8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was First Diagnosed

Last Updated: 28 Jun 2019

Looking back, there seems to be a long list of things that could have been so helpful and encouraging to have known prior to a bipolar diagnosis. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a recovery plan, a basic roadmap could have made navigating less turbulent.

#1 Medications are there to help

It’s common to feel frustrated about having to take medication for the rest of our lives. Or maybe as soon as we see an improvement in our quality of life and feel better, we convince ourselves we don’t need it anymore. However, we should learn early on that medication compliance (taking as prescribed, every day) will help us with a relapse.

#2 Managing bipolar is a lifelong commitment

While it’s not easy to come to terms with the knowledge that management of our mood disorder will be for life, we should also realize that if properly managed, we can live a full life. Bipolar management is almost like learning a new language. There will be bumps along the way until we finally get the hang of things.

#3 Have some patience

It’s natural for us to want immediate results; but it’s much more productive if we accept there is no magic pill for bipolar and with this brain-based illness, there are simply no quick fixes or miracle cures. Progress can be made, but it takes time. Have patience when trying to find the right medication or therapy.

#4 Recognize the signs of mania and depression…and be proactive

Each one of us has different warning signs to an impending episode of mania or depression. It can be disrupted sleep patterns, a processed diet, even negative thought patterns. Ultimately, it’s imperative we discover our own red flags and become proactive in order to prevent a shift to a catastrophic episode.

#5 Let people in

While it may feel isolating, bipolar doesn’t have to be that way if we are willing to confide in others and reach out to others. Sometimes we need to have our own stigma in check and realize there’s no shame in asking for help from trusted family and dear friends who deeply care about us.

#6 Anger is an incredibly common, manageable symptom

Some research has found that at least a third of people with bipolar described outbursts called “anger attacks” and most call irritability a regular symptom. There are ways to manage anger: recognize the reasons for anger in the first place so we can intercept; we can also redirect our thoughts and find a positive outlet for our feelings.

#7 Have a well-rounded stability plan

Just as we know there’s not a magic bullet that means there’s no one single treatment plan. This means although medication is one aspect of our wellness plan, there are other essential things that are critical. These include lifestyle changes i.e. sleep hygiene, clean eating, exercise, mindfulness, therapy and support groups.

#8 You are not alone

We can take some comfort to know that we are not alone with our diagnosis. In fact, bipolar disorder affects close to 11 million people in American at one point in their lives. We can feel welcome into the company of some successful members like Jane Pauley, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Demi Lovato, Stephen Fry, and Kanye West.

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