Why Is My Bipolar Back?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My bipolar disorder seems to be getting worse and worse. I was diagnosed as bipolar after attempting to commit suicide last April. It was not my first, nor my last, attempt but it was them most concerning. After I was discharged I managed to completely flip my own life upside down. After a few months of ups and downs went by, I started managing everything. I worked, I started school, I was in a healthy relationship, I was taking my medication, seeing my doctors, and being more social. A couple of months ago I started going back downhill. I lost my job, I dropped 3 out of 4 of my classes, I stopped my medication, cancelled my psych/therapy appointments, started pushing my partner away, being distant, and am now worse than I have ever felt. I was getting accustomed to dealing with the ups and the downs, but I feel now that I am so far down I simply can’t pick myself back up. I made new appointments, but they’re useless because I lie to my psychiatrist and don’t take my medications. I found a new school that is better suited to my lifestyle, but am not as excited about it. I try to get my partner to understand what I’m going through so she can “watch” me, but she has never been exposed to anyone with a mental illness. Everyday for the last few days I contemplate how I’d like to die, calculating everything from my devastated family to how painful it would be. I have been hospitalized 5 times for suicidal ideations, and I refuse to go back, so I am forced to suffer alone and hope to feel better before I make any plans. I just want to understand why it’s progressing so badly.

A. Recovery takes time. There will be many “ups and downs.” That is the nature of bipolar disorder. It is a mistake to think that your life will not improve. The proof is that it has improved in the past and it can again. Bipolar disorder is a condition that needs to be managed over time. There is no cure but it is manageable. Many individuals with bipolar disorder can live high-quality lives.

At this moment in time, your judgment may be impaired. Recently, you were doing very well. You have decompensated and from your perspective, your situation is hopeless. This type of thinking is very “black and white.” Perhaps you see no hope in trying again. Maybe you do not believe that you could return to your high point. The truth is that you can. Yes, it is going to take time, effort and treatment but you have done it before and you can do it again.

One salient aspect of your current situation is that you stopped treatment. This could explain why you decompensated. It makes logical sense. The key to success is not stopping treatment.

What’s most important for you is to return to treatment immediately. It helped you previously and it can help again.

If you need to go to the hospital do not hesitate to go. The hospital can keep you safe. Hospital stays are temporary. For many people, they serve as a much-needed respite. You need to do what’s best for you at this time. If the hospital is the most appropriate place for you then please go. In fact, I would strongly recommend the hospital because of your suicidal ideation. As I mentioned above, you are not thinking clearly. You have a history of suicidal ideation and this is concerning. Please seek help as soon as possible. It can help you get back on the road to recovery.

Lastly, the fact that you have a record of success and stability is very encouraging. You may see it as a negative (i.e. I was doing well and now I am not) but I would disagree. It is proof that you have the power and psychological means to stabilize. Your past success can help you to repeat your success. You did it once and you can do it again.

I wish you well. Thank you for your question.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 May 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Why Is My Bipolar Back?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/09/why-is-my-bipolar-back/

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