Making Plans with Bipolar Disorder

March 5, 2012 Natasha Tracy

I have a friend with bipolar disorder. A nice girl. Fun. Charming. Intelligent. She’s lovely really. We email a lot and sometimes she makes me LOL.

But seeing her is very difficult. She has a lot of trouble sticking to any plans we might make. This is because she can never predict her mood. Even if she feels like going out the moment we make the plans, even if it seems like a fun idea then, when the time actually comes she may not feel like leaving the house.

I know how she feels.

Ideas that seem good on a Wednesday, when they actually arrive on a Friday suddenly seem like the biggest imposition in the world and seem as impossible as lifting a mountain.

So how does one make plans if one can never anticipate one’s mood?

Mood Switching

Many people with bipolar disorder experience mood episodes that last long periods of time. Depressions, manias or hypomanias might last weeks or even months. For them, moods may be more predictable.

But for people with very rapid cycling versions of bipolar disorder (ultradian cycling particularly) we never know what our mood will be one day to the next. One day we wake up feeling fine, the next depressed, and hypomanic the day after that. And mix in an anxiety disorder, which many people have, and the combinations get ever more complex.

Mood Desires

And what one wants to do during any particular mood episode varies. Being very outgoing and social and heading out to a party probably sounds like great fun when hypomanic but sounds like absolute torture when depressed.

Planning for Moods

In short, you can’t plan for moods; that’s the whole problem. I don’t know how I’m going to feel on Friday, it’s only Monday. (Of course this is true for everyone it just happens to be more pronounced for a person with a mental illness.) I won’t even know on Thursday. It’s kind of a thing.

But does this mean I should stop planning? I don’t think so. True, I might not plan as far out as some people or set specific, timed goals like some people, but I do still plan. And then I set my mind to follow through. In my opinion it’s a mindset. If I’ve set a reasonable plan for a reasonable activity for a reasonable time then I’m going through with it. Period. And I don’t care how I feel about it. If I waited for the right feeling to correspond with the right timing I’d never get anything done.

Because the alternative is not to plan at all. And then that means not seeing the people I care about or getting things done (on time or possibly ever). And I just don’t consider that a reasonable strategy.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, March 5). Making Plans with Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 9 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook and YouTube.

September, 21 2013 at 2:42 am

Ms Tracy, I love all your columns. They are a terrific help to me.Keep them coming!

June, 10 2012 at 2:03 pm

the difference beewten the two is in bipolar you will have manic episodes and when you have a depressive episode it will be severe ( a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/ or energy levels. In a sense, it is the opposite of depression) whereas in depression there are no manic episodes and the severity fluctuates..i hope i cleared things up a bit take care hon

Natasha Tracy
March, 8 2012 at 6:28 am

I'm honoured to know lovely people. :)
- Natasha

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
March, 8 2012 at 6:17 am

She does sound lovely!

Sierra Sage
March, 5 2012 at 3:13 pm

I just re-read your note Natasha and you are in a
different place than I am with this illness it seems because you have the power to follow through
when you don't feel like it. I have it sometimes,
but there are times, believe me, that I cannot even
pick up the phone and talk to someone that wants to
talk to me...not because I don't want to...I Can't!
My state is such that I can't..or I can't answer a
post in here...I Can't arrange my words...just some
examples of extreme sitting in one spot doing nothing but starring out the window for can be the pits!

Sierra Sage
March, 5 2012 at 3:01 pm

I try to plan some, but am very careful to have an
escape route available if I feel agitation or
manipulation going on. This way I can politely leave the setting without making a scene. I prefer to visit with people in an open or public setting
like a lobby or restaurant instead of in homes..I
feel trapped with those other than very close family at home. Home is my safe haven where there
are no demands that I cannot meet, or expectations
that I cannot deliver. That is why I live alone and
love it! I do make plans though, and sometimes have
to call and cancel. I think that's okay too, just
go with the flow and make the best of it...

March, 5 2012 at 1:36 pm

I've found that carrying a day planner around with me helps with plans. I try to list things to do on a daily basis including taking to friends, going to the store etc. The planner helps me a lot, I can work on one day at a time which is sometimes the only way I can get through the week.

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