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stardust's avatar

Question for those familiar with Bipolar Disorder?

Asked by stardust (10520 points ) April 25th, 2012

If you have gone through rapid cycling, how do you cope? You know the highs and lows are coming in waves, but there’s still things to be done, i.e. work, study, etc?
Any advice at all would be appreciated.

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6 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I haven’t been through the rapid cycling, but I am bipolar. I posted a long answer here to something similar to this. I hate to just point you to the answer to another question on here, but it really is what works for me.

RareDenver's avatar

My brother has rapid cycle manic bi-polar disorder. His life is pretty crazy. They have been trying to level him out using epilepsy medication and seems to be having a positive effect. He got engaged last September.

Shippy's avatar

Some use medication which really helps. I kind of treat myself symptomatically, not the best method for all. But it is OK for now. Meaning as each issue comes up I respond by either talking, having a rest, eating if I am hungry, or just being tentative to the manifesting symptom.

wundayatta's avatar

Get help.
Rule number 1: get help.

Get help. Get treated. See a psychiatrist. They are the experts, and know what to try. Most likely they will try different medications on you. These days there are hundreds of different medication combinations and the only problem is that you can’t tell what will work on which patients, so you have to go through an experimentation process. If you experience any side effects you don’t like—weight gain, shaking fingers, slowness of thinking, etc, let your psychiatrist know right away so you can get off that drug and then try something else.

Get help. You do not have to cope on your own. If you can’t afford a psychiatrist, tell them. Often they will reduce their fee or treat you for free. If you can not afford meds, there are programs that can get you meds for free. Tell someone. Get help in getting what you need. You can not do this on your own. Get help. This is the most important thing. Get help.

Get help. Bipolar is a killer. One in five people with bipolar die, usually of their own hand. So take it seriously and ask for help. The sooner the better. You may not think you are worth helping. I know I didn’t. I’m telling you that doesn’t matter. The issue of worth is a red herring. It is irrelevant.

Get help.
Get help.
Get help.

Rule number two: don’t make any major decisions for three months.

Don’t kill yourself. Don’t get divorced. Don’t quit your job. No major decisions for three months. That’s so rule number one can have a chance to do something.

Help takes time. Don’t expect instant changes. Some meds take a month or two to kick in. Be patient.

Those are my two rules for dealing with bipolar disorder when you have never been treated.

Coping.
There are many coping techniques. See a therapist to learn them. Read books to learn them. Ask specific questions here to learn them.

Not-thinking
I am a great believer in not-thinking. This is tricky. Because I also believe in thinking. But I find that a certain kind of thinking does not help me.

Thinking about my worth does not help. Thinking about whether I’m good at this or that does not help. Thinking about whether anyone loves me does not help. When I’m sick, the answer to those thoughts is always an unhelpful answer. I am worthless. I am bad and horrible and no one loves me and I don’t deserve love.

I have found that I should just accept these things because I can’t fight them. Never take on a battle you can’t win.

Accepting that I am worthless and whatever takes those ideas off the table. They become irrelevant. There is no question but that I am worthless, stupid, and deserve to die. No question.

Next?

It’s just a stupid way to think and I can’t not think that way. I’m sick. That’s how I think. So I’m going to accept that’s the way I am and move on. I won’t fight it. It’s kind of marvelous how accepting things makes them into non-issues. Yup. I’m stupid. Next?

After a while you get a lot of practice in dropping issues that are useless to you. You discover that you can get along fine without judging yourself or worrying about what people think of you. It’s irrelevant. Next.

You turn your mind away from those unhelpful thoughts and work on what is helpful.

What is helpful?

My name is my reminder of what is helpful to me. Wundayatta. One day at a time. Or as I put it last night in my group meeting, one step at a time. Or as someone else put it after listening to me, one heartbeat at at time.

When I wanted to die, one day at a time worked. I would vow to live, just for today. I can make it through one day. One day at a time, I made it through a lot of days, but I only made it through one day at a time because that is all I could handle.

Some tasks, like the person in my group last night, are a heartbeat at a time. She needs to inject herself with a needle twice a day for six months. She hates needles. Twice a day, she faces the needle, a heartbeat at a time, and it works for her. She doesn’t think about six months worth. She only thinks about this heartbeat. And this one. And this one.

Other times, you take one step at a time. When I ride my bike to work, I take it one hill at a time. All I have to do is get up this hill. That’s all. I can get up this one hill.

So whatever you are working on, work on it and it only. Work on this instance of it. This phone call. This doctor’s appointment. This bill to pay. Pay this one bill. Then you can pay this one bill. You can stop when you need to. You’ve paid two bills. Yay!

Make this one phone call. That’s all. Just this one. You can make one phone call. You know you can.

Get out of bed today. Just for today. You can sit up, put on your slippers and go take a shower. Just today. Not any other day. Just today. Just now. Nothing else is required or promised. Just this one action.

We are easily overwhelmed. We look at a desktop or house or bathroom or whatever and we see the mess and we have no idea where to start. It is impossible.

But if you select one thing and one thing only, it is doable. This is hard for bipolar folk because, unless we also have ADD, we tend to be people who see the whole forest. We are big picture people. Usually, it is second nature to look at the big picture and see the whole picture, clear as day. It is our talent. It is an incredible advantage over most people.

But when we are sick, it becomes a disadvantage. If we look at the big picture, and all we see is chaos, it is killer. We don’t know how to see. We don’t know where to look. We can’t start making sense of it, and that is overwhelming.

The way out is not to care. We accept the chaos. We accept the failure. We accept we can do nothing about it. We are worthless people. Ok. Fine. Next. It doesn’t matter. It’s not something we can do anything about.

So focus on one thing. One heartbeat. One step. One hill. One day. Do that one thing and that one thing only. That is doable. That is the way out of the mess. There is usually one thing to do. If there are two, you discard one so there is only one. You do that. Then there maybe one other thing to do. You do that.

This focus is what our minds require to take action. We can not look at things that are worthless for us to look at. There’s just no point. So if we limit ourselves to one thing, we can act. And for most of us, that one action is a revelation! Some of us can handle more, but most of us need to start with one thing. But that gets the ball rolling. It is a huge victory!

Hah! I act as if lots of people do this when I don’t know for sure. It works for me. It seems to resonate with other people I talk to. I hope it can help you.

Good luck. This is a battle you may be fighting for many years. But forget about the years. If you fight it for one day, you have won! And I know you can do that. I bet you know it, too.

GracieT's avatar

@wundayatta, !!! That deserves more GAs that I’m allowed to give. I have bipolar 2, and all I can add is believe him. It may take medication, and the first tried may not work.

Only138's avatar

@wundayatta Damn good answer!

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