Jonathan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder eight years ago. He is writing to share his story of what has helped stabilize his moods.
Overcoming the Darkness
Look at the above picture. Imagine seeing your everyday life in the center of it shrouded by the vignette silhouette. That is what I had seen for the last three years. I was severely depressed and I didn't even realize it until recently. It wasn't until I ended a very toxic relationship with a manipulative narcissist, moved on, reunited with an old love, and made some life changes for the betterment of myself and those around me, that I was able to make the world around me brighter and clearer.
How did I make my life brighter and more clear? How did I learn to stabilize my moods and not let them take control over me? I'm going to give an account of three things that definitely helped me. Even if they do not help you, I hope reading about my experiences will give you the feeling of being able to relate to someone else that has bipolar disorder.
1. Change Your Environment and Make It Brighter
One thing that does not help the darkness, is living in darkness. When I say living in darkness, I am talking about your environment and your wardrobe. Before my wonderful girlfriend made these changes happen for me, my closet had nothing but dark shades of clothing. My living room had extremely dark grey empty walls, black and grey curtains, and whatever décor I could find that was black and grey. Before the changes I'm about to list, I look back and see how that fueled me to stay in a depression.
My girlfriend suggested that we paint the living room. When I first moved in, and before we were together, the walls were white and I painted them dark. She said it would be really nice to make everything brighter in the room that we spend the most time in. Not long after talking about it, we were doing it. We were painting the walls a bright vibrant tan color. After painting, we headed to the At Home store and snagged some good deals because they were closing that location. We stocked up on some bright and vibrant décor, brand new curtains that match the walls, and bright and vibrant paintings to hang up on the walls that I had always kept empty. I was able to see an amazing difference in my mood after we fixed up our living room.
I mentioned my wardrobe was nothing but dark shades. It was towards the end of 2018, but well before Christmas, my girlfriend let me open some of my presents early. I tore into the first present and behold, a bright red plaid button down dress shirt. I've never owned a shirt as nice as the one I was staring at in the box. It was bright! I instantly started crying. It brought back memories of how I used to dress. Prior to the last three years, my daily attire was dress pants and dress shirts. I hadn't been wearing those in THREE YEARS! All I had been wearing were black, grey, or extremely dark shades of just strictly bland clothing. After clearing up my tears, I tore into the second package. I open it up and there lies a nice pair of khaki dress pants. I start crying again. I'm sure she was confused, but she asked me why I was crying. I explained how it brought back memories of how I used to dress and it made me realize how much I stopped caring about myself. As we sat in the brightened living room with my new bright clothes in my lap, I made the decision to do a cleanse in my closet. I went through and laid out clothes I was going to get rid of, which was a big majority of them, because I needed to wear clothes that sparked happiness and joy within. Not long after that, I went out and bought myself new and brighter clothes. Having a brighter wardrobe of dress shirts and dress pants definitely made me feel good about myself and boosted my self confidence and self esteem.
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2. Become an Early Riser and Create a Routine
This one made an enormous difference for me as well. Before the depression, I was able to wake up early and greet the sun as it was rising. Slowly, it became more and more of a struggle to pull myself out of bed in the mornings. Countless mornings I was late for work, and I didn't even understand why. I'm lucky my job was very forgiving given the circumstances. Now, I'm back at beating the sun at getting up.
My girlfriend was a major factor in making this happen, once again. She has always been an early riser. It was a process for me to be able to do this. It began with her bringing coffee to me while I was still in bed. When we aren't using the Keurig, she makes a stout cup of coffee which definitely helped me wake up. I had read that creating a routine will help with bipolar disorder, so I decided to give it a try.
My morning routine now consists of getting out of bed, usually having a cup of coffee, listening to NPR on my HomePod, and sitting with her while she gets ready and puts on her makeup. Before, I would stay in bed past the time she would already have left the house for the day. I have to be at work at 10:00AM and I have an hour commute. I wouldn't get out of bed until 8:00 or 8:30. I would rush to shower and get ready, which most mornings I couldn't. I'm able to take care of things that need to be done around the house now before I leave for work. I can tell it has made an astounding impact.
3. Drastically Reduce Time Spent Playing Video Games
I understand this may not apply to everyone, but take the premise of what I am about to say and apply it to something that you consider a guilty pleasure.
I had an epiphany one night while lying in bed. The time I spent playing video games scared me and embarrassed me. I realized it killed my productivity. I had been an avid gamer since middle school. Remembering the play time I have accumulated in Diablo III and World of Warcraft just made me sick.
After that night, I had deleted all of the apps from my phone that were game related. I didn't uninstall games that I had on my computer, but I consciously made the decision to not play them as much. Or hardly at all. When my girlfriend and I first got together, I could tell it bothered her with me playing for hours upon hours. She wanted to spend time with me and I needed to spend time with her. I have noticed when I've been depressed or my moods were in the lows that I would just retreat and ostracize myself by indulging in video games for hours. I have made great friends online, don't get me wrong, but I felt that I needed to really step back and reevaluate what I was doing for my own mental health. Since I have stopped, my life has become so much more productive and my overall state of mind and wellbeing seems to have become better as well.
I hope that everyone is able to take something from what I have said and apply it to their own lives to make it brighter. Struggling with bipolar disorder isn't easy. Even if it isn't easy, there are things we are able to do in order to keep ourselves stable. There are a number of different techniques out there that will be unique to each person. All we can do is try different things and overcome any obstacles to keep it from controlling our lives.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.