Family, friends, peers, and professionals all play pivotal roles in helping you. Ultimately, who’s the best qualified to be responsible for your welfare? You!
Those of us living with a mood disorder confront a condition we did not choose. Though we may sometimes feel like it’s not in our control, we don’t have to surrender! Instead, we can work to keep bipolar at bay.
Over 35 years of living with bipolar, I’ve routinely asked myself what I can do to rein it in. Countless people—family, friends, peers, professionals—have played pivotal roles. However, I eventually came to realize who’s really responsible for my welfare, and that’s me!
Learning to TAKE OVER achieving wellness for myself has been challenging but incredibly worthwhile. Let me spell out some important concepts I’ve learned along the way:
Getting a grip on bipolar takes time. Don’t beat yourself up in the process of learning how to manage it. I started by taking a step at a time; before long, I was making progress.
Is bipolar something you are or something you have? I had to change my attitude because how we see a situation can be more disabling than the situation itself. You are not defined by a diagnosis!
It really is everything. The more you learn—by attending support groups and conferences, reading books, and searching the web—the better equipped you are to fend for yourself.
It pays to conduct a self-exam. Pay attention to your weaknesses, and acknowledge your needs; capitalize on your strengths, but be mindful of your vulnerabilities.
You’re reading this column right now; hopefully doing so proves worthwhile! Don’t overlook opportunities to boost your recovery; in fact, actively look for them. A positive change can start with a small step, like looking at an article.
You need the means to get where you’re going. A wellness plan provides a vehicle to get on and stay on the road to recovery. The people you choose to ride along with you are important. That’s why, for example, I spent 10 years consulting with competent, caring therapists.
You can theorize all day long, but sooner or later you’ve got to take action. Make the effort to attend a local peer support group. Pay more attention to improving sleep, diet, and exercise.
Don’t just think about the possibility—expect positive results! What defines wellness for you? For many, it’s having a home, a relationship, and a job. Know where you’re headed, and make sure the people on your team respect and embrace your goals.
Granted, dealing with bipolar is no easy task. There have been many times in my life when I lacked the motivation to keep up the fight, especially on my own. Again, that’s why it’s important to surround yourself with people who can help you get past difficult times until you can again take over.
Assuming more responsibility for our own welfare can be intimidating; to some extent, we’re giving up the right to point fingers. But learning to stop blaming others and start taking care of myself really boosted my recovery. I steadily gained more skills for fighting my own bipolar battle—and you can, too.
Finally, if you’re like me, having low self-esteem can really get in the way. Spending all that time in therapy has helped me gain insight and inspiration to change my perspective for the better and stop being so hard on myself. I’ve had many misgivings and made some mistakes along the way, but that’s OK. Overcoming such obstacles is part of the process.
Now … ask yourself an important question: Who’s responsible for taking charge of you? There’s one person who is best equipped for that job, and no one is in a better position to champion your well-being and your life.
Printed as “Mind Over Mood: Taking Charge of You,” Winter 2020
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