I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder nine years ago. I’ve accepted my diagnosis. My everyday struggles continue to prove that this last diagnosis is correct. I don’t have major depressive disorder with anxiety. I have bipolar disorder. It’s not hard for me to say and I say it a lot compared to most people with the disorder. There’s another type of acceptance related to bipolar disorder that I’m still working on- accepting my moods as they come.
I have rapid-cycling bipolar I disorder. This means that at least four times per year I have an episode. Already this year I have experienced two depressive episodes and a manic episode. These are the ones I remember. There have certainly been times that I’ve been symptomatic outside of these episodes. That’s a lot for any one person to cope with.
There are days that I cope better than others. For example, in my current mood I’ve had symptoms of depression for a little more than a week. That does not yet qualify as a depressive episode, but I’m experiencing depression all the same. For the first several days I dealt with it just fine. I recognized my symptoms for what they were and left it at that.
I talked to my therapist about how I’d been feeling. I mentioned that I knew I was experiencing mild depression, but that it was fine and I was just going to ride it out and hope it didn’t last long. I no longer feel this way, likely because the longer I have to deal with an episode the harder it gets.
There are two ways that I can help myself accept what I’m going through a little bit easier- emotional regulation and mindfulness.
Emotional regulation is how we feel and respond to emotional experiences. We can both consciously and unconsciously respond to our feelings in any given situation. There are healthy ways to respond to emotions and unhealthy ways to respond. People with bipolar disorder innately have difficulties with emotional regulation, even outside of episodes. That means we tend not to be able to suppress or control our emotions as effectively as other people.
There are many examples of ways to help with emotional regulation:
- Try to reframe the situation with a positive spin.
- Remove yourself from the situation.
- Talk to friends.
- Attend therapy.
- Practice self-care.
- Get enough sleep.
Practicing mindfulness is another way I cope with and attempt to accept my emotions and moods. Mindfulness is based on being aware without judgement. There are five basic steps to practicing:
- Set aside time and space to practice.
- Observe the moment- How do you feel physically and psychologically? What is happening in your environment?
- Let go of any judgements you have about what you’re observing.
- Go back to observation.
- Be kind to yourself.
There are many times when I find it difficult not to judge myself by how I’m feeling. I’m down and I don’t want to be a downer, but thinking this way is destructive and only perpetuates negative emotions. Research has shown that accepting our emotions leads to better psychological health. We experience fewer stressors and less anxiety. I’m on board with this. Now I just have to practice it.
Image credit: maf04