Living with both chronic pain and bipolar disorder can, needless to say, be extremely challenging. I feel that I’m at a place in my journey within which I’m able to effectively manage my chronic pain and my mental health, but it’s a constant balancing act.
The mind-body connection means that my emotions, stress levels and the way that I perceive my pain can have a significant effect on my pain levels and other symptoms. Similarly, my chronic pain can impact my mood and how I’m coping mentally. I wanted to share 5 ways that my chronic pain impacts my bipolar disorder the most significantly, and how I deal with it.
Often chronic pain makes it very difficult to get to sleep, and even when those of us with chronic pain do sleep, we don’t always feel the benefit of it (this is called non-restorative sleep). Unfortunately, lack of sleep can put me at risk of my mood plummeting, and even increase my risk of hypomania.
I try to combat this by keeping a regular sleep schedule, meaning I try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, even when I haven’t slept well. I limit naps during the day (where possible), and I try to keep as active as possible during the day to really wear my body out for sleep.
2. Needing to ask for help
Particularly when my chronic pain symptoms are flaring (meaning they’re at their worst), I need to ask for help with tasks. I have great support which I am very grateful for, but it can be tough to cope with mentally to need to ask for help with tasks you wish you could do yourself.
I try to balance this by remembering that I’m doing my best, and that I am there for my loved ones just as much as they are there for me, even if it’s in different ways.
3. Not being able to do everything I want to
I’m a very headstrong determined person, and when I set my mind to something I want to see it through. However, sometimes my body just doesn’t agree. It’s important to pace your activity when you live with chronic pain, meaning that you take your time, schedule rests, and don’t push yourself too far otherwise you can end up making yourself flare. Although I understand this and know how important it is, it can be really frustrating when I just want to get on with getting lots done.
I try to remind myself that pacing is how I’ve gotten so far and it gives me the best chance of maintaining my level of functioning.
4. Disrupting plans
Even though my chronic pain is well managed, by its nature I’m sometimes going to have flares. When this happens, I sometimes need to pull out of plans with others or rearrange things I had planned myself. This disruption can be hard to cope with mentally.
I do my best to set clear boundaries with others for the benefit of my physical and mental health, and try to keep in mind that there’s always another day.
5. Fibro fog
Fibro fog is a symptom of fibromyalgia which results in cognitive issues, making it tough to remember things, to think about what you want to say and to focus on the task at hand, along with other difficulties. This can be debilitating at times.
The way I cope with fibro fog is through humour, making jokes and laughing at myself, as well as reminding myself that this will pass.
If you want to share your experience with how chronic pain effects your mental health, feel free to comment below.