Bipolar Disorder And Maintaining a Routine

todo“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
2. shower
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
2. Shower
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.

11 comments on Bipolar Disorder And Maintaining a Routine

    1. It was a lifesaver for me, Nav. I was spinning out of control until I was introduced to the short list.

  1. I liked your impression that this is something that every bipolar should know. I didn’t learn this early on, and I think I suffered more for it. I began a “routine” of sorts about 4-5 years into the diagnosis.I would go to bed about 8 pm, wake at 4 am (it takes about 3 hours to wake up ~ seroquel hangovers), watch TV and drink coffee.

    Then about 8 am without fail (unless it was just too cold), I would don all my road riding gear, and I would pull out my bike Toulouse La Trek (yes he’s named after the painter), and he and I would go ride for about 2 hours, and then I’d be home, hit the shower, take a nap (which I still do), and if it was summer, I would spend the rest of the day swimming. Not much of a routine, but I got the all important exercise. The docs are always telling me to exercise.

    Now, my routine is a bit more sophisticated. I still wake between 4 and 5 am, deal with the Seroquel hangover, but now, things are more ordered.

    1. Make the bed if the cat is not in an awkward position on the bed.
    2. Wash hair. Bath time is at night.
    3. Hunt for free Kindle Books.
    4. Read any email worth reading.
    5. Straighten up living environment. I have found that a cleaner and tidier environment makes for a happier bipolar.
    6. Chant and say morning prayers. (This is rather far down the list because everything else must be done first).
    7. Figure out what I am supposed to do that day, and determine what buses I need to take. I would really like a car for bigger errands and those at night, but on the whole, the bus is fascinating.
    8. Get home, and take short nap.
    9. Read all my blogs and comment where necessary.
    10. Avoid television as it is a mind sucking vortex. Read instead. Bless whoever came up with the Kindle. That thing can hold more books than I can read in a lifetime.
    11. Wash face, put on jammies, go to bed, and do it all over in the morning.

    I really need to spice things up. Maybe volunteer work at the Youth Detention Center. I think there’s a bus that runs down there, but maybe not for obvious reasons. Maybe then I could get a car 🙂

    Yes, routines and regular sleep patterns are essential to the health of a person who has Bipolar disorder. Maybe it is that Bipolar’s on the whole do not like change or stress, and a lack of routine, and regular sleep would constitute stress. All I know is I do and feel much better and in control when I sleep regularly and follow the routine not always in order, but those things have to get done or I feel out of control. Perhaps this is a topic for research. I sensing a dry clinical post in the near future 🙂

    1. Wow. you have your schedule down to a science. I was happy to read that you allow yourself some flexibility. I think it may seem crazy to some people, but to most people I know with bipolar there’s great comfort in a schedule like yours.

      1. I think that having some flexibility to the schedule helps to maintain it on a daily basis because you do not feel stuck. I have been developing this routine for quite some time. At least 6 or 7 years, I have been diagnosed for a while. 13 years or something like that; so I went through the woe is me phase, then the why the hell me phase, and then I pulled it together.

        I have also learned that I do better living on my own because then my weirdness doesn’t affect anyone but me, and I do not think it is weird. I have friends, but live in relationships do not work for me. Relationships where we have our own spaces work, or if the individual is exceedingly patient, and just understands it is an illness and has little to nothing to do with them. Those work too, but they are hard to find.

  2. Routine is everything in the mind of the Bipolar person. 🙂
    But, what works one day may not work the very next, right? This is the topsy turvy part of being Bipolar. If I don’t sleep? YIKES, life is way too hard! 🙂
    I have insomnia and sleep apnea, not a great combo. 🙂 Seroquel is the only thing that helps me sleep, yet I wake all through the night still. My philosophy is always, one day at a time! 🙂 Get through this day and hopefully tomorrow will be even better. No one understands this whole trying to get out of bed thing when Depression has you in it’s ugly grip! How do you get up when all you want is the bed to swallow you whole and you think? “Shit, another day to get through!”
    But right now my Bradley, I’m in a good place and I hope you are too! Many hugs and love, Paula xxxxx

    1. Always good to hear when someone is in a good place. I would say that I’m doing okay.I have sleep apnea as well, but not insomnia. Once I turn the machine on, I’m out in minutes.

      1. Insomnia is an animal all on its own. I have been having a lot of trouble with that recently. I go to sleep, and then I wake up about 6 hours too early. I think I am so sleep deprived that I lack the energy to be irritable or agitated. I only have enough energy to be nice which takes less energy anyway. And, I am hypomanic on top like a cherry. I want to go back to my nice little gentle sine wave where everything is like rocking in a boat on a sea with no wind. But, it isn’t the worst place I’ve been. At least here, I can hang, and I do not drive other people crazy 🙂

    2. Totally understand the day to day differences that Bipolar brings. Especially if you have panic disorder with occasional Agoraphobia and you absolutely have to get out the door, and on the city bus. And, you are freaking out because you couldn’t get the bed made because the cat wouldn’t move. So, yep, everyday is different. But, even if the list doesn’t get done in a certain order or by a certain time, it is no cause to freak out. I have learned over the last 13 years that as long as it gets done that’s all that matters.

      I am glad I do not have sleep apnea. The thought of it scares me. I just have way too much insomnia, even with the Seroquel knocking me out, I still wake up. If I do not sleep for a few days, I get manic. Very manic. After a few days, I start getting psychotic.

      Depression is the same way, and I am far more likely to get depressed. Have been all my life. Maybe that’s why I bought a good mattress and nice sheets. I hadn’t thought about that. I guess if you are going to be in bed all day, you might as well be comfortable. Although, it just hit me. A little “aha” moment. I haven’t been depressed since I got divorced a few months ago.

      Well, other than as a fellow person with a Bipolar facet, I do not know you, but I am glad you are in a good place. Sometimes they seem so rare; so hopefully you will stay there a while. It is interesting……you do not appreciate “normal” until you haven’t been there. I wish you the best.


      1. Haha! I love your sense of humour. 🙂
        Do you know what? I seperated from my husband 6 months ago and even though I have bad days they are nothing like they used to be. I’ve met someone else and I suppose in the beginning your always happy, right? Haha Time will tell but for now I am very happy. I so understand the whole seroquel handover! 🙂
        Fingers crossed we all get through this year a little better than last! Here’s to you me and Bradley! Hugs Paula xx

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: