Focus on What You Can Do with Bipolar, Not What You Can’t

July 1, 2016 Natasha Tracy

It seems like there are 1000 things I can’t do because of bipolar disorder, but what I’ve learned is that I need to focus on what I can do with bipolar disorder, not what I can’t. Because there are things we all can do. We often take those things for granted – but they are still there. We all have a “can” list and a “can’t” list. We, with bipolar, need to focus on our “can” lists.

What I Can’t Do Because of Bipolar

There are so many things I can't do because of bipolar disorder but there are still things I can do. Learn how to focus on what you can do with bipolar.I was talking with another person with bipolar and he was saying that it feels like bipolar has taken away everything. He was diagnosed in his 20s and he said it feels like everything has been taken away and that life before bipolar disorder feels like just a dream.

I know what he means. I started seeing a psychiatrist at age 20 and in all likelihood was sick far before then. It feels like bipolar disorder has taken away most of my life. It feels like my “can’t” list is huge because of bipolar disorder.

I can’t live without bipolar medication, which means I can’t live without side effects; I can’t stay out later than nine o’clock; I can’t work for longer than a few hours at a time; I can’t get through a day without resting.

Can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t. It seriously sucks.

What I Can Do – Even with Bipolar

But, there are many things I can do, even with bipolar. I can be a loving human being; I can be a good kitty mommy; I can be a writer; I can be a speaker; I can be a trustworthy friend.

Can, can, can, can.

I still have a “can” list – even with bipolar disorder.

And what I’ve learned is that I can reframe my “can’ts” – which are inherently negative – into positives (Unlearning Negative Thought Patterns).

Learn More about Focusing on What You Can Do with Bipolar Disorder

For as much as I’ve lost, and it has been a lot, there are still things that I have. In all honestly, I mourn what I have lost as it has been so much, but I also try to celebrate what I still have. Because I’ve realized that if I focus on all the “can’ts” then I can’t even see the “cans.” If I focus on all the “can’ts” all I’m doing is looking at the negative, and by doing that, I risk losing all the positive “cans” I do have (Negative Thoughts Distort Your Reality). And those are the things that make my life worth living. And if I nurture them, I know that, in some form, they will always be there.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2016, July 1). Focus on What You Can Do with Bipolar, Not What You Can’t, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 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. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

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

July, 14 2016 at 11:12 pm

Wow! I never thought about the fact that my "forgetfulness" towards appointments, etc. could be from my bipolar. It has made me feel like I am such a failure time and time again. I try so hard to remember things. I get my calendars all set up to use and forget to even use them. Then I get made at myself because I didn't use them. I wrote a post on my blog about what's it's like to be the one with bipolar however, I did realize how much more that I deal with is a result of it. If you wouldn't mind reading it and giving me some more input that would be amazing. I've dealt with for over 20 years now and you have already given me such a different view of myself, and you don't even know me.…

John doe
July, 6 2016 at 12:35 pm

Omg!!You hit the nail on the head-literally!!Finally someone who knows exactly how I'm feeling ,going through this b polar crap.Thanks for your openness !!You helped me to realize I'm not jus making this up.I wish you well friend!'

July, 5 2016 at 5:23 am

Keeping a planner with a thorough calendar of important appointments and special events are an important tool everyday. There is always something crucial that needs my attention whether it be physician appointments, helping my children, or even making time for myself. "Unmissing" those moments, regardless of how demanding they are, can help you be in control of your life. It may seem excessive, but it shows that I am a responsible person who takes life seriously.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Tracy Revalee
January, 10 2018 at 10:13 am

"...I am a responsible person who takes life seriously." Being responsible is a choice that one can make even though bipolar. I, too, keep a large calendar/book of lists on my desk, and transfer an abbreviated version to my iPhone calendar. That calendar is electronically shared with my husband, a neurotypical (non-bipolar) retired 70-year old engineer. I'm 62 and MANY of our friends are forgetful but because we are calendar fanatics, we keep each other on track and on time as well as reminding ourselves of our obligations. And besides CHOOSING to be responsible, I like to CELEBRATE each nonmissed event, from a lunch date to a doctor's appointment with an enthusiastic "atta girl" to myself. This is positive self-talk, which will never cure my bipolar but makes my life liveable and even joyful. I love being responsible because it allows me dignity that bipolar took from me for many, many years. Thanks for mentioning it, Dana.

Leave a reply