“Regular sleep and consistent daily routines can help ease the symptoms of bipolar disorder.” I gathered this gem of information from “Monitor of Psychology,” a publication of the American Psychological Association. This really shouldn’t be news for those of us who’ve been diagnosed for a while. In fact, it’s almost laughable. As I read this article, all I could think was “tell me something I don’t know.”
I may laugh at this news, but the reality is I don’t do it. Knowledge is one thing, but implementation is another. I suck at the implementation part. I never know what time I’m going to bed, I never know when I’m getting up. Laundry…whenever. Washing dishes…whatever. Making the bed…don’t make me laugh. Vacuuming, dusting, tub cleaning, sink scrubbing, blog reading, blog writing, floor sweeping…it all gets so overwhelming that it makes doing any of it feel impossible.
Before and after my diagnosis, about a decade ago or so, it felt nearly impossible to do any of the above. Actually, let me rephrase that…it was impossible to do any of the above. I’m not sure if someone who has never had to live with clinical depression or bipolar can truly understand that. I mean come on, it has to be a choice doesn’t it? All you’ve got to do is drag your ass out of bed and do something. I wish it was that easy.
At one point a friend of mine introduced me to the “short list.” If you’re struggling to get out of bed or getting anything done, then the short list is probably for you. The short list is a list of things that have to be done no matter what. You need to tape it to your mirror or put it on the refrigerator or put it anywhere else where you’ll see it regularly. I wrote mine on a chalkboard in the kitchen.
The first rule of the short list is to keep it short. Very short. Here’s my original short list:
1. make bed
3. get dressed
4. go outside (even if only to mailbox)
That’s it! When I told you to keep it short, I wasn’t kidding. The important thing to remember is the list is not a marathon. Don’t put a long list of things you think you should be able to do. Do that, and you’re only setting yourself up for failure. The purpose of the list is to help you succeed, not fail. The true beauty of the short list is that it’s fluid. You can change anytime you feel you need to. Out of my list there, I was unable to complete it each day. I made myself make the bed, take a shower, get dressed and then…..whoa! There was no way for me to complete the final step. I could not go outside. No matter how much I tried, it was not going to happen. Therefore, I had an easy solution. I took off #4 for following dates and stuck with only the first three.
After taking item #4 out. I only had to worry about the first 3. I was successful. After completing those successfully a few times, it was time to add to the list. Over time my list became pretty long. Here’s what my list came to look like:
1. Make bed
3. Get dressed
4. Get outside
5. Thursday: wash light color clothes
6. Run dishwasher.
7. Vacuum bedroom
And so on…
As the article stated that I mentioned in the 1st paragraph, it’s important to keep your schedule routine. Go to bed and wake up the same time each day, take your meds at the same time each day. As much as possible, have dinner at the same each day. It’s not easy. It’s currently a struggle for me, but I’ve been there before so I know it can be done and I know how much better I felt. I’m working to get back into a routine and for your mental health, I hope you are too.