Improving Bipolar – How Do I Know What I’m Doing Right?
Last time I wrote about missing the signs of improving bipolar disorder but today’s question is, if your bipolar is improving, how do you know what you’re doing right that’s driving that improvement? In my case, the answer to that question was easy – it was a bipolar medication change. But things are not always so simple.
What Might You Be Doing to Improve Your Bipolar Disorder?
That’s because many things can improve bipolar disorder. It might be psychosocial changes, supplements, medication, therapy, exercise, less stress or one of a million other things. I would say, though, that we all want to know what we’re doing right to cause bipolar improvement so that we can sustain it.
How to Know What You’re Doing to Improve Your Bipolar
There are several things you need to do to really figure out what is improving your bipolar symptoms.
- Track you mood and other variables. I’ve talked about mood tracking before. It’s really important for so many of us to track how we’re feeling so we can see that slight uptick in mood, that downtick in anxiety or the change in other bipolar symptoms. Out-of-the-box mood trackers work but they work even better when you customize the mood tracker to track what you, specifically, experience. (Sorry, I know the mood tracking articles are a little old but the updated software is available and it’s basically the same.)
- Track treatment changes. Of course, part of this tracking has to be noting what your treatment is and when you change it.
- Track any lifestyle changes. You need to write down when things happen so you can correlate them with mood changes. So, if you quit your job, joined a yoga class, started meditating or joined a writer’s group, all these things need to be noted.
- Track changes in behavior. This one is tougher but if you do something that’s out of character for you, note it. For me it was going to a big party. For you it might be calling up an old friend and reconnecting or beginning to paint again.
- Make one change at a time. This is painful but the best way to know if something you’re doing is improving your bipolar disorder is to only change one thing at a time. For example, only change one medication. That way you know if that medication change is making the difference. If you make two or more changes at once it’s almost impossible to tell what’s causing the bipolar improvement.
- Look for patterns. You might not see a pattern in a week, or even a month, but you might see it over six months. Check back and look at your mood graph. What has changed? What happened at the beginning of that change? What have you done right that’s causing your bipolar improvement?
[If all that sounds like a lot of work, please consider two things. One, it only takes about two minutes to track your mood and symptoms once you get used to it. Set an alarm on your cell phone to remind yourself to do it and just take the two minutes. Thinking about what else to track may take an extra minute. Two, your mental health is worth the three minutes a day. I mean, seriously.]
Now, the fact of the matter is, sometimes bipolar remits on its own and it has nothing to do with what you’re doing so, in other words, you’ll never track down what led to the bipolar improvement. But if you’re like me with a fairly intractable case of bipolar disorder, you likely have induced the positive change in some way and it’s important to know what you’re doing right so you can keep doing it.
Tip of the hat to John McManamy for the topic suggestion.