I’m often asked what gave me HOPE through my darkest years and what gets me through rough patches today. There are several key techniques and practices that have helped me throughout the years, and I’m not hesitant to implement them today when I need them. Aside from the clearly important things, like staying on your medication, and communicating with your doctor, here are a few practical day-to-day tips that have seen me through.
First, I need routine, structure and schedules each day. I understand that it’s hard to make a routine or structure to your day, especially if there’s not much to work with. I made a routine out of what felt like literally nothing. There was a relatively short period in my life, in my early twenties, where I didn’t work or go to school and it was then that I was struggling the most. My therapist advised me to make a schedule for every single day. It was torture to make something from nothing, but I managed to do it! I filled my schedule and my days with anything I could, but it had to be productive. I had too much spare time on my hands. Too much time to think. Too much time to get into trouble.
I made a schedule, on paper, of what I would do each day. It consisted of different forms of an outlet, (like art, crafts, a game etc), a nap (some of my meds would make me extremely tired and while I was leveling the medication out, I would give in and take naps). I would include mealtimes, exercising and any other random things. Of course, I included doctor and therapy appointments. You might be scraping up a schedule out of bits and pieces, but if you’re creative (you might have to think hard about it) and really willing (just trust me) to make a routine and stick to it as much as possible, it really helps.
Secondly, find an outlet. Finding an outlet is so healthy! (AND it helps fill up your schedule with productivity). Start a blog, start journaling, pick up a hobby that makes you feel good and write it down on your schedule. And then do it! And really, you don’t necessarily have to be good at it. Perhaps, don’t play golf, for example, if it frustrates you so much you fling your clubs at nearby trees. I took up painting. And I’m terrible at painting. But I enjoyed it. I would paint pictures of stick people, (I’m not kidding), but sometimes they would be beautiful, symbolic and amazing in my eyes, and mean everything to me at the time. I even framed one and displayed it for years in my home. People would ask about it, and I never told much about it, but it was a positive reminder to me. Where I was going and later, how far I’d come.
Third, a fundamental foundation to what gave me some of my hope was, and is, my support system of understanding people, and unfortunately (or fortunately, really) getting rid of people in your life who are negative and won’t/don’t support you. They’ll bring you down much more than you’ll be able to bring them up. It’s just a fact. Change your phone number if you have to. I did it twice and it was so worth it. And as for the understanding people in my life, I will share that in my darkest, most troubled years, my main support was my mom.
My mom and I played Scrabble a lot. I’m really good at Scrabble because I grew up playing with my great-grandmother. Grandma would remove your tiles from the board if you played anything less than about a twenty-point-word. The only problem sometimes, playing with my mom, would be I would get frustrated in my anxiety and depression and/or have trouble focussing. My mom started bringing a novel to the table to read while I would think about what I wanted to play. Of course, when it was her turn I was always exclaiming how we needed to time how long we allotted for a turn because I was so sick of waiting. And seriously, this woman just kept on loving and supporting me.
Something about hope, though. In my own life, especially in the years where my bipolarity hit me the hardest, hope itself was not really something I could get a grip on. Stability was not something I really saw in my future. What hope looked like to me then, was the day-to-day battle…getting through life one day at a time. Day-by-day. Having a good day represented hope to me. A good day was attainable, and therefore, made hope a little bit closer in reach. I saw stable people and didn’t always relate to that. So, if that is you, then I get it. Structure, routine, finding an outlet and a support system are the practical things that gave me power to make each day a successful day.
Hang in there, your hope is coming.
To learn more about Laura SQ's bipolar journey check out her blog MrsBipolarity.com