We don’t have a “social media IV” attached to our brains. It is up to us, as people with bipolar, to TURN OFF what makes us sick—then pick up our phone and CONNECT!
Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a disease caused by our first “viral” virus, SARS-CoV-2. It’s the first time the world has watched a pandemic unfold in real time. For this reason, emotions are high, and uncertainty is raging. What can we do as people affected by bipolar disorder to make sure our BRAINS stay well while the world changes before our eyes?
Let’s Start with the Basics
Write your doctor today and calmly explain that your bipolar often comes with anxiety, and this virus experience is a trigger. For this reason, ask for your regular meds to be on a double script if possible. Ask for more automatic refills—at least six months out. Thank your doc for continuing to work during this outbreak. If you have to go into the office to get psych shots, take care of this now. If you need blood tests, get one now. Be proactive. Don’t cancel appointments. Simply have them by phone or video.
Getting pissed off is often a by-product of fear. If you’re stuck at home with roommates you rarely see or family members whom you need to avoid for your own stability, make a plan now. You determine your relationships. Make a pact with yourself now. You will not fight or get irritated with others.
Depression & Hopelessness.
A world crisis will naturally affect the depressed brain. If you’re already feeling hopeless and helpless in regular life, you will feel this even more today. Use this mantra: “It’s natural that I feel this sick. The world is off its axis, and I need to focus on my brain and my brain only. I have been through this before and will go through it again. A virus is not a reason to get more depressed. I am going to treat this depression right this minute and get help.”
Anxiety & Paranoia.
you’re already on the anxious side—and especially if you’re prone to paranoid
psychosis, as I am—now is the time to turn off the sources that feed this
paranoia. This especially includes politically charged social media. Removing
the inflammatory triggers of paranoia and anxiety can cut your symptoms in
half. Ask yourself if being “informed” is worth the pain of anxiety and
Hypomania & Mania.
This sneaky symptom may make you less worried about the virus, and, for that reason, you will take personal-contact and especially sexual-behavior-contact suggestions less seriously. If you’re starting to feel manic now, acknowledge it and use your plan to get stable. Now is not the time for wildness.
For many, taking
care of pets is like taking care of a child. How is the food situation as of
now? Does your pet need a vet appointment? What about grooming? Make a list of
your pet’s needs over the next three months, be the superhero you are, and go through the list one at a time.
Oh, my goodness. If we believe everything on social media, all of the toilet paper is gone and there is brawling in the aisles of grocery stores around the world!
While no one can deny that there has been some fighting over products, it’s important to know that there is always conflict in stores. It’s not new. We don’t have a “social media IV” attached to our brains. It is up to us, as people with bipolar, to TURN OFF what makes us sick.
Social media wants you to stay, so they will play on your worries. If you choose not to turn it off completely, at least be aware of what you are viewing. Look at the words and images they use to suck you in. Be thoughtful and intelligent and truly see the reality of what they are selling: FEAR.
you’re reading this and thinking, “Oh, it’s the stuff Julie always says! ‘Take
care of yourself and be a detective and remove triggers!’” Yes. It is the
Like all illnesses, bipolar responds to a plan. It’s a triggered illness.You have so much more control than you think, if you’re not feeling well right now.
General Strategies to Stay Stable During the COVID-19 Outbreak
can take charge of your brain. Bipolar disorder responds
to management, and removing triggers is the best way to handle this crisis.
If you have my book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, now is a good time
to read the triggers chapter again!
I am a repeating robot, but this is what works:
If you are really getting sick, turn off social media and ask stable friends for updates.
If it’s moderate, turn off the social media that raises fear, anxiety, and anger, and focus on what creates positive feelings.
Call someone right now. Say hello with your voice. Leave voice messages.
Don’t cancel support groups. Set them up online or on the phone through services such as Free Conference Call. Make sure you have all of your bipolar appointments. Don’t cancel!
Write/contact every place where you have monthly fees and services and ask the business to waive fees for a month or more.
If you meet with a substance-abuse support group, move it all online or on the phone. Don’t cancel. Even if you do this with a few members, it’s worth it.
we are going through now is not permanent. Seasons change, and the world is up
for the task. We are working together. Let’s find the not-so-awful part of this
Is this a time for a
deep clean of your room or home?
Is it time to
reconnect by phone with old friends?
come up when the world slows down?
are in control of ourselves. Let’s use this time to be smart about the
rotten bipolar symptoms that probably will show up, get help, and then take the
time to reflect on what we want in our lives. I am trying to use this
system, and, so far, I am not overly panicked—even when facing my worries about
money and health. That is pretty good, considering the brain I live with daily!
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She is a columnist and blogger for bp Magazine, and she won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Reintegration Achievement Award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for ShareCare, a site created by Dr. Oz and Oprah. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals, including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists, and general practitioners, on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis, and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.
With bipolar disorder, we’re more likely to become overdependent on our digital devices. Here’s how personal tech can affect our moods—plus tips for self-protection. Are we too attached to our digital devices? That question has been debated for almost as long as the iPhone has been around, giving rise to the first National Day of...
My bipolar disorder causes me to be more sensitive to what is going on in the world. I am curious, compassionate, and a helper. So, when that news is not just negative but triggering, I need to set boundaries and try to avoid a depressive episode. Nationwide Crises, Overwhelm, & Bipolar Depression The United States...
Mood symptoms such as overspending, hypersexuality, anger attacks, and self-isolation hurt those around us. A simple apology is just the starting point of making things right. When Our Actions during Bipolar Mood Episodes Harm Others Olivia S. of Colorado got up one morning to unexpectedly find two of her four grown children in her living...
Are you consuming too much negative news and social media at night? Your lack of restorative sleep, mood triggers, and ramped up anxiety are good reasons to take back control! This year, I feel as if, collectively, we are glued to our screens even more than usual. From Zoom calls to social media scrolling, many of...