Can you progress when you’re bipolar?

Happy Halloween. Err at least it was Halloween when I wrote this. I’m watching true crime right now – it’s my favorite type of entertainment when I’m depressed. Not that true crime is entertaining in a happy way, but it definitely captivates me. I think that’s what I like best about true crime – it captures my attention fully and lets me forget about my own life while I’m consuming it. My favorite true crime show is That Chapter, an amazing YouTube channel by a guy named Mike Oh. Or O. I don’t know. But he’s an incredible storyteller and manages to infuse these horrible stories with humor but in a way that’s respectful to the dead. He’s good shit.

At least my true crime obsession makes sense on Halloween.

Halloween season has been slow this year, as I imagine it has been for everyone. I usually try to do some ghost hunting or at least find a way to get in the spirit early. It’s my way of coping with a bad trauma that happened in October. The trauma is far enough away now that on the anniversary, I didn’t even think about what happened. So that’s progress!

One of my greatest fears lately is that there’s only so much progress I can make as a bipolar person because I will always be bipolar, even if I heal my trauma. There is no cure as of yet to bipolar disorder and that’s daunting to sit with. Just knowing that if I go off my meds, I am liable to become manic and destroy my life is kind of heavy. And lately, I’ve been tired and unable to carry much weight.

Because I’ve been so fucking tired, I’ve decided to start eating a keto diet again. I did this in my 20s and I had a lot of success with balancing my moods, though I was unaware of my mood disorder at the time. I just generally felt so much more stable and regulated. I’ve read some cursory reports of keto working well for managing bipolar disorder. There aren’t many thorough studies of this, but the ones that do exist have shown positive results. I’m not approaching keto as a fad diet but as a lifestyle choice that’s meant to be longterm. I’m interested in seeing if keto is capable of lifting my dysphoria and allowing me to feel energized again. I will keep you updated on whether or not that’s the case.

I’ve gained about 50 pounds since I got pregnant and I don’t hate my body but I don’t really feel comfortable in it, physically. It is hard to do the strenuous exercise that used to keep me mentally stable. My body feels heavy and tired and difficult to maneuver. I am usually only able to workout 30 minutes a day, compared to my former one to two hours. And I know that sounds like a lot, but I am usually a very intense person with a ton of energy and that’s always been my means of burning it off. Now I have no energy. I honestly eat like shit. I eat fast food at least a few times a week and I notice that my mood drops as soon as I am finished and sometimes stays that way for a full day.

I enjoy eating but not to the extent that it impacts how I feel during the day. I eat too many carbs and sugars, as do most Americans, and I know that’s the major contributing factor in why I’ve been gaining weight lately, on top of taking a new anti-psychotic. Those drugs notoriously make people gain weight. I have no problem with fatness aesthetically but my cholesterol is also high and when weight gain starts to impact my physical health, that’s when I start to take issue with it.

Earlier this year, I had a period of feeling super confident in my bigger body. I think I was manic, but still – I felt great. That’s one of the things I sort of miss about mania, the crazy confidence. The belief that everything is not just okay, but fucking great. That I’m not mentally ill. That my body is wonderful. That I am happy and the world is beautiful and perfect. Thinking back, I can hardly believe I ever thought like that but I did. And I thought that very recently.

Sometimes I feel sad that my anti-psychotics take these things away from me but I also know that I didn’t feel that good all the time. Sometimes I felt extremely suspicious and paranoid. I stopped trusting my loved ones. I pushed loads of people away. I obsessed over numbers on social media and made content that not embarrasses me. And when the mania was over, I would crash into massive states of depression that took months to climb out of. In fact, I am still trying to climb out today.

When I told my old therapist that I’d been diagnosed with bipolar, she kind of chuckled and said something like, “well, that’s not too surprising, is it?” And I feel a bit bitter about that because she’s the one who instilled in me that I have borderline personality disorder and that it was the cause of all the problems in my life. In hindsight, it makes so much sense why that diagnosis never sat well with me. It was wrong. There was something else going on. I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder behind the scenes and this brilliant psychotherapist totally fucking missed it and diagnosed me with the same thing she diagnoses all of her patients with.

I have so many issues with the mental health establishment. It’s such a fucking inexact science, almost like new agey bullshit. Half the time, doctors are just speaking from their asses, making guesses about what could be wrong with you and then guessing again about how they can treat it. The truth is that there are so few solid answers within the mental health field about why we are the way we are. All they seem to know for sure is that we need to be medicated and we need to devote the rest of our lives to engaging in mental health treatment. Sounds a little bit like they’re making sure their pockets stay lined forever, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I just wanted to check in and spill some of what’s on my brain because there tends to be a lot at all moments. I’ve really enjoyed blogging again and I missed blogging here in particular. I stopped because of social media, bane of my existence. But that’s a topic for another day.

It’s the day after Halloween now and my second day on the keto diet. I already have a noticeable amount of energy and motivation and I feel a lot less heavy in my body, even though my weight hasn’t changed. Carbs have been making me so damn lethargic and as a mother to a one-year-old, that isn’t very practical. I am excited to be taking back control over my life and finding the motivation to make changes. I am excited to be starting something new. I haven’t even thought about smoking weed since I decided to start the keto diet, which is a huge improvement compared to where I was at a week ago, when all I could talk about was how much I was missing weed. I don’t miss it as much when I have something else to work towards and look forward to. Half the reason why I smoked was plain and simple boredom. Fill that time with something motivating and a lot of the obsessive thoughts go away.

I’m still very confused about what I’m doing with my life, as it seems to change every few weeks. The main thing I’m doing is parenting and I need to be okay with that. Parenting and caring for my mental health. I had such a big episode this summer that I think I need to accept that it’s just going to take some time to crawl out of that and it’s time to be patient and not force myself to accomplish all of my dreams while I’m trying to recover. My life is likely not going to end tomorrow. There is time – for all of it. I can allow myself to rest and come to terms with my diagnosis on my own time. Keto is part of that. I am learning new tools to manage my moods every day. That is progress. It really is. I may not be able to heal this shit, but I can learn to live with it in a way that isn’t so destructive to my life.

So yes, I think you can make progress when you’re bipolar, it just doesn’t look the same as other types of progress. And when did any of my quests resemble the mainstream? Lol.

That’s all for now. Hope you get something out of this. If not, hope you enjoyed the reading.

Have an awesome start to your week!

Best,

Leif

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