Living with bipolar disorder is like playing a game. You can't get rid of the bipolar disorder, but you can learn to work with it or around it. Learning to balance medication, treatment, emotions, and life stresses is what determines whether you win or lose the game.
Working with Bipolar:
That manic drive that gives you so much energy and motivation can be incredibly useful. Pour your manic side into the projects you're working on and you will get a lot done. Even the low times can help you if you reflect inward and see the things you need to improve in your life. Caution: don't cross the line into risky behaviors when you're manic and don't let yourself wallow in pity/guilt when you're low or you will find no benefit in the journey.
Working around Bipolar:
Regularly self-assess your moods. Knowing that will help you to plan ahead for problems. If you know you are depressed, you know you will have to put in extra energy to get through the day. Recognize that you are depressed and that you're not going to let it imprison you. Acknowledge that it is normal and that it will pass in time. That should help you put it behind you for the moment. Even though being in a manic mood can be fun, don't let it take over. Be aware of overly fast speech and thoughts and slow yourself down. Manic energy is great, but it can push others away.
I know a lot of people with bipolar who refuse to take any medication for it. I have lived both ways and can honestly say that taking medication is better. You should never be taking doses of medication that leave you feeling like a zombie. It should merely take the edge off of the highs and lows rather than flat line you. Quieting the brain so you can sleep is a huge blessing. Being able to slow your thoughts to the point you can sort them and make sense of them allows you to function in society better. The problem with taking no medication at all is that the person with bipolar just can't see that they have a problem. To them, it seems like everyone else is wrong or has a problem and they're the only one seeing it correctly. If you are trying to help someone with bipolar, be prepared to butt heads a lot.
Even though I'm not a huge fan of long term therapy, I have found the value in some therapy along the way. A good therapist can help you find better ways to cope with the disorder. When my dad died and I had a falling out with my sisters, my therapist helped me to turn the focus back to grieving for my dad and putting the sibling dispute aside for later. I like treatment as kind of a gut check for how I'm doing and how I'm handling things. It helps to be able to compare my behavior to what is considered "normal."
Emotions and Stress:
It is impossible to live life without emotions and stress. Just when you think you have things under control, something else happens and your stress level skyrockets. Those are the times when I worry the most. It is so hard when you're taking your medication and doing everything else you should and then life throws you a curve ball - job loss, relationship problems, injury, illness, etc. Over the past six months, I have been near divorce, battled with teenage children, got my marriage back together, watched my husband lose his job, survived layoffs at work, then got in a car accident and broke my foot. I can't change what's happened, but I can decide how to go on from here. Yes, I've had my down days and cried a lot, but I got it out of my system and I'm making the best of it.
Bipolar disorder may explain your behavior, but don't ever let it be an excuse. You are still the one in control. You don't have to act on those urges or thoughts. It is completely up to you. Just because you gave in before or made a mistake here or there doesn't mean you need to stay on that same path. Correct your course and do what you can to get going the right direction again. Diabetics learn to live life differently because of their illness and so can you.
Medication and Bipolar
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