16 votes

Those with mood disorders; how do you cope?

Tags: ask

I was curious if there are others on this site who struggle with mood disorders and what coping mechanisms are used. I myself was diagnosed bipolarII and have struggled with anxiety / depression for my entire life. Initially I sought relief in medication and therapy but over the last several years have had great success with a variety of coping mechanisms. Specifically each morning I try to ensure I do several 'feel goods' that include:

  1. questions - "what am I happy/proud/grateful about? Why? How does that make me feel" and "Who do I love, who loves me, how does that make me feel?"
  2. Review core beliefs / positive affirmations that I keep on my google drive. Few examples: "I can weather any storm", "Failure is just feedback the current approach isn't working", "I am responsible for everything in my life"
  3. Journaling about feelings, what's happened.
  4. Meditation - 20-30 minutes following the breath

I also find that keeping a regular sleep schedule, exercise routine, and scheduling a couple social events a week helps. I have learned drinking and other substance is especially damaging for me so I try my best to avoid as much as possible. I still cycle through depression and hypomania rather rapidly but these things help mitigate those highs and lows.

What do you do to cope?

24 comments

  1. [2]
    meristele
    Link
    I think there are two things that have helped me a lot recently. One is informed family members and close friends backing me up, and the other is the concept of self "forgiveness." When my anxiety...

    I think there are two things that have helped me a lot recently. One is informed family members and close friends backing me up, and the other is the concept of self "forgiveness."

    When my anxiety starts to cycle up, I try to take time to find the thought thread that is triggering me. If logic and meditation can't calm it, I touch base with someone I trust. "Is this a reasonable expectation for myself?" It often helps me spiral back down. It also reinforces my logic pathing, so when the same situation happens later I may be able to cope by myself.

    And the times where I fail, I have to love myself for it anyways. I bend over backwards to be understanding of other people's bad days. Don't I deserve the same compassion for myself? Yes, it's frustrating to have to take a few days (or weeks) to recover and stabilize. It doesn't feel okay. But it really is. And I recover faster the more I tell myself so.

    8 votes
    1. redskies373
      Link Parent
      Thank you, I like the idea of a sanity check with someone I trust - going to try that out. Self forgiveness is huge, Over the last several years I have made a concerted effort to convert my inner...

      Thank you, I like the idea of a sanity check with someone I trust - going to try that out. Self forgiveness is huge, Over the last several years I have made a concerted effort to convert my inner dialogue from a running diatribe to one of encouragement, like what I would say to motivate a family member or friend. It definitely has had a big effect, especially when facing setbacks. Unfortunately I have not mastered the ability to be able to do this uniformly; I feel like if certain buttons are pushed or too much occurs in a short period of time I revert back to the extremely negative self talk. I suppose like any skill practice makes perfect. Thank you for sharing!

      2 votes
  2. [2]
    DonQuixote
    Link
    For me, caffeine and Sudafed are two highly mind altering drugs that I have to really limit. In terms of coping mechanisms, what has worked for me is the realization (by which I mean "constructing...

    For me, caffeine and Sudafed are two highly mind altering drugs that I have to really limit. In terms of coping mechanisms, what has worked for me is the realization (by which I mean "constructing a reality from a choice of alternative inputs") that I answer to something outside of myself that guides my life and actions. In the supreme cop-out, I'm just trying to obey orders. Orders which have, over a lifetime, resulted in a consistent, if somewhat questionable, barely bearable life.

    7 votes
    1. redskies373
      Link Parent
      I also chose to remove caffiene from my life; results were great with regards to reducing anxiety. You are right, very mind altering indeed. I really like the "constructing reality from a choice...

      I also chose to remove caffiene from my life; results were great with regards to reducing anxiety. You are right, very mind altering indeed.

      I really like the "constructing reality from a choice of alternative inputs". That is very powerful; I struggle a lot with awareness on how much my emotional state is contributing to my construction of reality.

      Thank you for sharing :)

      3 votes
  3. [2]
    CashewGuy
    Link
    You're doing great work with those activities! I do not have a mood disorder, but I do groupwork in a psychiatric hospital, and most of the groups I run there are all about Dialectical Behavior...

    You're doing great work with those activities!

    I do not have a mood disorder, but I do groupwork in a psychiatric hospital, and most of the groups I run there are all about Dialectical Behavior Therapy - teaching a lot of new coping skills!

    I find that journaling is, at least for me when I was struggling with depression, the most powerful process. It allows us to take power back from the darker places in our mind. A lot of the time, we think things that we don't want to write down, and those are often the most important thing. You could also do some analytical tracking if you're a data person. I used to log caffeine intake, hours reading, hours sleeping, etc, in my journals.

    If you find yourself lacking interpersonal skills, exercises in managing automatic thoughts can be helpful.

    I also find that nature involvement has a lot of good associated with it. Take a walk or a bike ride, hiking, etc. All great.

    And I love the self-affirmation thing that you do in the morning. One of my standard practices for people with very low self-esteem is to make positive lists. Sometimes we have to start really small - Woke up, showered, came here. I have people carry these in tiny pocket notepads to refer back to. Eventually their self-talk skills develop and the notebook becomes less necessary.

    6 votes
    1. redskies373
      Link Parent
      This is very helpful thank you so much for sharing! Gives me confidence that I am on the right track :)

      This is very helpful thank you so much for sharing! Gives me confidence that I am on the right track :)

      2 votes
  4. [3]
    Ark
    Link
    I don't have any advice to give apart from keep positive, I'm just here to express my love for this community. This is exactly why I already love tildes; somebody asks for genuine help and they...

    I don't have any advice to give apart from keep positive, I'm just here to express my love for this community. This is exactly why I already love tildes; somebody asks for genuine help and they get instant feedback and advice from multiple users. Keep up the amazing work everyone, you're all awesome.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      redskies373
      Link Parent
      I literally just texted that to my SO; People here actually care, give real responses. Its not just jokes or mean things. Very powerful stuff.

      I literally just texted that to my SO; People here actually care, give real responses. Its not just jokes or mean things. Very powerful stuff.

      4 votes
      1. Ark
        Link Parent
        I might be overly optimistic, and that’s not a bad thing, but seeing so much positivity in a community this young can only be a good thing. The future for the sight looks bright!

        I might be overly optimistic, and that’s not a bad thing, but seeing so much positivity in a community this young can only be a good thing. The future for the sight looks bright!

        4 votes
  5. [8]
    just_some_guy
    Link
    Lots of therapy. Thankfully I have decent insurance (thank's wife with the good job!). I have pretty severe anxiety which is in the midst of a bad flareup right now so I'm currently deciding if I...

    Lots of therapy. Thankfully I have decent insurance (thank's wife with the good job!). I have pretty severe anxiety which is in the midst of a bad flareup right now so I'm currently deciding if I want to go on meds again. It's tough because when left unchecked my anxiety goes into full blown depression, and I really don't want to be there again, but the last time I went on meds it was like I wasn't "there" at all.

    Anyway, the lack of sleep from my adorable 8mo probably isn't helping.

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      redskies373
      Link Parent
      I am sorry to hear about the anxiety flare up, small humans stealing one's sleep definitely adds to the challenge! I feel you on the meds; I haven't been on any meds for quite some time now. I...

      I am sorry to hear about the anxiety flare up, small humans stealing one's sleep definitely adds to the challenge!

      I feel you on the meds; I haven't been on any meds for quite some time now. I know if I was I would experience less suffering / disruption in my life from my cycling. But when I was on them I didn't feel like me, I felt like a zombie. Its a difficult choice.

      I hope you are able to find relief! Thank you for sharing :)

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        meristele
        Link Parent
        I am in the process of tapering off meds right now, and I'm trying to do a lot of the things you're doing, @redskies373. :) Sleeping and eating regularly, cheering myself on, taking time to...

        I am in the process of tapering off meds right now, and I'm trying to do a lot of the things you're doing, @redskies373. :) Sleeping and eating regularly, cheering myself on, taking time to create~

        I have anxiety. When it runs amok, I get depressed. The meds were very helpful for a while when my life was extremely high stress for various reasons - but my emotional spectrum was tamped down to a really short amplitude. I couldn't flip out easily, but I never got really happy or joyful either.

        Hang in there, @just_some_guy! They do eventually sleep. XD Have you thought of asking for one of the spot meds that you can take for flare ups? That way it wouldn't be something that would take a long time to get off.

        4 votes
        1. just_some_guy
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I forgot that I did take Xanax a couple years back for really bad days. I mentioned to the doc that I'd like more and he said "it's highly addictive" and didn't give me more.

          Yeah, I forgot that I did take Xanax a couple years back for really bad days. I mentioned to the doc that I'd like more and he said "it's highly addictive" and didn't give me more.

    2. [4]
      PlatoLake
      Link Parent
      If you don't mind me asking what medication were you using that made you feel this way?

      the last time I went on meds it was like I wasn't "there" at all.

      If you don't mind me asking what medication were you using that made you feel this way?

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        just_some_guy
        Link Parent
        Lexapro. I went to a doctor who was fresh out of med school, he gave me a sheet to fill out with questions about my mood, and then said "you're severely depressed" and gave me the max dosage of...

        Lexapro. I went to a doctor who was fresh out of med school, he gave me a sheet to fill out with questions about my mood, and then said "you're severely depressed" and gave me the max dosage of Lexapro (don't remember the exact mg). I put on a ton of weight and just sort of drifted through my own life for a while.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          PlatoLake
          Link Parent
          Wow. Sorry to hear that. He wasn't a psychiatrist? Just a normal GP?

          Wow. Sorry to hear that. He wasn't a psychiatrist? Just a normal GP?

          1. just_some_guy
            Link Parent
            Yup, GP. I'm guessing he was just out of med school because he seemed pretty young, and also VERY spooked when I was talking about suicide.

            Yup, GP. I'm guessing he was just out of med school because he seemed pretty young, and also VERY spooked when I was talking about suicide.

  6. [2]
    Klayy
    (edited )
    Link
    I don't have a mood disorder personally, but someone I know well suffers from anxiety (including pretty severe panic attacks). It seems that what helps long term is just the basics - regular...

    I don't have a mood disorder personally, but someone I know well suffers from anxiety (including pretty severe panic attacks). It seems that what helps long term is just the basics - regular exercise, sufficient sleep, a good diet, little to no alcohol, meeting friends etc. However unexpected life situations can quickly break this healthy routine and bring back the anxiety. Recovery takes days at the very least and that's where medication might be the best course of action (or a vacation, but most of us cannot just disappear from work at will)

    4 votes
    1. redskies373
      Link Parent
      You hit the nail on the head with the unexpected life situations part; I can be doing great, on track with my stats across the board and then something happens at work, with family, or something...

      You hit the nail on the head with the unexpected life situations part; I can be doing great, on track with my stats across the board and then something happens at work, with family, or something else. Then I am reeling and often can't quite pull myself in so it devolves its a full depressive cycle. Usually it is a least few days to come back.

      Thank you for sharing :)

      3 votes
  7. [3]
    tangentandhyperbole
    Link
    I was diagnosed Bipolar II a couple years ago after a 5 year misdiagnosis of clinical depression. I was ignoring this whole other mostly productive side of my life where I felt really good....

    I was diagnosed Bipolar II a couple years ago after a 5 year misdiagnosis of clinical depression. I was ignoring this whole other mostly productive side of my life where I felt really good.

    Biggest thing for me has been regulating sleep patterns. Using a sleep tracker to find out your sleep cycle is a handy thing, me personally I go to bed at 11 and wake up at 7:30 everyday. That means missing out on late nights sometimes, but, its better in the long run for my mental health.

    Second would be like you said, journaling, except I'm partial to using a Bullet Journal the most. Here's a 4 minute video that goes over all the stuff you need to know. In addition to the basics, I use a habit tracker to track things like flossing, brushing my teeth, sleep, showering, meds, all the boring self care stuff that comes with having a mood disorder. In the 4 months I've been doing it, I've developed some healthy habits, like flossing daily, that I failed to develop for 33 or so years. It also keeps your goals constantly in mind, and has you re-evaluate where you're going pretty regularly. In addition, it gets rid of the many to-do lists, in favor of keeping everything in one spot. Its great because its low maintenance and requires about 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night.

    Exercise is always helpful, because it forces your mind to shut up, I personally like working out on a heavy bag, because that helps with the anger and frustration of daily life as someone with mood disorders.

    As others have mentioned, therapy is helpful to get out of your own head, dump it all out on the ground and have someone else outside of your inner critic say "no, you're not a terrible person." It seems simple, but just having someone to talk to can be invaluable.

    I have had a bad experience with medications, none of them worked, I am skiddish of trying some of the heavy hitters like Lithium, and because of my misdiagnosis, spent a lot of time ramping up and tapering down from drugs that just gave bad side effects. The biggest thing that helped me was marijuana, but that is not a very good long term solution. It gave relief but I also abused the fuck out of it for 3 years, because it was the only thing that gave relief. If you can, stay away from any kind of drug or alcohol, because your mania fucking loves it. Listen to your body, when you're feeling that euphoria and overwhelming joy, you probably should take a minute, figure out when the last time you ate/slept was, and take care of your body, rather than having that extra 5 shots of tequila or whatever.

    Most of all, go easy on yourself. Your brain chemicals are funky and that's not your fault, be kind to yourself and realize, its gonna take a bit to learn how to surf the waves of mania/depression as I say. You're gonna have some failures, but any progress, is still progress. I personally found a lot of helpful stuff in Stephen Fry's The Secret Life of The Manic Depressive which he's done a follow up to, 10 years on. Hearing other people's experiences made me relate and understand my illness? Is that the word we use? Anyway, it made me understand it better, and therefore, come to some peace with it.

    I hope some of that was helpful! You can do this.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      redskies373
      Link Parent
      Reading this made me a little teary eyed . . . You truly understand, I can't tell you how much I relate to everything you have mentioned; especially the self care, substance, and self critical...

      Reading this made me a little teary eyed . . . You truly understand, I can't tell you how much I relate to everything you have mentioned; especially the self care, substance, and self critical parts.

      I track some habits in a spreadsheet each morning/evening but when I am low or too high that goes out of the window. I always come back when I level out but its very frustrating as I know those are the times I will benefit the most from doing these things. My substance use does highly correlate with this so I will focus more effort on eliminating that from life; especially alcohol. Its just the volume gets so loud... It becomes unbearable at times. May I ask what habit tracking apps you use? I am going to check out the bullet journal, thank you for that suggestion and for sharing this with me. I am not happy that you have to experience this as well but I feel less alone and more hopeful after reading this.

      3 votes
      1. tangentandhyperbole
        Link Parent
        So I don't use any apps or anything digital to track habits/to-do lists or journaling. There's a different reaction in the brain when you actually put pen to paper and write things down. You...

        So I don't use any apps or anything digital to track habits/to-do lists or journaling. There's a different reaction in the brain when you actually put pen to paper and write things down. You remember it, its a physical act so its easier to give weight to, things like that. That's why taking notes by hand will always be better than writing them on a computer. So I use rhodia softcover a5 notebooks and fountain pens. Fountain pens for me are really enjoyable because its a whole, tactile experience, but I also draw in sketchbooks a lot. There's also no having to open a program, wait for it to load, fill out things perfectly, save the file, close the program, every time I need to log something. You just grab your notebook, and jot it down.

        But, I get that's not everyone's cup of tea. The important thing is that you find what works for you and what sticks. I tried going super digital when I was first diagnosed, got a smart watch, tracked mood, sleep, eating, and habits all with my phone, and I just didn't keep up with it. My solution was to use a formal system of hand journaling. Yours might be a digital solution, like I said, whatever works, works.

        I totally get the whole, "volume gets too loud" thing. I struggle with that a lot myself. Just remember you're not alone, there's millions of people with bipolar trying to figure out the puzzle of their own brains, and there's even more people, friends, loved ones, therapists, psychiatrists that are there trying to help. I'm glad you found some value in my rambling, and I wish you the best of luck!

        2 votes
  8. TrialAndFailure
    Link
    A combination of medication, therapy, and social interaction tends to help. Also the occasional bit of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, as someone mentioned above. At this point, I derive almost all...

    A combination of medication, therapy, and social interaction tends to help. Also the occasional bit of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, as someone mentioned above.

    At this point, I derive almost all of my life's meaning from social interaction, which puts me in a precarious spot, I think.

    3 votes
  9. Boh
    Link
    I smoke weed. I wouldn't recommended although it works he

    I smoke weed. I wouldn't recommended although it works he

    3 votes