Beer, food, meth, stimulants, energy drinks, video games, unprotected sex, bad relationships, obsessive internet checking, smoking, tattoos, spending, raves, ecstasy, pills, hard drugs, new shoes, new relationships, have a baby, nachos, lottery, obsessive friendships, junk food, caffeine, new lipstick, pot, new haircut, hard liquor, party, buffet, new roommate, new city, fantasy football, …. anything to feel…. alive, better… something!
You are NOT alone if you have a similar NOT SO GREAT bipolar disorder coping list.
My list used to be very long. I drank a lot in order to calm down. I got caught up in manic internet dating and now have an STD to live with for life. (I am always honest about this as STDs are a consequence of mania for mania of us.) Constant moving and walking into contentious relationships were also big items on my coping list.
I have fixed these behaviors over the years. I have changed.
I have a much shorter list now: Social media checking, sugar, especially ice cream and pop, obsessive binge watching of Scandinavian mysteries on Netflix, expensive restaurants! These are still problems, but I’m working on changing even more.
I am so much better than when I was first diagnosed and used a huge coping list to get me through the ups and downs that I simply couldn’t explain until I found out I had bipolar disorder.
What does your not so great coping list look like?
We use the items on our lists to feel better because bipolar disorder can be hard to treat successfully for those of us with chronic symptoms.
A coping list that looks like a WHAT NOT TO DO list is normal. You are normal if your list isn’t exactly healthy. I manage this illness as best as possible and I still have a list that needs to change.
When bipolar disorder is raging, it’s physically and mentally painful. We simply want to feel better. Our maladaptive behaviors make sense in the moment because this illness is the equivalent of a hurricane in the brain and we need immediate help to survive when it hits.
We all know that this way of coping isn’t smart. It’s not exactly forward thinking. It’s not good for our futures. But when an illness makes you want to die, having a pint of ice cream or getting online to feel like a regular person seems like an understandable alternative.
IF, and I wish it were the case, IF the long term use of the not so great coping list didn’t have consequences, we could use it. What’s wrong with a little cocaine, a hit of pot? A pill, a beer? A chocolate bar with lovely salty peanuts?
Unfortunately, a lot. We tend to be obsessive due to this illness and when the mood swings are long and feel never ending, our list grows and grows and our behaviors that truly start in order to cope turn into addictive and destructive behaviors that ultimately increase the symptoms we are trying to manage.
It’s a VICIOUS CYCYLE.
We don’t use the items on our list just once because this illness doesn’t happen once and then go away. It’s not the flu or a case of the break up blues. It’s a genetic mental health disorder that affects every ounce of our being. For many of us, it’s chronic.
My symptoms are every day, sometimes all day. I need a way out. But I have learned that a long, not so great coping list simply makes me fat, miserable, sick and drunk. I want more from life.
I changed when I realized the items on my not so great list were creating a not so great life. I wrote down what I wanted to change and I systematically made changes over time. It hasn’t been easy.
I want to be kind to myself about my list and change it slowly. I started this many years ago when I wrote my first books. My book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder was the first to talk about having a trigger management plan. Coping lists can be tamed by removing the triggers that lead to the need to cope. That is how I started. This is how you can start changing as well.
I am on a hike, a journey, a sojourn to finding alternatives to my not so great coping list.
I have come so far in my management and I am ready to go deeper into a world where I live the majority of my days in stable, joyful happiness without needing my bipolar coping list.
My goal is to create a list of behaviors that aren’t about coping. This new list is about stability and happiness. Here is my current list. Believe me, it’s always a work in progress.
My GREAT bipolar disorder management list:
• Stable relationships
• Better food choices
• Travel with a plan
• Work that I love
• Financial help from people who care
• Learning a new language
• Collaborating with stable people
• Surrounding myself with art
• Writing, writing, writing
• Saying yes instead of isolating
• Reading Bp Magazine
• Reading self help books
• Reaching out when I’m sick, finding like minded people on Meetup.com
• Knowing my signs of mania and listening when people tell me I’m manic
• Having a plan in place I use that doesn’t involve anything on my not so great coping list
• A drive to move forward
• A belief I can find relief in a way that doesn’t make my illness worse
• Going easy on myself when I get sick and get behind on my goals.
Your not so great list may be long now, but it can shrink as mine has and you CAN create a list that is about love, life and stability.
It takes time, but time is going to pass anyway. We might as well get better.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community