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Living with Bipolar Disorder: 3 Tips for Accepting Lifetime Medication

by Cassendre Xavier

In a recent peer support group I attend for my mental health management needs, a group mate asked us how we delt with the need for medication, and that we may need to take it forever. She expressed that she was having a very difficult time accepting that she may need to take meds for the rest of her life.

Here are some of my responses, which I'll now share with the "peer support group" that consists of my readers (for indeed knowing there are people reading my writing on this issue definitely helps and supports me on my journey and in my work of illness management and recovery)!

How to manage difficult feelings about (or reduce resistance around) needing medication or other treatment, possibly for the rest of your life:

1) Self-love: make it your top priority. Focusing on having a healthy regard and care for yourself will assist you immensely in accomplishing your goals of illness management and recovery. The late Dr. Maya Angelou said, "Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently." I believe the same or something similar can be said about self-love and recovery from or management of mental illness. And not only will self-love help you accomplish tasks related to your mental health management, but it alone will be enough when you don't know what to do. When you just look at what you could do in that moment of crisis, doubt, or questioning, that would help, an action will present itself, and doing that will help propel you forward to a better place.

If you are having a hard time accepting your diagnosis (this type of denial is very common with bipolar disorder), or that you may be on one or more pharmaceutical drugs for the remainder of your life, if you address the problem first with self-love, you will likely come to a much better feeling place and/or even an excellent solution or coping plan.

A lot of success is available to you when you make taking good care of, and treating yourself kindly and with great love and care your number one priority.

2) Practice radical acceptance - Don't ask "why". You have bipolar disorder, that's it, end of story. "Put a period," as Judge Judy would say, "and move on!" Accept it and ask what's next. What's important? If you don't ask why, then you save a lot of time not doing anything that will actually help your condition. If you don't ask why and you just accept, right away you're at the next step, which is to fill the space with activities and methods related to self-care as a persun living with a major and widely recognized illness.

3) Develop a compassionate and shameless view of your illness. Although much progress has been made, which is visible in the high number of celebrities as having it or having a loved one who does, there is still a significant amount of stigma around mental health issues. Most people wouldn't want to admit they have something "wrong with [their] brain", and many of us who do have mental illness also suffer from years of not addressing our condition with the seriousness and respect it, and we, are worthy of. 

Years of neglect of my own condition led me to much harder and more extreme times in employment, relationships, self-actualization, and relationships than would normally have occurred had I focused on self-love and radically accepted my condition. I would've stayed on my meds more consistently and maintained a regular psychotherapeutic schedule of activities and treatment as well. It is never too late to do this.

In one of the peer groups I attend, my then shrinky life coach type of persun said something that really resonated with and was a big help in my coming to terms with needing to pop pills every day: He said, "If you're on medication, you need to take it. You need your meds. The brain is the only part of the body we feel bad about medication. No one has a problem with having to take medication for high blood pressure or diabetes. You brain is no more to blame for your "needing medication" than other parts of your body are.

I realized I took medications for my hypertention and I noticed that I felt very different about taking them for my bipolar disorder. I immediatly felt better about taking meds for my brain, because I didn't feel bad for doing so for my blood pressure.

When you work at being better self-directed, you depend less and less on what people say about you and more time focused on what you need to get to the next better feeling.

I am very grateful I no longer question why I have any mental illness I have, and just go about doing the right things to live well regardless, or perhaps because of it. I have accepted my condition and have more understanding, knowledge, and experience in managing it. 

So these are the tools to take my medications as ordered, and to begin planning for taking them for, possibly or very likely, the rest of my life. May they help you do the same or better!

Cassendre Xavier has been writing for Wisdom Magazine's online edition since May 2009. Cassendre was diagnosed with Bipolar II and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the early 1990s, and has been learning to live well with both, since. From 1996-1999, Cassendre founded and facilitated Sisters Healing Together, a peer support group for women survivors of incest with a special focus on compulsive overeating, at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia. Cassendre is the creator of the popular Affirmations for Survivors guided meditation audio series (“Self-Love” and “Spirituality” were released in 2007; “Sexuality” and “Life Skills” are forthcoming). For more information, please visit http://cassEndrExavier.com 

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