When you’re facing bipolar disorder there are some things you can do to lessen its hold on you. But in order to do so, you’ve got to have the right tools. Try to collect as many as possible for best effect. Shall we take a look at what they are?
1. The usual suspects.
Medication helps tame your symptoms, level your moods, get your brain back in gear and/or regulate your energy. A psychiatrist helps prescribe your medications (a primary care physician may also do this). A psychotherapist can discuss with you the issues you haven’t resolved, the problems you still have and the things the medication can’t do.
I believe the two most important tools you need for self-care are sleep and food. Without either, the body can’t function properly, and if the body doesn’t function, the brain is less likely to function properly. Ideally, the food should be nutritious and eaten regularly, but let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen. But you’ve got to give your body something to run on.
Find support where you can: a friend who’s willing to listen, a support group online or in real life. Try for a combination of these and don’t rely on any one of them for too much. Maybe you have a friend you can phone once a week. A support group that meets every two weeks. An online group of two of people who really understand, with links to helpful articles and blogs. Before you know it, you’ve got a support system — especially if you count your therapist (which I do) or have a supportive family.
4. Spoon Theory.
Basically, “Spoon Theory” is a way to measure how much energy you have on any given day. It is an understandable metaphor for explaining your symptoms to others and a shorthand for other people who are also up on the theory. It can also help alleviate the guilt of not being able to do all the things you are “supposed” to do in a day. It’s not an excuse, but an explanation.
Let’s face it, it can be all too easy to dwell on symptoms and how miserable you are. And if you’re at the bottom of the depressive well, there may be nothing you can do about it. But maybe there is. Do you know a person who tells good jokes – or really bad ones? Do you have music you used to play but have forgotten about? Do you know of a TV show you like? Do you have a go-to movie that never gets old no matter how many times you see it?
If your distraction involves creativity, so much the better. Coloring books and pages for adults have been the trend for a while now. I know someone who can make little sculptures out of drink stirrers or paper clips. The point is, you don’t have to paint masterpieces. Just keeping your brain and your hands occupied is a good idea.
Soft, warm, fluffy things and smooth, silky things are soothing. They just are. Cats and dogs come instantly to mind, but I also have a collection of teddy bears and other plushies I sometimes cuddle with. These are “comfort objects,” which is an actual psychological thing. I even took a plush bunny with me when I went to have a sleep study.
This may be the most important tool of all. Be stubborn. Take those meds, even if you hate them. Eat that egg, even if you don’t feel like it. Go to that appointment, even if will take all your spoons for the day. Call that friend, even if you don’t think a joke will help. Post on your support group, even if you feel you are alone.
We can’t let bipolar disorder beat us. Not when we’ve got so much to beat it back with.
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Thinkstock photo via gresei.