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Bipolar Disorder and Drinking

Last night I drank.

Alcohol.

OK. You probably don’t need to alert the media. But I do need to alert you about the horrible effects alcohol can have on a person with bipolar disorder.

Drinking Alcohol

I’m human. I’ll admit it right now; I am. And one of the things this means is that I’m subject to human cravings and desires and occasionally I like to have a drink. It’s not the biggest deal in the world but it’s something that I shouldn’t do. But then, there are a lot of things in life that I shouldn’t do and I get tired of not doing them all.

And I was feeling weak and weary and tired of my own mind and my own troubles so I drank some gin. This is something that takes place in every restaurant, in every bar, in every pub, every day.

Of course, I’m not like those people. I’m a medicated bipolar. For me, drinking is more meaningful.

CB106470One Drink Equals a Lot

And one of the things about drinking is that one drink tends to do the work of many drinks for a person on bipolar medication. For a female, one drink does not, typically, put someone over the legal limit to drive, but for a medicated person it sure should. One drink on an empty stomach tends to hit me like a whole night of drinking. I go from sober to strawberry fields in minutes. Alcohol is like that.

And drinking also destabilizes bipolar disorder. Alcohol is one of the things doctors tell you to avoid, not just because they’re doctors and they’re like that but because alcohol can induce bipolar mood swings. It’s a drug. And not a very nice one at that.

Alcohol and the Brain

And alcohol is not a simple, clear-cut drug either. It works in your brain and throughout your nervous system on GABA, dopamine and other neurotransmitters critical to mood and well-being.

Alcohol Impairs Thought

Well, duh, you’re saying – that’s why you drink it! But it doesn’t just impair unpleasant thoughts; it impairs useful trains of thought as well. Like all those great cognitive behavioral therapy skills you’ve been practicing don’t work so well after a martini. It tends to leave you both shaken and stirred.

Last Night

And so, I found myself drowning out unpleasantness only to find myself wrapped in a cloak of greater, more salty, unpleasantness. Sure, I had been tired of my usual place in the world but I had failed to take into consideration how carefully constructed that place was. How much work it takes for me to beat back all the bipolar thoughts I have every moment of the day. I take for granted that I’m doing it. Because now, beating back the thoughts that would try to kill me is like breathing.

And alcohol undid my breathing.

Which makes alcohol dangerous. Not dangerous because of what it inherently does to you, but dangerous because of the way it compromises control over your own brain. Your control. The thing that keeps you whole. The thing that reminds you that your kids matter. The thing that remembers that pain is temporary. The thing that prevents you from hurting yourself. The control that keeps you upright and in one piece.

Now I am fine, of course, no reason to panic. I just got slapped upside the head with a reminder. Drinking is bad. Drinking will get my cheeks wet. Drinking will cause me suffering. No matter how seductively it promises to take my pain away. It’s a big liar.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

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53 Responses to Bipolar Disorder and Drinking

  1. sarah says:

    I buried my love of my life two weeks ago due to alcohol and his mental illnesses. He was diagnosed with bipolar along long time ago. He had multiple suicidal episodes that landed him in hospital on a bunch of those occasions. This past year with me he did these threats multiple times. I tried everything from feeding in to going against but he liked the dramatics and I assumed he was doing it for a reaction. And this time he did. He was only like this when drinking. Sober, he was perfect! Short temper but nothing a relationship doesn’t deal with. He was making huge progress last year. Graduating school, getting job right away in field, staying on meds, traveling, working on paying off debt and increasing credit. Yes I helped him a lot to go through it but he made the choices to achieve them. He would go month or months with no drinking because he knew it didn’t mix well with his head but once a relapse happen and something wouldn’t go his way, a switch would flip and he turn into different person. Yelling at me in front of friends. Accusing me of being with other guys . calling me bad names. But he was never like that sober. He was quiet actually and alcohol changed him! I wanted to leave him after each time but I knew the real him as a person and I loved that guy. But I just couldn’t stop it this time. I even put myself in danger and wrestled him twice for the gun. He was black out by then. Just like every time. He went one step further and actually pulled the triggar. Had he been sober, he wouldn’t do this. Alcohol released the demons. I really want to bring awareness to mental illness that it is OK to admit it and to seek help. He was coping with this mental illness just fine. medical Marijuana helped him alot too. But please take these attempts serious. I did ever time but obviously not enough to stop what had happened. I believed he was maybe more borderline personality disorder but he could of had both. He was never sad sober. Sure he had his off days but who doesn’t? Alcohol is not worth it.

  2. sarah says:

    Forgot to add… I am 28. he was 31. I should of gotten rid of guns but I thought he changed up to that night . . . If only we would of thrown him into treatment for good. What ifs will be my life for now on but I know that won’t help me cope. I’m just glad he had an awesome last year and got to feel real love. I hope he believed it. He had his doubt’s and he always needed reassurance but at least we got to say ‘I love you’ every. Single. Day. Rip baby

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