10 Habits of Highly Successful People with Bipolar Disorder

By bp Magazine
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People who are successfully treating and living with their bipolar realize there’s no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to behavioral, emotional, and psychological protocols. Here are ten habits of what has worked for them:

#1 They’ve created their own treatment plan

Through trial and error, these folks have created a personalized treatment plan that works for them. For one person, focusing on therapy for the mind may work, while someone else is better treated with a certain medication. All treatment—pharmacological, therapy, and lifestyle—needs to be designed specifically for you.

#2 They rally a supportive team

First off, they are not afraid to ask for help and understand they need the assistance of others when they can’t help themselves. They know that support comes in many forms; perhaps they’ll join a support group, either online or in person. Successful people living with bipolar also nurture their support team—staying in contact, communicating, and expressing deep appreciation for their help.

#3 They practice mindfulness

A meditation practice improves your ability to manage work, organize tasks and focus in stressful situations. Over the past decade, mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve a whole host of health and disease outcomes; new studies demonstrate what’s happening to the brain in order to produce these beneficial health effects. It shows that meditation reduces Interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress adults. Other people may practice a movement-based form of mediation, such as yoga, swimming, or walking.

#4 They know their triggers and have a plan

As with mania, knowing what stressors leave you vulnerable to depression can help prevent recurrences. Work-related stress, sleep disturbances, and traumatic life events can all be triggers, and having a plan to help prevent minor symptoms from turning into a full-blown episode is vital. Successful individuals have put together a comprehensive plan, usually with the help of their spouse and/or family. They understand how to recognize the beginnings of either depression or mania and what they will do in such cases.

#5 They have a healthy diet and exercise regularly

Whether they find it challenging or not, they know that having a healthy lifestyle—eating well and moving more—is a crucial complement to a treatment plan of medication to maintain mood stability. Studies now prove that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to have certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, making a nutrient-dense diet all the more important.

#6 They have good sleep habits

For people living with bipolar, sleep is found to be a significant cause of stress. We know that sleep problems don’t just affect mood, they can also be the cause. People who are successful with their bipolar treatment plans know to keep a steady rhythm throughout their day . . . going to bed and rising the same time each day and following the same bedtime routine.

#7 They stick to a schedule/routine

The schedule itself is personalized to each individual, but the point is they stick to their set routines—especially for the important aspects like their medication protocol, exercise, diet, and sleep. They know that by doing something regularly, like brushing one’s teeth, it soon becomes second nature and doesn’t take willpower to stick to it.

#8 They pay attention to their thoughts

They are aware of the loop that links bipolar depression, anxiety, and negative thinking and work hard at breaking free of this; they learn to shift out of negative modes such as catastrophic escalation, pessimism, and destructive self-talk and instead choose a more positive and practical outlook to almost every situation.

#9 They are grateful

They understand that gratitude has a strong association with well-being and that practicing this state of being has a positive influence on their mood, relationships, outlook, and overall happiness—all of which can protect against anxiety and depression. Some people have found it helpful to keep a daily journal and write what they are grateful for every day.

#10 They keep a journal

Whether it’s charting their moods, diets, exercise, or even what they’re grateful for, the simple act of writing it down somewhere (or typing for that matter) does something to further instill the subject matter to memory. Besides its validating and therapeutic benefits, writing one’s thoughts down in a journal can be meditative as it forces one to think only of certain thoughts and not about everything at once.

66 Comments
  1. Hi everyone,
    I’m Brie and this is my first time blogging ever! I am truly inspired by the courage you all have to share your stories and I am very grateful for them.
    I was recently diagnosed with bipolar II after 17 years of cycling in and out of depression. I’ve had 2 major clinical depressions where I was not functioning and was referred to hospitalization. It took a more obvious episode of mania last spring to bring the illness into light and recieve the proper diagnosis. There is a relief and an “a-ha” feeling after being diagnosed. However, the main feeling I am experiencing is shame and embarrassment. I never felt embarrassed with admitting that I struggled with depression. Discussing my bipolar has been different for me. I just don’t. Besides my spouse, best friend and mother, no one knows.
    I have been reading a lot of Julie Fast books and have joined several online communities. I found an panel discussion on Julie’s wesite that was held at Cambridge. It was wonderful and I recommend to anyone struggling with a personal stigma or a societal one.
    I have been on many different medications for the last17 years. And yes Sudhanshu, dizziness can be a side effect. Keep trying with the oversight of a good psychiatrist. Medicine and it’s effects can be so tricky but worth going through to possible reap the benefits.
    One of the best things that have come from the diagnosis is working with my psychiatrist to come off of my antidepressant which can be harmful with bipolar. I have an appointment scheduled to discuss how to come off and whether I should switch mood meds.

    Joe, hang in there! my only advise from experience is to keep getting out of bed and go to work every day. This too will pass, even though it feels like eternity right now. It is one of the hardest things to do and your strength is admirable. Please know you are not alone.

    Esthers (squared), I feel so inspired by your determination to keep at school even when you come across ignorant professors. We live in a time when the slightest act of kindness can truly have an impact on someone’s life. I wish people would consider that before making judgements on others whose stories they have yet to learn.

    Last comment for now. I did a 12 week course at UPENN on mindfulness. It was the best decision I ever made though costly. I have since added mindfulness and meditation into my toolbox survival kit. I listen to Tara Brach every night before bed and it is very helpful. I try to write in a gratitude journal once a week. I used to just say what I was grateful for, but research has shown that you need to elaborate on the experience because it takes 35 seconds of focusing on a good experience for it to be stored in long term memory.

    Thank you everyone again for all your encouraging and honest words. Remember you are not alone and having just ive person to talk to without hiding is so key to living with this illness.
    Brie

  2. Hello all,
    My name is Dave and I was diagnosed as/ with (?) Bi Polar 2 at the age of 32 last June after being fired from my 5 good job in 6 years.
    Since the diagnosis I’ve spent my time getting help, developing healthy habits and researching the condition.
    Knowing that something was actually wrong and it wasn’t just me being lazy, making excuses or being too hard myself provided an immense sigh of relief. It was like giant weight off my shoulders.
    Armed with the knowledge I’ve accumulated, I am now able to reflect on the past 16 or so years and realize how much this condition has affected my life. Rather than pity myself or focus on what could have been, I’ve channeled my energy towards moving forward and utilizing the experiences in those 16 years to my advantage. I am currently in the second round of interviews for a job at a company i’ve been chasing my entire life. While ive done everything in my power to prep for the job, part of me knows I have to be ready to deal with the let down if it doesn’t work out.
    I could ramble on here forever but i’ll keep it (somewhat) brief) Since I dont know anyone else with this condition, I’d love to connect with other to discuss it. Please feel free to email or reach out if you feel the same way.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Dave. If you want a friend to chat with you can always email me. I’ve never been to this website before so I can’t find your email. If I’m not mistaken I think I have bipolar one, but I’ve been diagnosed since I was 21. I could use more friends! Anyway take care. Oh and PS. Anyone else who wants a bipolar penpal feel free to email me too! 😀

    2. Hi Dave,
      I am so very proud of you for having such a positive attitude. Blessings to you. I hope to be able to manage my life at your level soon. Congratulations for getting your stuff together.

  3. I was diagnosed bipolar 6 months ago. I never felt depressed in my life and never realized I was manic. I look back now at the past 5 years and only remember the highs no lows. Than I crashed due to a loss of relationship. I went through a year of major depression before getting diagnosed correctly. My meds keep the depression to a minimum and never have highs.
    My biggest issue is getting out of bed to go to work and staying motivated at work and when I am off work I am not motivated . Please help!

    1. My name is also Esther and I was diagnosed 5 months ago with Bipolar II and PTSD. What is it with the name “Esther” and Bipolar? 🙂
      Joe,
      My story is very similar to yours. I struggled for a year before getting officially diagnosed. I have struggled with depression on and off but I didn’t even think I was Bipolar. I also crashed due to a break-up and losing a good job. I also had to give up my dog because due to losing my job I was worrying about being able to take care of him properly. All of this happened within a month.
      I also battle with lack of motivation and not wanting to get out of bed. It is very difficult but I have found things to give me a reason to live. Also, the medication has helped a lot. I am a very devout Christian and I have found an amazing church with great people to surround myself with. I go to EVERY church event and I’m in church every Sunday morning. I exercise and eat healthy. I got a new puppy that I can now take care of and I’m constantly taking her to the park, playing with her, etc. I have an amazing and supportive boyfriend who is also Bipolar and is helping me with managing this disease. I also go to as many mental health and Christian support groups as possible. These few things are why I get up and get going. I’m not working due to my condition but I am in therapy to learn coping skills so I can get a job soon.
      I hope this helps you to find a few reasons, large or small to find life worth living again. I wish you the best of luck!

    2. I don’t have any advice to offer but I struggle with the same problem. I was diagnosed bipolar 9 years ago. I don’t work anymore, I’m a stay at home mom. So fortunately I don’t have to worry about money, but I struggle with finding motivation to even get out of the house. I get the kids ready for school and go right back to bed and wake up in afternoon. I feel like such a failure and like I’m a lazy piece of sh*t. I used to go to the gym but I lost all motivation. I want to go back to school but I’m afraid if I start I won’t have the motivation to show up for class and I’ll fail. I want to go to school and get a career but right now whenever I leave the house all I can think of is going back home. I’m losing friends because of it because they think I’m lazy and choosing to be unmotivated. I don’t know how to enjoy life again. All I think about is staying in bed. Maybe someone will have advice for us.

      1. Hi, Esther!

        My name is also Esther and I am Bipolar. Reading your description of what life has been like for you most recently really hit home with some of the fears and struggles I faced in my past and current situation. My family and I originally lived in So Cal, but in a drawn out manic episode I was convinced to apply and pursue a degree in Nursing in the state of Oregon. My husband was supportive becasue my mania was disguised as passion and a strong will to succeed and have a better life. So I did indeed get accepted in to a university in Portland, Oregon, and we moved. I totally uprooted our life and left our family and friends behind. Lots of triggers for depression and anxiety through this process such as guilt. Finally, we got settled and I began taking class on line. I almost immediately dropped down to part-time because I saw the stress that the work load was causing and needing to make an adjustment. By the end of the semester I was hypo-manic and breezed through the end receiving high marks in all classes. I am not sharing this to be showy, or obtuse, but to shed light on the fact that my moods do play a role in my performance at school and I need to be mindful of triggers and how to combat mania and depression. Lastly, I began spring semester off in a panic. I arrived to school early and had plenty of time to locate my first class. OCD is another mental illness i suffer from and I had to be certain that there would be no chance i would be late. So, I enter the classroom take a seat and realize I’m in the wrong class. I get up leave the room my heart starts to pound, my mind begins to race, and I begin the negative self talk. I stumble into the advising office where they clear up my mix up and ask the advisor if it is still acceptable to attend my class even though there is only twenty minutes left, he said yes, so i trusted his advice and went. When I got to my proper class the door was closed, but not locked, so I entered the room. Students were giving brief intros about themselves and I felt the whole room shift The Professor looked at me with such dismay that I could have curled up into a ball. I had a morbid image of me banging my head on the desk and security escorting me. I’m not sure why my mind goes to these places. He did not ask me to introduce myself, but rather later in the class addressed me as the person that was late as to make an example out of my “behavior”. I am pretty much checked out at this point. Once class was done he had invited students to talk to him after class if they had questions. So, I waited my turn and as i went to assert myself he turned away and began walking forcing me to talk to his back. I asked if he had a syllabus and he frantically searched his bag for it, and handed it to me. I thanked him and said I would see him the following day, which was a lie. I went straight to advising and dropped his class. I knew that I would not be able to flourish in an environment that felt hostile. Again, I made an adjustment. Literally some days I feel like a failure as mom a wife a student. Fear really stands in the way of accomplishing what I seek out to do. My husband reminded me today that although school is hard you are doing what you set out to do day by day. It may not seem like you are successful because you do things differently, but that is a lie. My advice to you is that if you want to pursue a degree to do it for yourself because it is something that will bring you joy not to be this elusive normal that we discuss but to be yourself! There will be challenges, but Universities have resources for people that suffer from mental illness making learning more accessible. Also, remember you are not alone! You may meet authentic people that truly care and support you!

      2. Esther, I’m exactly the same way. Our situations are similar except for I’m a single guy with no kids. I’ve been looking for a job now for over a year with no luck. I’m scared to death to even interview and have bombed the ones I’ve had. All I want to do is sleep all the time as well because it gives me peace and no suffering, plus makes the time go by. I’m also an alcoholic and used alcohol for years to self-Medicate. Luckily, I’ve been off booze for 7 months now and my mood has greatly been more stable. But the depression and loneliness are killing me. The best therapy I’ve learned is to try and keep busy and not sit around and just think about how awful life is. It’s hard as hell but worth it if you can incorporate it in your daily routine. It’s good you have a husband and kids to keep you company and for support. Human interaction is very important as it keeps your mind off your own thoughts as well. I was diagnosed 15 years ago and I’ve made great strides but it’s still a living hell. Keep up the good fight both of you!

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