At my last bipolar support group meeting, a number of us revealed that we are very bad at handling disappointment. Whether it has to do with our careers or relationships or even a sporting match, we all felt it best to manage our expectations - and keep them realistic - in order to avoid the possibility of disappointment.
For me, disappointing sales of my art or my book have always been difficult to deal with. When sales were up, I’d be hypomanic and happy. When they were down, I’d get depressed. Since I have only limited control over sales, this is a dangerous way to live.
All we can do in reality is to set the stage for success. We cannot control the results. We can play our best tennis in a match, but we can’t control how our opponent will play. We can do our best at work, but we can’t control our boss, upper management, or the general economy.
The trick, I think, is to do our best to make success happen, and then to let go of the result. We need to take satisfaction in knowing we did our best, not punish ourselves if the outcome isn’t what we expected. I’m still trying to learn this useful distinction, because I tend to blame myself when the outcome is a failure. I feel like I am “losing face” and not living up to what I promised.
Keeping realistic expectations is even more important on days when we are not at our best. We have to remember that taking care of ourselves so that we don’t soar into mania or dive into depression is more important than what we might accomplish by pushing ourselves too hard. For those of us who are used to accomplishing a lot during our hypomanic periods, we may feel we are being “lazy” on days we can’t live up to that standard. By lowering expectations and being kinder to ourselves, we have a better shot at staying healthy for the long run.
Learn more about bipolar disorder and treatment.
Published On: October 27, 2006
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