This week, I was privy to two situations involving psychiatric disorders – one ended in tragedy and the other was helped by me sharing my own experiences. I know that talking about this often makes people uncomfortable, but if it inspires just one person get their life on a path that will keep them alive, happy, and healthy, it’s worth it. Here are my primary suggestions for managing psychiatric disorders:
Take Medication (or Other Interventions) Consistently and Under Observation by a Psychiatrist
This is the hardest, but most important thing you can do. You have to deal with social stigma, difficulties in accessing mental healthcare, your own resistance (when manic, you feel invincible; when depressed, you don’t want to do anything), and the long, often slapdash process of finding the right medications/dosages. (As an added bonus, sometimes the universe is a bastard and medications just stop working) But being consistent and seeing a psychiatrist regularly is your best shot at managing your disorder in the long-term. I’ve gone off my meds with disastrous results and seen others do the same. It’s not worth it.
Be True to Yourself, but Create Stability
People with psychiatric disorders are often quirky, funny, curious, creative, intellectually-curious, nonconforming, unconventional, and inappropriate. You need to allow yourself to be who you are for the sake of your health and happiness – trying to be someone you’re not is a recipe for disaster. That said, you also have to create stability in your life to avoid the excess and chaos that often accompanies individualistic lifestyles. You have to do painfully boring and uncool things like avoiding booze/drugs, getting into a regular sleep schedule, and opting-out of unnecessarily stressful situations (which is why I am neither a touring musician nor academic).
Eat Like You’re Diabetic
I initially set out to adopt a low-carb diet, but a more accurate description is that I eat only things that are suitable for people with diabetes. I do eat some carbs and sugars, but they’re all low Glycemic Index. I also make sure to get enough protein in my vegetarian diet. I’m hearing more and more about the connections between blood sugar and mood – stabilize one and you help stabilize the other. I’d like to pretend I started my diet to improve my mood and the weight loss was an added bonus, but it was really the other way around. But ultimately, the combination of well-regulated blood sugar and increased self-confidence has done me a lot of good.