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  1. #1

    10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips
    by Candida Fink MD
    December 23, 2008
    Syndicated from the Bipolar Blog

    Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder or have been dealing with it for a long time, it’s likely that nobody has taken the time to sit you down and explain what you can and should be doing to help yourself. We’ve put together this Top 10 list to bring you up to speed on bipolar self-help strategies that really work:

    1. Take ownership of your illness. No, it’s not your fault you have bipolar disorder, but now that you have it, do your part to get help, lead a healthier lifestyle, and follow your treatment regimen.
    2. Take your medications as prescribed. Most of the medications used to treat depression or mania need to be taken daily, not just when you think you feel depressed or manic or think you need them.

      Warning: If you can’t tolerate the side effects of a particular medication, consult your doctor – he or she may have suggestions on how to reduce or eliminate the side effects without stopping the medication. See Managing Bipolar Medication Side Effects.
    3. Don’t drink alcohol. (This is a biggie.) Drinking alcohol can neutralize the beneficial effects of the medications and interact with some medications to cause liver damage, seizures, unpredictable shifts in mood, and other health problems. (Avoid other substances, as well, including medications that your doctor has not prescribed for you.)
    4. Sleep seven to eight hours per night… every night. Sleep deprivation can really throw your moods out of whack. For tips on getting some restful sleep, visit www.SleeplessInAmerica.org (now part of DBSA – the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance).
    5. Steer clear of stimulants. Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants could tip your mood balance, especially if they cause you to lose sleep. Yep, those energy drinks gotta go.
    6. Establish healthy routines. You’ll be surprised at how much a daily routine can relieve stress and level your moods. Exercise can help, too. If you have trouble establishing healthy routines, consider consulting a therapist who’s trained in Interpersonal & Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT), as we discuss in Bipolar Disorder For Dummies.
    7. Avoid triggers and stressors. Situations or people that get you hyped up, agitated, or upset can trigger mood episodes.
    8. Team up with your doctor and therapist. They can provide much more effective treatment if you make and keep regular appointments, consult them prior to making any medication or treatment changes, and are honest about what’s going on.
    9. Educate yourself. The more you and others around you learn about the disorder, the better equipped you’ll be to keep it under control.
    10. Ask for help. Your friends, family members, and the people you work with probably want to help but don’t know what to do. Let them know what they can do to help you (and when you need them to back off).

    These ten tips may sound pretty easy in theory, but can be very difficult to put into practice, particularly if your moods are currently cycling. If you happen to wander off course, don’t beat yourself up over it. Nobody’s perfect, and you are battling an illness that can be very difficult to manage.

    If you have any self-help tips that you have found useful in the course of your journey with bipolar disorder, please share them here.
    Last edited by Into The Light; December 24th, 2008 at 09:44 AM. Reason: Bolded item 10.

  2. #2

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    I think sometimes that therapeutic techniques work across a spectrum of mental illness, and one that I always have to keep in mind is how not getting enough sleep *always* leaves me much more fragile.

    Some things are universal.

    Thanks again,

    amastie

  3. #3

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter View Post
    Avoid triggers and stressors. Situations or people that get you hyped up, agitated, or upset can trigger mood episodes.
    What if you live with one?

    It is true that I've been generally happy to have gained some stability by having maintained a single residence for the better part of a year now. It's also true that most of the time, my housemates have not provided a problem for me. However, at the present time (as of yesterday), as well as at another time (around a month ago), I have become concerned that depressive episodes are being triggered by the actions of one or more of my housemates. Look how bad it got a month ago:

    Quote Originally Posted by stargazer View Post
    ...rght now's the worst. My daughter doesn't talk to me anymore, and neither does my stepdaughter. Everybody has abandoned me. My issues are too much for them. I make these appeals to my friends and my family, I say please say something, please stop ignoring me, please show me I'm worth something to somebody. But nobody ever writes back or returns my calls. Nobody ever makes any suggestions how I can get any help. Everybody just ignores me. Right now I'm sitting in some stupid motel room somewhere in California, I have no home, and before I know it I'll have run out of money again. Life seems pointless, meaningless, futile. And I'm not getting any younger....
    That quote is full of absolute statements - most of them untrue. These statements resulted from distorted thinking that emerged from a seriously depressed condition. I believed I had "no home" anymore, when in reality I still had my room in this house, and I didn't even have to move. But because of a problem with a housemate, I spent two nights on a motel room in a distant town, only to return to the house three days later. And it cost me money!!

    Historically, I've done better when I've lived alone, since there can be no event of feeling hassled ot disempowered by the overwhelming force of a roommate. I also don't think that I am "inherently unstable," as it might once have seemed. I believe that every time I have moved back to the Bay Area (four times since I've been active on this forum), it did me more harm than good, and I am content to remain here in the Valley.

    But should I continue to live with someone who is going to trigger depressive episodes? Even on occasion? Last night was bad. I avoided the house completely, for several hours. Even this morning, I am afraid of what I will encounter when my landlady wakes up.

    I could conceivably start looking for a studio apartment, but I wonder if I'm asking too much of life. Good deals like this present one don't arise too often, and I suppose I can always hide out in my room for hours or days on end. I've actually resorted to that sometimes. It doesn't feel right, however, when I do.

  4. #4

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    I suppose I can always hide out in my room for hours or days on end. I've actually resorted to that sometimes. It doesn't feel right, however, when I do.
    That may not be much different than staying in some studio apartments, though obviously the kitchen isn't there in your bedroom.

  5. #5

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    LOL that's true. Seriously though, in the past I was usually permitted a microwave. In the cottage, where I last lived before subjected to an "owner move-in," I had my own microwave, and so with a room fridge I did not need to use the kitchen. Here, without the permission of those provisions, I must share the kitchen. When I'm in the kitchen trying to focus on what I'm doing (not my forte, by the way), and the landlady is in the living room watching TV (which she does 24/7 - another thing, I can't stand TV), she constantly nags me about this & that, making it even harder for me to focus. I almost blew up at her yesterday, but instead was able to simply verbalize that I wasn't in a very good mood. The force of my verbalization might have deterred her from further verbalizations of her own. But need I be in battle with this person?

    And it's only going to become more difficult once the third housemate moves to the Midwest one week from today. I won't have his influence to buffer the battle any longer.
    Last edited by stargazer; January 1st, 2009 at 08:58 AM. Reason: unnecessarily specific information

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Sudbury, Ontario
    Posts
    107

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    Living with triggers and stressors really is a miserable thing. As much as I love my sister she is a huge trigger for me and I'm much happier now that she has moved out and is living with our parents again and it's just hubby and me. My problem is I want to eat healthy but healthy foods cost SO much money, and that stresses me out and eating crap makes me feel like poop. Gah!!

  7. #7

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    My problem is I want to eat healthy but healthy foods cost SO much money, and that stresses me out and eating crap makes me feel like poop. Gah!!
    BTW, a recent blog article:

    Healthy Foods for Under $1 - Psychlinks
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  8. #8

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    A couple things:

    (1) I realized later that my hassle with the landlady was a typical tenant-landlord hassle, unrelated to one's mental health condition. However, it reached a peak, and there was a knock-down drag-out between the two of us (figuratively speaking.) Words were exchanged, and I wound up calling my therapist.

    It gets tricky. My sister no longer wants to be the Payee for my disability checks, and I had asked my landlady to do so. My therapist had already advised me against this, and now that the landlady and I have had a hassle, the therapist's counsel makes even more sense.

    The problem is: I can't find anyone else who wants to do it - including brother and daughter. But my sister has her own physical and mental health issues, and I cannot consciably insist that she continue in this role.

    Now, the landlady and I are getting along again, and I feel strongly that she ought to do it. That way, when the check comes, she can just take the rent, and leave the rest to me. (It's always gone by the fifth day of the month anyway, what with bills.)

    (2) Getting seven hours of sleep a night seems impossible. I'm lucky if I get more than three hours at any given shot. Usually, I sleep for three hours, then am awake for four or five hours, then sleep for three more hours. I am constantly falling asleep at various junctures during the day. Why is this?

    It did not used to be so bad, but it started with this particular combination of meds. Something tells me it has something to do with the wellbutrin, because the depakote alone did not result in this pattern.

  9. #9

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    Quote Originally Posted by stargazer View Post
    The problem is: I can't find anyone else who wants to do it - including brother and daughter. But my sister has her own physical and mental health issues, and I cannot consciably insist that she continue in this role.
    I would have reservations, as well. Certainly, at least according to Social Security, the ideal is to have a non-profit agency be the payee if family or friends are not available:

    Social Security - Representative Payee Program - When People Need Help Managing Their Money

    Social Security - Representative Payee Program - Fee For Service

    My reservations would be that when it comes time that you want to move out, the landlord may start getting ideas about "security deposits" or, similarly, want compensation for the condition of the carpeting, etc. Also, it doesn't seem like a very long term solution if you don't plan on staying there for more than a year.

    Quote Originally Posted by stargazer View Post
    Getting seven hours of sleep a night seems impossible. I'm lucky if I get more than three hours at any given shot. Usually, I sleep for three hours, then am awake for four or five hours, then sleep for three more hours. I am constantly falling asleep at various junctures during the day. Why is this?

    It did not used to be so bad, but it started with this particular combination of meds. Something tells me it has something to do with the wellbutrin, because the depakote alone did not result in this pattern.
    As you may have read, difficulty sleeping is one of the more common side effects of Wellbutrin, at least in the beginning of treatment:

    http://www.wellbutrin-xl.com/prescri...e_effects.html

    Personally, I experienced insomnia myself with Wellbutrin, but it went away in a few days. And my relative with bipolar disorder seemed to do well on Wellbutrin when he was depressed. OTOH, my relative may have also been taking Klonopin at night at that time.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  10. #10

    Re: 10 Bipolar Disorder Self-Help Tips

    It may help to take the Wellbutrin in the morning instead of afternoon or evening.

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