Maybe today was your first time meeting with a mental health care professional. Or perhaps it was your tenth time. If you left your doctor’s office with the brand-new diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, you may be wondering, “What now?” Some psychiatric doctors are very thorough and will overload your already perplexed mind with so much information that you just can’t seem to absorb it all. It can feel incredibly overwhelming. But then, there are also those doctors who give you a diagnosis and send you on your way maybe with a new medication or two to try.
Sometimes trying to figure out what’s going on with you internally is half the battle. But just because you were finally given a diagnosis does not mean that the battle is over. In a way, it has just begun.
Bipolar Disorder is typically characterized by extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression) that tends to keep its sufferers swinging back and forth between the two extremes in a repetitive and vicious cycle. As an example: A person can go from feeling like their usual self (which is known as the persons “baseline”) to having an elevated mood during mania for a period time, which can then fade into a depressive episode, before going back to their baseline.
Since every person in this world is uniquely different, not everyone will experience the same symptoms. What being bipolar feels like for you might be extremely different for someone else.
There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but there are different types of treatment options such as medication management and talk therapy that can make living with bipolar disorder and its symptoms easier to manage and live with.
When you first receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you don’t have to know everything you should be asking your doctor about at the very moment. You will have time to think of what you want to ask by your next appointment. However, if your doctor happens to prescribe you a psychiatric medication to help with your bipolar symptoms, you always want to ask questions about your new medication so you’re not starting a new treatment without knowing what to watch out for or what some possible outcomes could be whether they are good or bad. Some questions you should consider asking your doctor about your new medication are:
- What are some side effects or other things that I need to watch out for?
- Should this medication be taken with or without food?
- What is the best time of day to take the medication and how many times a day should it be taken?
- Are there any dietary restrictions or precautions I should be aware of?
- How long will it take to start seeing any benefits?
After being told that you have bipolar disorder, take time to do some homework on your own. One thing you will come to learn about bipolar disorder is that there are different types with varying severities such as Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Research your new diagnosis online but just be sure to use reputable sources that have accurate information or from other sources that you know and trust.
If you have a friend or a loved one who has been diagnosed with this mental health disorder ask them if they will talk to you and share their own personal journey and experience with bipolar disorder with you. Don’t be scared to ask questions regarding treatments that have helped them or about how they cope with their symptoms and everyday life.
Even if you don’t know anyone personally who has been diagnosed with bipolar, you can still find people who are just like you that you can talk to, confide in, and interact with online by joining online mental health support groups. You can even search the popular social media platform Facebook for mental health support groups which they have an abundance of. (One mental health support group that can be found on Facebook that could be a good starting point and that is linked with this blog is the My Bipolar Mind Support Group!) You could also type something along the lines of “Bipolar Disorder Online Support Groups” into your favorite search engine to find other countless options and resources for people living with Bipolar Disorder.
Joining an online support group can help you connect with other people and you might be surprised to find that you can build up your own mental health support system and network while forming lasting friendships.
After your appointment where you received your new diagnosis, start coming up with any and all questions that you might have for your doctor before your next appointment. Don’t leave any questions out if you would like the answer to them. There are no silly or “dumb” questions when it comes to learning about what is going on inside of your mind and body. Make sure that you either write down all your questions in a notebook or type them out and save them in your smartphone or tablet. Don’t try to just memorize what you wanted to ask your doctor because that is how important information can slip by.
An excellent way to keep track of your symptoms and moods is by tracking them on a daily basis. (You can check out our Monthly Bipolar Mood Tracker HERE!) You can try simply using a notebook or journal and writing down the symptoms you’ve experienced during the day, how severe they were (many people like to use the 1 – 10 rating system where 1 means the symptom wasn’t really bothersome and 10 means it severely bothered you), and how you felt throughout the day. You could also type “Printable Bipolar Mood Tracker” into a search engine, or you can play around on the computer or with a pen and paper and create your own daily, weekly, or monthly mood trackers. The possibilities are endless when it comes to ways for you to track your moods and symptoms and sometimes it just involves a little bit of creativity.
When you track your mood and symptoms you can sometimes pick up on things you haven’t noticed before such as patterns or even triggers. You are able to share your tracker with your doctor so they can get a better idea of where you are at mentally and emotionally. You can see where progress has been made and get a better idea of whether or not your current treatment plan is working for you. They key is consistency and keeping up with your daily tracking in order to see results.
You might also want to consider talking to your loved ones about your new diagnosis. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health you will always find people who are not very supportive, caring, or understanding. People tend to fear what they don’t know or understand and, sadly, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health. It is always up to you when it comes to choosing who you want to tell about your bipolar diagnosis.
If you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you need to understand that there was nothing that you did wrong. While the actual cause(s) of bipolar disorder are still unknown, scientists believe that it could be a factor or any one or all three of these things: Genetics, environmental factors, and brain chemistry. You are not to blame.
Another thing you should understand is that medications alone are not enough to manage bipolar disorder. It takes hard work and effort to achieve and maintain stability. You should try to work on your mental health every day. You will need to learn and develop healthy coping mechanisms for those bad days or moments. Working with a therapist is also very beneficial when it comes to help managing your bipolar disorder.
In the long run, you are going to have to figure out what works best for you and your mental health.
One last thing to always remember is to never let anyone tell you that you are weak for having a mental illness. You are sick, not weak. It takes bravery and courage to battle the demons in our minds day after day! ❤
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Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.