6 Cornerstones of Bipolar Stability

Bipolar treatment is not one-size-fits-all––what works for you may not also work for someone else. That being said, when you are working out your treatment plan, keep these six tips in mind.

A while ago, I was on a panel discussion about different treatments for bipolar disorder. This was one of the best panels I have participated in. No one had a hidden agenda. The only thing the other panelists cared about was what works for folks with bipolar disorder.

After the seminar, folks came up to us and commented on how nice it was to be part of a discussion that was informative without being stressful and combative. No one was made to feel guilty about the choices they had made up to that point. And everyone received balanced information they could use to make decisions in the future. It was a day well spent, and I would like for you to have the same experience and information. So here are my takeaways:

#1 Medication is not a cure-all

The most common comments are that medications are an important part of a treatment plan. But meds alone are not the answer. Sometimes our medication provider gets it and we work as a team to improve our lives. Many times, though, we need more than our medication provider.

#2 A counselor who gets it makes a big difference in our quality of life

Maybe the most effective part of our team is a well-trained peer-support specialist. Peer-support specialists have walked a similar path as we have. They get it. Sometimes we only share our whole story with a peer. We know there is understanding without judgment.

#3 If you use supplements, be informed about their effects & interactions with your meds

Become well informed about supplements’ effects, contraindications, and interactions with your current medications before using supplements. It is recommended that you discuss these supplements and concerns with the person who prescribes your meds (and with your doctor, if he or she is not your prescriber as well).

#4 Exercise helps

Our bodies release endorphins when we exercise, and that helps our feeling of well-being. However, it’s important to keep in mind how you feel after a workout. I have a friend who is consumed with feelings of anxiety during exercise. She feels good after. But during exercise the effect on her mind is negative.

#5 Meditation helps you find peace of mind, and it relieves anxiety

I have meditated for decades. But when I am in the grip of anxiety, when I need relief the most, I can’t meditate. My mind is racing with so many negative thoughts and noise that even meditation won’t quiet it. I feel like a failure at meditating. Sad, huh?

What I have learned is that I have to be taking my antianxiety meds to quiet my mind enough to meditate. This is a time in my life when Western medicine and Eastern philosophy come together.

Too often, in the grip of depression from our bipolar disorder, we just can’t do it. We just can’t exercise. We just can’t meditate. We just can’t talk to someone. Our illness has us in its talon grips and won’t let go. At that point, please be patient and gentle with yourself.

#6 Being rigid in our beliefs and expectations can cause us to get stuck in a bad place

To adamantly oppose meds or talk therapy or exercise or meditation causes us to get stuck in our bipolar brain. Worse is to try to influence others to take a treatment path because of a bad experience we have had or to intimidate someone into giving up something that helps that person.

My experience is that when someone says, “You have to try this. It’s better for you,” they are operating for their own self-interest and not for mine. That said, I probably feel that way because I’m tired of random people trying to fix me. I think to myself, “What gives them the idea that because I have bipolar disorder, I need their treatment expertise? Please don’t tell me what I need to do for my bipolar depression and anxiety.”

My hope is that you are willing to read through these takeaways from that very special panel—without feeling that I am trying to tell you what will or won’t work for you or trying to push certain strategies or treatments. These are the six points that resonated with the people at the discussion. I hope they resonate with you, too.