Living with bipolar is a real challenge! The mood fluctuation can feel like riding a never ending roller-coaster. The extensive medical utilization of drug therapy to manage the highs and lows is not only hugely expensive but may be accompanied by a range of side effects. It is scary not knowing when the next high or low will hit and this can feel like one is out of control.
Feeling alone in your struggle is not uncommon as support is rare as often the people close to you do not know how to support you or how to react to your moods which further complicates the situation. It can be easy to feel like a victim and at the mercy of something far bigger than you. Learning techniques that will assist you in managing this serious illness can help you to support yourself and decrease the impact that bipolar has on your life.
Part of the management of bipolar is recognising the onset of a mood change. Keeping a daily journal and recording how you are feeling can help to recognise your mood fluctuations. Symptoms of mania, hyper mania and depression are experienced differently by different people. Checking in with yourself daily can facilitate you to take quicker action as you begin to see a mood fluctuation.
A change in mood is usually accompanied by a change in behaviour. Take a moment to reflect on how you behave when your mood is either up or down. Often we may feel high or low and not be aware of how this impacts on the way in which we behave. Behaviour changes associated with depression may include a change in sleeping and eating habits, a withdrawal from social activities, a lack of interest in hobbies or activities and a generally pessimistic view of life. Manic or hyper mania behavioural changes may include talking faster or more loudly than usual, less sleep, driving fast, increased social interaction, over working, increased risk taking with money or the law and generally shocking people.
These are just some examples of changes in ones behaviour that can result from a mood change. You need to evaluate how the up's and down's affect your behaviour.
If bipolar represents two opposite poles (the highs and the lows) and you being pulled from one extreme to the other than the challenge is to remain in the centre. With our mood fluctuations we lose this centre point and we act out of balance. Usually drugs are used to help to restore the lost balance. If we are low we may use medication which will improve our mood and move us closer to that middle neutral point.
Acting out of mood swings
Often when we up or down we instinctively act out of this space. In other words we act depressed when feel depressed or we act manic when we feel manic. When you are manic and sleeping less, working more, socializing endlessly, listening to load music, etc., you actually feed the mania. We may go with the mood and hand ourselves over too it. The more out of control you behave the more out of control you feel.
The same is true for depression, withdrawing from life as a result of depression seems to not only perpetuate the depression but also disrupt one's life. When we hand ourselves over to depression and can't get out of the bed or perform daily function life can get out of control very quickly.
Have you ever felt something really intensely and made a conscious decision not act on the feeling? Maybe you felt intense anger or hurt but you knew showing or acting on it would not be in your favour so you did not. We all possess this self-control or self-discipline and can develop and build on it. Rudolf Steiner referred to this as your will. In realizing you are more than your feeling you have the capacity to feel one thing, think about the feeling and then choose your action accordingly. You may not be able to control your mood swings but being aware of the shift in yourself you can develop the capacity to consciously choose your actions. There is no denying what you really feel; in fact the power to change your behaviour lies in really acknowledging what you do feel.
Developing the capacity to act from the centre when feeling either very high or very low takes practise and also requires the acknowledgment and belief that there is more to you than the 'bipolar'. We all have the capacity to feel something and choice not to act out of this. In order to bring yourself down from mania you could adjust your behaviour, for example consciously walk, talk and drive slower. One could also resist going shopping or partying and instead do a yoga class or take a bath and stay away from wild entertainment. The aim is to consciously choose activities that bring your mood down and thereby bringing you closer to the centre.
The same would apply to depression. Once acknowledging you are feeling depressed you would then work against the downward pull in mood. This could be accomplished by keeping active, going to gym or engaging in exercise or activities that you enjoy, trying to keep to your schedule and focusing on thing that uplift you like movies, books, friends and company. The natural tendency to go down and feel negative about everything has to be counter acted. Taking up the daily practise of gratitude and meditation can be most helpful. Generally you will feel better when you are accomplishing something and not just lying on the bed which will make one feel worse.
Using these tools to help you to gain some awareness and control of your behaviour can affect the rest of your life positively. Friends and family can be very affected by moods swings which result in major behaviour changes. If one is able to contain these mood swings and decrease the impact they have on your life, your family, your work and on general social interaction you will feel more in control.
Bipolar is a serious illness and medication may be a life-long necessity. Using this process does not replace medication or other forms of therapy but it will help you to find ways that help you to live a balance full life. A combination of medication, therapy and life style changes may all be part of managing this illness.