By: Alan Monnelly
Bipolar disorder is a complex yet manageable condition. It is a condition that affects moods, emotions, and energies and can be challenging in many ways.
A person with bipolar can lead a normal and healthy life but it takes work and knowledge to build up the skills needed to live and prosper with the condition.
It is a very serious condition and the way it manifests itself, both in depression and mania, can be extremely difficult for both the person with the condition and the people close to them.
Depression can cause untold pain causing the person to opt out of life in many ways. It is extremely difficult for someone who has not experienced this to understand just how eviscerating this can be, mentally and physically.
For the person starting out on their bipolar journey and in days that may seem heavy and chaotic, it is important to take solace in the fact that balance can be achieved and that a steady, even wonderful life can return.
Connection with yourself and others is extremely important in your journey to good health. This is something that is intrinsic to recovery and to management. To be able to communicate your worries, fears, as well as your hopes and your dreams to someone who is empathetic and receptive is a huge step in the direction of better health and better self-worth.
Depression has the bleak capacity to take things away from a person. Self-belief, confidence and self-worth can be eroded. The person can be left in a position where they need to build these things back up and this is where support is crucial.
It is important that the person diagnosed with bipolar disorder tries to stay openminded and begins the process of educating themselves about the condition and how to manage it. This can be a daunting process but nevertheless, knowledge is power and definite skills can be learned that will help the person with the challenges that may arise.
Back to the importance of connection for the person with bipolar disorder. Bipolar can cause overthinking and overthinking combined with depression and increased sensitivity can be very challenging. When people are not mentally well, they can isolate themselves. Social interaction and connection can seem impossible. Self-esteem can be low and it may feel easier for the person to be on their own.
However, for a person to recover and break through their depression, being with other people can have huge benefits. It is particularly important for the person to spend time with the right type of people. Despite increased awareness around mental health conditions, there can still be a lack of understanding and empathy for people effected. Friends and family are very important but, even more so, to have someone in your life who is on the same wavelength and has insight into the complexity of living with a mood disorder can be invaluable.
This condition can bring with it the propensity to feel things very deeply. This can be both a challenge and a gift. Again, it requires resolve and strength to be a receptor to such a high level of emotion. On the other hand, it may be true to say that this can enhance one’s experience of life.
I believe in the importance of the skill of focusing on the positive and the development of this skill is something that the person with bipolar will need to fight for, nurture and consolidate. For one to be told or to realize that their brain is different can be a massive challenge. It is at times when all the difficult and negative facets of the condition are weighing people down, that may be the perfect time to try and focus on the positive and special attributes that the condition imbues.
One skill that is of extreme importance when it comes to living with and managing the condition is communication. If the person with bipolar can learn to talk about and convey the intensity of their emotions to the right person, this can be cathartic and healing. To build up strong relationships with mental health professionals who can listen, empathize and put perspective on situations can prove to be a vital element of someone’s overall wellness plan and can be a real lifesaver.
Working with a skilled therapist can provide a safe where the most challenging of thoughts and moods can be discussed and where worries can be eased and fresh perspective found.
As time goes by in someone’s bipolar journey, they will realize that to navigate this illness is not easy. However, it is vital to remember that good health and a high quality of life is achievable.
As mentioned before, it is important to remember and focus on the positives. People with bipolar are generally creative and intuitive. Living with the condition gives powerful insight into the full range of human emotions and can make a person empathetic to others. Along with this heightened appreciation of the emotional spectrum comes great inner strength and resolve.
People with bipolar make great friends, great parents and ever-thoughtful family members. The energies they put into staying well lend them insight and real appreciation of good health. Their creative minds, when minded, can lead them anywhere as evidenced by the history of heavyweight bipolar writers, artists, actors and thinkers.
To have experienced extreme highs and serious lows is to, perhaps, been given a glimpse of heaven and hell. To have come through these experiences creates a special mind, a special soul a special person.
Moving, momentum, energy. All these things can play a definite part in both the recovery of the person with bipolar and the moving forward and maintaining of health and balance. Physical activity is crucial and, in some ways, the most basic and easily accessible ways to start moving away from a depressive phase.
If you can move your body, you can work in the opposite way that depression does. You, yourself in charge, can lift your energies, your self-esteem and indeed your mood. You can create endorphins in your body that will counteract all that goes with a downswing. Any type of movement, it all helps, creating a stronger, more resilient body and mind.
As many of the problems that arise with bipolar disorder revolve around thoughts and moods, the ability to find something meaningful to focus on and spend time on is another important skill that ca be added to one’s toolbox. No one thing that you do will, on its own, solve or fix your bipolar disorder but an intelligent combination of skills and tools, that will be trialed and tested can come together and the resulting alchemy may lead to an alleviation of symptoms and even a clarity and composure of mind.
When balance is achieved, your job does not end there. All the positive things you do for your mind and body will need to continue. It may be true that there will always be shifts in mood and energy, but with a plan these can be managed. It takes time and perseverance to build up the tools that will best suit but all the effort that it takes will be worthwhile, your health is vital. To be unwell can take away so much. Every single thing that goes toward the goal of good health will reap rewards. Lost confidence can be restored. Perspective and self-worth can improve. You can use the difficult memories of being unwell to fuel your fight for health. You can build resilience in so many ways and foster the vital skill of self-compassion.
It is also possible that the strengths that come will the condition can be harnessed and used to ameliorate the ongoing negative symptoms that may be faced.
The more positive energy that goes into working to manage things and improve both physical and mental health, the further one will move away from illness and relapse.
With the right plan and the right supports in place, I think the future is bright for people with bipolar, stay positive and have gratitude for what you have and try to laugh about things and to keep your sense of humor! Life is too short to not be enjoying it!
Alan Monnelly is a mental health professional working on a specialist multidisciplinary team based in Dublin city, Ireland.