5 Routine Elements for Managing Bipolar Disorder

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Several years ago my life spiraled out of control because of my bipolar disorder.

Thankfully, soon after Thanksgiving in 2011, I began inpatient treatment at a mental health facility that specializes in treating individuals with severe mental illnesses like bipolar disorder. The staff there helped me stabilize, laying the foundation for me to manage the disorder. Yet I knew it would still take significant effort to sustain that stability once I checked out.

In the two years since I left the facility, maintaining mental balance has boiled down to five fundamental needs I have to think about every day.

1. Medication

Taking my medication every day is the most important thing I do to manage my bipolar.

There's some trial and error involved when you first start on any of these medications. You have to suffer through that initial period when the dosage level isn't quite right. And even after the doctors make adjustments, some people don't respond well to certain drugs like lithium. But for me, within three days, lithium lifted me out of a severe depression. It was amazing.

Currently, I take three different medicines once a day right before I go to bed. Since I take them all at the same time, forgetting to take one means forgetting all three. If I go to bed without them one night, the next day I feel very weird. I'm more irritable; thoughts start racing through my mind. It doesn't take me long to realize the mistake-they make such a huge difference. But I pair taking my medication with brushing my teeth, so it's not very often that I forget.

2. Sleep

I've always been a morning person, so going to bed at a decent hour isn't particularly challenging, but that's not to downplay how absolutely essential it is for my mental health. The only time I didn't get enough sleep was when I was manic. During an episode I would sleep-at most-four hours each night.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 15, 2014

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