5 Tips to Stay Productive With Bipolar Disorder

Do you have bipolar disorder and struggle to consistently maintain a high level of productivity?  This is a common problem for people like you and I who suffer from bipolar disorder.

While manic or hypomanic, your mind is racing, and you struggle to focus on just one damn thing!  Or you can focus on one thing, but you can only focus on the one thing; you become obsessed with YouTube stardom, or baking cakes, or brewing beer… whatever!  But this obsession comes at the expense of everything else.

Then depression returns and kills whatever drive you had to do anything.  It’s hard enough just getting out of bed, you want me to go to work too?

Thankfully, over the past 15 years or so, I’ve discovered a few tricks to keep my productivity up while experiencing the waxing and waning moods of bipolar disorder.

1) Plan the Work.  Work the Plan.

This is about as simple as it gets.  Take a minute and evaluate what really needs to be done that day.  Don’t spend more than a couple minutes doing this.  Try to limit yourself to a few items that you can reasonably get done that will have the most value-added contribution to your day; Then focus on those things!

Making a list might not seem like the world’s biggest breakthrough in productivity, but I’ve found this is critical when experiencing a hypomanic episode.  Too often I set out to complete some task and then before I know it I’ve got 15 internet tabs open and I’m trying to write 5 emails simultaneously.  Next thing I know I’ve completely forgotten what the hell I was trying to do in the first place!

 

Why can’t I get anything done?!

I write a list for what I want to accomplish the next day before I leave work.  Then when I come in, I see the list and I start hitting those items.  Yes, life is crazy, and the circumstances of your job often make you have to change the list or throw it out entirely, but at least it’s a place to start.

The list helps you keep it simple, and boil things down to what really needs to get done that day.  It’s a good tool for holding yourself accountable too.  I need to get these things done before I can go home today.  You’ll also feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment as you cross things off.

2) Depressed? Slow Down but Don’t Stop.

Depression can make even the simplest things difficult.  It’s hard to be successful at work when you can’t even make yourself a sandwich.

If you can, it’s OK to slow down while you work through your depression symptoms; but don’t stop completely!  You’ll regret stopping.

One of my favorite non-work related projects I’ve ever done is make a YouTube channel.  I had fun doing it, I learned a lot of great things, and I even made a little bit of money.  Then my depression returned and I let it die.  I deeply regret that now.

I could have made 1 or 2 videos a week instead of 3 or 4.  Or even just made a video every other week.  Anything would have been better than letting it die completely.  Eventually the depression will pass, and you can kick it back into high gear.

Here’s another example: say you’re on a diet.  You go to a birthday party and allow yourself to eat a piece of cake.  You think, well I already blew it, so who cares if I eat a little bit more.  Then you eat the whole cake.  Then you eat like crap again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.  Next thing you know you’ve gained 20 lbs and you’re filled with regret; eating cake is fine, slowing down is fine – just don’t quit!  Put the cake away tomorrow!

3) Keep Learning.

I’ve said before that mania or hypomania can be a kind of superpower.  Take your increased energy and invest in yourself.  Learn something!

It’s the 21st century.  You have YouTube.  You have sites like Lynda.com and Wikipedia.  You can learn anything.  Challenge yourself to take 1 hour every day and teach yourself something you’re interested in.  It might not be immediately clear that it could be useful, but you never know.

I taught myself how to do basic computer programming in a couple languages; years later I distinguished myself by making a simple software solution that’s been implemented throughout the company I work for.  I taught myself about business management principles, and rose into a management position well before I “should” have.  By teaching myself at least an hour a day I’ve essentially given myself the experience of someone at least 10 years my senior.

This also has the benefit of making your work and life more interesting.  Hypomania or mania has the tendency to make people feel bored with just doing the status quo.  So learn something and switch things up a bit!

4) Set Meaningful Goals for Yourself.

If tip 1 on this list is about making a list to accomplish things short-term, than this tip is about making a list to accomplish things long-term.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of how to set meaningful goals since many other people have already done it better than I could.  I personally like this article.  Instead I want to talk about the specifics of how setting meaningful goals is important to people with bipolar disorder.

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you have bipolar disorder.  Your priorities change drastically when moving from manic or hypomanic states to depression and then back again.

Goals while manic.
Goals while depressed.

If you want to maintain some stability and forward momentum in your life, it’s critical to define what’s important to you, define where you want to go, and then set goals to get you there.  This will help keep your life on the rails and moving in the right direction when your mood fluctuates.

Oh, and about that list from tip 1: You should have at least one item on that list that helps you get to your goal(s).  “Becoming a computer programmer” is a big goal, and it can seem impossible to ever get there.  Break it down; put “Take one online course on programming – watch for one hour today” on your list and get it done today.  Complete goals like that 100 times and you’ll be shocked to discover that you’re on your way to becoming a programmer!  Big transformations are hard but they happen through that 1 hour you spend today, and tomorrow, and the next day hitting that list that supports your goal.

Lebron James does not have be the best basketball player alive on his to-do list.  He has “Wake up at 3am, go to the gym, eat, practice, eat, practice, go to the gym, eat, play game, workout, sleep” on his list.  Do that enough times and you might become the world’s best basket player.

Start young and practice on your brother.
Had to shoehorn in this classic; if you can name this movie you’re awesome.

5) Forgive Yourself. 

Lastly, know that sometimes you will fail.  Sometimes the depression is too much.  Sometimes the list, the slowing down, the goal making… sometimes it’s just not enough.  You will fail, but when you do, I hope you will forgive yourself.

I hated myself for letting the YouTube channel go.  It contributed to my alcoholism at the time.  It made the depression worse, it made everything worse.  My productivity went straight to hell.  I didn’t fail with grace.

It’s OK to fail.  Your life is difficult – it’s harder than most if you suffer from bipolar disorder.  But you know what?  You’re a badass!  You’re going to battle with your own mind each and every day.  I think you’re awesome and I hope you do too!  Take it easy on yourself, dust yourself off, tomorrow’s another day.

I hope these tips help you.  Let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this!

Like this post for more, it really helps!  If you haven’t already, go ahead and follow me – it’s as easy as putting your email address in the box on the top right of this page 🙂  I won’t spam you; I promise you’ll only get notifications about good content like this a couple times a week!

Can’t Sleep? Science Has 4 Completely-Not-Made-Up Remedies For You!

Can’t sleep?  Mind running wild, holding your body hostage while you lay awake in your misery bed?  Don’t worry, Dr. Scientist Man has some advice to help you get that much needed rest; advice he has shared with me, your humble slob, lunatic, author.  Read on for more!

Dr. Scientist Man let me know this advice is perfectly applicable to you “normal” people, not just the certifiably insane those of us with especially beautiful minds.

adult-care-cure-433635
Trust me, I’m a doctor.  Kind of.

So without further ado (adoo?… uh-do?… you-do?… we-do?), here’s an exclusive sneak peak at this definitely-not-bullshit-written-at-3am-because-I-can’t-sleep research study!

(Full paper to be featured in North Korea Journal of Medicine pending peer review by expert team of 13-year-old internet trolls).

#1 Get Hammered

Yes, the classic.  Did you know science says alcohol is a central nervous system depressant?  What that means is that this shit will make you tired.  And it definitely won’t make you dance like an asshole at that party.  Or tell your great-aunt what you really think of her.  Also, Scientist Man let me know that drinking alcohol has absolutely no negative long term effects – a fact I can personally vouch for!  Did I hear miracle drug?

“Vodka’s the most efficient alcohol known to man.” – Professional alcoholic, insane person, author.

As a bonus, you can use the whole “depressant” line on that recently divorced woman at the bar who’s drowning the emotional scars inflicted on her by her douche-bag ex-husband and get punched in the face impress her with your intelligence.  Then tell her (this part is important), “Now you know.  And knowing is half the battle…”

GI JOEEEEEE!  Works like a charm.

(Dr. Scientist Man has informed me that he will be including GI Joe in his published research findings).

#2 Do Activities! 

Maybe you can’t sleep because you have too much pent up energy?  So why not burn some of that off!

Dr. Scientist Man has informed me that calories are just a unit of energy, and when you perform exercise that burns calories, you’re in fact burning energy!  Fascinating!

So extricate yourself from that human-sized burrito of sheets you’re currently entangled in and do some activities!  Yeah, it may be 2 am, but your neighbors won’t mind if you shoot some baskets for about an hour.  Then when you’re nice and sweaty, take off that comforter (you won’t need it now!), wipe up that sweat (liquid energy leaving the body – science!), throw it on the floor (someone will get that), fix that fitted sheet (one more corner and… god dammit!), and go to sleep!

Dr. Scientist Man BONUS TIP!

Combine tips #1 and #2 – do activities while hammered!

Dr. Scientist Man TOP SECRET EXCLUSIVE BONUS TIP!

Alcohol has calories, so you’ll need to limit that.  Remember science!  Calories = energy.  Vodka’s the most efficient alcohol known to man.  Cheap, low calorie, gets you drunk.  Did someone say miracle drug?

The worse the medicine tastes, the better it works – Science.

#3 Think About Something Boring

OK, you’re out of booze, and your basketball mysteriously went missing… is all lost?

Well, no, obviously.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have asked that question in a super-helpful-evidence-based advice article.  What do you think I am, a hack-fraud writer spewing falsehoods to boost his readership?

Dr. Scientist Man suggests that you focus your thoughts on something boring.  This will have a numbing effect on your mind, and eventually you will fall unconscious.

Not sure where to start?  Dr. Scientist man recommends focusing on work:

“For patients struggling to fall asleep who do not have access to booze or basketballs, I recommend focusing on the most boring thing you can to numb your brain into submission.  Statistically speaking, 99.999% of the general population finds their jobs to be the most unfulfilling, boring aspect of their lives.  For those new to this technique, thinking about their job is a safe go-to!”

Science has also demonstrated that statistically speaking, 95.7% of the time you’re actually at work, you’re thinking about anything but work (ironically, you’re probably thinking about sleeping).  By focusing on your job while laying in bed, you’ll also begin to see benefits at the work place!

3 am is also an ideal time to realize that, shit, no, I didn’t send that email I was supposed to.  And… actually, wait, I don’t think I told Susan about the electrical problem maintenance found with the copier… I think Tim mentioned something about “electrical burns.”  

This time of reflection helps you identify the things you needed need to do!  Scientist Man warns that potential side-effects include night-sweats (See tip 2 for instructions on dealing with night-sweat), increased heart-rate, an-elephant-is-standing-on-my-chest sensation, and an impending sense of doom.

#4 – Read a Blog Post

Dr. Scientist Man conducted an experiment wherein a representative group of 30 individuals selected from the comment section of the Info Wars Facebook page was given a simple task; the participants were given a laptop without internet access, and 5, 1000-word blog posts to read.  The blog posts were scientifically determined to be representative of the internet as a whole.  They were as follows:

  1. The 5 Things Your Cat Doesn’t Want You to Know.
  2. The 5 Things Your Cat Does Want You to Know.
  3. Donald Trump Did Something Reprehensible Today.
  4. The 49 Ways You Are Silently Destroying Your Children.
  5. You Are scuh an iodit and I htae evyerhintg aoubt you!!!1!

The participants were also denied access to their phones, or other electronic devices.

Out of 30 participants, 25 fell asleep within approximately 10 minutes of the start of the experiment.  The remaining 5 had to be removed from the experiment due to a physical altercation arising from an argument over former president Barrack Obama’s nation of birth.

While Dr. Scientist Man did not offer any definitive statements around the cause of the massive loss of consciousness observed, he did offer a tentative hypothesis:

“Well, to be honest, I think what we showed them was just mindless drivel.  The human mind, which is capable of going to great lengths to protect itself, simply shut down consciousness.  Further experimentation is required to validate my hypothesis.”

This sentence began exactly at the 1000th word of this blog post (a coincidence that caused the author to chuckle hysterically in an endless it’s-3am-and-my-brain-won’t-work-anymore stupor).  Statistically speaking, if you are still reading this, you are one of 17% of people whose minds are resistant to the numbing effects of meaningless internet drivel.  The rest of you are already asleep, having accomplished the mission of this article.

(The validity of this study has been called into question by some.  The 30 members of the control group, who were also selected from the comment section of the Info Wars Facebook page were disqualified from the experiment; members of law enforcement were called to the university after violence erupted when members learned Facebook had shut down the Info Wars page and banned Alex Jones from the social-media service).

If you’re still awake, and you’re still reading, then unfortunately science has nothing for you.  At this point you should just stay awake – and maybe warn Susan about that copier thing.

Dr. Scientist Man and I encourage you to click that Subscribe button over there to the left and follow LoudestMinds.com for more!  Or don’t.  It’s 3 am and I’m incapable of encouraging anybody to do anything right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things Your Loved One With Mental Illness Wants You To Know

You just learned that your friend, spouse, boyfriend, or whoever, is suffering from a mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder.  Now what?

Maybe you don’t know how to talk to them – so you don’t.  Or you do… but it’s really awkward.  You have no idea how to address it; do you address it?  Will you hurt their feelings if you do?   Will you hurt their feelings if you don’t?

This article hopes to give you some advice on how to proceed by sharing with you the things I, as a person with a mental illness, would like my friends and loved ones to know.  If you’re suffering from mental illness and you like what I have to say here, share this.

Now please note, I am not a mental health professional.  I am a person who suffers from Bipolar II Disorder.  My insight comes from someone experiencing an illness, and my own personal interactions with that illness.  Everybody is different.  Every illness is different.  In short, your mileage may vary depending on the individual person and the circumstances of their individual illness.  Use judgement.

With that caveat aside, here are 5 things I want people to know about me after learning I have a mental illness:

#1 – I Have Boundaries

Believe it or not, not everybody is cool with talking about themselves.  Some people have a really hard time with it actually.

Mental illness is still very taboo.  Mental health stigma is a very real thing.  Many people are not comfortable admitting they even have a mental illness.  Hell, most people probably aren’t comfortable admitting it.

Please respect the fact that people may not want to talk about it.  Take me for instance; I don’t really want to talk about it right now – at least not in person.  I’ve spent a long time building a pretty serious wall to talking about my problems and it’s going to take some time to dismantle.  So if you try to surprise me with a heart to heart about my mental illness… well… it feels sort of like this:

Nope.

I’m just going to run as fast as I possibly can away from you.  And then I won’t want to talk to you at all.  Because I’m afraid you’re going to eat me.  See?  That hasn’t really accomplished anything, has it?

Now some people will want to talk about it.  And that’s great!  People should feel like they can talk about mental illness.  If I just told you that I was diagnosed with depression, then I’ve sort of opened the door to talk about it.  But if you just heard that I have depression, and you bring that up, I’m going to feel attacked, and I’m going to put my shields up.

Now you don’t necessarily want to totally ignore it either.  This might lead someone to believe you don’t care.  So what do you do then?

Try this:

“Hi so-and-so.  I love you, and I want you to know I’m here for you if you ever want to talk about things.”  Boom!  That was great.  You obviously care, but you also respect boundaries.  Good for you!

Now there is one very important caveat to all of this.  If you think someone is about to hurt themselves or others, or is otherwise in crisis – then you should talk to that person, or hell, call the police if you think something bad is going to happen imminently.  But it has to be pretty extreme.

And lastly, for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t go telling a bunch of people you heard so-and-so has a mental illness behind their back.  Whatever your intention is, it’s likely to be perceived by the person actually suffering as malicious and cruel, and you’re probably going to jeopardize the very existence of a relationship with that person.  This can be very traumatizing for the person suffering from mental illness, and can be detrimental to their treatment and recovery.

#2 – I’m Still Me

Ask me to describe myself and “Bipolar” does not make the top 10 list of adjectives.  I am not my mental illness.

This one is a little tricky, since you’ll often hear someone say I am depressed, or I am bipolar.  The language usage suggests that that person is that mental illness.  But really, they’re not.

And really, this is laughable on the face of it.  Think about it:

Someone has cancer.  Are they cancer?

You have the flu.  Are you the flu?

You have a rash.  Are you a rash?

No.  That all sounds ridiculous.  So yes, you’ll see me write things like I am bipolar but really, that’s just lazy English.

The point is, I’m still the same me I was before you knew I had a mental illness.  You just know a little bit more about me now.  But don’t worry, I’m still here!

Confused?  Don’t over think it.  Just look at this definitely-not-altered GIF, smile, and move on.

Feel better?

#3 – I’m Still Capable

A big reason why the mental health stigma is so real is that people fear that they’ll be perceived as less competent if it’s known they have a mental illness.  But if you’ve known someone to be competent and capable of sound decision making, then the knowledge that they have a mental illness shouldn’t change that.

I have bipolar 2 disorder.  I make decisions every day.  I have a family that I care for.  I take myself to work every day; in other words, I am completely capable of taking care of myself and living a normal life.

Do you want to know the biggest reason I don’t share my mental illness with people in my personal life?  I’m afraid I’ll lose my job – and if I don’t lose my job I’m afraid I’ll never be considered for another promotion again.  I’m afraid some jerk will think I have a defect that compromises my ability to make sound decisions.  This isn’t true, but I know a lot of people think that way.

Now I am not trying to trivialize mental illness in any way.  Many people do struggle with very real mental health issues that diminish their functionality in different ways, and these people do require help.

But if you’ve known so-and-so forever, they’ve always been highly capable, and they confide in you that they have major depressive disorder, I hope your opinion of that person does not diminish.  They’re still as intelligent as they were before.  Actually, there’s some evidence to suggest intelligent people are more at risk for mental illness.

My opinion of you wouldn’t be diminished if I learned you have cancer.  I’d want to help you in any way I could, and I hope that’s your reaction upon hearing a friend or loved one is suffering from a mental illness.

#4 – Help Helps

You may have just learned that someone you love has a mental illness.  You may be filled with an overwhelming desire to help, and that’s good!  But what do you do?  Do you smother them with kindness?  Or do you stay aloof and distant?  You’re just doing what the nice guy on the internet told you to, and respecting boundaries.

How about you listen to them, and ask what you can do to help?  If the answer is nothing, then do nothing.  If the answer is listen to them complain about their day, then do that.  If the answer is get a supersized order of fries from McDonald’s then…

The ketchup is dispensed from a fire hose.

Now sometimes you shouldn’t just wait around and wait for someone to ask for help.  Unfortunately, people who are suffering with depression often can’t see what will help them… even if it’s really obvious.  And sometimes someone will say they don’t need anything when really it’s obvious that they do.  This requires some judgement on your part, and has to be supported by your knowledge of, and relationship with that particular person.

So if there’s something really obvious that would help, like stepping on the gas when you’re being chased by a gigantic dinosaur, then go ahead and do that thing:

You don’t have to wait for an invite to hit the gas.

Just remember that a little bit of kindness can go a really long way with someone suffering from depression or bipolar disorder.

#5 – I Want You To Take Care of Yourself

So I’ve been talking about all the things you can do to help that person in your life who is suffering from a mental illness, but please don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

The person suffering wants you to be well too.  They don’t want to see you suffer, or even develop a mental illness of your own due to the stress of care giving.

Make time for yourself as well.  Make sure you set your own boundaries.  Don’t forget to help yourself too.  Don’t be a hero.

You’re no use to anybody if you get eaten.

So that’s all for now.  That should be enough to get you started at least.  There’s a lot more than just that which I’ll share in later articles, but my mania-brain has lost interest in writing, and suddenly I have an uncontrollable urge to watch Jurassic Park.

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