An Olympic training approach to managing bipolar disorder

I was talking with a friend at the National Council on Behavioral Health’s annual conference in Nashville. We had just watched a movie about Andy Irons a world class surfer who had bipolar disorder and died at 37.

It was an emotional documentary. I felt sad. But the emotion that got my attention was anger. Angry at a terribly cruel and devastating illness.

I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for my ability to successfully manage a serious mental illness that often robs people of life and disrupts any sense of normalcy.

Though I too have succumbed to many tragic experiences because of bipolar disorder, once I set my mind to figuring out how I could manage the symptoms with as little disruption to my life as possible, I successfully am living a healthy life.

But it dawned on me as I said to my friend Carol that not everyone may think to take an Olympic training mentality to conquering a mental illness.

It’s no easy task to become an Olympian. In my view managing bipolar disorder is far more difficult. But applying the same driven mentality can be a game changer for managing bipolar.

For me it comes down to four main components.

1. Desire. The desire to want a life that is manageable and purposeful despite a disability.

The desire to learn how to manage with often much needed medications, which generally have terrible side effects-especially when first initiated.

The desire to fight for a healthy peaceful life.

2. Dedication. Relentless vigilance monitoring symptoms. Advocating for yourself with the doctor. Keeping appointments as if your life depends on it. Because my life does depend on it.

3. Discipline. Finding a treatment plan and sticking to it. Meticulously taking medications every day, without missing a dose. Getting the proper sleep. Exercising even when it’s hard to motivate.

4. Determination. Maybe the most important aspect is never giving up the hope for recovery. Never quitting even when the game seems out of reach. Taking the setbacks in stride and keep on pushing.

I realize not everyone has had the experience of becoming an Olympian. But I also know people can apply these same principles to their own individual situation.

My goal is to share my knowledge with others. Every life matters.

In a sports analogy bipolar disorder can be defeated. But it is an opponent that is always relentlessly trying to take us down.

Fight it as if your life depends on it. Because it does.

18 thoughts on “An Olympic training approach to managing bipolar disorder

  1. Amy I agree we had to fight the good fight and do what we have to do to stay well you’ve helped me so much and I’m thankful for all the people that you’re helping Terry

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    1. Amy, I agree with everything you’ve just said. My bipolar diagnosis was in 2015, so it’s quite recent, although I know I’ve had this all my life. I seem to be able to manage my mood swings without medication. I did start off on meds, but I just couldn’t function on them, as I’m a full time carer for my wife.

      I seem to have more manic spells than depression. I know mania can get you into a lot of trouble sometimes, so I try to channel my unleashed creativity into writing. Which is ironic really, as I’ve never really liked writing, lol. I used to be a marathon runner, when I wore a younger mans clothes. That was long before I was diagnosed with bipolar. But it now makes sense, to why I used to train like a mad man, lol.

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      1. Thanks for reaching out. I hope you’re doing okay without meds. It sounds like you have a good strategy to help you manage. For me, not taking medications is a disaster. In fact, my illness can be life threatening. Those of us who live with bipolar are warriors! Be well…and stay strong!! Regards, Amy

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      2. Thank you Amy you too. I’m very new to blogging, in fact I only started yesterday, lol. So I’m trying to find my feet, and maybe gain a few friends along the way 🙂
        Regards
        Clive

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  2. Well said, Amy. All the things I do fit somewhere in your 4 categories and I’ve been well for 4-1/2 years now. You’re right, it takes hard work but having a pretty normal life is worth it. Thanks for writing and all the work you do.

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  3. Very hard and eye-opening movie and feels that followed. You’ve helped so many by sharing your experience with Bipolar and how you’ve managed to handle moving forward. I’m sending you good karma. I’m reblogging this great post. Hugs.

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