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Monday, June 13, 2016

Rebuilding Your Life After A Manic Episode

Reprinted by Permission of BP Hope Magazine
See my own feature in BP Hope Magazine  This Is Me

Damage Control: Rebuilding Your Life After a Manic Episode

Fixing relationships with those you may have hurt during a mood episode is never easy, but believe me: it is possible. And you can!


By Julie Fast

Many of us with bipolar disorder make terrible decisions when we are ill, and rebuilding our lives afterward is naturally overwhelming—especially after a massive episode, when extreme mania and psychosis might have put you in the hospital, or jail (or both). Talking with creditors, school, work, and those you may have hurt is never easy, but I can say from personal experience that life can be even better than it was before if you face the rebuilding head-on, no matter how much it might hurt.
Bipolar is such a selfish illness: My depressionmy suicide attempt, my massive manic episode. But if your own personal experience is your sole focus, rebuilding will be tough. I learned this the hard way. I lost husbands, careers, friends, and a whole lot of money because of bipolar episodes. I cried, complained, and told anyone who would listen, “No one understands my pain!” This went on for years. The day I finally turned the focus off myself and onto other people and their needs, my life changed for the better.
The day I finally turned the focus off myself and onto other people and their needs, my life changed for the better.
Massive episodes—like the time I dumped my partner and took off for China on my own with basically no money—deeply affect the people around you, and it takes a lot for them to get over it. Expanding your vision to think about what other people in your life went through when you were ill and what they need during your rebuilding is critical. Even if you’re feeling fragile or ashamed, opening yourself up to the experiences of others and letting them know that you understand their perceptions can make all the difference. Here’s an example of what you can say to loved ones if bipolar just threw your life—and as a result, theirs—upside down:
I’m tired and worn out from these mood swings. I have no idea how I’m going to get through this, but I want you to know that I’m going to give it all I have. I have a diagnosis now and some answers. I know you went through something as well, and I promise that when I’m feeling better, we can explore how it was for you and what I can do to make things better. For now, I could use your help in getting this illness under control. I am thinking of you and your needs as well as my own.
Rebuilding a professional relationship takes guts, when all you want to do is hide under the nearest rock and stay there. Here’s an example of what you can say if you’re trying to salvage a career after a particularly nasty episode. Once again, acknowledge what it was like for the other person and put yourself in their shoes:
I know that my illness and the behavior it caused was very hard on you. I left work in a way that was probably confusing and very upsetting. I said things no one would choose to say to someone in a business setting. I finally have answers for why this happened, and I am open to any questions you may have. Please know that I understand that it’s now my job to keep myself well, and I have a plan in place to make sure this happens. I would like to talk with you about how we might work together in the future if I can show you through my actions that I’m getting the help I need.
In terms of relationships, especially with family and partners, people want and need—and deserve—to know how you’re going to take care of yourself when you say you want to rebuild your life. For myself, I watch my lifestyle closely, especially regarding sleep and relationships, and I understand my triggers and avoid them.
Saying the right things matters, but unless words are accompanied by action, people will tend to stay away. Whether you were just diagnosed or you need to rebuild once again, be bold and approach this with your head high. Build your self-awareness, and also your consideration of others. A life that seemed destroyed by bipolar can become a life where people want to work and be with you because you know who you are, what you need, and how to take care of yourself. This is your gift to the world, built out of your pain.

Printed as “Fast Talk: Damage Control,” Spring 2016

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

How I Celebrated National HIV/AIDS Long Term Survivors Awareness Day

Sunday, June 5th is the third annual National HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. it was same date, the year 1981 of the first reported case of the disease, now none as AIDS.  This day raises awareness for people living with HIV, now 35 years later. It does this by opening up a conversation between ourselves,and our providers,in support groups, fellowships for those who are in recovery, also family and friends, and if you are open and accepted about your status, then from all walks of life. 

Sharing life stories and shared experiences around aging heals, it does this by normalizing your new diagnoses in that it’s not just you who had oral surgery, had to see a neurologist, had an abdominal ultra sound, gone to hospital for surgery and have had to disclosed my HIV status.   It’s not easy, but know it’s happening everyday as we’re growing older in the health care system that’s not the 95% gay clinic where you went for your quarterly labs decades ago.

I'm happy to share that today integrated care is being offered, that you are asked hows your mental health and visa-versa, as many are there for both my physical and mental health.  But now I'm outgrowing the comfort of an LGBT Clinic as I'm requiring specialists as I'm needing tests and treatments outside the clinic.  Thank God for the network of medical providers outside of the clinic who accept medicare and don't charge the 20% not covered, I'm able to receive the care I need.  

You see for me, I’m disabled living on SSDI, on Medicare,  and in public housing.  It’s here that I’ve learned from my three dozen Grandmothers, Aunts and Uncles,  all accepting of my being gay, my being HIV+, my being bipolar.   I learn from them and they learn from me, there lies the awareness.    

I call bingo, and this past week on May 30th I shared on the microphone, that as we say good-bye to mental health awareness month, this weekend I’m celebrating National HIV/AIDS Long Term Survivors Awareness Day.  What a joy at age 57 to be that open and accepted on so many levels, the common denominator is we are all aging and all are on Social Security Insurance or Social Security Disability Insurance, (SSI or SSDI).

I hope my day to day story has helped you see how I make it work for me, sharing your story heals.

Happy Birthday


Lets Kick Ass, AIDS Survivor Syndrome

Aging With HIV/AIDS