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The 5 Rules To Live By When You’re Living With Bipolar Disorder

Sometimes I find life lessons in the oddest places. I suppose it doesn’t matter where I pick up tips for better living as long as I strive to move forward in the right direction.

I have discovered over the years my mental health journey isn’t necessarily linear. And it rarely is living with bipolar disorder. Our lives are broken down into cycles or waves, and we adjust to living while encountering upward swings into mania or downward spirals into depression. Sometimes the waves are small and have minimal impact on us. But other times the waves engulf us, knocking us around like a tsunami, and the fallout can be disastrous.

Just after emerging from yet another depressive cycle, I watched a favorite movie, “Zombieland: Double Tap,” and much to my surprise, encountered a few epiphanies.

Apparently, if we find ourselves in a zombie apocalypse, we need to follow certain rules for survival. And although we’re not in danger of an apocalypse currently, creating some rules to live by seemed like a good idea. I may not be fighting zombies day in and day out, but I certainly am in a bob-and-weave situation with bipolar at my side.

Rule #1: Keep your eyes on the road.

And I use this rule figuratively and literally. We are already so easily distracted by our screens with everything so instantaneous these days, and I need to focus on each task one at a time. Some call this mindfulness. I think it’s simple common sense, but regardless, it’s vital for me.

Rule #2: The faster you go, the longer it will take to get there.

Again, this can pertain to driving or completing tasks. If I’m rushed, I get flustered and make mistakes. Then I need to backtrack and start over. Things take as long as they take.

Rule #3: Pause before making online purchases—either a few minutes or, even better, sleep on it.

Giving myself a while to think about hitting the order button may alleviate some unnecessary purchases and save money!

Rule #4: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

We all have more than enough things going on in our lives, so let some of the little annoyances go. Don’t cry over milk that has spilled all over the floor.

Rule #5: Enjoy the little things.

I took this one straight from the film. So, if one day you want an ice cream sundae or a happy meal from McDonald’s, go for it. The spontaneous perks in life make our day-to-day lives more enjoyable and fun.

I haven’t developed any other rules at this point, but I’m on the right track. The primary lesson here is we are all on different paths, and adapting to our life’s disabilities and talents is crucial for ongoing upward movement.

For those of us with bipolar disorder, progress with each cycle is ideal; this way we are armored for the next one as another wave can knock us down at any moment.

While lifting off in a hypomanic episode, I tried to imagine a magnetic force keeping my feet flat on the ground. I suppose gravity is already at work, but in the past, it never stopped me from floating a little higher into the clouds.

As a kid, I remember playing tether ball, trying to hit a ball on a string while it flew through the air, until the ball was wrapped numerous times around the pole. It reminds me of how scattered my thoughts are when I’m hypomanic, just like that ball pinging around the pole.

Although I make every effort to express stability over my fleeting thoughts and subsequent actions, in the past, I haven’t been able to get a handle on them. But perhaps by applying some “rules to live by,” I can exercise a little more control over my bipolar illness and my life. I will continue to move onward and upward!