More Than Meds

Bipolar disorder is a complex and difficult condition. Even after getting stabilized, we still have to work so hard to keep things going in the right direction. For me, medication is necessary, but the best advice I ever received was from a psychiatrist and it had nothing to do with pills. 

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 in 2004. The first mental health clinic I went to gave me medication and never really explained the condition to me. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas in 2006 and saw a new doctor that I finally got the information I needed. This doctor went beyond just prescribing medication and explaining bipolar disorder, though. He gave me one valuable piece of advice that has helped me recover and live the best life possible. 

“We can give you the medication, but the rest is up to you.” 

When I first heard these words, I was confused. What did he mean? What else was I supposed to be doing? Weren’t the pills supposed to make me better? 10 years after my diagnosis and I think I finally know what the doctor was talking about. I didn’t realize it back then, but he was absolutely right. 

Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you. However, I would like to share what I have learned. Hopefully, someone will find it useful. 

Positive Affirmations 

This is something I must do each day for my mind to stay positive. While everything on this list has helped me, positive affirmations is what has helped me the most. 

It is easy to have positive thoughts about myself on the good days. However, how do you keep it up during a deep depression? What about when you are in the depths of despair and the depression paralyzes you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually? 

I found recording my affirmations on my cell phone and playing it twice a day is a good way to keep hearing good things even when I am not feeling well. Sometimes I need my husband to remind me to press “play.” Even if I don’t think any of those good things, it is important that I hear them. 

Movement 

Whether someone has bipolar disorder or not, the body needs movement. It is easy not to get it each day. We live in a convenient world. We have remotes, elevators, washing machines, and technology does a lot of things for us. 

It can be even tougher for those who sit down a lot during the day. I work from home and am on my computer most of the time. I literally have to force myself to move around during the day. However, once I start, whether I go for a walk or just wrestle with my dog, I find that I do feel better and more energized. 

Fresh Air 

I am a true believer that fresh air can do the mind a world of good. Being inside all day, I am usually breathing in the recycled air from the air conditioner. When I make the decision to go outside for a little while, I find that my mood improves. In fact, since I have started to do it regularly, my symptoms don’t seem as bad. 

Sleep 

Adequate and restful sleep is important to managing bipolar disorder. I once had a psychiatrist tell me that the longer I stayed up, the worse my mania would become. Being self-employed, having a husband and special needs kids, and with everything else going on in life, sometimes I struggle to get everything done in one day. Over the past few years, I have learned that sometimes I have to put my obligations aside and get sleep. I can’t take care of my family or clients unless I take care of myself first. 

Solitude Balanced With Companionship 

It seems that most people love being social, but I am not one of them. One of the warning signs of a depressive cycle is withdrawing. Experts are always talking about the importance of being around people. For me, too much interaction will make me irritable and can sometimes send me into a depression. Not to mention it is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. 

Some confuse withdrawal with solitude. I need my alone time and I need a lot of it. I’ve always been this way since I was a little girl, my parents were like this, and I’m sure my grandparents were, too. 

Everyone is unique. Some are social butterflies, others are introverts, but most fall somewhere in between. It’s important to balance social interaction with solitude. Only you know how much of each you need. 

Besides medication, what else has helped you manage your bipolar disorder? 

Read more of Taylor’s posts here.

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