Living with bipolar disorder can be confusing. Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether you are manic or depressed—or neither, or both! It’s especially hard when you first get diagnosed. Bipolar disorder makes you question yourself and your reality. But a big part of managing your symptoms is self-awareness. This comes from paying close attention to your moods over time.
Keep a mood journal
Keeping a mood journal is a great way to track warning signs of a manic or depressive episode. You might not realize you are experiencing mania or depression until it’s over. Journaling makes it very easy to look back and notice trends to help you recognize it earlier the next time. You can write down your feelings or symptoms in a notebook, or a note-taking app. (Try setting a daily reminder on your phone.) As you keep track of your moods and symptoms, you’ll start to see how bipolar disorder affects you personally.
Get an outside perspective
Getting feedback from someone you trust can also be helpful. They might notice something you missed. This can be a close friend, a family member, or a therapist. The feedback might make you uncomfortable or even angry sometimes. That’s okay; it’s all part of the learning process.
If you know someone who also has bipolar disorder, ask them about their experiences. There are lots of great resources online too. Follow blogs or hashtags about mental illness. Join an online forum. It’s one thing to read a list of symptoms; it’s another to understand how they feel. Everyone is different, but there are people out there who have had experiences a lot like yours.
If you’re still wondering whether you’re manic or depressed, it’s possible you’re having a mixed episode—both mania and depression at the same time. Maybe your mind is racing and you can’t sleep (manic), but you’re also feeling very sad and getting down on yourself (depressed). It may sound strange, but it’s pretty common (especially in bipolar II).
One step at a time
The longer you work on building self-awareness, the better you will be at managing your symptoms. Think of each episode as a learning experience that is helping you better prepare for the next time. Eventually, you will be able to catch yourself and your triggers before you get to a crisis point.