Solutions for coping with mental illness.
NOTE: This is a follow-up post to Could It Be Bipolar Disorder? 11 Common Symptoms To Understand. The first post helped you understand common symptoms. This post is about how to manage those symptoms.
Imagine you woke up feeling good one day. You got up on time, ate a healthy breakfast, and were ready to take on the world. But as soon as you walked into work, your boss started barking orders and your co-workers were already gossiping about last night’s drama.
It’s enough to send anyone into a downward spiral.
If you’re living with bipolar disorder, it can be hard to keep your mood stable during times of stress. But don’t worry, today we’ll cover some tips for how to handle bipolar symptoms during difficult days.
Mania and Hypomania
Mania is probably the toughest symptom to battle. The reason why is that in the midst of a manic episode, you feel like everything is right in the world. You are unstoppable and everything is as it should be.
Prolonged mania is dangerous, so the best way to control it is by what you do all the other days.
Sleep is the biggest enemy of manic episodes. Stick to a sleep schedule as much as you can. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Yes, it’s tempting to stay in bed on your days off, but fight the urge.
Insomnia is another tough challenge with mania, but there are steps you can take to make things better.
Prepare your support system for what to do during manic episodes. Agree on how they should deal with you, and then do your best to listen to them.
At times, mania will make you feel out of control. You may also lose all ability to reason. Severe episodes may require hospitalization. However, most episodes are controllable.
If your family is telling you you’re acting manic, pay attention. The longer you let mania run free, the worse it gets.
To manage bipolar symptoms, most of us find medication is the best strategy. For any medicine to work, you need to take it as directed. Especially with antidepressants and antipsychotics, it’s vital you take your meds every day and at close to the same time each day.
Depression can also be dangerous, especially if it lasts for several weeks. Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness can be overwhelming, and giving up may feel like the only option.
Even while taking the correct medications, you will still experience depressive cycles. They should be less intense than before medication, but be prepared.
A day or two of depression doesn’t mean your meds stopped working. If the cycle drags on for weeks, then it’s time to talk to your healthcare professional. A medication or dosage change might be needed.
Again, the way you spend most days will affect how hard depression hits you. When you learn to focus on the positive and find reasons to be grateful, you’ll make the dark days easier to handle.
For me, mixed episodes are just plain frustrating. It feels like something is off, but I usually can’t explain it until the episode ends. Part of me longs to be around comforting people while the rest of me demands solitude.
Sticking to your normal routine helps minimize mixed episodes. The pattern of doing tasks you normally do helps refocus your mind on the present.
Get out of bed, take a shower, and eat your meals just like any other day. By completing regular activities, your brain can often snap out of its trance.
Dysphoric Mania, Irritability, and Anger
Since dysphoric mania is so similar to mixed episodes, you’ll want to follow the same advice. If you are prone to destructive behavior, plan ahead for this symptom. Have something in place you can hit without causing damage to anything of value.
I have a stump in my backyard. When I start feeling the need to smash something, I go get an ax and hack away at the stump. The physical exertion releases the tension and wears me out. Find your own version of a stump and use it to re-center your attention.
Keeping a journal helps with emotional numbness. If you’re consistent with writing in your journal, then in the dark days, there will be plenty to go back and read.
When you see in your own words how much you care about people and things, it will help your feelings return. Listening to music or watching funny movies can also get the feels back.
Rapid cycling is a challenge. For me, the biggest help is the right medications. It’s also good to prepare your friends and family that plans can change without notice. While you feel good right now, you may be unable to function this weekend or even tonight.
Rapid cycling can cause intense feelings of failure and worthlessness. Recognize the feelings for what they are: lies bipolar is telling you. It’s okay if you have to cancel plans or take time for yourself.
Bipolar disorder is an illness, and it’s important to care for it like you would any other illness.
It’s a sad truth that suicidal ideation is part of bipolar disorder. During one of my darkest periods, a no-suicide contract helped get me through. You need something to remind you that choosing life is always the right choice.
When self-destructive thoughts are intense, it’s vital you stay around other people. Reach out to your loved ones or a crisis hotline (988 in the U.S.). Remind yourself that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
You may feel horrible right now, but I promise you, it will pass. You will want to live again, you just have to hold on until you get there.
When it feels impossible to speak the words, you can often write them down or text them. However, there will be times when you can’t put any words together regardless of the method.
In those moments, take some time to rest. If you can break the anxiety cycle, your words will usually return.
This post is a brief overview of how to tackle some of bipolar’s most common symptoms. Future posts will go into the symptoms in more detail.
In the meantime, remember that how you live your life every day has the biggest impact on your stability. When you consistently take your meds, get enough rest, and pursue healthy habits, it makes the darker days easier to handle.
I am a huge believer in journals. Not only do they give you a safe place to explore your thoughts, they also help you document how you’re feeling. In time, a journal will reveal trends. As you notice those cause-and-effect events, it will help you make smarter decisions.
Bipolar disorder makes life a challenge, but it’s one you can conquer. Keep learning about yourself and your illness and you’ll soon be living the life you want.
Until next time, keep fighting.