Living Well With Bipolar II Disorder: Taking Charge of Your Time

Marcia Purse Health Guide
  • For people with Bipolar II, even the time between episodes can be difficult. As I wrote in Why Don't I Feel As Good As I Used To?, researchers have found that over time we may tend not to return all the way to a true normal state after a depressive episode - that the mood during this period may be lower than it used to be.


    If that sounds like you, or if you have mild depression, maybe you'll benefit from some of the techniques I've found helpful to keep myself going in spite of it. You'd have to adapt this to your own circumstances, of course, but I offer it because it has worked for me for three months and I've managed to meet my obligations without the misery I used to feel about being backed up and overwhelmed.

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    My obligations are

    • Writing articles (including these SharePosts)
    • Keeping two part-time jobs current
    • Handling financial obligations (business and personal)
    • Caring for my home, and
    • Caring for my health

    The minimum number of articles I need to produce each month is 14, and it may be more. The two part-time jobs can take very few hours or a LOT of hours. These are the things I get paid for, so I'm going to start there.


    I used to struggle terribly to get all the articles written before the end of the month. I'd find myself working frantically on the last two days. Not only do I have to write them, but I have to decide what to write. The topics aren't assigned - I have to come up with them.


    During November and December one of my part-time jobs required huge amounts of time, and the other, because I'd gotten horribly backed up during prior months, had to be completely up to date by the end of the year.


    I used a spreadsheet - you could use a calendar, date book or Day-Timer if that works better for you. In my spreadsheet the rows are the days and dates of the entire month, and the columns are Task, Job 1, Job 2, Job 3, Other Jobs, House, and some extras for notes or whatever.


    My 14 articles are the Tasks. I spread them out over the month - one every 1-2 days, scheduled so that I have a cushion at the end of the month. Then - and this takes a LOT of pressure off - I decide on the month's topics then and there, or at least as many as I can. Joy! No more cudgeling my brain when it's time to write.


    Then I gauge, as best I can, the requirements for my part-time jobs. This was very heavy, as I said, in November and December. One of them has taken no time in January and - sigh - I'm behind on the other one, but part of that is from serious technical issues that I couldn't control: it was impossible for me to do any work for the first two weeks of the month.


    I build flex time into the schedule. For example, the article planned for the 14th may take two days to write, so I don't schedule other writing for the 15th. If it gets done in one day, the 15th is available for other jobs.


    Mind you, I work exclusively from home. If you have a day job away from home, or are in school, your tasks may be limited to what you have to do before or after work or school, and on weekends. Some thoughts:


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    If your child is having a birthday party on Saturday, you could break down the preparation tasks over the previous several evenings so you're not racing around frantically at the last minute. If it's a theme party, pick the theme immediately.


    If you have a paper due on the 15th, you might schedule an hour a day for a week or so before that, and brainstorm, at the beginning, what part of the work you're going to tackle each day. If you have to choose the topic, pick it NOW, not when you have to start working on it.


    If you are hoping to go on job interviews but don't know when the opportunities will happen, choose your outfits (at least two or three), keep your hair clean, check out job search sites for how to make the best impression at interviews, and write down your objectives.


    This technique has worked wonders for me in terms of productivity and stress reduction. I check the schedule several times a day to see what I've planned, what I might be behind on because of unexpected things like illness, etc. I no longer have to feel horribly overwhelmed because I don't have to decide, each day, what's most important to do.


    In terms of mood, there are two benefits. First, using the schedule keeps me from adding to depression and anxiety by having to dither under pressure. Second, it helps me stay on track in spite of not having the greatest mood.


    For example, yesterday I just felt - punk. Tired and lethargic and cross. I went back to bed for a nap just a few hours after getting up.


    But - there was my schedule, telling me which article to write, including the topic. It wasn't an easy one to write. But just having it there was a spur. I didn't start writing till around 3:30, and I didn't enjoy it much - but it was done by 7:30 - and that felt great.


    In my next SharePost I'll address the other part of scheduling: finances, home and health.

Published On: January 26, 2012