|Beyond the common hurdles of bipolar—mood swings, medication side effects, irregular sleep—I’ve discovered some difficult, often-overlooked dilemmas. Here are my solutions to the top six. By Stephen Propst I’ve faced the more familiar facets of bipolar—unpredictable mood swings, medication side effects, irregular sleep patterns—for decades. However, I’ve discovered some difficult dilemmas that often go undiscussed. It’s important to acknowledge and address these issues, too. Here are six challenges worth confronting, perhaps with your doctor, in therapy, or at a support group; and some ways to proactively deal with these stumbling blocks. #1 Fleeing friends: Maintaining friendships can be difficult. Some friends back away out of fear or over frustration with past episodes. Others simply fall out of touch when we have extended periods of depression and isolation.|
I try to focus on forging friendships with people who naturally understand or are willing to learn. When I put myself in their shoes, exercise patience, and openly discuss the details of bipolar, they’re more apt to take my situation into account and less prone to abandon me.
#2 Suffering self-esteem
There’s an easy way to check your self-esteem. Have a trusted friend write half page about how he or she sees you; then, compare it to your own self-evaluation. I tried this years ago, and I was shocked at the differences.
Despite learning to see myself in a more realistic light over the course of 10 years of therapy, maintaining solid self-esteem remains challenging. Now, I try to give myself credit for even small accomplishments, and I’m more forgiving of myself when I make mistakes.
#3 Rough relationships
Sustaining an intimate relationship is another matter. It can be overwhelming for someone to routinely go along on our roller-coaster ride. It’s no wonder the divorce rate is so high!
It’s best to be honest and transparent with your significant other. And don’t forget that your partner has needs, too. If you’re still searching for your soul mate, stay optimistic. You never know when you’ll meet the right person.
#4 Lingering lethargy
My worst depression lasted nine months. I slept around 18 hours a day, yet I still lacked energy. These days I continue to occasionally face sometimes crippling depression and the accompanying fatigue.
You have to work hard to counteract the mental and physical drain that are symptomatic of bipolar. Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning, sticking to a routine, and watching what you eat are habits worth developing.
#5 Pessimistic perspective
I may write about the power of pursuing life from a positive perspective, but I never said doing so was easy. Because bipolar impacts us physically, psychologically, emotionally, and otherwise, it’s really hard to put on a happy face when times are tough.
That said, it’s worth trying my best to adopt a healthy attitude. For example, if I find myself wallowing and worrying in bed, I try to at least get up and go for a walk. Taking that simple step, and avoiding negative self-talk along the way, helps clear my head and change my mind-set for the better.
#6 Erratic employment
When you’re contending with unpredictable mood swings, work can be challenging. I have a friend with bipolar who lands jobs with ease. His record is 22 in one year! (Holding on to them is a different matter.)
For many of us, merely finding work that’s manageable, let alone meaningful, is difficult. I look for jobs that are less likely to jeopardize my well-being, versus those based purely on my education and experience. Being transparent with potential employers helps ensure that more reasonable, mutually accepted expectations are established.
Aside from known symptoms, living with bipolar comes with some problematic predicaments. It pays to practice simple strategies to help overcome these obstacles. Concentrating on concepts like being patient with friends, giving yourself a break, or just taking a walk can help improve everything from your relationships to your self-esteem to your overall well-being.
Printed as “Mind Over Mood: Difficult dilemmas,” Winter 2019
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen PropstStephen Propst, a former chair of DBSA, is a public speaker and a coach/consultant focusing on living successfully with conditions like bipolar. He can be reached at email@example.com.