One of the hardest parts about dealing with Bipolar Disorder is the unpredictable mood swings. Originally I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder, but recently was told by my doctor that I am probably dealing with Bipolar 2 Disorder because I do not have full-blown manic episodes. Either way, not knowing when a depressive episode or hypomanic/manic episode is going to present itself can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the illness.
Some days the depression catches up to me faster than I have time to catch it. Out of nowhere I am stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, mind racing, and paranoia. When I am depressed, I make myself the victim without even trying to. During times like these it is hard for anyone to convince me that my negative self-perceptions aren’t true. I isolate myself from everyone around me because I am convinced that no one can stand to be in my company. I feel too deeply or, even worse, I don’t feel anything at all.
During the days when I am on an upswing, otherwise known as hypomania, I feel quite the opposite. Most of the time, I don’t mind feeling this way because I am flooded with euphoria. My already creative mind is moving even faster than usual and I am extremely productive. I feel the need to engage with everyone around me, scrolling through my contact list to text anyone that will listen to me rant. The giddiness and unusual representation of happiness are accompanied by restlessness and irritability. Sometimes I cannot stop moving physically and cannot slow down the rapid thoughts. Hypomania usually catches up to me even quicker than depression does, but does not last nearly as long. Sometimes, I do not even realize I’m hypomanic until my mom and brother look at me wide-eyed because I am the only one laughing at my own jokes.
When my moods are rapidly changing from day to day, it is hard not to want to give up. Some days I am so fed up with this illness that I want nothing other than to lay in bed all day and sleep. On days like that, thoughts of harming myself or wanting to sleep for days on end are hard to talk myself out of, but through the ups and downs I constantly remind myself of one thing: all moods are temporary. Reminding myself of this gives me some peace of mind because I know that my mood swings are the product of Bipolar Disorder. It doesn’t have anything to do with me as a person and everything to do with the fact that I have a mental illness. Telling myself that my moods are temporary eases some of the extreme sadness that comes along with depression and calms some of the constant thoughts accompanied by hypomania.
One of the best ways to become more aware of your mood swings and what your triggers may be is to keep a mood journal. Use a mood journal to keep track of your mood during mornings, afternoons, and evenings, as well as everything you do during each day like food, sleep, and exercise. Next to each mood, whether it be depressed, irritable, anxious, or any other feeling you may encounter, write what you think may be linked to this mood. This could be something as simple as having caffeine or drinking alcohol the night before. Think about what may be going on in a situational sense as well, such as a fight with a loved one or trouble at school or work. Being aware of this information can really become helpful because it can give you some hints towards what may be making your mood better or worse.
Another tip is to make a daily schedule for yourself. Even if you do not have a regular weekly schedule, writing down what you plan to do each day can help to keep you motivated during times of depression and less likely to stray from your plan during hypomania/mania. Personally, I can’t stick to the same exact schedule every day, but I often make a list for myself of things I have to get done or things that I know will help improve my mood for each day. Having a rough outline of activities or small goals each day can really help to lessen your frequency of mood swings.
Not only does reminding myself of how temporary my moods can be help, but it teaches me to appreciate the periods of time that I feel somewhat stable and capable of enjoying the good moments in life. For those of you dealing with similar feelings, try telling yourself what I do during difficult times: Whatever the mood may be, it doesn’t last forever. Good luck.