When you live with bipolar disorder, life can be hard (to say the least). When you combine that with chronic illness, it becomes even more vital to learn to put yourself first and prioritize self-care.
You can set boundaries
Sometimes you have to set boundaries with others in order to put your own physical and mental health first. People might not always understand why this is necessary. Even if they do, and even if they mean well, they might not always be happy about it. That’s ok. You can’t control how other people feel. They don’t have to be happy about it, they just have to accept it. Remember that you can say no to social engagements and you can cancel (even at the last moment) if you need to. You can take time for yourself!
You are not selfish
Whether it’s because you are feeling low; because you’re struggling mentally or physically; because you have to dedicate your energy to work or another task; or simply because you need to focus on you in order to stay mentally or physically healthy: that is valid! This isn’t selfish, it doesn’t make you a bad person, and it doesn’t mean you don’t love the people you were going to spend time with. It simply means that you love yourself, and you need to use your energy on self-love right now.
This can take time to adjust to and sometimes you might feel guilty. You might feel anxious to say no. You may feel awkward. That’s ok, you’ll get used to it the more you stand up for your own health. Over time I’ve learnt to release that guilt and realise that I’m doing what’s best for me. I am there for those I love in so many ways, so much of the time: sometimes I have to be there for myself and that needs to come first. If people are negative in response you to saying no (even when you’ve apologised and said no nicely), that’s not your responsibility. It’s not your fault if they feel upset: you haven’t done anything wrong and it’s vital to remember that.
You don’t have to justify yourself
If you want to, you can offer an explanation to help them understand, but remember that this is not mandatory. You don’t have to explain why you don’t feel up to socializing right now. You don’t have to justify yourself. You don’t have to make excuses or tell white lies to make the other person feel better or to help them understand. You saying ‘no’ or ‘I’m not feeling up to that right now’ should be more than good enough. Those who love you will understand, or they will deal with it.