to L.A.

Gabe: [00:22:13] Does Buffy kill her podcast co-host?

Michelle: [00:22:15] She doesn’t have a podcast, that didn’t exist.

Gabe: [00:22:19] OK. So I’m safe. That’s what I’m hearing.

Michelle: [00:22:21] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:22:21] But your significant other? You might have to kill someday?

Michelle: [00:22:24] Only if she tries to end the world and takes the sword out of Acathla as he’s going to swallow the world. And the only way to save the world is to kill her and send her to hell.

Gabe: [00:22:37] I know your significant other and she’s not that motivated. We’ll be fine.

Michelle: [00:22:40] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:22:42] Here’s some other like just real quick self-help tips that people don’t think of. Brush your teeth.

Michelle: [00:22:46] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:22:47] Eat something healthy. Make a meal, like make pageantry out of, you know? Don’t just grab the chips or you know the bagel bites in the microwave, actually cook a meal. There take a shower, shave, take a walk around the block, go to the gym. I mean it ramps up from here.

Michelle: [00:23:03] Exercise is great self care.

Gabe: [00:23:05] I’m not going to do that. But you’re right it is great self care.

Michelle: [00:23:10] It is and also joining a sports team. Any kind of club team is also great self care too.

Gabe: [00:23:16] People don’t think about that a lot, especially adults. You know I talked to a lot of people over the age of 50 and over the age of 40 because I’m at that age, and like I don’t know what to do for self care and I say like have you ever considered joining like a book club or a bowling league? And they’re like well but isn’t that like for young people? No, and one of the things that you turned me onto a long time ago, which is in your Jeopardy theme, is a lot of sports bars and bars like during the week will have trivia nights.

Michelle: [00:23:41] Yes.

Gabe: [00:23:41] Trivia nights are a lot of fun and you don’t have to sign up, you just have to show up so you show up and you can have fun. And listen, what’s really cool about them that I found out is that most people just suck. They just suck at trivia night but it’s a lot of fun. There’s always like a couple of teams are taking it like really serious and.

Michelle: [00:23:58] People take it ridiculously seriously.

Gabe: [00:24:01] Yeah.

Michelle: [00:24:01] Like ridiculous.

Gabe: [00:24:01] But at least half the room is just like, “Huh, trivia is hard.” But they’re still having fun.

Michelle: [00:24:07] I’ve never placed in regular trivia above second to last place.

Gabe: [00:24:11] Second to last place? So you beat somebody?

Michelle: [00:24:13] One time only. Because one of the sections was Disney.

Gabe: [00:24:17] One of the sections was Disney?

Michelle: [00:24:18] Yeah. That’s how I got 2nd to last place.

Gabe: [00:24:20] Didn’t you participate in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia?

Michelle: [00:24:20] Yes I have many times and I have placed and I’ve never placed below fourth. I’ve got to go first second third and fourth.

Gabe: [00:24:29] Oh wow so you did get first when it was very specific to an amount of knowledge that you had.

Michelle: [00:24:33] Yeah I only placed first the one time where I was alone.

Gabe: [00:24:37] So if I want to take first in a trivia contest I should find like bullshit trivia?

Michelle: [00:24:42] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:24:42] Because I would place first.

Michelle: [00:24:44] If it was mental health trivia you would.

Gabe: [00:24:46] Oh my God. Could you imagine? You and I we would dominate it.

Michelle: [00:24:49] We would dominate mental health trivia.

Gabe: [00:24:51] Not only would we dominate but like if any of the stereotypes were the answer we’d correct it.

Michelle: [00:24:54] Oh, my God. We should have mental health trivia night somewhere. We should start that.

Gabe: [00:25:00] This is an excellent idea.

Michelle: [00:25:02] We should have a little contest or something.

Gabe: [00:25:06] A contest?

Michelle: [00:25:06] A mental health contest. Mental health, we should do something. But how do we know?

Gabe: [00:25:08] Eh, people are going to Google.

Michelle: [00:25:10] They’re gonna google.

Gabe: [00:25:12] I’ve got the first question though and they won’t be able to Google. I figured it out, Michelle. All right everybody, using show@PsychCentral.com, send us an email with the nicest thing that somebody did for you to help you cope with your own mental illness. So a nice story about a friend, a caregiver, a stranger. All stories are welcome. Please send them to show@PsychCentral.com. And if we use it on the air we’ll send you stickers because we’re chill like that.

Michelle: [00:25:39] Or a talking mental health T-shirt, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:25:42] That is so mean. Why you gotta be mocking the talking mental t-shirts?

Michelle: [00:25:45] I’m not. I’m not mocking them. I’m saying we should send them more than stickers, Gabe.

Gabe: [00:25:50] All right, I will revise it. The winner, the best story, the most moving and meaningful story, will get A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast care package, including more than just stickers. But all of the other stories that we use on an upcoming show, will just get stickers. Fair?

Michelle: [00:26:07] But you have to actually write a good story.

Gabe: [00:26:12] Yeah, you got to read a good story.

Michelle: [00:26:13] You can’t just say, “My buddy gave me a Kit Kat and I was so happy about it.”

Gabe: [00:26:19] I mean you can, but you’re not going to win and we’re not going to use it on the show. And now I want to Kit Kat.

Michelle: [00:26:24] We have some downstairs.

Gabe: [00:26:24] Sweet. That’s where we’re off to. Thank you everybody for tuning into this week’s episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and Podcast. If you are on iTunes we would love your five star review. Write a review, like use your words. Tell people why they should listen and please share us on social media. Email us to your friends, help us go world wide famous. And finally, if you work for BuzzFeed, or know anybody that works for BuzzFeed, where’s our love? Please write a story on us. We will see everybody next week on you’re supposed to yell out A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast.

Michelle: [00:27:04] A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast!

Gabe: [00:27:06] Thanks everybody for tuning in. And we will see you next week.

Narrator: [00:27:15] You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. This show’s official web site is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at show@PsychCentral.com. Thank you for listening, and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.

MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.

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What It Takes to Be a Mental Health Advocate: An Interview With Christina Huff

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

See credits below.


Christina Huff

At one point Christina Huff was living her dream: thriving as a paralegal in Chicago and newly in love. Five years and one divorce later, she’s still piecing together the debris – living with bipolar disorder and accepting a different kind of life. She has translated her passion for law to mental health advocacy, helping others rise from difficulty with gracefulness and determination, and is a beautiful model of turning pain into service.

Living with bipolar, anxiety, eating disorders, and chronic pain, she beautifully weaves bits of her life and advice from other warriors on her site, Bipolar Hot Mess, ranked number five out of the top 100 bipolar blogs on feedspot, and on her other site is Askabipolar.com. I asked Christina about her life as an advocate, advice for persons for bipolar, and where she finds the strength to overcome her many challenges.

Therese: What made you want to become a bipolar advocate?

Christina: When I was first diagnosed in 2006, I didn’t know anyone who had bipolar and I didn’t know anything about the illness. My immediate response was turning to the internet to look and search for information and first-person accounts so I knew what to expect. But, to my disappointment, I found very little. I did find a website called Ask A Bipolar and so I followed it for a few days and searched it. They put up an ad that they were looking for new authors and one of the qualifications was that you had to have bipolar. I applied, and then within a few months, I was learning so much, I was helping the site grow. The site owner and I became partners and off we went.

It sort of happened by accident that I became an advocate. Since the site was such a strict Q & A format, I wanted to be able to write more freely about my life and about bipolar and such, so I started my own website Bipolar Hot Mess. It started slow then one day just took off and now, if you google “bipolar hot mess” I fill the page. It amazes me every single day!

Therese: What is most challenging/rewarding about it?

Christina: The most challenging is that I do still have the illness that I’m an advocate for, so there are times that I crash. I still have the side effects and have to take care of myself the same way I advocate and help people to realize they need to do to take care of themselves too. The rewarding part is when I’m mentoring someone and I see how much progress they make, or when someone sends me an email saying how much a post, or an interview, or something I’ve done or said has helped them. Those are the things that make it all worthwhile. Or when someone was so down and was suicidal and the next time you speak they are doing well, have their life back on track, and have found happiness. Just knowing you helped that person find the light or find the path they needed, sometimes all they need is a nudge.

Therese: What would your advice be to people just diagnosed with bipolar?

Christina: Make sure you see your psychiatrist as frequently as they suggest and take ALL MEDICATION AS DIRECTED! That is super important. If your meds aren’t correct, everything else isn’t going to help properly.

Next, find a therapist. They are going to help you sort things out. When you are first diagnosed things are so confusing, they help a lot.

Work with your family and try to explain what is going on. This is a hard one, but if you are living with them, they are going to see the ups and downs everyday, so they should have a general idea of what to expect. If you have a spouse, I highly recommend the book Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder, by Julie Fast. It’s a very good book for your spouse to read to let the, know what to expect, how they could handle things etc. In addition to some great websites, there are now a lot of books you can purchase for more information. Facebook has a lot of “private” support groups that you could try out. NAMI.org will give you info and you can find your nearest support group or events like book readings and signings etc. DBSAlliance.org will do the same.

Therese: What keeps you going during the really hard stretches where you want to give up?

Christina:My family, friends, and boyfriend. They help me see that this is just another bump in the road and I am going to make it out again alive. They show me that they still love me and will still love me on the other side and on the other side, I’m going to be even stronger than I was when I crashed. Each time I crash, I come out stronger and more aware of my symptoms, how to combat them and fight back. Granted, not every time can be a fight back moment and sometimes we just have to let it take its course, but if we know that and are aware of that ahead of time, we can at least be prepared to settle in to acceptance that we have an illness that sometimes we can control but sometimes we just have to accept we can’t control.

Therese: Do you have things you do every day to stay well?

Christina: I need to take my medication in the morning and evening, need to maintain a regular sleep schedule, eat regularly (that is for my eating disorder recovery), try to get a decent amount of sun, and try not to isolate and make contact with friends or family daily, and try to accomplish at least one task a day so I don’t sit in bed all day which could spark a depressive cycle.

The medication part though is absolutely key though. If I miss my medication even one day, it affects not just my brain chemistry but my body and takes days or weeks to even get back to normal.

Therese: What is your biggest work challenge due to bipolar disorder?

Christina:Well, I was able to work for over four years in corporate America as my dream job as a paralegal at a prestigious Chicago law firm, but unfortunately, life got in the way and triggered my bipolar symptoms and I was put on disability. It amazes me now how many are on disability. I never really thought about it until it happened to me. I guess that’s true for a lot of us for a lot of things.

Now, I work on my website bipolarhotmess.com and sell things on eBay. It’s tough most days because of my concentration and sometimes lack of motivation, but I know that if I don’t do anything, I’m going to get into the depressive slump. It’s so much easier to get IN the slump than get OUT. If I don’t work on the website I feel like I’m letting my followers down and I have to list items on eBay because the site is funded only by me. Those are some great motivators.

To conquer the concentration issue, I try different working areas and try taking more frequent breaks. That seems to help. I also make sure to keep my projects at a reasonable size. I used to make a to do list a mile long and beat myself up for not getting it done. Now I create one that is more manageable and that I know I can complete so I feel better at the end of the day, not defeated. That tip took a very long time to master!!! I’m an overachiever so it was so difficult, but if I could do it, so can you!

What It Takes to Be a Mental Health Advocate: An Interview With Christina Huff

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Podcast: Helping a Friend with Mental Illness

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

See credits below.




Even if we live with mental illness, ourselves, we can be frustrated when we don’t know how to help a friend or family member who’s dealing with it. We may find that coping skills that work for us may not work for someone else. Medications that work for us may not work for the other person. In this episode, Gabe and Michelle discuss how to help friends with mental illness, including the help available through caregivers, medication, and more.

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“And I wonder to myself, ‘Why do you tolerate this s**t?’”
– Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘Helping a friend with mental illness’’ Episode

[1:00] Fun with stereotypes.

[4:20] Gabe reads a letter from a listener.

[6:30] How can you help a friend who is struggling with mental illness?

[7:30] What’s up with caregivers?

[9:30] How can you help yourself during a manic phase?

[13:30] How can psychiatric medications help?

[22:00] When are we not okay?

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Helping a Friend with Mental Illness’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: My name is Gabe Howard and I have bipolar disorder.

Michelle: Hi Michelle, schizophrenic.

Gabe: And together we’re hosting a podcast. That’s where we got the name.

Michelle: Whoooooo!

Gabe: I think we’ve made that joke like four times in the entirety of the show which is now well over a year.

Michelle: Wow, Gabe I’ve known you for so long.

Gabe: You couldn’t even fake enthusiasm.

Michelle: I’m enthusiastic, I’m so happy.

Gabe: Have you taken your meds?

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Isn’t that was still the number one question that makes our audience cringe?

Michelle: I can’t stand that question.

Gabe: Now you know that I’m just kidding like I watched you take your meds because I don’t want you to hurt my dog. Stereotypes are funny. They’re also very offensive and insulting. And this show really aims to both break down stereotypes and use them for humor. So we have sort of a schizophrenic goal. Oh shit. Did I do it again?

Michelle: Oh, no, you did. This weather is just so schizophrenic.

Gabe: No, no, it’s bipolar. See that doesn’t offend me. That’s actually a really interesting point. I’ve heard you say that the weather is schizophrenic offends you. When people say that the weather is bipolar that does not offend me.

Michelle: I think that makes a little more sense because they mean one day it’s sunny one day it’s raining or cold. And schizophrenic weather I don’t get it because I’m like, what is the weather hearing right now?

Gabe: So you’re saying that the reason that the weather is schizophrenic is offensive is because the weather is not hearing voices?

Michelle: I just don’t understand how it makes any sense. What are they thinking that schizophrenia is that the weather it could possibly be schizophrenic?

Gabe: That’s a good point there.

Michelle: Is the weather delusional? Is the weather thinking that it’s raining, so it’s raining? Or is the weather sunny because it’s believing a delusion of sunnyness? I don’t get it.

Gabe: That’s a good point. When somebody says the weather is schizophrenic they probably mean that it’s like erratic or maybe unwelcome or violent or uncomfortable. So therefore the weather is schizophrenic and I can see where that would be. You’re right that is a lot more insulting than the weather is bipolar which like you said it was rainy one minute and sunny the next.

Michelle: I think it’s just people that don’t know what schizophrenia is and they just want us say something like maybe they think they’re smart. Like that when people say the word “conversate” and say it like they think it’s an actual word.

Gabe: Yeah.

Michelle: When the real word is converse.

Gabe: Right.

Michelle: They think they’re smart like we were just “conversating” saying like no no you sound like an idiot when you try to sound smart like that. Not a word. Conversate is not a word conversating is not a word. Don’t say the word conversate in front of me. I will think you’re an idiot.

Gabe: You know the one that I hate the most? The word “irregardless.”

Michelle: Is that what?

Gabe: It’s not a word. Regardless it’s not a word it’s regardless just just regardless. You don’t need an “irr.”.

Michelle: I don’t think I’ve even heard somebody say that.

Gabe: You know what I also hate? This literally makes me die.

Michelle: That doesn’t make any sense.

Gabe: Right? It figuratively makes you die.

Michelle: Yes. Because then.

Gabe: You’re literally an idiot.

Michelle: Because then you’d be dead. It literally made you die. You’d be dead. But you know and then the British they say literally?

Gabe: Literally?

Michelle: Why do they say literally?

Gabe: How would you know, you’ve never left the country?

Michelle: Yes I have.

Gabe: When?

Michelle: And plus there’s always British people on TV and there’s British people in movies and they say literally and they say Tuesday and they say schedule.

Gabe: So we’ve got an e-mail. We actually just drop these things in to see if people from across the pond are listening. If somebody writes in, “We did not like Michelle Hammer making fun of our entire culture and country.” We’re like hey we’re breaking in the U.K. We do get a lot of e-mail and we are going to try to answer more and more e-mails in future episodes. So bop over to PsychCentral.com/BSP and you’ll be able to see the form to ask us your own questions.

Michelle: Ask us anything.

Gabe: Megan sent us a nice long e-mail and she asked a lot of questions. We decided, hey, we might as well address them because you know we ran out of show ideas. She wrote I just started listening to your podcast and I’m trying to understand bipolar disorder more. So this works because it’s going to be about me. I would love to hear an in-depth discussion about how the brain works with someone who has bipolar disorder. Let’s kind of stop there for a moment. Gabe Howard lives with bipolar disorder.

Michelle: And I’m schizophrenic.

Gabe: And neither one of us are doctors.

Michelle: I am not a doctor.

Gabe: We don’t even play one on TV.

Michelle: No.

Gabe: We don’t even have like Neil Patrick Harris Doogie Howser.

Michelle: Not even.

Gabe: Yeah.

Michelle: We’re not even a kid doctor that’s a genius.

Gabe: Nothing. We’re not even a therapist.

Michelle: But I like brains.

Gabe: So you do not want to get in depth information about how the brain works with bipolar disorder from Gabe and Michelle.

Michelle: Or we can just make something up.

Gabe: We could. We can make something up. The brain works by firing synapses. Aww, shit, that’s actually correct.

Michelle: Synapses. There’s a misfire in synapses. That’s why that’s. It’s a misfire. And there is serotonin.

Gabe: Serotonin, there’s a word. Dopamine.

Michelle: Dopamine.

Gabe: You’re a dope, I mean, sorry.

Michelle: You’re dope, I mean, you’re a dope, like I mean, yo.

Gabe: Like the brain for as much as we need it and as much as we talk about it and the fact that everybody has one is a really misunderstood organ. So you really just don’t want to get information from anybody because they just don’t know.

Michelle: You gotta donate your brain to science, Gabe. There you go.

Gabe: I did. Harvard gets my brain when I die.

Michelle: Oh, that’s so nice of you.

Gabe: It’s the only way I’m getting into Harvard.

Michelle: OK.

Gabe: Who’s getting your brain when you die?

Michelle: I haven’t thought about it yet but I’ve gotten a brain scan that I gave to Mount Sinai Hospital.

Gabe: That was really cool.

Michelle: Yeah. The next question we can answer, though. It’s what are ways to help someone with bipolar disorder?

Gabe: The best way to help people with mental illness is to do something. So many people ignore the symptoms of mental illness because they don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do and therefore they do nothing. Doing something is so much better, and some ideas are: talk to the person directly, encourage the person to seek mental health help, if the person is a danger to themselves or others, take them to the doctor or call 911 and stay with them provide support. The bottom line is so many people watch people spiral out of control from a distance because they don’t want to get involved. They don’t understand it. They think that it’s a moral failing. Or they go over and they start yelling at the person and they’re mean to the person and they demand that they get better.

Michelle: And you really have to be there for the person. Don’t run away. Stay with them, and try to educate yourself like Megan is trying to do.

Gabe: Megan is an excellent example of somebody that’s trying to do something. Her whole letter, which we won’t have time to read, it asked many many questions. And I sincerely hope that Megan, upon hearing this episode, doesn’t think oh well I’ve got all the information that I need in 20 minutes. That’s not realistic. You need to get on PsychCentral.com and read a lot. And also people who are trying to take care of people with mental illness, see your own therapist.

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: You know being a full time caregiver to somebody that is really really sick that’s a lot.

Michelle: Caregiving is not easy. And then there’s also support groups for caregivers.

Gabe: A lot of people don’t realize that when it comes to mental illness. For alcohol addiction they have like Al-Anon. It’s for people who love somebody who is an alcoholic.

Michelle: Or like PFLAG.

Gabe: Exactly, which is?

Michelle: I don’t know exactly what it stands for, but it’s the parents of gays and lesbians.

Gabe: Really? You can’t get Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays out of PFLAG?

Michelle: Right. That’s right. You know, it Gabe!

Gabe: Why do I know more about your culture than you do?

Michelle: Whatever whatever whatever.

Gabe: There’s all kinds of support groups that are set up for the ancillary characters. And that’s really how I like to say it. They’re not people that are suffering, or have the impairment, or the issue that, you know, is at the core of this. But they’re still impacted by it. They are still impacted by something that happened to somebody else and they need and deserve support as well.

Michelle: Yeah, you’re not alone. You’re not alone. There’s bazillions of caregivers for people with mental illness and they need people to talk to as well.

Gabe: Exactly.

Michelle: Pause on that. Let’s take a break and hear from our sponsor.

Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist, whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Gabe: And we’re back talking this e-mail.

Michelle: So Megan specifically asked this one question of how can they help themselves when they’re in a manic phase?

Gabe: That’s really tough. I mean, both Michelle and I have experienced mania and once you’re manic you’re it’s hard you’re kind of gone.

Michelle: Yeah, me specifically, let’s say last week I kind of had a manic phase. I even went to the doctor, just that my regular therapy psychiatrist doctor, and I was just in there and he’s kind of said to me you know you’re acting kind of manic right now are you OK? And I go Oh I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine everything is fine. And then I was kind of like hanging out with my friends and they were like Are you OK right now? You are acting a very very strange. What is going on? And that’s when I kind of self reflected and I was like I am totally manic right now. I need to do something about this. But I am an experienced with dealing with myself so I know what I need to do. So someone who’s newly into having a mental illness and finding it out for themselves, they need to learn what they need to do. So they kind of need to educate themselves. So, Gabe, what did you do when you didn’t know you were having manic episodes?

Gabe: I mean if you don’t know, you’re not going to do anything. Because mania, for as bad and as nasty and awful as it is, it feels good. It feels fantastic. I don’t think the average person who’s feeling fantastic would think to themselves hey what do I need to do to fix this? Especially with bipolar disorder, because there’s so much depression and suicidality and deep dark pits.

Michelle: Right? And you’re finally happy.

Gabe: Yeah. You’re finally happy. Why would you want anybody to fuck with that?

Michelle: I know. And then everyone’s telling you what are you doing why are you acting like this. You’re like What? I’m happy right now I’m having a great time Why are you trying to kill my jam? I’m doing great.

Gabe: Yeah. I would argue that one of the first things to getting better with bipolar disorder is this acknowledgment that all extreme emotions can be dangerous. People just have this belief that you can never be too happy. They’re like wait you can be too happy? What, can you be too rich? Look I don’t know if you can be too rich, but you’re can absolutely be too happy.

Michelle: I would love to be too rich.

Gabe: I can see that. Would you be like Scrooge McDuck?

Michelle: Like diving into my coins and stuff?

Gabe: I can see you getting rich and filling up like a giant bin full of money jumping into it and just immediately breaking your nose and smashing your face. That seems like the idiotic thing that you would do.

Michelle: I would not do that. But I might take a bath in money naked.

Gabe: Duck Tails. Woo hoo. I want to touch on another part of your story that you brought up, Michelle. Which is you were listening to the people around you when your doctor said it you were like OK and when your friends said it you were like OK. This takes some time to build. Obviously, Michelle, we’ve discussed that you have to really be in touch with your emotions to be able to know that you’re in a manic stage and know that you need to do something. That’s really the first thing that you have to learn. But once you’ve learned that so you realized you were manic. What did you do about it?

Michelle: Well when I noticed my friends were getting frustrated with me and bringing up that I was manic and you know they didn’t like it they weren’t enjoying it. They were kind of saying what’s going on? I was like you just took a seat on the couch took a couple of deep breaths, had some water, and just settled and self-reflected and just calmed myself down. Really just calmed myself down and realized how I was acting. I kind of got sad that it happened. I was upset that I got so manic. I was upset that I let myself get manic. So I just kind of got sad about it.

Gabe: Isn’t that kind of like one of the really shitty things about being mentally ill? You just described that you had a symptom of your mental illness and now you felt bad for it.

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: That would be like feeling sad that you have the symptom of the flu because you blew your nose.

Michelle: Yeah yeah.

Gabe: There’s a lot of regret when it comes to mental illness. Now I think you know Megan’s talking about her boyfriend a lot here and one of the things that she wants to know over and over again is you know how can he stop? How can he lessen things? And we’re trying not to make this episode about well just take your meds and you’ll be fine, because that’s not helpful.

Michelle: Yeah. Going on meds isn’t even easy, especially newly diagnosed. How do you know you’re going on the right med at the right time? How much meds do you need? What’s going to work what’s not going to work? That’s a whole new thing. That’s a whole process. So you can’t just say take your meds and you’ll be better. You don’t know what meds, what your meds are going to be?

Gabe: But it is helpful.

Michelle: It’s helpful of course. The journey of medication is it always leads to a better life. Well it did with me and you.

Gabe: Yeah.

Michelle: So I would say that is a good journey.

Gabe: But along that journey, to be fair, that journey does involve nasty ass things happening to you. From the time I started medication until the time I got to you know recovery was four years. Clearly that journey was worth it because now I can live well. But there was some issues along the way. It wasn’t like this nice beautiful country road. There were traffic jams. I wrecked my car a couple of times. Gas is incredibly expensive. I’m glad that I got from point A to point B, and I’m proud of myself for doing so. But I think so many people hear just take your meds. Just be med compliant. Meds have no downsides. Meds have incredible amounts of downside. She’s talking about her boyfriend who wants to manage bipolar disorder without the help of medication. I don’t think that’s possible.

Michelle: I don’t think that’s possible either.

Gabe: But I can understand why he’s scared. I mean her boyfriend wants to manage it without them and I really believe that he wants to manage a bipolar diagnosis without meds for two reasons. One, having to take medicine is shitty.

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: I mean it’s a reminder every time you put those pills in your mouth that you are different from everybody else.

Michelle: Absolutely.

Gabe: It’s also seen as a sign of weakness.

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: Well you’re so weak. You need medication.

Michelle: Absolutely.

Gabe: And it’s not just that you’re weak, your brain is weak.

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: And your brain is where like your personality and your intelligence is stored. So your personality and your intellect, the core of who you are, is broken.

Michelle: That’s just one of the things that you think. It is.

Gabe: And it is hard to get over that because it sounds so sensible at the time but that’s just so incredibly stupid. It really is when you think about it. If you lacerated your arm right now and just a big old gash and just blood was pouring out and like your nerves in just a big old gash.

Michelle: Yeah, yeah, I get it.

Gabe: And a doctor comes in. The doctor comes in and says I’m going to stitch that up for you so that you can heal and you say no.

Michelle: I want to keep bleeding.

Gabe: I want to keep bleeding because I’m going to will the laceration closed on my own because I’m in control of my arm. It’s my arm. You will not do stuff to my arm. Or what if you broke your leg? I will fuse the bones together without medical intervention. We have people that live with diabetes and have to take insulin. They they don’t say no no no my chemistry is flawed. Or you know, I say chemistry, I actually have no idea how diabetes works, except that people take daily shots and those people live better. It’s the same way with mental illness. I’m really trying not to say stigma, but it’s got this stigma surrounding it that there is somehow a moral value in treating mental illness. I think there’s a moral value in not treating mental illness.

Michelle: You said there were two reasons why he didn’t want to take medication.

Gabe: I did give two reasons.

Michelle: You gave two reasons?

Gabe: Yes, you’re just not paying attention.

Michelle: OK fine.

Gabe: I’m not. Reason number one because taking pills reminds you that you’re different. Reason number two.

Michelle: Stigma?

Gabe: Number two, no not stigmas. Stop yelling stigma. What are you? Every single mental health advocate in the world?

Michelle: Person first language please.

Gabe: I apologize. You’re a person living with stupid ideas that you’re spewing out on our show. The first one was taking pills makes you feel different. The second one is that people feel there’s a moral value in taking their medication because they should be able to control their brains without help.

Michelle: Okay gotcha there. Gotcha. That’s one and two. Take notes people.

Gabe: Somebody who’s newly diagnosed with any mental illness, but especially bipolar disorder, they’re just reminded about how their brain is not working right and how they’re different and how they need to do better. And it’s a scary prospect but this is what I would want to say to this person if he were sitting in front of me. The medication will give you better control of your brain. It will allow you to use more of your faculties. You choose to take the medication so you are in charge. It’s no different than using a car to drive faster. It doesn’t make you weak. It’s just a shortcut. I don’t want to walk 20 miles to school. I want to drive 20 miles to school. It makes me intelligent that I’m smart enough to use a car to get there faster and safer. It makes you intelligent that you’re smart enough to use medication so that you can get there faster and safer. And then once you have better control of your brain you can start making decisions and doing what you want and controlling it just so much better.

Michelle: Yeah. I’m reading more of this letter and it seems like he’s so anti medication that he’s almost hurting. Really he’s like he’s distressing himself because he’s not going to doctors because he’s being told by doctors that he needs meds. So I mean if you’re going to go to a doctor for help and then refuse the help, why are you going to the doctor?

Gabe: Because he wants to hear something other than that. And you know he is right. There’s a line in here, “It sucks when everyone just tells him medication will work and they don’t give him any other options.” That’s irresponsible as well.

Michelle: It is. It is.

Gabe: We should point that out because medication while very helpful is not, I repeat not, the only thing.

Michelle: Group therapy for him as well. Why doesn’t he talk to other people who were told they are bipolar?

Gabe: Exactly.

Michelle: He can talk to other people and find out if they’re on meds. Then he can feel like oh if they’re bipolar and they’re on meds and they’re doing this maybe I’m not alone. You know maybe he feels alone with his disorder? But then will he go to group therapy is a whole different question, you know?

Gabe: I have no idea if he would or not. But the point that is being raised in the e-mail and that’s all we have we just have this e-mail. You know maybe they’re lying. I don’t know. But I’m going to take them at their word. What they’re saying is that he goes in and says to his doctor I have bipolar disorder what can I do to get well? And the doctor says your best option is A. And he’s saying look I want to be a health care consumer. And I don’t agree with A. I don’t want to do A. And his doctor is saying then forget it I’m not going to give you anything else. I’ll say that A is the best option. I agree that A is the best option. But he’s telling us, his patient is telling us, that he’s uncomfortable with A. Do you have a B? There is a B. Go to therapy. Go to group therapy. Use peer support. Talk to other people with mental illness. Discuss with a therapist why you’re so afraid of medication. Get more research on what exactly you think medication is going to do that you want to head off. He might have like a really really good reason to not want to take medication. Maybe he is a concert pianist and he has heard that medication causes tremors? That’s a very very common thing. And he is afraid that if he starts taking medication he will not be able to play the piano anymore. Now he’s not being ridiculous. Now he’s safeguarding something that is a passion of his. That is his whole life.

Michelle: Now I’m checking my hands.

Gabe: I know. We both lifted up our hands. We’re like hey there’s a look. Look.

Michelle: Do my hands tremor?

Gabe: Yeah, look.

Michelle: Your hands are trembling, am I?

Gabe: Yeah. You’ve got a little tremor there. Yeah. Look. Look at the pen.

Michelle: Oh, snap! I’ve got hand tremors.

Gabe: Yeah. But see, it doesn’t bother you because you don’t need fine motor skills for your job.

Michelle: I could never be a surgeon.

Gabe: You could never be a surgeon. You could never.

Michelle: There’s way more reasons why I could never be a surgeon.

Gabe: I could see you being a surgeon. You’d be like I’m here to operate, bitch.

Michelle: I’m here to operate. I’ll be a plastic surgeon. You want some big titties? I’ll give you some big titties. Oh yes.

Gabe: I also in this e-mail she says that she’s been dating this gentleman for six and a half years now, which is a long time. That’s like a solid relationship. That’s like all of my marriages wrapped into one. And she says that she can’t tell when he has a manic episode. She can tell when he’s depressed. And you know I kind of recognize how you can tell when somebody is depressed. It is very difficult sometimes to notice mania until it’s too late. Because sometimes you’re positive that mania is happening the minute they leap off the roof into the pool before then you just think through the life of the party they’re fun and they’re happy.

Michelle: One driving 105 miles per hour down the highway.

Gabe: Yeah. And you don’t want to tell somebody that’s like enjoying life. I mean I have driven a hundred miles an hour. I have. I’ve done it. And that’s probably maybe not the safest thing. I mean the speed limit was 70. I went 100. That’s 30 miles and over but it wasn’t because of mania. But you know what if it was? So how can somebody tell when Gabe’s driving 100 miles an hour because hey he drives a fucking Lexus and he wants to turn up the stereo really loud and race down the road? Or is he driving really fast because he’s manic? Remember the other day when we listened to I would Do Anything for Love at literally all the way to the top volume and drove 100 hundred miles and you like sang and recorded it and put it on Facebook.

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Yeah. The police came our court date is in like two weeks.

Michelle: Now shut up. No it’s not.

Gabe: You don’t know. It really was a bad idea to film it. You’re a moron.

Michelle: Filmed the speedometer.

Gabe: Michelle, we really get a lot of e-mails from caregivers, family members, significant others ,and they ask the same questions over and over: what can I do? How can I help them? And I really wish we had the answer, because we’d be rich.

Michelle: Scrooge McDuck rich.

Gabe: Right?

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: That’s the kind of thing that you could sell for tons of money. So I want people to know there are no easy answers because so many people are looking for that magic bullet. There isn’t one. And I think about like an email like this where she’s like You know I’ve been with this man for six and a half years and I love him and I want to help him but it sounds like for six and a half years he’s been symptomatic and just caused her problems. So it’s rough because there’s this little part of me that wants to say to people man why do you tolerate this shit? Maybe this isn’t the best relationship for you? Maybe you need to save yourself? I struggle with this in my own marriage. I’m not saying this to just her. I also think about this for my friends or my wife. Why does she want to put up with this? And I don’t know the answer, but I do know that if I want people to love me, I have to pull my own weight. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t make your loved one be better. They have to work on it on their own. They have to want it. The most that you can ever do is help them. But a lot of these emails they’re asking how to do it for them. And that can’t be done.

Michelle: A relationship is a partnership. And you can’t just help your partner if they won’t accept help themselves. You have to work together and you have to want to get better. To have a successful relationship that works well you’ve got to do what’s best for yourself.

Gabe: Truer words never spoken, my friend.

Michelle: I’m a true word genius. We’ve been conversating for awhile now. Thank you for writing in Megan. We hope that everything turns out OK. We hope we gave you some great advice. We hope we helped you and I hope that everything goes well in the future.

Gabe: And we believe that it can, because if for nothing else, we’re incredibly optimistic.

Michelle: You bet.

Gabe: Don’t people always say that about us, Michelle? That Gabe and Michelle, they’re so optimistic.

Michelle: I don’t know why people say that.

Gabe: I don’t know because everything sucks we’re all going to die. It is true. I mean everything does suck and we all are going to die someday. Maybe the optimism is that we don’t think we’re going to die today?

Michelle: Oh yeah, not today.

Gabe: Not today.

Michelle: Not tomorrow.

Gabe: Not tomorrow, either.

Michelle: One day.

Gabe: We’re fine for the weekend.

Michelle: We’re fine for this. Yeah. Yeah. We’re good. We’re good.

Gabe: We’re good for at least the end of the month.

Michelle: Yeah totally totally we got this. We got this. No accidents, no heart disease. You know the number one killer. None of that.

Gabe: Well that was depressing.

Michelle: Sorry.

Gabe: I probably do have heart disease. Oh now you gotta bring that up.

Michelle: Oh no. Heart disease and mental illness. The next episode.

Gabe: Please subscribe to our show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you downloaded this podcast. Please share on social media. Tell all of your friends about it. We don’t have a huge advertising budget, but what we do have is your loyal support. Thank you so much. We’ll see everybody next week on A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. If you love this episode, don’t keep it to yourself head over to iTunes or your preferred podcast app to subscribe, rate, and review. To work with Gabe go to GabeHoward.com. To work with Michelle, go to Schizophrenic.NYC. For free mental health resources and online support groups, head over to PsychCentral.com. This show’s official web site is PsychCentral.com/BSP. You can e-mail us at [email protected]. Thank you for listening, and share widely.

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.Podcast: Helping a Friend with Mental Illness

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6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Recovery from Depression and Anxiety

This is an interesting article I found on: www.psychcentral.com

See credits below.


Recovering from depression and anxiety call for the same kind of shrewdness and amount of perspiration as does running a 4,000-person company. I say that having never done the latter. But hear out my logic: great leaders must master impeccable governing skills, develop the discipline of a triathlete, and build enough stamina to manage multiple personalities. And so does anyone wanting to get outside of her head and live a little.

So I think it’s fitting to translate the insight of a book about business success, The Wisdom of Failure: How to Learn the Tough Leadership Lessons Without Paying the Price by Laurence Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, to victory over a mood disorder, or even mild but annoying anxiety and depression.

Weinzimmer and McConoughey describe their “taxonomy of leadership mistakes,” or nine common ways an executive falls flat on his face and is made fun of by his peers. The business world is replete with calculated risks. It’s a chess game, and a few too many wrong moves will have you packing up your stuff from the corner office.

As I read through them, I kept thinking about my main job — managing my depression as best I can — and the pitfalls that I so often run into. Many are the same listed in this book. Here are six mistakes business leaders make that are appropriate for our purposes:

Mistake one: Trying to be all things to all people.

The “just say no” problem that I have all the time. If you think of requests from friends, families, bosses, co-workers, and golden retrievers as customers asking you for all kinds of products that you can’t simultaneously produce, then you see the logic in your having to draw the line at some point. You must hang on to your resources to stay well.

Mistake two: Roaming outside the box.

Clarification: thinking outside the box is good. Hanging out there, strolling around in pursuit of some meaning that you keep finding in everything that passes by — that’s dangerous. When it comes to recovery, this is very important to remember. I like to try new things: yoga, new fish oil supplements, a new light lamp, different support groups.

What gets me in trouble is when I start to think that I don’t have bipolar disorder and can go off all meds, healing myself through meditation alone. I tried that once and landed in the hospital twice. Now I double check to make sure the box is still in my peripheral vision.

Mistake three: Efficiencies before effectiveness.

This has to do with seeing the forest behind the trees, and subscribing to a policy of making decisions based on the view of the forest, not the trees that are blocking everything from your sight. The authors cite the example of Circuit City’s CEO who cut 3,400 sales people to decrease costs despite the fact that their research said that customers want knowledgeable sales people to help them make decisions when buying electronics. His approach was efficient, but not all that effective.

When you are desperate to feel better, it’s so easy to reach for the Band-Aid — booze, cigarettes, toxic relationships — that might do an efficient job of killing the pain. Effective in the longterm? Not so much.

Mistake four: Dysfunctional harmony.

Like me! Like me! Please like me! Dysfunctional harmony involves abandoning your needs to please others, which jeopardizes your recovery efforts.

“Being an effective leader [or person in charge of one’s health] means that sometimes you will not make the most popular decisions,” the authors explain. “By doing what is necessary, you will sometimes make some people angry. That’s okay. It’s part of the job. If you are in a leadership role and you try to be liked by everyone all of the time, you will inevitably create drama and undercut your own authority and effectiveness.”

So think of yourself as the CEO of you and start making some authoritative decisions that are in the best interest of You, Inc.

Mistake five: Hoarding

I’m not talking about your sister’s stash of peanuts and Q-Tips. This is about hoarding responsibility. For those of us trying like hell to live a good and happy life, this means giving over the reins now and then to other people, persons, and things that can help us: doctors, husbands, sisters, even pets. It means relying on the people in your life who say they love you and letting them do the small things so that you can try your best to be the best boss of yourself again.

Mistake six: Disengagement

Burnout. It happens in all recovery. I have yet to meet someone who can continue a regiment of daily meditation, boot camp, and spinach and cucumber smoothies for more than three months without calling uncle and reaching for the pepperoni pizza. That’s why it is so critical to pace yourself in your recovery. What’s a realistic number of times to exercise during the week? Are you really going to do that at 4:30 am? Why not allow yourself one day of hotdogs and ice-cream in order to not throw out the whole healthy living initiative at once?

Imagine yourself a great leader of your mind, body, and spirit — managing a staff of personalities inside yourself that need direction. Take it from these two corporate leaders, and don’t make the same mistakes.

6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Recovery from Depression and Anxiety

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