There are days you don’t want to be alive.
It’s a painful truth of having bipolar disorder. Heck, it’s a painful truth of living in today’s world.
For several weeks, I included a link to a reader survey in my weekly newsletter. My goal was to find out what was working on Speaking Bipolar and what needs improvement. With just five questions, the survey was invaluable, and I am grateful to everyone who took the time to complete it.
One question asked, “What is your biggest struggle right now?” Nearly 20% of readers responded with the same two words, “Staying alive.”
My heart wept as I read your replies. My intense emotions came from two areas. One, I’m deeply honored that you would share your truth with me. Two, I know what it’s like to struggle to live with bipolar disorder. I know the pain that is making you feel so terrible.
There’s no doubt that thinking about death is part of bipolar disorder. Even when things are stable, thoughts of ending things stay with you. Sadly, up to one in five of us loses their fight by their own hand.
I don’t want anyone to go out that way.
“Yeah, Scott, that’s all well and good,” you might be thinking. “But how do you keep living when you don’t want to?”
Here are five things that help me to find the strength to live when bipolar makes me want to quit.Start Today!
There are a people who learn to treat bipolar disorder naturally. They find a way to live without medication.
In my experience, those people are rare unicorns. More often, the ones who think they are handling their bipolar just fine without medication are lying to themselves.
You know me. I’m not one to shy away from telling you the truth, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear. Truthfully, it’s not something I want to hear.
Medication and doctors are the worst. I complain every time I put a pill in my mouth, but I also know those pills are keeping me stable. That medication keeps me functioning, doing my job, and providing content for you. The cursed medication keeps me living, and more importantly, wanting to live.
It’s important you’re open with your care team. If you are struggling with staying alive right now, tell the ones who can help. If you don’t have a doctor, reach out to a crisis hotline, mental health center, or find a support group online.
It would be wonderful if all of us could live medication free, but for most of us, it’s not an option. Maybe the future will change things, but right now we are where we are.
Telling someone you’re struggling to stay alive shifts some of the burden. Ideally, it’s great to discuss these feelings with a therapist. Unfortunately, therapy isn’t an option for many of us, but talking is a vital key to help you find the strength to live when bipolar makes you want to quit.
While there are some relatively affordable online options (affiliate link), too many are struggling just to buy food right now. My insurance doesn’t cover therapy, and there’s no extra cash in my wallet to pay out-of-pocket.
If therapy is not an option for you, reach out to a friend who will listen. Even if they don’t fully understand, someone willing to hear you (without judgement) will help. Telling someone else what you feel often changes the way you feel.
I think of it like being a kid. When we were small and fell and skinned a knee, it wasn’t just the bandaid or hug that made us feel better. Telling someone we hurt and that person acknowledging our pain was just as powerful as the bandaid and Neosporin.
Your feelings are valid. Find a place to share them.
Ask anyone who knows me IRL, I am a man of my word. If I tell you I will do something, I’ll use every ounce of energy I have to get it done.
The value of my friendship is a topic I think about often. Promises are powerful forces. If you value what you say, you’ll do your best to live up to your word.
Staying alive when bipolar makes you want to quit sometimes comes down to the promises you make. Maybe you promise a parent, a partner, or a best friend. You can even promise yourself.
For me, a no-suicide contract helped me stay alive during an especially dark period. It seemed like a silly piece of paper, which I shredded in the parking lot of my mental health clinic. However, knowing I had signed my name to a promise kept me going. I lived for the next seven days because of that promise.
Those seven days were enough for a new medication to start working, and the intense suicidal ideation subsided. It empowered me to live when bipolar made me want to quit.
Promise someone you will keep living. Whether it’s a day, week, or year, make the promise. Let that promise guide you through the darkness. When the time is up, make another promise, and keep living.
My journal holds my most horrifying secrets and greatest triumphs. It’s the tale of my life that will one day make for incredibly boring reading for whomever inherits it.
Writing in my journal helps me work through the days I don’t want to live and identify my triggers. Often, once I start writing, I find out that the most painful feelings have nothing to do with what I’m thinking about. Rather, another reality, often one I don’t want to deal with, is usually the problem. Writing helps me see where I don’t want to look.
When you write in a journal, you have a safe place to be you – the authentic you. The more you write, the more you draw the emotions out of your heart. Your pen drains the chaos from your mind.
Keeping a journal has another benefit. If you save the things you write in your journal, you have your own words to encourage you on the worst days.
When bipolar depression pulls you to your lowest point, very few words carry much meaning. The best attempts from your loved ones often barely scratch the surface.
Your words, though, have power. When you read in your handwriting why life was good in the past, that encouragement can bolster you to fight today’s darkness.
The days I’m most inclined to give up are agonizing. Every breath feels like a task requiring more than I have to give. Everything seems pointless, including life itself.
Just like having a journal, tangible things can change your attitude. For me, one comfort is a gratitude jar. Having a place where I can see physical proof of the reasons I have to be grateful gives me strength. It reminds me I don’t feel that awful every day, so I have to hold on until the good days come again.
Gratitude can do the same for you. It’s a powerful source of strength to help live when bipolar makes you want to quit. On the better days, write down the reasons you have to be thankful. List the people you love, the foods that make you happy, and the places that touch your soul. The beach is top on my list.
I frequently see a meme on social media that says gratitude can’t fix mental illness. That’s true, but it’s also not the point. Practicing gratitude isn’t about fixing your illness, but about making it easier to endure. Your mindset matters, and being grateful helps. And there are always reasons to be thankful.
When life seems the most unlivable, look at your gratitude list. Remind yourself of the positive things and hold on until they touch your heart again.
Living with bipolar disorder is a daily struggle. Even when you are on the right medications, feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of ending things can hit without warning. You can fight those thoughts and win.
Here are the five keys to remember to find the strength to live when bipolar makes you want to quit.
- 1. Seek treatment from a professional.
- 2. Tell someone how you feel.
- 3. Promise to keep living.
- 4. Write in your journal.
- 5. Remember your reasons for gratitude.
I’m just a voice who shows up once a week in your inbox, but I want you to keep living. I promise you, no matter how terrible today is, better days will come. You won’t always feel this way, so fight with every fiber of your being. Life is always worth living.
Until next time, keep fighting.