I recently met a person who is at the beginning of their journey. They were just diagnosed as bipolar. A (correct) diagnosis is Awesome because it means there is a reason you’ve felt the way you felt and now there are solutions. This person expressed a desire to know what to do when having a mood shift. The truth is you figure it out as you go and when the drugs kick in it will be even easier.
I believe medication is the most important aspect of bipolar disorder. If I didn’t have the right medication, the rest of the things I’m about to mention wouldn’t matter. I’d be manic doing yoga — that’s not helpful.
Here is what works and doesn’t work for me:
I wish meditation worked for me but so far it has not. I’ve tried it so many times in so many different ways. I would love to put it in my routine but I’ve never had success with it.
Ding ding ding! For a lot of people like me, having a routine is a key to happiness. (Seen Benny & Joon?) Doing stuff the same time every day might make me boring (and I’m sure my daughter is going to rebel because it’s probably annoying) but I love remembering to take my meds, eating well, drinking enough water and all that good stuff that I take for granted if I don’t work at it.
Yoga has definitely helped in the past. Now that I’m taking care of a 9 month old, I think I’ll be adding yoga — for free on youtube — to my routine. Should I do it with baby when baby is up and include her, or should I do it during a nap? Hmmm.
This works for me SO much. It’s ridiculous how much this works for me. I feel like it shouldn’t. It should be one of those things I shrug off like acupuncture — acupuncture obviously does work for a ton of people — but aromatherapy is my jam. The minute I smell jasmine I calm the ef down. I use orange and fir during the day to brighten my spirits. I don’t know why the hell it works but It Works. For me. (As does having flowers and twinkly lights around!)
Treats work! Treats come in all forms and are usually free. They could be a library book, felt from Benzie Designs, tea, lemonade, warmed pajamas from the dryer, new fluffy socks, making a scarf out of an old outfit that will never fit me again — these get me through the stuff I do not want to do. I don’t like taking my pills at night. I get a terrible reaction from one of them but the thing is, sanity is more important than how terrible the drug makes me feel. So, I make that time a time of luxury. Usually this is a time for brain storming for my next craft project and drinking some amazing mocktail while watching terrible TV. For some reason, this works for me.
I’m talking Kardashians, 90 Day Fiancé, The Bachelor, any of the Real Housewives, any Dr. Phil in which someone is getting catfished. I don’t know, you guys. All I know is that in 2011, after my brain surgery, Keeping Up With The Kardashians was the only show I could understand. (It’s repetitive af and it’s not about annnnnything. It’s perfect for a traumatic brain injury.) And now when my brain is overloaded with things I’m anxious about, Terrible TV calms me down faster than any benzo I’ve ever taken. For real.
If I am not making something — a memory, a blog post, a recipe, a wall hanging, a doll, a poem, a letter, an email, a story for my daughter — I am not happy. Not sure why that is my personality, but it is. I need to create something or be planning to create something or I can’t cope with basic, daily things. Making is a way to be open and not ruminate. Perhaps making things is the way I meditate.
Taking A Walk
Works! Works even better if I put on makeup first. Works even better if I take pictures of the things I see, my dog, my daughter, etc.
I’m not sure if this works yet because I started it today. Here is a picture of me after my first exposure therapy: and then a picture of WHY I’m doing it: This is my point: I was diagnosed when I was 18. I’m 35 and I’m just NOW trying exposure therapy with my amazing therapist.
If you were just diagnosed — congrats on your diagnosis! You will now be getting the help you need and deserve. There are so many things to try, so many drugs to that could help, there is just so much to do about your particular illness. Try keeping a journal of what works and what doesn’t.