Making the Right Decisions With Bipolar Disorder

3 tips to help you make better choices.

“Why don’t you go in and help her choose a movie?” I said to my girlfriend. The two of us were sitting in my car while our friend was inside the video store trying to choose a movie to rent that night. Yes, this was a few years ago.

My girlfriend was reluctant, but after some prodding, I finally got her out of the car. As soon as she stepped inside the video store, I sped away, headed home. My stomach was rumbling with an urgency rising further south, but I was confident I could make it home in time.

I was wrong.

One of the worst parts of having bipolar is how it inspires you to make terrible decisions. Especially when coping with a manic episode, the worst choices can frequently look like the best thing to do. Sometimes the results are catastrophic. Other times, they take years to recover from. I’m talking about you, the tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt I racked up.

How can you make better decisions? While you can’t always stop in time, these three methods will help improve your odds.

Start Today!

Take a Day

The first thing to do is take some time. If someone is pressuring you to make a decision right now, walk away. If you’re manic, you may commit to something you can’t handle, like a high monthly payment for a brand new car. While depressed, you may say no to things that could improve your life, like ending a relationship or stopping your medication.

A good rule to follow is to sleep on any decision. Take at least a day to think about it. With bigger decisions, take even longer. You may even need to take days or weeks to decide.

In my worst days, I broke up with wonderful women, quit jobs, and even sold my house. While the last one ended up being a good decision, I lost thousands of dollar by not waiting a little longer.

Rarely do you need to make a decision on the spot. Take the time you need to determine what’s the best choice for you. A pro/con list can help.

This post is about one of Scott's most embarrassing moments and how it taught him a valuable lesson about making decisions with bipolar disorder. If you're living with bipolar disorder, then these three tips will help you make better decisions. by Scott Ninneman.

-Scott is a mental health advocate and public speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He writes openly about his experiences in the hopes of educating others on how to live well with mental illness. You can find more from Scott at speakingbipolar.com.
Please share on Pinterest. Graphic created with Canva.

Explore Pros and Cons

I love putting pro-and-con lists on paper. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing one side fuller than the other. The selection becomes much easier and is usually wiser.

List the ways your decision will make your life better or worse. For choices involving jobs, moving, or relationships, consider things like prior history, how the choice will affect your future life, and if your solution will impact others.

Pro-and-con lists get a bad rap, with people often making fun of them. You don’t have to do your list on paper. A mental list will often give you a good grasp as to which side has the stronger pull.

Every decision you make affects your future life. A pro-and-con list will help you maximize the benefits of your choice, but asking for advice also helps.

Get Advice

In my experience, people with bipolar struggle with asking for advice. I know I do. You may feel like if you ask someone for help, it will make them think you’re weak.

Stop that thinking.

Advice from a trusted friend can have many benefits. For example:

  • Gives a different perspective. Your loved one has a different view of your life than you do. Often they can see obstacles or dangers you might miss.
  • Help focus on the important points. With significant decisions, it’s easy to get stuck in your head with all the details and lose sight of the big picture. An outside voice can help you stay focused on what’s most important.
  • Provide emotional support. This one should be obvious, but we often forget it. We all need a friend who will support us no matter what we decide, and some choices are stressful. Support from others can make it easier.

No one should make important decisions alone, especially when they’re dealing with bipolar disorder. The best thing you can do is take the time to think it over and get advice from someone who cares about you.

Learn From the Past

I knew the night of my date that I was sick. But I also knew I only had limited time to spend with my girlfriend. She lived an hour away, and I didn’t want her to waste a trip or miss a chance to be with her. So, I went after what I wanted and ignored the warning signs. I downplayed stomach cramps, ignored the nausea, and pressed forward with our date.

The results were mortifying, but I survived them. I can even laugh at them now, though explaining to your girlfriend and friend why you left them at a video store for an hour while you went home to take a shower and change clothes was not fun. Nor was cleaning up the car, but all of it taught me valuable lessons.

The past is often our best teacher, so pay attention to the lessons life teaches you.

You can make better choices. Take some time to consider your decision, make a pro/con list, and get some advice. Think back to how decisions worked out in the past and then make better choices now. I’m sure your endeavors will go better than my unfortunate date night.

Until next time, keep fighting.

This post is about one of Scott's most embarrassing moments and how it taught him a valuable lesson about making decisions with bipolar disorder. If you're living with bipolar disorder, then these three tips will help you make better decisions. by Scott Ninneman.

-Scott is a mental health advocate and public speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He writes openly about his experiences in the hopes of educating others on how to live well with mental illness. You can find more from Scott at speakingbipolar.com.
Please share on Pinterest. Graphic created with Canva.

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