As most people who know me already know, I don’t hide the fact that I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder back in 2014, because that diagnosis suddenly made sense of the 20 years of struggle that preceded it. I’m not ashamed at the journey that got me to that point of diagnosis, as dark as it was at times, and I’m proud that I made it, as many sufferers don’t.
I just wanted to talk a bit about what having a mood disorder means for me in everyday life. I’m mainly sharing this because they are things we could all use to help keep ourselves mentally healthy, whether we have a disorder or not. Anyone who has ever heard me do my talk on mental health will know how I preach that as a society we have a shockingly low threshold for what we deem to be “mentally healthy”. Basically, if we haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness then most of us believe we have good mental health, and that’s just like saying... I’m not a murderer so I must be a good person. There are sliding scales!
So, what does having a mood disorder change about how I live my life.
1. Keeping track of your moods can tell you so much!
I need to take time to check in each day and plot where I am Mood wise on a scale of 0-10. Why? Because mood swings don’t tend to come without warning, a bit like the minor tremors that come before an earthquake, there are usually signs. For me that means increases or decreases in mental energy/ideas/productivity/clarity. So everyday I plot my mood on a scale and keep looking for trends in mood so I can put measures in place to rebalance things when they start to tilt the scale up or down. This means I now very rarely experience the real highs or deep lows associated with this condition. If I were to ask you what your mood patterns were over the last week/month, would you know? I tend to live in the normal range of mood nowadays and yet it’s still vital for me and I can’t help thinking it’s something we should all be more aware of. After all if things start to get to tipping point you may not know you have a problem before it’s become something you don’t know how to handle.
2. Getting a good night sleep is VITAL
It’s one of those things we all know we SHOULD make sure we do, but few of us really know the scale of effect it can have on our stability when we neglect this base human need. I need 8 hours and if I get less then I can expect mood fluctuations and that means a tipping of that delicate balance. I always believed I was a world champ at sleeping because I used sleep to avoid my mood problems but now I know that too much is sometimes as bad for me as too little and the quality is vital. I recently uploaded a sleep app which can tell me my sleep quality and I can then use that data to predict problems before they occur.
3. We need negative as well as positive emotion in our lives.
I think we are all very averse to feeling negative emotions and we are on a constant quest to avoid feeling those less desire-able things but the truth is, you can’t avoid all negative emotion and you shouldn’t. ALL emotions are there for a reason, and negative emotions act as warning signs that things aren’t right and that we need to make changes. We need to listen to those feelings and know that our emotions will always be subject to some fluctuations and sometimes we’ll feel good and sometimes we won’t but as long as we listen to them and know that they are just feelings/energy passing through us and that they, themselves can’t hurt us, we can learn to live a full human experience. The problems come when we let those fluctuations become out of balance and we find ourselves stuck in a negative place, or an overly positive place for that matter, and then it is important to seek some help. There is never any shame is reaching out to talk about sometime as human as your emotions. I talk about them a lot because they are a vital focus in my life because of my diagnosis but it’s something everyone can benefit from learning.