Managing Moods after a Recent Diagnosis

“Recently diagnosed Bipolar. I would like to learn how to manage my moods because although I take medication I feel unstable.”

Mood management isn’t easy. Anyone who says it is, is lying! I did have some success with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which my former therapist shared with me. The problem with DBT or any other skill set is that you have to remember to use those skills. It’s been about six years since I was last in therapy; I did pretty well for a few years, for the most part, but then I began to experience symptoms again and gave into them instead of using the skills. I now take medication to help alleviate the depression, which is what I experience most. I’ve had a couple of hypomanic episodes since starting the medication, but at this time I’m not on a mood stabilizer. I have experienced full-blown mania, during which time I’ve been involved in most of the risky behaviors that are often associated with mania: overspending, not sleeping, promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse, general recklessness. If that happens again, I will talk to my psychiatrist about a mood stabilizer.

Recently, I’ve started using a mood journal. I document the number of hours I sleep, when I’ve taken my medications, what my moods are at certain times and if I experience a symptom, like suicidal thoughts or extreme irritability, I try to take the time to notice what is happening at that time and make a note of it. It’s important to learn what your triggers are. For instance, I hate crowds. I like people in small groups, but being in a large crowd causes me to panic. I also panic whenever I’m having people over to my house and I pick fights with my husband. I know now that I have to use an anti-anxiety medication before events that involve being in a crowded place (like a concert) or having people visit. Of course, I am not always prepared and I won’t lie, I don’t always have my moods completely under control. I make sure to be open and honest with the people around me about my moods and my husband, who is probably the one person who sees my mood swings most, has learned to either distract me or leave me alone when I’m being snappy.

Another really important ingredient in mood management is to make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep. I know for myself, I need at least seven hours of sleep each night or I’m pretty much a mess the next day. That said, I’m functioning now on seven hours of sleep in the past two nights combined, so needless to say, I may not be the best person to give advice about how to manage your moods! However, honestly, I believe it’s possible to have control much of the time and I know that learning to know yourself, your body, and how your physical health affects your mental health, is one of the most important things I’ve discovered in managing my own moods.

Oh yes, I also have a network of friends to whom I can vent – friends who understand because they also live with bipolar disorder. I’ve recently found it is crucial to know to whom you can and to whom you cannot vent. Most people who have never experienced a mental illness cannot comprehend how I feel and I get a lot of feedback from those people about how I should count my blessings and stop being so negative. Comments like that tend to trigger rage in me, so I’ve learned who I can trust with my feelings and who I can trust with only a fake smile and hello!

Good luck to you!

4 thoughts on “Managing Moods after a Recent Diagnosis

  1. I have been recently diagnosed with Bipolar II. I have a couple of weeks until medication begins. In the meantime, I have become increasingly aware of my mood swings & all the turmoil that goes with them. I’m depressed more of the time than I had allowed myself to believe. I am nervous about medication. I don’t want to walk around with that stunned look in my eyes as some people do, or nervously twitching. I also don’t want to lose any of my creativity… Creating things is about the only thing I feel I do well! My husband and best friend both agreed that the symptoms sound “just like me, but it’s just me & who I am!”. That’s all fine & good & I’m grateful to have such loving wonderful people in my life, but I also hurt them. I also seem to be going increasingly deeper in my depressions. They start as irritations, then my brain confuses things & I start to feel lost & overwhelmed. Finally, I start to believe things that aren’t real (someone doing stuff behind my back). Then I end up angry & finally desperate & hopeless. The other day I was so desolate, I could barely stand it. I wanted to take a sleeping pill just to stop the pain (I’m 6 years sober from drugs or alcohol). Luckily I did reach a friend who happens to be bipolar & I was able to get some relief. Then, I was completely exhausted & remorseful. I felt like a dog slinking along with it’s tail between it’s legs because it had just done something wrong.

    Now that I got THAT off my chest, I was wondering how much psychiatrists take our thoughts into consideration. At this point, my lows are so low that they are scary & I’m (almost) willing to throw myself at the mercy of the docs. Although, I’m still so apprehensive.

    Help 🙂

  2. First, let me say CONGRATULATIONS on your sobriety! That is awesome!

    I totally understand your apprehension about medication! If you find a good doctor, he or she will definitely take your concerns seriously. The difficult thing, I think, is waiting out the side effects. I’m a creative person, as well, and long-term my meds don’t seem to hamper that. At first, however, I experienced drowsiness/grogginess and had no energy for my creative outlets. I also had to try a few different doses of the meds I’m taking before they seemed effective. I won’t say I don’t still experience depression at times, because I do, but it’s less severe and doesn’t last as long, so in many ways, I think my creative energy has increased as my depression has lessened.

    You know yourself best. Monitor yourself, your moods, and talk to your doctor about any side effects as well as your moods, so together you can find the best treatment for you.

    Best of luck to you!

  3. Thank you! It will be 7 (God willing) in October. I have definitely seen where I have self-medicated in the past with drugs, alcohol, even food. Someone shared with me that they were told maybe they should let someone with an MD take the reigns for once. That made sense to me. I also have noticed that I’ve always had a tendency to like unique things. There were some kids in high school that dressed like what would be considered to be goth today. I longed to have the courage to do that! Lately, it seems that I’m giving in to that desire now that I know I am bipolar. It’s like, now I have permission to really do what I want to do, polka dot my nails, dye my hair deep purple with burgundy streaks. I see some people do that BEFORE they are diagnosed. I feel like now that I am diagnosed, I just wanna be me! Is that weird? (btw, I’m 41, married with 3 teens.)

  4. It sounds like you’ve got a pretty busy life 🙂 I think that’s a good thing. My life is also pretty full and I think often that helps me to take my mind off ME and the illness. Again, a huge congrats on your sobriety. That is such an accomplishment, you should be very proud of yourself!

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