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7 women reveal what it's really like to live with bipolar disorder

I have been living with bipolar for the last 15 years and I have reached a ‘managed stability.’ Unfortunately, there are triggers around every corner that can affect my mood. I have to be really diligent when handling stressful situations as to not cause a major change in my mood. There are regular ups and downs, and that is forever.                                                                                                              Having bipolar requires me to take medication on a daily basis. These medications come with an array of side effects. Weight gain is a major side effect, therefore eating healthy and exercis[ing] are imperative to my health. Getting the right amount of sleep is probably the most important thing I can do for myself next to medication.                                                                                                              In social settings, I do not drink alcohol as to not mix it with my medication. I also don’t stay out to late hours due to the need of sleep. I have regular constipation from my medication. I have also lost my sex drive due to the side effects. I require regular blood work and EKGs to make sure the medications are not affecting my organs. There is always a concern that my medication will stop working and I will have to find another. These concerns are daily concerns.                                                                                                                     I have to live my life around my mood disorder. If I am compliant, I am able to live a happy life with minor disruptions. I would tell other women… they can be functional and participate in their own life with happiness and love. You just have to work at it.

— Brandi, East Hartford, Connecticut

On Fighting for My Life: My Story of Managing Bipolar Disorder

How one woman designed her own treatment plan, including nutrition and service to others

Brand Blouch  Aug 7, 2018

Many people spend their entire lives without a purpose. I found mine – to bring hope and healing to people that feel defeated by bipolar disorder — as a result of living with the illness myself. Here’s how I went from desperation to empowerment, a very ill person at the mercy of multiple doctors to a health coach helping others to follow their path to recovery.                                                      The impact of bipolar disorder on my life                                                            I was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder when I was 30 years old. They were just words to me at the time. I had no idea what impact the illness would have on my life until I began the prescribed treatment. At first I tried to live as normally as possible. However, as I began what seemed like an endless series of treatments, I found that normal was not possible anymore. In addition to the side effects listed on the medication bottles were the larger ones: lost relationships, a broken spirit, and an empty inner self.

I felt out of control, shuffled between doctors and treatments for 10 years before I reached “managed stability.” The changes were noticeable. I gained 50 pounds. I was severely constipated. I suffered bouts of high blood pressure. Both my psychiatrist and physician were in denial, each blaming the other for medications being prescribed to treat me. Though I knew I had the answers within me to turn it around, I struggled to find my voice and take the action needed.                                                                                              The role of nutrition and service in my recovery                      Stumbling upon the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I began nutritional research – how the foods I eat affect my illness. For one year, I read everything I could about the healing properties of nutrition and empowered myself with information about holistic health. As a result, I slowly regained my health. My blood pressure stabilized and I dropped off the pounds.                                                Instead of relying on medicine to fix me, I looked to the role of nutrition and a more holistic perspective of my illness. Armed with this information, I then decided to empower others with the insights I had learned, to motivate them to be creative in their own journeys to wellness. Service to others became an important part of my recovery, so I became a health coach and wrote a memoir in which I bore my soul and addressed misconceptions of mental illness. I don’t want anyone to have to suffer alone or in silence.Sometimes the answer is staring you in the eye, and it’s not what you expected.                                                                                                                              My message? “You've got it”                                                                  My message is simple: You have the answers inside. You can get help without sacrificing your dignity. You can be productive. You can absolutely live a healthy life with bipolar disorder.                        Mental illness does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, what part of the world you belong to, whether you’re a celebrity or peasant. Although bipolar disorder has a strong genetic component, that doesn’t dictate your story. It’s not the tell-all. A genetic predisposition makes you more susceptible to the illness. Environmental factors trigger the illness. But at the core is you, and you have more control than you think.                                                        Like most illnesses, recovery from bipolar disorder demands hope and attitude. Never stop short of empowering yourself with the information and tools you need to help yourself. Most of all, reach within yourself for strength to do what is right for you. Sometimes the answer is staring you in the eye, and it’s not what you expected.

Brandi Blouch has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and is a Certified Integrative Nutritional Health Coach. At the age of 30, Brandi was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It took almost 10 years to reach a managed stability. In those years she learned to take on the responsibility to keep her physical body health along with maintaining her mental health. Brandi is the author of From Ups and Downs to Middle Ground: Surviving Bipolar. She resides in Connecticut with the love of her life, two cats, and her German Shepherd Max.