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How I'm Learning to Manage the Many Moods of Bipolar Disorder

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Everything is calm. Serene. My work schedule is light. All chores are done. As I close my eyes, I absorb the silence around me. Does this scenario sound wonderful? I wish I could be right there with you, but unfortunately for those with bipolar disorder like me, times like these can cause alarm and raise red flags. The relaxing, free time so many seek and cherish wreaks havoc in this brain of mine. No matter how many years go by, the analyzing and overthinking set in. I begin questioning everything. I reevaluate my spirituality, my career, my hobbies, my social life – you name it, I am obsessing over it right now. And year after year, I am still unable to pinpoint why I go through this ridiculous routine in my head.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Since bipolar disorder is my not-so-silent partner, I handle life differently than most. I need the stimulation of activity and creativity. My soul needs a regular schedule, day in and day out. Any extra time allotted for thinking gets me into trouble. And you know, I really don’t like this aspect of bipolar. In fact, sometimes I am terrified of the down time. While others may relish a few hours or days with nothing to do, I dread it.

Because if I think too much, I get caught up in a vicious cycle of self-doubt and confusion. And then once in a while, that horrifying depression starts creeping in. At that point, I suddenly panic. I simply cannot go down that horrible path again – it never gets me anywhere and it is where I get stuck, sometimes for months or even years. Yikes! Please get me away from even fleeting thoughts of melancholy. I know it is part of my life whether I like it or not, but after all those treacherous times living in the world of doom, I cannot fathom spending one additional moment there.

If days become boring, routine and bring no excitement whatsoever, that is apparently the be-all end-all for many of us with bipolar. I have reached “stability,” smack dab in the middle of the highs and the lows. I am encouraged to seek out this position and plop down for as long as possible. But I dearly miss those highs, even if they aren’t monumental. Actually, I don’t want the mountainous highs, because then I am clearly in the danger zone and can get myself in terrible trouble. I am simply asking for those slightly hypomanic moods when I am floating a little off my feet and everything around me is a little more amazing. During these mini-highs, I am outgoing and meet new people. I create freely instead of struggling for the next word or phrase. I love even the simplest task, like weeding out files or doing the dishes. I have a skip in my step with all I encounter.

I can only wish for those days to return as I look at my blank calendar and ponder the meaning of life. I know they will return, they always do. For now, I just need to be patient and do all I can to liven up these empty days. And I need to remember how fantastic I feel when I do get a respite from these calm periods. Yes, that is what I will do – focus on the fabulous feelings out there on the horizon. Or even contemplate the past, when I was in a better place in life. Most of us have memories of good times, when we were happy with nearly everything in our lives. Perhaps we can revisit those scenarios in our minds and realize the gloomy days will pass.

People say time and again how positive thinking plays such a huge role in our moods. But I wonder how many people afflicted with bipolar disorder cling to this theory. Maybe we are unable to change our moods, whether they be high or low. However, we can adjust our way of thinking and how we react to our current state. The extreme moods don’t have to monopolize our minds, leaving us scared and helpless. They can serve as a reminder that we need to face bipolar head-on and not believe every thought that pops in our head. It could be the perfect time to contact our healthcare providers and take action, whether it is adjusting medication or talking through the feelings at hand.

Even when our moods are out of control, we can take control of our thoughts and behaviors. These high and low moods will keep cycling throughout our lives, no doubt. But if we’re open to change, every cycle we survive will provide new skills and strategies to use before the next one hits. And each struggle brings us greater strength and confidence. So the next time I find myself overthinking into a tail spin during the calm and mundane days, I will accept the challenge to fight how my bipolar affects me. If I need a little help, I will reach out to my doctor and therapist. Hopefully in the future I will squelch any fears of inadequacy and simply move on, leaving the over-analyzing behind.

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Photo courtesy of the author

Originally published: October 30, 2019
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