Surviving the Mind: A Guide to Managing Bipolar (and Other Mental Illnesses)

Psych wards are an interesting place to be during your freshman year of college. Food’s not to different from campus, and the people are a bit easier to talk to, but the lack of stimuli…let me get to the point here.

During the fall of 2014, shortly after starting college at Keene State in NH, I had been experiencing some hard mood cycles. Extreme, caffiene flooded over-energetic thought racing for a few days followed by unbearable energy loss, morose, don’t wanna do anything the next. Suicidial thoughts began to come in next, and by September, I was in a taxi that brought me to the location where I found out the comfortingly uncomfortable truth…I had Bipolar I.

If you’re reading this, chances are you may too, or at least have a family member, friend, or romantic interest that does. Now, I’m not going to go into detail about what the disorder is, or go after stigmas in the current article (though if this article gets enough attention, I might just expand in an ebook later). I’m here right now just to help you do the only thing that’s on your mind: manage, and hopefully, thrive.

Now before I begin, I must say that remembering to take your meds if your condition is severe (like mine), is very important, so doing the below steps in an attempt to get off your meds may produce rash results that I’m not responsible for. Also, if you haven’t seen a doctor yet and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, severe mood changes, delusions, or hallucinations, do so IMMEDIATELY!

Anyway, here are my tips for success:

  • Sleep: I’m going to tell you something VERY valuable right now: if you have bipolar, depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental illness, you need sleep. You could have an amazingly perfect lifestyle, but if you’re not getting your 6-8 hrs (and that means hours sleeping, not just being in bed), you will crash and burn like a racecar with no brakes. Thankfully, with the below steps, you should be doing enough to pass out at the end of the day.
  • Diet: This is another valuable one: don’t eat garbage, and don’t fad diet. Fast food has consistently thrown me for a loop when I overindulge, and attempts to do things like low carb and other crazes put me in unstable eating habits. Thankfully, I’m on an eating plan that’s simple and has been very helpful with my disorder (as well as getting in decent shape).
  • Exercise: It has been said many times before, but I’ll say it again: exercise, in combination with proper nutrition, are the some of the best natural tools for fighting mental illness. While I will be detailing my own plan in the coming days, know that physical activity (especially social ones), is very effective in keeping the black dog at bay.
  • Positive Enviornment: Even if up to speed, if you are in a negative enviornment with assholes, doing stuff you don’t want to do, and spending your free time on social media/the news, you’re gonna feel like shit (even without mental illness). Now am I saying go live in a cabin away from society? No (though I did have that thought a few times early on). Instead, start making smaller changes. Drop (or if they’re your family, limit interaction with) people from your life that cause you the most dread/problems. Increase the time you spend with those that reduce dread/problems. Start doing this in EVERY aspect of your life. Also, don’t complain, just fix or forget. And for heaven’s sake, limit yourself to 30min or less of scrowling through newsfeeds, consuming the news, or browsing YouTube/the web. Unless you’re doing it for work/academic purposes, you don’t need to have that abundance of mind destroying crap flooding your time.
  • Doing Things: So what do you do with all the extra time from the last step? Fun, productive shit…seriously, it’s that simple. Don’t know what to do? Find what you enjoy and are good at and become a master/make money off of it. Not good at anything? Find something you enjoy, learn the basics, and keep working at it. Don’t enjoy anything? START EXPLORING! I give you web browsing permission to find cool shit, then learn how to do it. Or travel, cause that’s awesome too.

I hope you enjoyed and got stuff out of this, and if you want to see more (like an ebook on the topic), subscribe here!

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