Suffering from any mental illness can feel like you’re trapped on a crazy roller coaster.
I can’t think of many people who would disagree.
But even for those of us that have grown used to our disorders, it can be easy to forget just how wild a ride it can be.
My mental health can go from 0 to 100 in a matter of hours — and vice versa.
I guess that just comes with the territory when living with Bipolar Disorder alongside anxiety.
It’s hard to handle that scale some days. Hell, it’s hard to handle it almost every day.
But over the years I’ve come up with a couple of techniques that help me through my toughest days.
As a bit of background, in case you don’t know: Bipolar Disorder is defined by episodes of extreme lows and extreme highs. Imagine those fear fall rides at amusement parks.
That’s my brain.
In 2018, I experienced the strongest, highest manic episode of my entire life. And that mania took a dive straight into my lowest depressive episode.
I took a month off of work. I probably should have checked myself into a hospital.
Hindsight is 20/20 and all that, I guess.
It took daily therapy and a lot of personal growth to recover. To be completely honest, I’m not even entirely sure I’m done recovering.
But I learned a lot through that experience.
I still experience my highs and lows, but they’ve become a bit easier to manage. I hope by sharing these tips I can help someone else manage theirs easier, as well.
What is a Manic Episode:
The easiest way to describe mania is extreme highs: very energized, very motivated, over-the-top happy.
It can also mean sensitivity, physically and emotionally.
I used to believe this was just who I was. This was my default. This was Brittany.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder that I even considered this was just the high end of the spectrum.
Now that I recognize these episodes for what they are (“feeling strongly,” as I usually refer to it) I know what I need to do to care for myself.
Coping with Manic Episodes:
The main thing I need to remind myself during a manic episode — and the hardest to actually accomplish — is to not do too much.
Often during these times, I want to go on a productivity spree, doing anything and everything I can.
It feels great at the moment, but once I get into that mode, the crash that will inevitably come leaves me feeling worse than ever.
So that’s my focus — don’t work too hard.
I still give myself tasks and try to accomplish a reasonable amount, but I don’t push myself too hard.
I also have to keep myself far from my bank account. My manic self thinks a good shopping spree will solve any problem I have. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.)
During a mania, I have to remind myself to relax.
My focus is on calming self care — bubble baths, Netflix marathons, meditation.
I try not to focus too much on task lists and exercise goals during this time, because I know if I do I will inevitably go too hard too fast.
What is a Depressive Episode:
The other end of the spectrum: depressive episodes.
During these extreme lows, it feels almost impossible to accomplish anything.
I know that’s not true because I just accomplished this mile-long to-do list the day before. But my brain is trying its hardest to convince me otherwise.
During a depressive episode, it’s a struggle just to get out of bed, let alone consider tackling a task list.
But that’s exactly what I ask myself to do.
Coping with Depressive Episodes:
My focus during a depressive episode is to accomplish something.
So while my goal during a manic episode is to not do too much, my goal here is to just do something.
That something can be as minor as getting out of bed and walking Rory.
It could be something that feels impossible, like writing a blog post.
It’s important for me to get myself moving and to keep my mind occupied. That way I know I won’t be wallowing in my bed all day trapped inside of my own head.
I know once I start something, it will be easier to go into the next thing, so my goal is just to START.
And if I can only complete 1 task and can’t seem to go on, I’ll let myself rest before attempting to tackle something else.
But Wait, There’s More!
As a Type A Extrovert, depressive episodes are the hardest for me.
Those deep pits of despair are the furthest from what I consider my “true self.”
They are the hardest for me to work through, but also the reason I HAVE to work my way out of them.
Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of a “true self” vision board. Basically I want to make a collage of everything I like about myself and post it somewhere in my home so I know I will see it every day.
This way, when I am in that deep pit of a depressive episode, I’ll have something visual to rely on to remind me why I’m fighting — instead of just constantly reminding myself inside my head.
I also have my Happy Thoughts Jar to draw from when I just can’t seem to bring a smile to my own face.
I recognize that these probably aren’t the best methods for coping with Bipolar Disorder. But they’re techniques I have discovered through experience. And for the most part, they work for me.
Of course, I am 100% an advocate for seeking professional counseling and therapy. But our counselors can’t be with us 24/7 (unfortunately!)
It’s good to have our own coping mechanisms we can work through ourselves! I hope these can be of use to someone else out there.
If you give any of these techniques a shot or if you have your own methods, I would love to hear about them!! Shout them out to me in the comments below.
And if you like this post, please share it on social media!
I appreciate all your support and I wish you the best on your mental health journey.