“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!