Just like when a storm blows in there are indicators as to when your moods will change. They may be subtle or pronounced but with some observation they can be detected. With a storm there may be some wind and dark clouds may approach. That is much like watching for depression.
If you start to think of down things like hardships in your life or even thoughts of death, along with changes in eating, sleeping, loss of interest in activities or people, loss of energy or a depressed mood, impaired concentration then these are likely signs of bipolar depression coming on.
There are a wide and varied list of symptoms for indicating this and you will need to watch to get to know yourself, or even have close family and friends watch you for changes, but the symptoms listed in this post are often common among those with bipolar disorder. However something as simple as uncharacteristic stuttering can be an indication of change toward mania. In time with close attention you will learn what to watch for.
Some common manic symptoms may be the desire to spend money, elevated mood, decreased sleep, irritability, increased activity or productivity, quicker speech, excitability. Maybe at this time you would like to have a family member watch over your credit cards or arrange to see your doctor and explain why you feel you are becoming hypomanic or manic. Illustrate that conversation by letting the doctor know your energy level has increased or you have the urge to spend a large chunk of your savings. Whatever shows the doctor you are concerned will get his or her attention.
It is always a good idea to write things out as forgetfulness can be a symptom of either depression or mania. While you are reviewing these things in your mind think about the changes you experience between mild to moderate to severe symptoms for both the depression and the mania. Maybe when you are manic you go from aggravated to anxious to irritable. What other things change and at what intensity do they change. You don’t have to write out long paragraphs if you don’t want to just make lists or diagram with arrows to show the progression or relationship between your stages of emotion.
While you are thinking these things over troubleshoot some ideas for friends and family to help you. Often those closest to us will see the signs even before we do. You can even plan specific things for them to say to you as they notice changes coming to the surface. Give them the words to use that will communicate with them what to say when you are up and when you are down so you are not triggered by their interaction. This may take some practice to find the right phrases and is best to role play a couple of times even if only in your imagination. You don’t want to set them or yourself up for a hostel response while you are upset.
Maybe you will need a friend to come over and help you concentrate on paying your bills, or have a family member drive you to the doctor because you are easily distracted at the time. Whatever you think you may need don’t be afraid to ask for it as you write your coping plan out ahead of time. Let the person you are asking know you may need some help in the future and you’d be grateful if could count on them when the time comes. Likewise, give them a graceful exit if they feel they would rather not help for any reason that worries them. Much better to know ahead of time and be able to trust your resources rather than become a burden to someone unprepared for responsibility. Be sure your helper knows this is a major illness and it may reoccur a few times while you and the doctor work on managing your symptoms. Loved ones usually want to help but often don’t know how without some guidance.
Keep these early intervention plans in an easy to find spot as you will never know when you need them. Don’t be afraid to get as specific as you like as it will only clarify your planned actions. Just remember you are not alone. Not only are there others out there with bipolar disorder doing the same thing but however small your support system they will step up to help.
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