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How I Manage My Bipolar Disorder When Nothing Works

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Sometimes when I find myself in a stable mood, I catch a glimpse of what it might be like to be “normal.” You know, the “normal” that doesn’t include having to fight a mental illness every moment of every day. The “normal” that doesn’t analyze a good mood or agonize over a bad one. The “normal” that would allow me to have a career without the intermittent leaves of absence due to the invisible illness of bipolar disorder. The “normal” that doesn’t have to work hard to get out of bed or work even harder to pry myself from the ceiling when I’m riding a hypomanic wave. At times, I crave this “normal,” but no matter what I want, dream or desire, at the end of each day, I am still afflicted with a disorder that is anything but normal.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Lately, I’ve been finding myself in defense mode, making every effort to combat even the slightest indication of sadness. Because I have learned all too well when depression sets in, it takes my brain hostage and starts feeding it all kinds of lies. So, instead of dwelling on a negative thought, I focus on the numerous joys in my life. I am trying to do just that right now, but you know what? Once again, I’m finding myself falling into that inevitable black hole, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why I can’t force the transformation of negative thoughts into positive ones.

Why can’t I make all the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the years work toward transforming my mood? I know and understand the benefits of cognitive behavior frontward and backward. All of those truths make perfect sense, too! So, why can’t I put them into action? Because once my mood shifts, I am simply unable to think my way out of it. I have tried time and time again to reframe my thoughts from negative to positive, but it just doesn’t work. So, I find myself once again, battling the demon of depression. I’ve held it at bay for about a month now and don’t have any plans to give in, but it just lingers, waiting to swoop in and rock my world.

As I am navigating through the negative thoughts (since I was unable to turn them around), I started questioning my self-worth. When entering this line of thinking, my bipolar brain scrambles for something — actually anything — that may evoke excitement and distract me from heading down that harrowing lane of self-loathing.

Some people turn to cigarettes, food, alcohol or drugs when the ins and outs of daily living throw them off-kilter. My go-to for any inkling of distress is shopping. The thrill of a purchase spikes my adrenaline like nothing else. But, just as I’ve been told, once the high gained from the purchase of the new ring, lip gloss or handbag wears off, I’m right back where I started. This time, I even found a new car to buy as a distraction! I mean, if the purchase is big enough, my dark mood would certainly lift, right? Well, in reality, not so much. I may be enjoying a smoother ride and have more cargo space, but I’m still carrying the same tepid thoughts as before.

So if I can’t alter my mood by changing my thoughts, what can I do? Instead of giving in and stopping my life in its tracks, I can keep moving. I can continue to work my shifts at the gift store in the mall. I can go ahead and take those 30-minute walks in the evening. I can reach out to my friends for support and set up outings. I can continue to attend support group meetings.

None of these things may affect my mood, but by maintaining my daily routine, I am taking action and forging through. By accomplishing the everyday tasks, I will feel good about myself for persevering. I can relish in the positive behavior, even as the negative mood is hovering, relentlessly.

And each of these minute activities are actually building blocks of progress. Individually, they may be baby steps, but their big-picture value is tremendous. I may be stuck with the dark mood at this point, but I’m not going to sit around and bask in the middle of it. I will stay connected and participate in the land of the living. I will continue putting one foot in front of the other until that one day when my mood does make the switch. And that glorious mood shift, which is well worth waiting for, won’t even cost me a dime.

Getty image by HRAUN

Originally published: November 8, 2019
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