Tonight I watched the movie “A Beautiful Mind” (based on the true story of the life of John Nash) with my husband, for the umpteenth time. I cried through the movie, yet again. I find it really speaks to me, runs a parallel with my life, even though he is schizophrenic while I am bipolar.
I too had some success in my life prior to my illness being diagnosed and whilst I don’t claim to be a genius by any stretch of the imagination, I can recognise the success I had prior to Bipolar welcoming itself into my life. I too am very lucky to have met my husband before my illness was diagnosed, and married him. I am lucky however, that we never wanted children, as that would have complicated matters considerably post diagnosis. I too am now living my life post diagnosis, in such a way that I am trying to ‘control’ my illness with my mind, rather than letting it control me and I am doing this (semi-successfully) with the aid of the most modern medications and treatments (including Electroconvulsive Therapy) available.
My husband plays a very large part in my ability to control my illness, often pointing out to me what is reality versus what I am seeing as a consequence of my illness (eg. paranoia). I owe him a great deal of praise and love for his role in my wellness. I also owe him considerably for helping me seek professional treatment when I am unwell (beyond my control) and helping me through those periods. His support and love seem to know no bounds and my love for him is equally as strong; just like in the movie.
Whilst John Nash is choosing to ignore his hallucinations, I am choosing to recognise the signs of my manic or depressed emotional states and alter my behaviours accordingly. I measure my mood states daily and I take note of the patterns and use those to measure whether I am manic, depressed, in a mixed state or stable (well). I then alter my behaviour accordingly each day, I’ll give you some examples.
If I am manic, I need to be extra careful about spending money or making decisions while I am irrational. I consult my husband on EVERY moderate or major decision, especially if they involve financial outlay. I try to slow myself down. I make lists of all the things I want to do and then I walk away and take half an hour to breathe, then I go back to the list and try to look at it careful and assess what I can realistically achieve that day without exhausting myself. And then I do one thing at a time and I have a half hour break between each task, to try and slow myself down.
If I am depressed, I need to be extra careful about becoming vegetative and ruminating. My husband will help me to make a list of a few tasks to complete each day. I am in effect trying to speed myself up somewhat, pushing against my feelings of exhaustion and my lack of care factor. I then work on that list and allow myself to have a half hour break between each item to recuperate. I get myself up and moving this way and I draw myself out of my own mind at least temporarily.
In either case, I am trying to remember that the feelings I have are a result of a chemical imbalance in my brain and are not ‘real’. I (try to) refuse to accept that I am incapable of overcoming the feelings, I try to think rationally, try to behave normally, despite my mental illness, just like in the movie. My husband describes it as training your mind to work independently of the mental illness, while accepting help from your partner/loved ones and the latest medications and treatments available. I think that sums it up nicely and I hope that one day I can look back on my life and be proud of my achievements and the fact that I have my mental illness under control, stabilised; just like John Nash can.