Motherhood is challenging for everyone. Motherhood with bipolar disorder brings added difficulty. But it is absolutely possible to parent well with bipolar disorder.Continue reading
Bipolar Disorder: Boundaries?
Boundaries. We hear that word all the time but how many people actually understand what boundaries are and how to set and respect healthy boundaries?
A few years ago I was in a therapy session and my therapist started speaking about boundaries and I finally admitted to her that I didn’t really understand what she was talking about. She had mentioned boundaries off and on during previous sessions, and I just kept nodding and smiling because I had a vague idea of what boundaries were. However, during this particular session I realized that not understanding clearly what boundaries were and how to apply them in my life in a healthy way was causing problems for me.
The way that my therapist explained them during that session was in terms of physical boundaries. She explained that countries have clearly defined boundaries that define what territory makes up their jurisdiction. A country has the right to create laws, penalties for violation of its laws and responsibilities to its citizens within its boundaries. It also has the right to protect itself from violations of its boundaries. Countries also need to respect the boundaries of other countries or there can be negative consequences.
At the time it was still a little abstract for me. Over time as I have worked with my therapist to understand what boundaries are and gained experience with implementing and respecting boundaries, I have begun to understand the concept better. I also better understand why learning about and implementing healthy boundaries in your life is so critical to living well with bipolar disorder.
Why People with Bipolar Disorder Struggle with Boundaries
When you have bipolar disorder, especially before you learn how to effectively manage it, you can feel like you don’t have any control over what is happening in your mind. The dramatic mood cycles you experience–from mania to depression–feel like an extreme mental and emotional rollercoaster that you cannot get off. This can cause you to act and speak in ways that you normally wouldn’t act or speak.
You may not even recognize that you are experiencing a mood cycle initially because many of the symptoms are in your head and feel normal to you. Many of the thoughts and feelings are irrational but may seem completely rational to you. The intensity of emotion (or lack of emotion) feels overpowering.
All of this can cause you to experience anger, frustration and helplessness as you daily fight a battle with an enemy in your own mind. Having bipolar feels unfair and this feeling of unfairness can make it difficult to set healthy boundaries and to respect the boundaries of others.
You may feel like you don’t have a choice, it’s not your fault and you can’t do anything about it anyway, so everyone else just has to put up with it, too. This leads you to violate the boundaries of others and feel justified in doing it.
On the other hand you may feel overwhelmed by guilt for the things you do and say when you are struggling with a mood cycle, or feelings of worthlessness because you judge yourself as damaged or broken. These feelings can lead you to believe that you don’t have the right to have boundaries. You feel like you have to allow others to treat you however they want because you don’t have the right to object.
Unhealthy boundaries damage you and others. It damages relationships, your feelings of value and self-worth and the emotional turmoil can make your mood cycle worse.
Understanding Boundaries for Bipolar Disorder
Going back to the border analogy, when you are establishing boundaries for yourself you need to identify two things: your “laws” for what is permitted and your responsibilities within your borders.
Laws within your borders
When you have bipolar it is easy to feel like you don’t know if you are rational or not. When you are manic you think you are the most rational person in the world, compelled to act on the thoughts and feelings you have. When you are depressed you may struggle to function at all. You can feel overwhelmed by hopelessness and robbed of the ability to do simple things like shower, or even get out of bed.
Both sides of this can lead to feeling either defensive when someone comments on your behavior, or may make you feel like you don’t have a right to object to the way they speak to you because you think they’re right, you must be irrational, lazy, compulsive, etc.
Not having healthy boundaries about what kind of communication you will respond to, however, is not beneficial to you, or to the relationship. If you are allowing someone else to speak to you in a way that reinforces negative thoughts and feelings you have about yourself you will further damage yourself emotionally which then feeds the mood cycle.
You need to set healthy boundaries for communication and behavior. This includes setting clear boundaries to protect yourself from unhealthy or abusive behavior and words. You should also agree with those you trust on healthy ways they can communicate their concern if they see you behaving in a way that is harmful to you or others.
Working with your therapist you can begin to identify what boundaries will be best for you and how you can effectively communicate your boundaries to others. You can’t choose how others behave, but you can establish what you will allow in your life and what you will do if someone doesn’t respect those boundaries.
Responsibility within your borders
Just as a country has responsibility to the citizens within its borders you are responsible for yourself–your behavior, your choices, your self-care. This may feel impossible at times when you have bipolar disorder. Experiencing irrational states of mind and emotions can make you feel like the bipolar is in control and you are just along for the ride.
The reality is that you are the only one who can be responsible for yourself. You are not your disorder, and you can learn how to manage it so that you can live a healthy, balanced, productive life. It takes work and persistent effort, but it is possible.
The first step is to learn how to successfully manage your mood cycles. Start by creating a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan. This plan helps you proactively manage your mood cycles so that you lessen the impact on yourself and those you love and shorten the duration of the cycle.
The next step is to work to find something to balance your brain. For some people that is with medication, for others it is through treatment with micronutrients, or a combination of the two. The symptoms of bipolar are telling you that something is missing or out of balance and you need to address that need in your brain. Persist until you find what is right for your brain.
Third, go to therapy. When you have bipolar disorder you will develop unhealthy thought and behavior patterns, unhealthy coping mechanisms (sometimes this includes addictions) and you may have unhealed trauma, and unhealthy boundaries. Working with a good therapist will help you identify what you need to work on, process and heal so you can interact with the world in healthy ways. If you avoid therapy you may find the right medication or supplements but the unhealthy thoughts and behaviors will continue to trigger mood swings.
Finally, develop a self-care routine. Self-care is a phrase that you hear all the time and it can conjure images of manicures at a day spay, bubble baths or vacations to tropical places. These are definitely nice ways to take care of yourself, but the self-care necessary for managing bipolar disorder is caring for your mind and body in a way that helps you stay healthy and balanced. This includes important tools like mindfulness meditation, healthy sleep patterns and nutrition, yoga and simple, consistent exercise.
Respecting the boundaries of others
It is necessary to learn how to respect the boundaries of others. It’s really hard to feel like you can accept responsibility for your actions when you are doing and saying things from an irrational state of mind. But the reality is that you are still doing and saying those things. So how do you take responsibility for yourself?
First, always say sorry when you hurt someone by something you say or do. It may not be easy. It can feel humiliating to have to admit to the things you do or say when you are in a manic or depressed state. But the first step to mending the damage is to acknowledge what you did and apologize sincerely.
When a child hurts someone, even if it is by accident, you teach them to say sorry. They didn’t do it on purpose, but the other person still got hurt and so it is important to acknowledge their pain. The same is true for pain you cause when you are struggling with a mood cycle. You may not have meant to cause the pain, but the other person was still hurt by something you did, and you need to acknowledge their pain.
Next, talk with others about their boundaries. Having conversations with your partner or spouse, children and others who are close to you will help you understand their boundaries better so you can learn how to interact with them in healthy ways. If you aren’t sure how to approach this kind of conversation, talk with your therapist. He or she can give you help understanding what to say and may even be able to facilitate it in a session with the other person or people.
Finally, accept that there will be times when someone needs a break from the relationship. This is really hard because it doesn’t feel fair that you have to deal with this disorder in the first place. We all want others to accept us and love us as we are. However, there will be times when someone needs to prioritize their emotional, physical or mental safety and may need to set a boundary to protect themselves.
Just as you need to set healthy boundaries and prioritize caring for yourself, you need to respect the need and right for others to do the same.
How to Define and Apply Boundaries
The most effective way to learn how to define and apply healthy boundaries in your life is by working with a good therapist. Boundaries can feel abstract and complicated, and your life experience and unhealed trauma can create barriers to learning how to implement them. A therapist can work with you to help you learn what boundaries are and how to implement these tools effectively.
Learning how to utilize and respect healthy boundaries in your life is an important step on your path to learning to live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar disorder.
Guest Post: Turning Your Lemons Into Lemonade: How to Make the Most of Difficult Situations by Scott Ninneman
SCOTT IS A GUEST BLOGGER FROM SPEAKING BIPOLAR WRITING ABOUT FINDING COURAGE AND CONFIDENCE FACING YOUR BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS.
Growing up, I made every effort to be home by dark. Two reasons kept me conscious of the time and how much daylight remained. One, there was a bright floodlight at the peak of our roof that came on at dusk. With our yellow farmhouse on a hill, it was easy to see it from most of the neighborhood. The family rule was that everyone had to be home when the light came on.
I was a good rule follower, but my second reason was the better motivator. I was terrified of being alone in the dark. The fear was unfounded, but my young mind ran wild when the world around me disappeared into darkness.
One afternoon, I rode my bike to see a friend who lived about a half mile away. His house was the coolest. He had every Star Wars toy, and as a little boy with nothing more than one Luke Skywalker figurine, I was in awe. From an X-Wing Fighter to Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter with wings that popped off when attacked, his room was an imagination paradise. It was one of my favorite places to escape to.
Submersed in an epic battle of good and evil, I lost track of time. When my friend’s mom came to check on us and ask if it was okay that I was still there, I glanced out the window. It was dark.
Panic flooded through me like the force through a Jedi. I don’t remember saying goodbye or anything. Like Roadrunner taking off, I sped out the door and hopped on my bike.
We lived in farm country in rural Wisconsin. Our dirt road was covered by leafy branches from trees growing on each side. As I looked up at the menacing boughs, they seemed to twist and grow. I imagined dozens of sets of glowing green eyes watching me.
I swallowed hard and looked back at my friend’s house. Surely, his mom would take me home. It was my only safe option. But I was the kid afraid to ask for help.
“Never ask for anything,” my mom had drilled into our heads. Of course, she meant not asking for food at a friend’s house, but in my young mind, the rule applied to everything.
For a moment, I thought about calling my mom. Then I heard her tough-love voice. “You got yourself into this mess. Now, get yourself out.”
Okay, ma. I get it.
Foot met pedal, and I was on my way.
Halfway home, coasting down a steep hill into the valley between our two houses, I heard it. A branch broke with the sickening sound that can only occur by a large animal crushing it. I looked ahead to my left, and there I saw it. About a hundred yards ahead, a bear was clawing away bark from a tree. I jerked my feet back and skidded sideways to a stop. The bear was close to the road. Would he allow me to pass? Or would he jump out into the road and gobble me whole?
The blood whooshed through my ears with deafening thuds. Going back to my friend’s house would mean going back up the hill I was almost down. Going home meant confronting a bear. As I stood debating my options, the sky grew even darker. Not only was I about to be eaten, but it was so dark that no one would see it.
Meeting My Bear
I looked up at the hill I lived on. The floodlight on the end of the house shone as my lighthouse. I just had to get to it. I wrapped my hands in a death grip around the handlebars and got back on my bike.
The bear may eat me, I thought, but he’ll have to eat the bike, too. I’m not letting go.
The best option seemed to be moving forward with as little noise as possible. Maybe I could be quiet enough to sneak past unnoticed.
With each spin of the bicycle chain around the sprocket, I grew closer to the bear. I tried to focus on my house but then didn’t want to be caught by surprise. If the bear was going to eat me, I wanted to see it coming. Oh, how little boys think.
As I coasted the last 20 yards into the bear’s territory, I heard a new sound. This one was unmistakable: the clink of metal hitting metal. Trembling inside, I turned my attention to the bear, just as he swung the hammer another time.
My vicious monster turned out to be an old farmer pounding a new tap into a maple tree. Overwhelmed with relief, I waved to my neighbor and sped home.
Bipolar and Other Scary Monsters
When you receive a bipolar diagnosis, it feels a lot like confronting a bear in a dark woodland. Everything feels terrifying and overwhelming, but mental illness doesn’t have to be as scary as you think.
The experiences of that night taught me two life lessons. For one, I learned things are rarely as bad as we imagine them to be. I was so intent on the woods being full of danger that any sound had to be a ferocious animal. In reality, there was nothing to fear on my ride home.
Two, I learned how to summon courage when needed. My fear of the dark didn’t go away, but I discovered I could push forward no matter the obstacle. I had it in me to rise up and save myself.
Many times in life, what you imagine is so much worse than reality. The bears and man-eating trees are no more dangerous than an old farmer preparing for maple syrup season.
No one likes to experience scary events, and receiving a bipolar diagnosis is terrifying. This is especially true in the early days when you’re finding your way, but just like my bear, you can conquer bipolar.
It’s important to remember challenges are a natural part of life. They can be helpful if you know how to use them effectively. After any event, think about what it taught you. Life is full of lessons if you’re paying attention. Most of the lessons will strengthen you.
It’s also important to remember that not all lessons will be immediately apparent. Sometimes it takes time to reflect on an experience before you can see the positive lesson within it. If you’re patient and open-minded, you’ll eventually find the silver lining in every cloud.
It took me a while to recognize the full impact of my bear experience. In the following years, I focused on the courage I summoned that night. The strength I gained helped me face the increasingly dangerous monsters the world brought my way—bipolar being one of them.
You can do the same. Face your monsters head-on and learn from every experience. As you slay your beasts, you’ll gain the confidence you need to keep fighting. Instead of dwelling on the negative, try to find the positive lesson hidden within it. By doing this, you’ll be able to turn every negative experience into an opportunity for growth. Turn your lemons into lemonade.
Until next time, keep fighting.
Bipolar Disorder: The Pandemic of Negative Media
Over the past few years it seems that media has been getting more and more intense, more stressful and more controversial. With increased access to social media and platforms like YouTube it is easy to become overwhelmed by the steady stream of negative content. This is detrimental for most people’s mental health, but it is especially destructive for someone who has a mental health disorder like bipolar.
Media these days has become similar to the Coronavirus pandemic, infecting those who consume it with fear, anxiety and worry over increasingly intense conflicts–domestic and foreign. This “infection” has a serious impact on their mental health.
During the worst parts of the pandemic anyone who was physically “immune compromised” needed to take extra precautions to protect their physical health from infection by a disease that could have serious, potentially fatal consequences. If you have a “preexisting condition” mentally you need to take extra precautions to prevent exposure to the “pandemic of negative media” that could have serious consequences to your mental health.
When you have bipolar disorder you will tend to be “stress sensitive.” Stressors can trigger mood cycles, depression and anxiety.
Mania and the Emotional Rollercoaster
Stress sensitivity can look different for each person. Some people respond to stress by becoming manic, triggering a mood cycle. Seeing intense situations that seem immoral or unjust can cause some with bipolar disorder to latch on emotionally and become hyper focused on trying to solve it, even if there is no reasonable way for you to have a meaningful impact on the problem.
Mania causes the brain to go into “overdrive” and eventually crash into depression. You can’t get on the rollercoaster and jump off in the middle, you have to ride it all the way through (see my post Bipolar Disorder: The Rollercoaster).
Some people become overwhelmed by everything that is happening and get severely depressed. This happened to me when I was trying to help a friend who was directly connected to an international crisis. She needed help and I was trying desperately to assist her, but I had no idea what to do and spent days trying to help with no success.
I felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and the futility of my efforts. It began to impact my ability to function in my own life. Those feelings of helplessness and futility began to color my view of my own life and I spiraled down into depression. I began struggling to maintain my self-care routine and found myself wanting to escape into sleep and television or YouTube.
Other people find themselves dealing with increasing anxiety. When you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious about your own life it is easy to get focused on outside problems that are beyond your control. In an effort to avoid dealing with your own challenges you are focusing on other issues that bring you additional anxiety and stress and most of those issues are things you have no real ability to influence. This results in increased anxiety, frustration, and anger and will cause you to become more emotionally and mentally unwell.
Danger! Social Media Ahead
Social media can also be a “high risk” environment for someone with bipolar disorder. First, you have little control over what you see as you scroll through YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram Reels. Even your feed on Facebook and Instagram isn’t limited to your contacts as it includes ads and suggested accounts.
Not being able to control the images and videos that come up in your feed is similar to not being able to control the people you come into contact with outside during a pandemic. If you are “immune compromised” with a mental health disorder you need to be vigilant in limiting your exposure to potential “infection.” Scrolling through social media for hours a day can be very dangerous to your mental health.
There is the risk of being exposed to toxic content that can be emotionally upsetting. There is the risk of falling into the comparison trap, seeing influencers that seem to have it all together physically, in their homes, as mothers, as women.
This is especially dangerous for women with bipolar disorder because we are already prone to feeling broken, damaged or flawed. To learn more about the dangers of comparison when you have bipolar see my post Bipolar Disorder: You Are Not Broken!
What Do You Do?
Does this mean you should never view the news or social media? No, of course not. But it is critical to be aware of the negative impact these things can have on your mental health and be diligent in setting healthy boundaries to protect yourself.
Circle of Influence Vs. Circle of Concern
Years ago I was reading Stephen R. Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (one of many attempts at using self-help books to “fix” myself) and I learned an important concept that has had a profound impact on my journey to learn to live well with bipolar disorder.
This concept addressed the difference between your circle of influence and your circle of concern. Your circle of influence are things you have the ability to “influence” or change by your choices and actions. Your circle of concern, on the other hand, are things that you have no real ability to impact in any meaningful way.
Over the years I realized how important it was in my journey to live well with bipolar disorder to focus on my circle of influence, beginning with myself and my mental health. In the beginning of this journey that was all I could manage at times.
As I worked to learn how to live well I was able to expand my circle to include my family and my home. Gradually over the years I have learned how to keep my priorities in the right order and focus on doing the work to learn how to live well and my circle of influence has expanded to include additional responsibilities outside myself, my family and my home.
I had been a political science major in college and I have always been fascinated by politics and world events, but I began to recognize that listening to the news and political talk shows usually had a very negative effect on my mental health. Focusing on stressful things in my circle of concern was having a very negative impact on my ability to function in a healthy way in my circle of influence.
So I have learned some very important lessons in the past ten years about how to manage my exposure to social media and the news so that I don’t damage my mental health and my ability to take care of myself, my children and my other direct responsibilities.
Identifying Your Priorities
When I was developing my Mental Health Emergency Response Plan I needed to identify what my top priorities (circle of influence) were in order of importance to determine my “Auxiliary Power” (Step 3 in the plan).
I needed to make sure I protected my limited emotional resources and focused on my responsibilities in my own life, beginning with taking responsibility for my mental health. I became very careful to identify unnecessary stressors in my life and either eliminate them or create healthy boundaries to limit their use of my emotional resources.
The Impact of Media
You need to carefully monitor and evaluate the effect of the news and social media on your mental health. What good is it for you to watch news coverage of children in dire circumstances on the other side of the world that you can do nothing to help if it damages your mental health and makes it difficult or impossible to care for your own children? Your “sacrifice” of your mental wellness is not helping the children that are suffering in another country and now your own children are suffering.
What good is it for you to view someone else’s perfectly curated life if it makes you feel horrible and inadequate about your own? You boost their following and make yourself feel worse, damaging your mental health further and preventing you from progressing in your journey to live well with bipolar disorder.
Some of the best ways to be proactive about identifying the influence of media in your life and creating healthy boundaries are:
- Use a mood tracking app. I use Bearable. I DO NOT receive any benefit from recommending it, I just love the app! Bearable is customizable and you can record the amount of time you are spending on social media, YouTube, news, etc. Using the app you can identify how it impacts your mood cycle.
- Discuss social media and news consumption with your therapist. Some people struggle with controlling these things because of unresolved issues, unhealthy boundaries, or addictions. Working with your therapist you can come up with a plan to manage your social media and news consumption in a healthy way.
- Develop a Mental Health Emergency Response Plan to help identify your “circle of influence” or your highest priorities for your mental and emotional energy. Then commit to protecting your emotional resources so that you are able to care for yourself and those who matter most to you.
- Join our Facebook group Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well to get encouragement and support in your journey to live well with bipolar disorder. You can ask others in the group about their experiences with media and what boundaries they have set to protect their mental health.
Our world is experiencing a “pandemic” of negative media. Everyone is impacted by negative media, but if you have bipolar disorder you are especially sensitive to it. In order to protect yourself and learn to live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar disorder you need to be willing to accept responsibility for managing the stressors in your life.
Those stressors include social media and news consumption. If you are willing to evaluate the impact of media on your mood and set healthy boundaries to protect your mental health you will be one step closer to learning how to live well with bipolar disorder.
PODCAST: The Reality of it All
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with @therealityofitall21 on her awesome podcast!
Living well with bipolar disorder is absolutely possible, and that is a message I LOVE sharing.
Check out this episode to hear more about how I live a healthy, balanced, productive life with bipolar. I hope you enjoy!
What Are Your Bipolar Emotions Saying?
One of my favorite animated children’s films is Inside Out by Disney. It makes you laugh, cry and is a genuinely wonderful movie. But more than that, it is extremely insightful and teaches some powerful lessons, even for adults.
One of the messages of the film is that emotions aren’t good, or bad, they just are. And not only that but they also have a purpose. Learning to understand the purpose of the emotions is a powerful thing. Instead of judging and shaming yourself negatively for experiencing certain feelings, you can learn to feel them without judgement. You can learn to understand what your emotions are trying to tell you, and then what action you should take based on what you are experiencing.
In the film Inside Out, the main character Joy, gives a breakdown of what each feeling’s purpose is: Fear is “good at keeping Riley safe,” Disgust “basically keeps Riley from being poisoned, physically and socially,” Anger “cares very deeply about things being fair,” Joy’s job is to keep Riley happy, and Joy doesn’t understand what Sadness is supposed to do, and keeps trying to prevent Sadness from having any influence on Riley.
As the film goes on it becomes apparent that Sadness has a very important role to play for Riley. When Joy finally understands Sadness’s purpose, she encourages Sadness to play her part. With the help of Sadness, Riley is able to get the help she needs to adjust to the changes and challenges she is facing in her life.
When the brain is functioning in a healthy balanced way, feelings are produced by experiences. For example, in the movie fear is caused by Riley encountering dangerous situations, disgust is caused by encountering unappealing food or social situations, and anger is brought on by perceived unfairness.
What If Your Emotions Are “Misfiring”?
What do you do when your emotions are misfiring because of mental illness or unhealed trauma? If emotions are not being triggered by normal outside stimuli, are they no longer valid or useful? Should you label your emotions as bad, or not listen to them when you are experiencing a mood cycle?
One of the challenges I faced when I was first diagnosed was that I didn’t know how to trust my feelings anymore. For the years that I went undiagnosed I had listened to the feelings that I was having and tried to interpret them according to what I had been taught by others.
When I felt the intense, euphoric exhilaration of mania I believed that all the irrational thoughts that were in my head were not only rational but inspired. I made sweeping changes because of those thoughts and feelings, and I told everyone. It all felt right and real.
When I crashed into depression, I believed all of the negative, self-destructive thoughts that were in my head because they matched the negative, self-destructive feelings I was having. I hid myself from the world and tried to numb my brain by binge-watching television and movies.
I develop irrational thought and behavior patterns based on this cycle and by the time I was diagnosed those patterns seemed normal to me. This continued for years after my diagnosis because even though I was trying to find the right combination of medications to balance my brain and working with a therapist nothing seemed to help and I just felt broken and hopeless.
How do you live a healthy life if you don’t know if you can trust your own mind and feelings? It can make you feel insecure and unsure of yourself. Or you may feel belligerent and angry and decide that you should be able to just live on the rollercoaster because that is the way you were made and everyone else will have to just deal with it (see my post Bipolar Disorder: The Rollercoaster).
One important tool to develop when you are trying to learn to live well with bipolar disorder is to learn how to recognize when feelings are produced a mood imbalance. You need to learn to identify the signs that you are manic or depressed and then understand that state of mind is trying to tell you.
The feelings produced by a mood imbalance can serve a purpose. It is like they are speaking a different language and if you learn to interpret them correctly you can then understand how to respond in a way that is healthy, even if your brain isn’t healthy at the time.
How Do You Identify Signs of a Mood Cycle?
In the beginning it may be difficult to distinguish between healthy emotional responses and unhealthy ones, because it all feels normal to you. For this reason it is critical to begin tracking your moods and symptoms. Tracking your mood and symptoms will begin to help you create a more accurate picture of what is happening in your mind and identify when you are experiencing a mood cycle, what the associated symptoms of your mood cycles are and even what may have triggered it.
There are a number of ways to accomplish this. You could use a journal, a spreadsheet, or an app. My favorite tool is the Bearable app. (I DO NOT receive any benefit or compensation from recommending Bearable, I recommend it because I love it!)
I struggled with using a mood journal because it required me to think and often I couldn’t think clearly enough to put what I was feeling into words. I also struggled with remembering to write things down frequently enough to create an accurate picture. Another issue I struggled with is how to convey what I had written to my doctor and therapist. Weeks and pages of journal entries can be difficult to condense and quantify, and that can make it challenging to see patterns and connections.
The Bearable App is fantastic because it is very user friendly. It allows you to keep track of your mood, different factors that could trigger cycles, medications, sleep, and other helpful information. The app is very easy to use, and you can set reminders for yourself to input your information each day. It is very customizable, and it gives you a way to view insights to see trends and connections.
When you discover the symptoms of your mood cycle you can learn to understand what your depression or mania is trying to tell you and you can then respond to it in a healthy way.
Learning How to Respond to a Mood Cycle
Some of the ways you might respond are:
- Discussing a medication or micronutrient change with your doctor or customer support. If the mood cycle is being caused by medication or micronutrients not doing their job, you may need to adjust or change them. Always work with your doctor if you are on medication or customer support if you are taking micronutrients. DO NOT make these changes on your own as it can be dangerous.
- Working with a therapist. A good therapist can help you learn to identify if your emotional responses to things are healthy or unhealthy and how to handle the unhealthy responses in a healthy, balanced way. Your therapist can also help you identify if your mood cycle is triggered by unhealed trauma, unhealthy thought or behavior habits, or unhealthy boundaries.
- Learning to practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is a very effective tool to help you learn to separate yourself from your thoughts and feelings in a way to look at them more objectively and determine if those thoughts or feelings are healthy or unhealthy. Mindfulness is an important tool to learn if you want to learn how to live well with bipolar disorder.
- Developing a Mood Cycle Survival Guide. Your guide will help you learn how to successfully manage your bipolar mood swings, lessening the impact on you and your family and shortening the duration of the cycle.
Just like Joy learned that Sadness served an important purpose in Riley’s mind, you can learn to understand what your mania and depression are telling you and learn to respond in a healthy way, even if your mind is unhealthy at the time. Taking responsibility for your mood cycles, instead of giving into them or fighting them will help you progress on your journey to live well with bipolar disorder.
If you are a mother with bipolar and you are looking for support in your effort to live well with it, please join our free Facebook group Bipolar Moms Learning to Live Well.