How I Navigate Negative Morning Thoughts With Bipolar Disorder
My Brain: Ah, you made it to another day…as if you deserve it. You don’t deserve it and you know you don’t want to get out of this bed. You know it’s going to be hard to even shower today. What’s the point? What’s the point of anything?
Me: I don’t know.
My Brain: That’s because there is no point. You screwed up so much. Your mania ruined so many relationships, and people still hate you because of it. You’re bipolar. That’s never going to change.
My Brain: So, go back to sleep. Your dreams aren’t any better than your life right now, but at least there, you can’t hurt anyone. Just give up.
I’ll never forget what my bipolar depression was like when I came down from my manic episode. Snow covered the parking lot on January mornings, and I felt as grey as the sky. I had been on such a high all fall, spending money, doing and saying inappropriate things, just flying high. Then the diagnosis came and the realization that I had bipolar disorder came, and I was overcome with shame.
It was a shame that met me every single time I woke up in the morning. Intrusive thoughts — that’s what my therapist calls them — affect a lot of us living with bipolar disorder. I’ve had times where I was convinced that getting out of bed was the worst choice.
My brain seemed to win most of my morning, and what’s worse is I became used to it. I accepted it as my reality. I believed the thoughts that told me I was going nowhere with my life and that I’d never be able to rebuild my reputation, my career or my relationships.
Fortunately, I discovered useful techniques that help me dig my way out of my morning shame spirals. And even though I’m not experiencing the same depression I did earlier this year, I still have tough mornings.
1. I ask myself: “Is this true?”
This is especially helpful when I’ve convinced myself there’s no need to get out of bed, or that my day will inevitably be bad. It’s also a helpful re-frame when I’ve told myself that no one loves me or that I’ll never be forgiven for the things I did while I was manic.
2. I repeat the affirmation: “I am good.”
There have been mornings where I’ve found myself deep in the bottomless pit of shame. I’m unable to see which way is up, and I feel completely worthless. Reminding myself of my goodness helps to ground me and helps me to separate the things I’ve done from who I am as a person.
3. I go into gratitude mode.
I’m a firm believer that no matter what I’m going through, I can find small things to be thankful for. For example, one morning I told myself: “I’m thankful for this warm bed, for food on the table, for gas in the car and for making it through another tough night.” It’s worth noting that this only works when I’m being sincere and honest.
Lastly, I want to add that the biggest game changer has been my faith practice. I’ve never prayed more, talked to God more, or listened more intently to church sermons than during this year of my life. Doing this has certainly helped in mornings where I can seem to shut my thoughts off. Praying centers and grounds me and helps me to navigate dark waters.
Pushing through negative, intrusive thoughts in the morning is more about progress than perfection. If this is something you continue to struggle with, I encourage you to stick with it. See if you can identify helpful re-frames. Instead of saying “I don’t feel good” try “I don’t feel good yet.” Or try some of the techniques I shared. How we begin our day sets the tone for the rest of the day. I hope you can have a better start to yours.
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