You can avoid the all-or-nothing-thinking pitfall.
Things with my writing life were going well. I published newsletter almost every week, posted new social media content, and interacted with followers regularly.
Everything seemed to be okay. Then it all stopped.
I can’t pinpoint what happened. One morning I woke up and couldn’t do it anymore.
Still in bed, I was scrolling through Medium and read an article about simplifying your life. The post talked about how even good things can cause anxiety. While exercising is a good thing, trying to force yourself to exercise for two hours every day can cause stress. While healthy eating is beneficial, obsessing over everything you eat is not.Start Today!
The article (which I forgot to save) recommended cutting out of your life things the things creating unnecessary stress.
My life is pretty simple already, but in that moment, I felt like the blog was putting too much pressure on me. So, in true bipolar fashion, I shut it down. In the course of an hour, I deleted all of my social media accounts and unpublished my site.
If you ever doubted whether I really have bipolar disorder, let this be your proof.
Not the results I was hoping for
Ah, sweet relief. It felt like I had dropped an immense burden off of my shoulders.
For a couple of weeks, I deceived myself into believing everything was better because I had gotten rid of my stress. Ah, the lies we tell ourselves.
It’s true, I have some anxiety about publishing newsletters, but overall, my online content brings me much joy and happiness. Writing about my experiences helps me to cope with what’s in my head. As I put my thoughts into words, it clarifies where I need to make changes. It also helps me gauge my progress so far.
There’s also a lot of validation that comes from hearing from readers. By shutting everything down, I ended up hurting myself.
Yes, in that moment, I felt trapped. To me, it had to be all or nothing.
Bipolar Disorder and All-or-Nothing Thinking
This type of all-or-nothing thinking is common with bipolar disorder. It often goes hand-in-hand with manic or depressive episodes, but it’s also a general rule we live by.
It’s even common in our relationships. Either we want to be with you every second of every day, or we want nothing to do with you. It’s a constant struggle to find middle ground. This black or white mentality is just one thing that makes having a bipolar relationship complicated.
This all-or-nothing thinking is dangerous. Not only can it hurt relationships or end careers, but it can also deprive you of other good things in your life.
For me, those good things included the positives I was getting from writing a blog. I didn’t take the time to think things through, and the results were less than desirable.
But I have to do it
A few days later, a friend told me about some of the poor decisions she’d been making. She told me, “I knew it was wrong when I did it, but I couldn’t stop myself.”
As my friend explained how she felt, she said, “Sometimesm I feel this overpowering need to do something. It’s like if I don’t do it, the world will end. Even if I know it’s wrong, I can’t seem to stop myself. I have to do it.”
She asked if I could understand.
Oh, honey, do I ever understand. Way more than you can imagine.
Overpowering emotions and desires are part of bipolar disorder. Many times, I’ve made terrible choices I knew were wrong but felt like I couldn’t stop myself. In those moments, it feels like an outside force is pushing you forward, and you are helpless to sit and watch.
That’s what happened with my blog. I knew the positives it brought to my life, but in one tough episode, I felt I had to destroy it. My mind told me the only way to be free was to shut everything down and walk away.
As you can see, I recovered the blog and most of my social media accounts. I lost my 10,000+ Twitter followers, but that was be less of a loss than I first thought. The better news is I learned how to deal with all-or-nothing thinking.
How To Hande All-or-Nothing Thinking
There are a few things you can do to stop all-or-nothing thinking from damaging your life. Here are three of them.
1. Step Back
The first thing to do is take a step back. As the saying goes, “Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Your perspective changes the way you see your world. When you step back, you can see things with fresh eyes.
Had I stepped back, I might have seen the truth. It wasn’t the blog causing me stress, but rather the mistaken belief I had to stick to a set schedule. A better perspective could have kept me from destroying everything.
2. Take a Minute
The second way to combat all-or-nothing thinking is to tax some time to make a decision. What feels right at this second may feel differently in five hours or five days from now.
Bipolar emotions are strong. Their intensity can push you to make drastic decisions, but those rushed decisions can be harmful.
Allow yourself plenty of time to make wise choices. Whether it takes a few days or even a few weeks, try not to decide anything too quickly. Be sure to take extra time when you feel an intense internal push telling you to decide right now. Things may look very different in a few days.
The third way to combat all-or-nothing thinking with bipolar disorder is to evaluate or test what you’re thinking about doing. Pro-con lists are a great tool to help you test your possible choices. Often, a pro-con list will reveal an obvious and better answer. Whichever side is longer usually tells you the way to go.
These three tips will help you cope with all-or-nothing thinking, but there’s one more thing you should know.
You Will Make Mistakes
News flash: you’re not perfect. Neither am I.
Even the best of us, regardless of their mental health, will make mistakes. You can do your best to make smart choices, but sometimes, you’ll still make the wrong choice. That’s okay. As they say, failure usually isn’t fatal. It’s okay to be a disaster now and then.
When you make a poor decision, take some time to look back and see where you went wrong. Look at how things might have changed if you made better choices. Remember those lessons the next time you have a decision to make.
You don’t truly fail until you stop trying to be better. So keep trying.
All-or-nothing thinking is a daily reality when you have bipolar disorder. I doubt there’s anything you can do to stop it completely. With time and effort, though, you can minimize the consequences.
Until next time, keep fighting.