2013 has come to a close.
I’ve spent the first day of 2014, in part, reflecting on the past 365 days – all the opportunities, the challenges, the heartaches, and the joys. It was truly a blood, sweat, and tears kind of year. There were great rewards ultimately, but this year also forced some personal growth that was simply painful and all consuming. Still, I am grateful to have endured it. Through it all, I held onto this safety rope. I held on until my hands bled. I’ve been holding on for years, and years, and years.
The rope has been my guide. It has led me to the next inevitable day, propelling me forward into the future, where things are consistently hazy, shrouded in fog and uncertainty. I have followed the rope knowing that I will face whatever it leads me to.
But, what if I just let go this year?
What if I stop following the rope, and stop all that growling back in the face of adversity? What if follow a less ambiguous path? I’m going to create a guidebook for myself instead, with a path of my choosing. I’m going to take into account my strengths, limitations, and desires.
In order to do this, it occurs to me that I need to build off of the guidelines I already employ for living with bipolar. I have learned that I can best manage my unique, and often chaotic mind, by living within a set of self-determined rules.
My (ideal) guidelines for making bipolar manageable:
- Take my medication before my feet hit the floor in the morning
- Sleep 7-8 hours a night, no more, no less
- Eat good food, regularly
- Get as much sunshine as possible!
- Don’t drink alcohol (except champagne toasts!)
- Make time for introversion – everyday
- Force time for social connection – everyday
- Take 5-min breaks for mindful awareness throughout the day
- Mood chart every evening
- Consider my emotions before allowing outward reactions
- Keep appointments with my shrink, and be honest with him
- Find joy – everyday
- Find spontaneity – everyday
This may sound like a lot to keep track of, or far too altruistic, but it has become second nature to me. If I were diabetic I would check my blood sugar often, and plan my meals at specific intervals, so often in fact that the lifestyle would be purely habitual.
I believe living with bipolar can be seen in the same way. It is a chronic dysfunction that requires adjustments and self-awareness, and brutal honesty – at all times. If I adhere to this pattern, I’ve found that tweaks are more often need versus life-changing overhauls to find peace when things evolve.
My guidelines for living with bipolar might not suit any of you. Perhaps we have some overlap, perhaps not. It doesn’t matter if our methodologies differ, but having a structure that suits you can bring much needed order to the times when your mind feels more fractured than whole.
Perhaps you don’t trust your reactions, or state of energy, on a given day. You can rely on the fact that following some basics will help protect you from poor decision making, the potential for self-inflicted harm, or deepening suffering.
I want to elaborate on this notion of living by “guidelines” for 2014 so I am going to draw a proposed path that leads me towards the following goals:
I want to be the best possible human being I can be, and this means growth on a soulful level, being generous, having sincerity in my voice, and compassion in my heart. I want to continue to be ruled by love, and put my whole self into the protection and incubation of my family. I want to contribute to society as much as I can, but reasonably so, and not to my detriment. I want to be in control of my bipolar disorder. I want to have meaning in my work.
I want to keep growing the hell up.
I am hopeful to continue towards these goals as much as is possible, given the constraints of being an imperfect human, in a mortal and flawed body. The point is I’m going to create a plan for making it possible, and I’m going to commit to it.
I have found that so many of us, who live with bipolar, are swayed and pushed vigorously by forces derived not only from within, but also externally in our environments. Clearly, events outside our sphere of influence are to be expected. We tend to have inherently sensitive natures, and are easily over-stimulated. I’ve found we internalize the severity of the world around us will alarming ease. We need to protect ourselves.
I hope you all get out a white sheet of paper, a pencil, and devote some time to drawing/writing your guidebook. I hope it comes complete with a potential (reasonable) timeline so you can guide yourself toward mental well-being, physical health, meaningful relationships, inspiring work, or whatever else allows you to experience fulfillment and peace in your life.
There is so much more to your life than bipolar disorder.
Figure out what parameters you need to live by to make certain that this sucking force, called bipolar, remains locked up in a steel bound cage. Set yourself free to live, and live big!
Yep, 2014 is going to be a better year.