Maintaining stability is just as difficult as achieving stability. But that doesn’t mean you should live in fear of “the inevitable next episode.”
It can be extremely difficult to achieve stability when you have bipolar. All people, bipolar or not, have bad days sometimes. If you are afflicted with this illness, an off day can throw you into a horrible tailspin! You get scared and wonder if that day is the beginning of an impending mood swing.
I once had a fantastic psychiatrist for medication management who was able to help me achieve and maintain stability for two years! I spent that time living in fear and dreading the inevitable next episode! Because I once had a depressive episode that lasted for a year I didn’t believe that my even mood would last long term.
One of the most important things that we must do is take our medications! So many of us stop taking it once the meds do their job. We feel better, then subsequently just quit. The end result can be anywhere between a mild manic or depressive episode to a full on breakdown that requires hospitalization! If your medication isn’t working, request an adjustment. If your medication management provider refuses to work on it, find one who will.
Secondly adequate sleep does hand in hand with achieving and maintaining stability in bipolar disorder. If you can’t sleep its very hard to get or remain stable regarding your mood. Even people who don’t have bipolar find it hard to function without adequate sleep! Find out if you’re a morning or a night person. I personally am a morning person who prefers to be out of bed no later than 7 am. The psychiatrist to whom I referred suggested (as many do) that I go to bed and get up at the same time every day. He said that doing this would help my circadian clock to regulate itself. Potentially this alone could have made mood regulation easier. I tried hard to succeed at this but was unable to. I unfortunately suffer from severe insomnia. If I didn’t sleep well the previous night, I would usually try to sleep later the following morning.
Physical activity is a great way of boosting your mood. Im anything but athletic. I do, however, enjoy long walks. It’s hard to motivate yourself to do anything except the bare minimum when you’re severely depressed. I know that because Ive been there several times. Exercise releases endorphins which boost serotonin, the “feel good” chemicals in our brains. In the midst of a manic episode getting yourself moving can really aid in burning off some of the “nervous energy” that goes hand in hand with mania.
Those of us who have bipolar must also be careful what kind of work we do. High pressure, stressful sixty to eighty hour work weeks are best avoided. Also corporate culture such as this leaves little room for making up lost sleep, flex time, or any other accommodations that might make living with bipolar more manageable.
It’s a good idea to begin or continue therapy or counseling. Medication can only address the medical/chemical aspects of bipolar. It doesn’t however address how we feel about ourselves. Nor does medication do anything about lost jobs, the lack of employment, the need to take a leave of absence from school, failed relationships, nor missed opportunities. Therapy addresses our thought patterns. It teaches us to replace unhealthy and/or destructive ways of coping. Mostly it gives us sound positive ways to handle our lives in general.
Its extremely important to be vigilant about excluding toxic people from our lives. This can be difficult to do Most especially if these people are close friends or even family members. Please look at it this way. If you had serious, potentially life threatening physical illness would you let these folks remain in your life? Of course not! Then why would you do so while trying to manage bipolar? We don’t have time to waste on people who belittle, berate and sometimes even bully us. We need to take better care of ourselves than that.
Becoming involved in a relationship can be a double edged sword. Im aware that having a romantic relationship can be very complicated when you have bipolar. Its important to disclose your diagnosis as soon as you and your partner become serious about one another. Anything else would be dishonest. A good relationship has advantages. You have someone who can possibly see the signs of an impending mood episode before you do. Theres built in support in a positive partnership. You don’t have to suffer through depression/mania all by yourself. Conversely theres someone around to share/celebrate the good times with.
Its good medicine to have a hobby or hobbies. They let you spend enjoyable time with yourself and others. You’re exposed to new people and new experiences. There are no worries, just pure unadulterated fun and relaxation. You get a break from stress and negative emotions.
Finally a spiritual practice of some kind helps me immensely. I believe that it is a true stress reliever. I believe in doing everything within my power to manage this illness. Knowing that I’m on this journey holding hands with God is immensely comforting
Valerie Harvey grew up in San Francisco. She attended parochial school from kindergarten through high school graduation. Ms. Harvey attended the University of Southern California and Berkeley City College. She has always loved writing, since the first grade. Some of her interests are: reading and writing good books; listening to great music; and attending concerts, poetry readings and book signings; and shopping for clothing and makeup, furniture, bedding, accent pieces, decorations and other home accessories. Valerie is a published author with two books to her credit: "Love Lights The Way, a Book of Poetry About Love" and "The Problem With the Black Man Is…" which speaks to dating, marriage and relationships within the African-American community.
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