Here is a reader question from Michelle. She asks important questions. How DO we get through the days, weeks, months and years when we have focus problems because of bipolar disorder! (By the way, writing this felt like going to the dentist!)
Can you please tell me how you are consistently productive and living with bipolar disorder?
I too, am a writer, and I start projects, but can’t finish them. I have boundless energy for awhile, then I crash. I can’t commit to making long term projects with people because I can’t depend on myself that I can follow through. Where do you get your energy? How do you manage on a daily basis? I wake up each day not knowing how I am going to feel. I have to live day by day, and it sucks. Any positive feedback and/or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your question- to be honest, I go through everything you describe above- and I go through it every single day. My life changed when I learned to work as much as possible despite all of the bipolar symptoms. I created my Health Cards Treatment Plan for Bipolar Disorder in 1999. I have used the system every day for ten years- that taught me how to manage the illness. I learned what triggers most of my mood swings and how I have to take care of myself in order to be well enough to function. Without the Health Cards, I would not be able to work or have stable relationships. They saved my life. But, there are days when sticking to my plan feels impossible. I work though a haze of a mud bath where each step takes all of my energy.
Having a system doesn’t take away the illness. I agree with you, it’s exhausting. But, what matters is that we DO get things done.
It may seem like I really have bipolar disorder taken care of, but I still live with strong and constant bipolar disorder symptoms- today for example: I got up and had a hard time focusing on what I (this is hilarious- I just went back to read this and see that I just left this sentence hanging!)
I want to write a blog every day, but wow, I’m lucky if I do one once a week.
I’ve learned to compare myself ONLY to others with bipolar disorder. If I compare myself to those without the illness, I will be a wreck.
I realized one day- with perfect clarity- that I didn’t want bipolar disorder to control my life. I did everything possible to change what was making me more ill. I had to find my triggers and reduce them or stop them. Then I kept trying meds until I found ones that work at the lowest doses possible.
On some days it’s so hard I actually have panic attack symptoms when I try to write. On most days I just keep on trucking!
I could go on and on here- but my biggest piece of advice is to focus on the outcome of a project. If you focus on the project itself you will get overwhelmed. I know that if I stay here I will not only get work done, I will feel better when I do go see friends later this evening. This is all explained in my book Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track.
All of your excellent questions are answered in my books with a lot more detail- these are big questions so I can’t do them justice here. All people with bipolar disorder have them. I’ve managed to create a life where I can get things done because I use my own work on a daily basis. It’s already written down so I don’t have to constantly try new things.
I am sometimes so anxious – my focus is that of a seven year old! I’m staring and this and then I realize I’m not even looking at the page. I’m in some kind of catatonic fugue. But I will keep going because I know what outcome I want for today. I know you can do the same. It takes time. I’ve been using my system for 15 years – it’s fully in place now with myself and all of the people in my life. I’m here at a coffee shop writing this– I almost quit many times. I know that I want to have a new blog post and to do that I have to keep sitting DOWN.
Thanks again for your question. You can be a professional writer- it just takes a plan you can use every day! I wrote my first book at age 33- I used to start and stop projects and wonder why I was such a failure- when I realized it was bipolar disorder and that managing the illness helped my writing, I started to have success.