3 Steps To Help You Keep Going When Things Are Hard

How I handle the toughest times in my life.
Illustration of a smiling man sitting at an empty desk
My desk is finally empty again. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

I am back—mostly.

This week marks the end of tax season here in the US. By now, all of my clients will either have filed a return or an extension.

Every year, I’m amazed at how much I can accomplish during tax season, and that was never more astounding than this year.

I more than double the hours I work per week during this most grueling time of the year, but yet, somehow, I get everything done.

I published all three of my weekly newsletters (All Things Bipolar, Speaking Bipolar’s Positivity Club, and Medium’s Last Week on Speaking Bipolar) every week. While I didn’t write as much new content as I wanted, I’m proud of what I’ve done.

Most importantly, though, is how I cared for my parent’s needs. Necessity forced me to be away from home more often, but I still made sure they ate all their meals, lived in a clean house, and never felt alone.

Things are difficult

Things with my dad continue to decline, and so far this year he’s gone from being able to leave home and drive himself to the bank to now being stuck in his recliner, rarely moving more than a few steps to the potty chair next to him.

It breaks my heart to see him slip away a little more every day, but his spirits are good (most of the time) and that’s making caring for him an easier task.

Here’s the takeaway. I’m not superman nor do I have good health (mentally or physically) but with proper planning and effort, I can still do a lot. So can you, and the three steps below will help.

It’s too easy with mental illnesses to convince ourselves that we have no options. Bipolar lies to us and says we can’t work, go to school, or care for our loves ones. Sometimes that’s true, but much of the time it’s a lie.

Maybe you can’t work full time, homeschool your kids, or run your own business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your mental illness equates to a life of nothingness. Instead, focus on what you can do.

How did I make it through tax season? Much of my success came from making tough choices.

Here are 3 ways to keep going when things are hard.

Illustration of a happy woman saying no
It’s okay to say no. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

1. Saying no is okay

As much as it broke my heart, I had to skip two 50th anniversary parties, even though both couples are very dear friends. Both events required driving a considerable distance and being out later at night than was healthy for me.

So I politely declined. I told my friends why we couldn’t attend and sent my best wishes.

Yes, it hurt not getting to be with friends to celebrate a milestone, but it was more important for me to be home, resting as much as I could and caring for my family.

Lesson: To keep going when things are hard, it’s okay to say no to take care of yourself, even if others don’t understand why.

Illustration of a man resting on a sofa
Take time to rest. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

2. Rest when you can

For years, my dad has gone to bed most nights between 7-8 and gotten up in the morning around 4:00. It rarely disrupted my sleep because he saw to his own needs.

Now, I have to get up when he does, often around 2:30 a.m.

Being there for my dad means I’ve had to adjust when I rest. I’m a night owl and love to write, read, or watch TV until 11:00, but the change in circumstances meant I was only sleeping a couple of hours a night.

Now, I lay down every chance I get. If my dad is sleeping, I’m resting.

It will be some time before I can return to the schedule I prefer, so I sleep in shifts as often as I can.

I won’t lie to you, though. The massive changes in my sleep patterns are messing with my stability, and I can’t help but fear what will happen when I’m no longer caring for my dad.

In the meantime, I’m doing what I can, and that includes reducing my working hours in the weeks to come.

Lesson: To keep going when things are hard, rest is essential, so shut down when you can.

Illustration of an older woman smiling and holding a chocolate milk shake
A chocolate milk shake brightened the day. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

3. Hold on to the good

This was an especially rough week for us at home. My dad’s been struggling to keep food down, and one of the worst times resulted in his dentures being accidentally flushed down the toilet.

To say it was a bad day would be a colossal understatement.

I was at a loss of how to lift my parent’s moods, especially since this was also the busiest week of tax season. Then a co-worker recommended buying them a special treat.

A new Jack’s restaurant opened in town a few days ago, so when I headed home to check on my folks at noon on Friday, I ran through Jack’s and got them lunch and chocolate shakes and their favorite meals.

I felt the shift in mood when I arrived home with their goodies.

For a few minutes, we shared a meal, laughed about what we could, and admired the beautiful spring day.

Lesson: Even in the worst times, there are good things. To keep going when things are hard, look for the positive and buy a chocolate shake if you need a boost. 😃

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There’s always tomorrow

There’s no denying that living with bipolar disorder is hard. Add in extra stress, and your path often feels impossible to move forward.

It’s during those toughest moments you need to focus on doing what you can to make things better. Say no to the unnecessary, rest when you can, and hold on to the good.

As you traverse this week, use the uplifting words of Gloria Estefan to help you remember “there’s always tomorrow.”

Until next time, keep fighting.

Gloria Estefan | Always Tomorrow

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Bipolar disorder can feel like a roller coaster ride, but you don't have to face it alone. 

This post offers 3 essential tips to help you conquer the challenges and continue living your best life. 

Embrace the journey and make each day count. 

Read Now!

#SpeakingBipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #mentalillnessawareness
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  1. Great job – and congrats on the “end” of tax season (sort of). I’m amazed you came up for air so soon!! I think these are great tips whether you have bipolar disorder or not! However, I’m going to share this in a bipolar Facebook group I found to see if it helps anyone in there. I wish I could share it directly with my loved one, but I don’t think they’re ready. :/ Now they (his varied mental health professionals he’s seen) think it may not be bipolar for SURE – that it could possibly be some other diagnosis. Nobody knows for sure. At least one therapist told him he has to stop bouncing around from therapist to therapist trying to get people to validate what he thinks and feels, rather than letting ONE team get to know him really well so they can truly help him and make sure his diagnosis is right. Already seems like it’s going to be a long journey. SO much has happened since the last time I left you a comment on your blog. The wife kicked him out of the house – citing that she needed space from him, from the toxicity and the harassment (constant texting and calling all throughout the workday, in her face every moment she’s home, the arguments in front of the kids, etc.). It was a nightmare for a moment. I think him being at his sister’s house for awhile gave him a little dose of reality and humbled him a bit. I don’t know how long that might last, but for now he’s being kinder and more careful about what he says / how he acts. I’m leaving out a lot of details for the sake of not writing an entire novella in your comments, but you get the picture. I don’t know if it’s bipolar or not, but I’m definitely grateful for the enlightenment and support shown here. Your work has helped me and surely others! Keep writing…

    1. It’s great to hear from you, Andrea! Sorry, I’ve been ill for a few days.

      Diagnosing mental illness can be tough. Often the care team only sees the patient for a few minutes at a time, and as you know, people can act completely different if you only see them for a few minutes. Even if it’s not bipolar, hopefully they’ll find a way to help him to live a fuller life.

      My thoughts are with you. Keep fighting!

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