Living With Bipolar Disorder
Writing about living with bipolar disorder is a daunting task. There are hundreds of books, blogs, and internet article already devoted to this topic. So my goal is to share some tips based on my personal experience.
Of course, anyone with bipolar disorder should seek out medical professionals, take medications as needed and strive to live a lifestyle that does not induce mood swings or trigger manic or depressive states. This is all much easier said than done.
The reality is the living with bipolar disorder is usually incredibly unpredictable. On top of that, an effective treatment strategy can take months of trial and error, and once it is achieved, it can need constant tweaking.
"It Complicates Our Life"
Of course, while you are dealing with this complex disease your life still marches on. Bills must be paid, children must be cared for, and conflicts arise at work or in your family.
On top of all of this, you will likely have to deal with people who have little understanding or empathy when it comes to your illness. Worse yet, many of us have to live or work in situations where we must keep our illness disclosed and suffer in silence.
None of us has chosen this disease, and we cannot escape the many ways that it complicates our life. So before I go any further, I want you to pause and give yourself a big pat on the back.
You may have made mistakes, you may have been through hell and back; but you have also made many good decisions and tried your best often, even if you have not progressed has been slow or sloppy. So on that note of encouragement, I will launch into some practical tips I have learned along the way!
Learn to Manage Expectations
As I have stated originally, bipolar disorder is incredibly unpredictable. I can almost guarantee that your progress will not follow a neat, well understood straight line. In additions to ups and downs, there can be setbacks and disappointments.
Sometimes, especially as you begin your journey, it is important to communicate that you need a lot of understanding. If you are like me, during your life before bipolar disorder, you were incredibly reliable and always met your obligations.
Now there may be times when you need to cancel a lunch date or just need your friends and family to be more flexible. Don’t be afraid to make this need known. So many times our expectations of ourselves remain high, even when we are dealing with the condition that can be debilitating at times.
Develop a Routine
Creating some degree of order in your life will help you manage your condition. However, if you are like me, this is quite difficult.
When I am manic, I don’t want to slow down and put my life in order, and when I am depressed, I am an avid procrastinator and avoid anything that requires thought and action. I think what makes it hard for me is that when I attempt to create order in my life, I try to recreate the same order I had before my bipolar diagnosis.
I have found much more success when I order my life around my current needs. For example, shortly after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I went from being a morning person to someone who found it hard to wake up in the morning.
Yes, I could have kept my old schedule where I did a few chores and showered before leaving for work. But by moving these chores and my shower to the night before, I was able to keep order n my life while accommodating my current needs.
Strive for Balance
For many of us the years before our bipolar diagnosis were promising ones. Many of us were somewhere in our young adult lives, learning, growing and pursuing our dreams. And just as we begin to take off, bipolar disorder comes crashing into our lives and seemingly smashes everything to smithereens.
As we pick up the pieces and clean up the mess, often our goal is to put things back like they were. As we try to find our way on the road to recovery we constantly tell ourselves that we will know that we have made it when our life gets, “back to normal.”
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 35, and even though I was a well-established career woman, the whirlwinds of bipolar disorder completely uprooted my world.
For over a decade I desperately tried to put my house back in order, pouring all of my energy into resuming my “normal” life. But the harder I tried, the more the normal stressors of life seemed to cause my life to spin out of control. I vigilantly went to doctors and therapist and made progress, but I was never satisfied.
"I Took a Different Approach"
But earlier this year I took a different approach. Instead of focusing on getting my old life back, I focused on finding balance in my life. I faced the fact that my occupation as a healthcare analyst in a typical office environment was a continuous source of the stress that kept me off balance.
It was difficult for me to accept this fact. My pride would swell up, and my thought process was something like this. I was just as smart as everyone else, I had all the qualifications and then some, I should be able to do this job exceedingly well, all I needed to do was just try harder.
It took a lot of courage, but earlier this year I stood up for myself and left my position to pursue an alternate career path. It seems like a big, scary decision. But before I made this decision I carefully looked at my place in life, my finances, and my passions.
For decades I had always lived a simple life with as few financial obligations as possible. I realized this life choice had freed up my finances and I could live on less money if need be. I also could afford to take a few months off to get myself together.
So, I find myself at a new place in life, with a new goal of finding balance and from that place of balance making important decisions about my future. I realize that I am fortunate to be able to take time off to find my balance, but I encourage you to do the same. For me living with bipolar disorder is all about finding balance, instead of trying to resume my old life.