Think for a moment: what are some of the things you do when you are well? Take a shower. Maybe have a cup of coffee. Read the newspaper. Work out. Eat properly. Go to work. Go out with friends. For a person with depression or bipolar disorder, something as simple as a shower or a cup of coffee may be out of the question. By taking our days, and breaking them down, we can gauge how we are feeling. For me, if I am really paying attention, I know if I don’t have a shower and a cup of morning coffee, I am on the road to becoming unwell. I can use these signs to help stop depression in its tracks.
Now, depression is depression, and sometimes those chemicals in my brain have different ideas for me. It’s like riding a rollercoaster and feeling hopeless to stop it. But a lot of the time, if I just take special care to look for the signs, I can keep myself well. That doesn’t mean I stop taking my medication—just the opposite. Skipping my medication is a sign I am not well. But knowing that, I can often nip a situation in the bud.
I like to be proactive with my health. I don’t just shut up and take my meds. I work hard to stay well. If I have a day or two where I haven’t done the things I normally do, I know I’m on the road to trouble. Sometimes that something I need to do is see my doctor and work with him to assess my medication. But it all starts with me.
I once saw a Wellness Plan somewhere on the Internet, and I used it to make a self-help binder. I listed the things I do when I am well, early warning signs that I am in trouble, a mood chart, triggers to avoid, and a response plan. I added to this the “extra” things I can do for myself to feel good. They were things like a taking bubble bath, listening to music and dancing, reading . . . anything that feels great. I included a list of medications and my doctor’s number, and made the book available to my husband. Sometimes he knows I am having issues before I do, and with a gentle nudge he steers me in the right direction. Whether you pick up on it yourself, or you have a little help from someone else, it’s all about reading the signs.