Bipolar Disorder: A Day in the Life – Bipolar Disorder: In Our Own Words

ANNA ALEXANDER: Can you be brave? SUBJECT: Yeah. ANNA ALEXANDER: And courageous? SUBJECT: Uh-huh. ANNA ALEXANDER: Let’s count the stones again. Can you do it? SUBJECT: 1. ANNA ALEXANDER: Come and get in the car. Today, I feel really stable. I felt really anxious last night just because I’m doing this. From birth until about nine years old things, were really good. I did ballet, Brownies– did horseback riding. But then 11 years old, I had some– a difficult time. I have bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed when I was 11. It has ups and downs. And I have depression. I did struggle in high school, especially when I got into drinking and smoking and stuff. I had a hard time. I have a husband. And we’ve been married for almost 10 years. I have a daughter. She’s almost four. Right now, we’re on our way to her preschool. Let’s go. Ready? I drop Helen off at school. And then I go and work out. I lift weights. And I run. I do yoga. Exercise is really important. It’s one of the most important methods of treating my illness. I’ve completed four marathons, several half-marathons, plus 5Ks, 10Ks. I’ve done triathlons. I’m meeting with one of my good friends, Jen. She’s a fitness instructor. JEN: Hi! ANNA ALEXANDER: Thank you so much for coming. Yoga is just really grounding. JEN: People think it’s all these crazy poses. But really, what it is defined in the yoga texts is just controlling the mental chit-chat. ANNA ALEXANDER: I have all these fears. But then when you do yoga, it’s just, like, you see the bigger picture. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I don’t have to worry what people will say about me. It’s peaceful, just here and now. I feel awesome. I feel great. [MUSIC PLAYING] I love being with Helen. When I pick her up from school, I’m so happy to just spend time with her. I was a nanny for four and a half years. And then I quit to be a teacher. And then I was a teacher until I got pregnant. Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom is hard because I’m my own boss. But when I have a job, it’s almost like I’m much healthier when I have a job. Do you like to hang out with Mommy? SUBJECT: Yeah! ANNA ALEXANDER: I’ve always loved art. I’ve done lots of collages, photography. I do a lot of charcoal when I’m having real bad depression, just to get it out on paper. I’m growing a garden. And I have four different plots. And I have corn and cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, bell peppers. After I put her down for a nap, I do laundry, chores, read a book. And I cook. Taking time to nurture yourself is a good thing. Sleep’s really important for bipolar disorder. It’s number one. Then Helen will wake up at 5:30. Love you. And my husband will come home. And then we’ll spend some time together. ZACH ALEXANDER: When you’re with someone for a number of years– and I can usually tell when she’s up or down or off– if you can get a pretty consistent schedule, then it helps a lot with mental health. She’s exercising. That’s releasing dopamine. It’s activating those parts of her brain, which is helping keep her stable. ANNA ALEXANDER: You ready, Helen? ZACH ALEXANDER: I feel like we’re pretty blessed with how our life is. We have stable job. And we’ve got a house and healthy, beautiful child. ANNA ALEXANDER: People get confused. They don’t understand that you can just be normal. Yeah, I have a good life. Yeah, I like my life. “And we would be as happy and as friendly as can be. I’d show him all the places that are nicest in the house.”

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