The Importance of Baby Steps in Bipolar Disorder Recovery
I often hear from people who are in the very nastiest, lowest, deadliest pits of despair in their bipolar depression. It’s natural to reach out during these times. You need help and you need help now. And what these people want to know is:
How can I fix my life?
The answer to this question is both good and bad. The answer is: baby steps.
Being at the Bottom of the Bipolar Pit
What people need to understand is that in addition to being at the bottom of the bipolar pit mood-wise, people are often at the bottom of a pit life-wise. People have often gotten to the point where they have destroyed relationships, harmed their employability and generally wrecked what was once good in their lives. It is very difficult to see a way back from all of this.
But I can promise you, there is a way out – even if you have addiction issues and relationship issues and work issues and interpersonal issues. There is a way out of that pit. Of course, treatment by a professional (maybe multiple professionals) is a must. But on top of that, bipolar disorder recovery requires baby steps in your life too.
Baby Steps in Bipolar Recovery
Here’s what I’m talking about. When you look at your life and see a litany of problems, you become overwhelmed and exhausted – anyone would – so it’s critical to take one, tiny, little area at a time and work on that. Generally, I’m a fan of getting yourself straightened out before trying to straighten out the things around you. (If you’re well, then you have a chance to make other things better, until this is the case, you’re sort of defeating yourself.)
So, take something you can manage, like sleep. Make a sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it: the same time to bed every night and the same time to wake up every morning. I can guarantee this will make you feel better, over time, and give you some extra strength to deal with your next baby step.
Maybe the next thing you take on is nutrition. Try to eat veggies and fruit twice a day or try to make a home-cooked meal twice a week. Start small. Start with something you can manage. Don’t think that you’re going to be making perfect meals for yourself three times a day – you won’t. Maybe you’ll manage one meal a day that’s healthy. If that’s more than you had before, then you’ve won.
Maybe the next thing is trying to pay off one bill at a time. Maybe the next thing is filing for disability. Maybe the next thing is getting a part-time job. Maybe the next thing is cleaning the dishes in your sink. Whatever makes sense to you is the next baby step you should take. Just remember: small steps are your friend here. Each time you successfully take a baby step, your confidence will grow so you can take more, and eventually, bigger ones.
Because no one goes from lying in a pit of despair to standing up in a hurricane. First we sit up, then we kneel, then we hunch, then we stand on a clear day and so on. Each step proves to ourselves that we can do it, we can meet our goals. And we absolutely can, one baby step at a time.
Tracy, N. (2014, February 18). The Importance of Baby Steps in Bipolar Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, November 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2014/02/importance-baby-steps-bipolar-disorder-recovery
Author: Natasha Tracy
Thanks for this article. Just what I needed to hear.
So much has changed for me that I spent a while not only clinically depressed but overwhelmed into the "freeze" mode of run, fight freeze.
I definitely needed the reminder to pull in, focus on myself, regroup. Actually, finding this site and reading a bit is part of the first day of doing that.
Thanks for the article.Am making my baby steps now after going through a 'whirlwind'.It costed me a number of things including my car, job and the shame plus guilt of seeing things that happened during mania.I have come to accept the situation and am making steps to get out of it.It is not easy but I believe it will turn out well.There are challenges along the way.My greatest challenge in the past was denial and am getting over it gradually.
Wow have things changed for me in just 6 short months. I work 8 hours (not including the 1.5 hour daily commute) then I come home and sleep for for at least 12 hours. Not much time to accomplish anything else in the remaining 2.5 hours. I guess I need to back to square one again... baby steps
The first stage of ANY recovery is accepting you have a problem. I learned incrementally to accept that I have this disease. Then slowly with baby steps I learned to recover as I built on my successes... finding the right medication to help with the symptoms, developing healthy diet & exercise routines, therapy to help get over problems of the past. Accepting my limitations and learning not to feel guilty for setting boundaries. Getting proper rest. Learning to love myself unconditionally despite the stigma associated with this disease, especially bipolar 1. It wasn't easy and it still isn't. I consider myself a work in progress. The way I look at it I have two choices: a) making a commitment to moving forward or b) ending up like I was and being committed (to hospital)
Baby steps were and still are the only way for me to accomplish anything. It's been tiny little steps that have kept me in recovery.
Currently, I've been tackling diet and exercise simply to feel better about myself...not to mention losing some of this weight is an added bonus!
Every time you write, I am blessed.
Nice to see some gratitude!!!
I'm so glad I found your blog. I was diagnosed 11 years ago with BP 1 and have been in quite a depressive mode for about for a few weeks. But I do find that taking baby steps and making myself handle one task at a time helps me feel better and makes me gradually climb out of the depressive state. Also reading blogs about other people's stories helps me know I'm not alone. Thank you. Also, love the title of your blog.
Regardless of attack method, victory is usually given back by the person who attempts to live life free of pain. No such life exist. During times of distress we learn, even get stronger to fight the good fight. Your blog begs the mental lepers woe. Reading it is difficult for me at times - though over long term helpful.
Pain is our teacher if we look it right in the face.
Pain is our master if we run from it.
P.S. I just signed up for your blog a couple days ago - so glad I found it!
Great article, Natasha! My name is Dyane Harwood, I have bipolar one disorder, and I'm on the International Bipolar Foundation's Consumer Advisory Board. I was selected as their first 2014 "Story of Hope and Recovery" that went live on their website today. Here's the link to my Q&A below - they are a wonderful organization and their new website is full of resources. http://www.ibpf.org/story-hope-and-recovery
I don't know where else to post this, but it's tangentially related to your current blog post.
An article on suicide, by Pacific Standard mag:
This is a WONDERFUL article, Natasha! So very true and so extremely helpful.
Natasha, this article comes at the perfect time for me. I've been working on baby steps for the last few weeks. It really does work!