Living with Bipolar Depression

Caring for Yourself and Coping With Your Condition

At times you may feel a bit lost, confused, upset or angry as you try to cope with bipolar disorder and the depression that comes along with it. It’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions. And it’s normal for your loved ones to experience different emotions, too. Your health care provider is always the best person to turn to for help with managing your condition. The following information provides some starting thoughts that may give you a better understanding of bipolar depression, so you can prepare for issues that come up along the way. Keeping track of how you’re feeling day to day may also help in your process of managing bipolar disorder.

You have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The first step is accepting this fact, which may take some time. From there, you may begin to move toward seeing bipolar disorder as a part of your life that you will be managing and not something that defines you. You may have family members and loved ones who struggle with accepting your condition and aren’t as supportive as they could be. This may be difficult and frustrating. Asking them about their feelings—and sharing yours—can help remind you both that you’re in this together.

Setting your own personal goals is important when you want to make a change. To achieve them, it’s a good idea to break them down into small, manageable steps. When you’re thinking about a change you want to make, choose one that seems simple and doable and you feel fairly confident you can achieve. It’s also helpful to have a specific time frame (e.g., you plan to do it once a day). You can assess your plan along the way to see if it’s working. Maybe you tried to stick with it but found it to be too challenging. That doesn’t mean you failed. It just means that your plan may need adjusting. Think about simplifying it. If you make good progress toward your goal, don’t forget to congratulate yourself!

While your treatment plan is uniquely created for you, one thing bipolar depression patients often have in common is taking medication. You probably know that taking your medication is important. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you’re having difficulty with side effects or any doubts about taking your medication as directed.

Remember:

  • Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that requires lifelong management
  • The treatment plan recommended by your health care provider should be closely followed
  • Medication, in conjunction with your overall treatment plan, is a critical part of managing your condition

Friends or family members may have misconceptions about bipolar disorder based on negative stereotypes. These are called stigma. Stigma often results from a lack of understanding. You may actually help your loved ones by sharing your experiences of living with bipolar disorder. If you give them an idea of what it is like to live with the condition, your loved ones may be less likely to hold on to their negative beliefs.

Bipolar disorder and the depression that comes along with it doesn’t just affect the person with the diagnosis—it may affect everyone who is close to you. If you talk about your condition with your loved ones, you may be able to help them better understand what you’re going through and enable them to support you in a way that meets your needs. Here are tips for having the conversation:

  • Set up a time to talk
  • Explain that you wanted to talk to them because they’re important to you and you trust them
  • Let them know that you want to help them better understand what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder
  • Focus on sharing your experience with your condition
  • Tell them you would like this to be part of an ongoing conversation

Talk to your health care provider if you're looking for more tips on how to talk to your loved ones.

Chances are your friends and family want to help you manage your condition—they just need to know the best way to give you the support you need. First, give some thought to what would help you most—someone to schedule doctor’s appointments, exercise with or buy groceries (just to name a few). Then communicate your needs to your loved ones.

When you have bipolar disorder and the depression that comes with it, you may find that certain situations or events can lead to (or “trigger”) an episode of depression or change in mood. Sometimes these situations or events can be big, like the death of a loved one. And sometimes they can be seemingly small, like a holiday. While it’s not always possible to avoid these potential triggers, in some cases you may be able to recognize and prepare for the challenges they may bring.

Mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of awareness of your thoughts, emotions, or experiences, moment by moment. Practicing mindfulness through activities such as meditation and yoga may help to relieve stress. Here are some ideas for practicing mindfulness:

  • Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and the connection between your mind and body and environment
  • Accepting the situation―paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judging them
  • Learning to let go of negative thoughts
The ideas above are just a beginning. If you’re interested in learning more about the practice of mindfulness and its potential benefits, you may want to talk to your health care provider.

You may want to consider starting to exercise. Exercise has been proven to improve sleep, relieve stress and decrease fatigue. Some additional benefits of exercise may be especially important for people who are living with bipolar disorder. For example, research has shown that chemicals released by the brain during exercise can have a stabilizing effect on mood. Because there are so many different forms of exercise and so many different ways to stay active, it’s important to talk to your health care provider about which type may be best for you before starting any exercise routine.

Atypical antipsychotics like LATUDA may make you more sensitive to heat. You may have trouble cooling off. Be careful when exercising or when doing things likely to cause dehydration or make you warm. Try to keep cool and drink plenty of water.

If you are like most people, you probably think negatively from time to time. But if it becomes a habit, it can lead to a self-defeating cycle of negativity―or negative thought patterns―that can contribute to making you feel depressed. Your health care provider may decide to use a talk therapy technique called Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on the relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Together, you can start looking at your particular negative patterns, which may include catastrophizing (projecting the worst outcome) or jumping to conclusions (thinking negatively about something without evidence). Writing these negative thoughts down and looking for evidence to support those thoughts may help you start moving toward a more positive mind-set.

Daily Mood Monitor

As you take steps to cope with bipolar disorder, it may help to track how you’re doing. This tool helps you monitor yourself in 5 key areas: Mood, Vitality, Sleep, Interaction, and Focus. You can share your responses with your doctor.