Some Tough Love About Bipolar Disorder

Living with Bipolar Disorder can be a constant challenge — especially when you’re a BP newbie. I hope that you get all the support that you need as you adjust to your post-diagnosis life, but remember that not all help comes in the form of positive affirmations and kind words. There are some hard truths that you need to hear to make life easier in the longer run. I promise that my heart is in the right place so let’s talk about some of things that we might not want to hear.

Your Medications Are Your Responsibility

The number one predictor in mood stability is medication compliance. For this reason alone, you have to be on top of your scripts at all times so you don’t run out. Make sure that you’re monitoring how much you have of each medication and refill them consistently. Communicate with your prescribing doctor when you’re about to run out of refills so you never have a lapse in your supply. Let your pharmacy help you out if they offer automatic refills and medication synchronization. If you can, stockpile leftover pills somewhere safe. In the event that you do run out, you can buy some extra time with your cache while you work with your doctor and/or pharmacy to get your scripts refilled.

The Term Bipolar is NOT Exclusive to Mental Health

The first definition of bipolar is having or relating to two poles or extremities. It’s a word commonly found in other arenas of study (like geology and statistics) and predates the psychiatric condition — remember that Bipolar Disorder was actually called Manic Depression before 1980. When you hear someone describe the weather as being bipolar one day, take a minute before you take it personally. Remember that this word isn’t exclusive to our condition and that someone using it innocuously wasn’t intending to hurt you. No one appreciates gatekeeping language except for those who are angry and self-righteous.

Getting Offended is a Choice

You’re probably going to hear a lot of potentially hurtful things about Bipolar and other mental health issues, but your reaction is your choice. At some point, someone will probably call you or another person with a mental health issue crazy, even if they don’t know about your diagnosis. Start working on toughening your skin now so you don’t find yourself getting wounded over every little statement. How we feel about something and how we respond is our choice but for me, I’d rather be happy than offended and upset all the time. If we fell to pieces every time somebody said something upsetting or insensitive, we’d be irrevocably shattered. Don’t let words have that power over you.

You Are Responsible for Your Actions

It’s not uncommon to eschew responsibility for doing and saying hurtful things because of the diagnosis, however BP is not a carte blanche for bad behavior. When we begin to view our lives through a Bipolar lens, it’s easy to think that it’s due to the disorder that we engaged in destructive activities or were verbally abusive to those around us. While it’s true that we cannot control having the diagnosis, we absolutely can control how we deal with it such as taking medication consistently, seeing a therapist and practicing healthy coping mechanisms. The only thing worse than struggling with an undiagnosed disorder is being diagnosed with a disorder and not doing anything about it. Remember that a diagnosis is just a blueprint for treatment — it is not a no holds barred excuse for destructive behavior.

Self-Care Isn’t Always Pleasant. Do It Anyway

When I hear the term ‘self-care,’ my mind immediately thinks of mani-pedis, shopping sprees and eating large slices of chocolate cake in a bubble bath with a glass of champagne on the side. Unfortunately, effective self-care isn’t so glamorous and indulgent though it is much more necessary than all the nice things I just listed. Effective self-care entails holding yourself accountable and making good decisions that help you in the long run such as sticking to that sleep schedule even though you’re in the middle of binge-watching Breaking Bad for the third time, getting your credit report and making a plan to budget your spending even though it’s scary and Amazon Prime Week is fast approaching as well as forcing yourself up and out the door to get in a little exercise, even if you’re energy is edging towards zero and you literally can’t even. Your future self will thank you and you will build more self-confidence in knowing that you literally can.

Betty’s Bottom Line

I didn’t come out of the gate acknowledging this tough love when I started my BP journey. It took lots of mistakes, plenty of heart-ache and loads of time in therapy to fully understand it. My hope is that everyone can come to these conclusions a little more gently than I did. As I initially stated, my heart is in the right place and life will get easier by internalizing these ideas. Remember that we can’t choose our diagnosis nor our symptoms but we can choose how we treat ourselves and we can choose how to respond. We have more control than we think. Repeat until you believe it!



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Non-profit worker. Mental health advocate. Champion of work-life balance. Random thought generator. Oddly opinionated.