Many of us have been told that maintaining a consistent routine is the key to living well with bipolar disorder. But does that ever annoy you? Does it feel like you’re being treated like a child? After all, the idea of having a routine sounds like something a toddler does, not an adult.
Listen as Gabe and Dr. Nicole discuss what the concept of routines gets wrong as well as what it gets right. They even throw in some helpful hints on creating one for yourself. But, perhaps most importantly, you’ll learn the suggestion Gabe has for naming your daily schedule. Listen Now!
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
He is also the host of Healthline Media’s Inside Mental Health podcast available on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Dr. Nicole Washington is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions.
Find out more at DrNicolePsych.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.
Gabe: Hey everyone. My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.
Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist.
Gabe: Dr. Nicole, I have a confession to make. Sometimes when the Dr. Nicole’s of the world give me advice, I angrily reject it because I am not a child. That’s as plain as I can put it. Y’all give me advice and I’m like, no. I have no good reason. I just don’t want to. And since we’re talking about routines, I want to confess to you. The first time somebody told me to make a routine. I lost my shit. That’s as real as I can be. I thought, I am not a toddler. I do not need a routine. And I did not like it. Do you get this from other patients? Am I alone in this?
Dr. Nicole: Oh, I mean, everyone always listens to me and does everything that I ask them to do on the first time. You’re the only one in the whole world who has ever done. No, no, no, no.
Gabe: I Knew it. I knew that
Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]
Gabe: I was aberrant.
Dr. Nicole: No, no. I think it’s common. And I think it’s because, like you say it, I have literally had people yell at me and use the words. I’m a grown ass man. I don’t need to go to bed at a certain time. You know, like, I’m not a child. I don’t need. It’s the control factor, right?
Gabe: Some of these things on their face. It does sound infantilizing like a little bit of real talk. Dr. Nicole, somebody came up to you and told you, hey, your life will be better if you follow this strict schedule. And you’re like, wait a minute, that looks like a two-year-old schedule. And you’ve also got this history of people talking down to you of mental trauma, of maybe job loss. We’ve talked about all kinds of things on this podcast that impact people living with bipolar disorder. And then somebody is like, you know what you need? You need the same schedule as a two-year-old. You can see where it’s. It sounds a certain way.
Dr. Nicole: I mean, I guess. But I will tell you, I get this exact same response when I’m talking to somebody just about sleep, whether they have bipolar illness or not. And I’m talking about sleep routines and scheduling a routine and going to bed at the same time every night, all these ritual things that I have them do, I get the same response. So, I think people just don’t like to be told what to do.
Gabe: Let’s stick with your sleep example just for a minute. Bedtime. Sounds like a child. Children have bedtimes. Adults go to sleep. We can’t change all of the words. And I don’t I don’t want to get into a language debate, but I do wish that we could. I don’t know, we could, like, adult it up, right? Instead of a routine we need. Like what you need, Gabe is a bad ass ritual. Oh, I like the idea of creating bad ass rituals, but, you know, doctors like you need a routine, you need a bedtime, you need to practice self-care. And I’m like, oh,
Dr. Nicole: Yes. Yes.
Gabe: I don’t want to do any of those things. They sound horrible. So, from now on, we’re creating bad ass rituals, which
Dr. Nicole: Okay.
Gabe: You and I both know is just a routine.
Dr. Nicole: Right.
Gabe: Dr. Nicole, what is the advantage of creating a bad ass ritual for people with bipolar disorder, which
Dr. Nicole: Consistency,
Gabe: We all know is just a routine?
Dr. Nicole: Right? Consistency is always key. We always talk about how especially sleep is one of those things that is paramount to managing your bipolar disorder. So, you want to prevent episodes. The one piece of advice I give people is let’s just try to keep you on a regular sleep schedule, which feels impossible, right? We have work demands. We’re working late, especially when people work from home. You kind of those lines blur and so you kind of find yourself working late into the evening. You’re checking email. It’s just hard to create that organically or just naturally occurring. So, I think having the routine allows you to get what you need without you having to just let it happen naturally, because it may not happen naturally, It just may not.
Gabe: I have another confession to make, Dr. Nicole.
Dr. Nicole: What is that? Gate?
Gabe: Routines really work. It’s super helpful.
Dr. Nicole: Oh. Oh. Don’t have to be disappointed. Okay. That was. I was waiting for something really disappointing.
Gabe: It’s really helped me a lot.
Dr. Nicole: I thought I was going to be completely disappointed in what you were about to say. But. No, no, no, no. You’re right. They do work. But how did you get from. Heck no, I’m not having a routine to. Yes, routines are necessary. How did you get from point A to point B?
Gabe: Desperation. I want to be clear. It was it was desperation. I hope our listeners are not in the same crisis spots or desperation mode. I was really sick and really struggling and nothing was working. You know, the medication was trial and error. I was I was having other physical problems with weight issues. And when we were trying therapy, it was like, okay, well, you need to make some changes. And I’m like, Nope, waiting on the magic pill. And they’re like, that’s not going to work by itself. And I was like, well, I don’t want to contribute. And that’s really what I was saying. I was saying, I don’t want to contribute. I want this to magically get better. And that’s not a very empowering statement, right? I want stuff to happen to me when the bad stuff happens to you, that’s bipolar disorder. That’s the illness, and nobody wants that. But when good stuff happens to you using, I don’t know, the same the same random sort of nature, then all of a sudden, we’re like, I love it. I love it when the universe just gives me stuff. So, it was hard to wrap my mind around these things because I was angry and I was traumatized. I am angry and I am traumatized. Not all of it goes away, right? If we’re being honest with each other, it doesn’t all go away. But it was framed to me like, listen, you need to take some control here.
Gabe: You need to do some things and here are some things that you can do. And routine was one of them. And as you alluded to, we started with sleep. We’ve done so much on sleep hygiene. We’ve talked about it before on this show. So just real quick, it’s going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time, using your bed for sleep and sex and creating rituals around sleep. Like, for example, I use a white noise machine. I keep my bedroom a little bit colder than the rest of the house. So, when I lay in bed, it’s colder. The white noise machine is on. And since the only thing that I can do in my bed is sleep and sex, if I’m not having sex, my body is ready for sleep. And this has worked wonders on the sleep. But let’s move the routine conversation into other things. Because it’s not just a sleep routine, right?
Dr. Nicole: Nope. One of the things that I think is very, very valuable is figuring out what it is you need to maintain that calm. What are those situations that send you into overdrive that stress you out the most, and how do we manage those? So, if I have someone who has a very long commute in the morning, afternoon after work, even if it’s a short commute, we figure out how do we use those time frames to, one, prepare us for the workday and two, help us wind down after the workday. What do you need? And it varies. I have some people who listen to audiobooks and they have very specific things that they listen to that gets them in the mood to get to work and to wind down after so that when they get home, they can deal with the stress of them being home and dealing with family and children and spouses and all that stuff. And it’s funny because I have some people who will listen to gangsta rap in the morning to get their mind right, to get to work. And then I have some people who will listen to jazz on the way home or whatever it takes, whatever it is we talk through, what does that look like? How can you use spaces that are already built into your day to help you get ready for that day?
Gabe: We have routines. For example, this podcast, we always we connect, we talk for a little bit. We kind of get in the zone, right? Then we turn on the recorders. Then when we blow the whistle to sync the microphones, then we have 30s worth of room tone. Then
Dr. Nicole: Yeah.
Gabe: We both take a drink to make sure our mouths are good. Then we both look at the cameras and the things we give each other the eyes like we’re ready. And then we go. You listen. You know, we say the same thing to start off week after week, and then we’re in. Then we’re live. Those were all routines that we created because we want to have a good podcast.
Dr. Nicole: Right.
Gabe: And yet when people say, hey, you can use routines to have a good life, we’re like, Nope, nope, not doing it random. I will only accept random happenstance. No, I will not influence the outcome to the positive in any way. Not going to do it. Routines are for children. I’m telling you, we got to reframe bad ass rituals.
Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]
Gabe: They are bad ass rituals. From here on out. You need to use this with your patients,
Dr. Nicole: Don’t know that I’m going to.
Gabe: I’m telling you.
Dr. Nicole: I don’t know that I will. But with your podcast analogy, you’re right. Because if one of those things doesn’t happen, it throws us off, then we’re not great. If we miss the catch-up time in the beginning and we just get in and start recording immediately. If we don’t do one other piece, something isn’t going to be right.
Gabe: Here’s the great thing about routines. They’re very variable and they’re customized to the person and you get to customize them. I wish that I could just go in and say, hey, what routine will work for me? And somebody could assign it to me. But it needs a lot of involvement from the person. It’s not something that your psychiatrist or psychologist, your therapist, your mom, your dad, your wife, your spouse, whomever can tell you to do. You have to customize it. I want folks to focus on that. Number one, you’re customizing it. It’s your routine because it’s your life.
Dr. Nicole: Right.
Gabe: It cannot exist without input from you. It’s not one size fits all. The Doctor Nichols of the world can’t just assign us a routine. They don’t know your day. They don’t know your goals. They don’t know what you personally need. So, I find it to be extraordinarily empowering that I am grabbing the bull by the horns and creating routines that work for me. The next thing that I want to point out is my grandfather was the most mentally stable, healthy and frankly boring man that I ever met. I mean, he was unflappable. You could set your watch to him. And he had routines, right? He would get up every morning and he would sit and read the paper and drink his coffee. And if you did not let him read the paper and drink his coffee, he got grumpy and his grandpa’s version of Grumpy. But it was grumpy, right? And he’d have coffee breaks at the same time every day. Even when he was retired, he’d be like, It’s 1015, it’s a coffee break. I’m like, Dude, you’re retired. You have no job. What are you doing? He’s like, I always took my coffee break at 1015. Routines are everywhere and we’re all doing it. But for some reason, people with bipolar disorder, we often feel like, ah, they’re making us do this rather than just the good advice that it is. So, once they’ve got sleep down right, we’ve nailed sleep.
Dr. Nicole: Yep. Yep.
Gabe: What’s step two?
Dr. Nicole: We now sleep. So, then I’m asking you really to keep track of the moments in your day where you’re starting to feel unsettled. So, I ask you to track that for, you know, a week or two. Like, let’s just track, let’s just see what it is. What are the moments? Who are the people that you’re around? What are the environments that you’re in? Like, what is it? So, once we have that, then like you said, we can customize it to what you need. So, if you say, well, when I have to meet with my supervisor at, you know, it always ruins the rest of my day. Then we got to work on that. We got to figure out what kind of routines we can put in place for that, for it to not ruin the rest of your day. Because let’s face it, we spend a ton of time at work interacting with our supervisors. We need to be able to find ways to function in those environments without going off or taking it out on the people we love once we get home. So that’s when we figure out how can we do that? So, step two is tracking and what it is that unsettles you during the day.
Gabe: And you can substitute work for school or volunteer or whatever you do for the majority of your day, Like what’s your big activity? It’s going to be different for everyone, but I can see why figuring out where those things are going to be super important. Like, for example, if you do have that commute, do you find yourself arriving at work every day angry or arriving at school or arriving at hell? The walk from your bedroom to the kitchen to your home office, if that is harrowing for you, what can we do to create a routine to make that better? And you know, the simple one for a lot of people is the cup of coffee. And you can you can drink whatever you want, eat breakfast, whatever you want, read whatever you want. I know the producer of this show. Every morning she wakes up, eats Rice Krispies and watches about a half an hour’s worth of Tik Tok videos.
Dr. Nicole: Okay.
Gabe: I don’t know how she hasn’t seen them all yet, but she never seems to run out. That’s her routine.
Dr. Nicole: Yes.
Gabe: I’m kind of a Diet Coke guy myself,
Dr. Nicole: Yeah.
Gabe: But she’s a Rice Krispie person.
Dr. Nicole: You know, two big ones. Also, for all my folks who work from home because a ton of people are still working remote since the pandemic. A lot of companies said, hey, we’ll just keep this model. It works well for a lot of people. The routine that they have needed the most was figuring out how to end the workday and start their time off. Because when you work from home, the lines blur. So, we kind of went from working from home to living at work. It’s kind of what happened for a lot of people. So, the ritual, the routine may be every day at the end of my workday, I define it as the end of my workday, just like I did when I was in the office. I shut the computer down. I close out all the work stuff. I walk outside and check my mail. I have people who drive around the block to like get in their brain, Oh, I’m no longer at work. I am driving home to end my day. Whatever it takes. We do those things. And some people, honestly, home is their stressor. It’s not work, it’s home. And sometimes that’s because work is very stressful. And so, when they get home, they just don’t have a lot left. They feel very empty and then they have the people at home who love them, who are like, oh, you’re home, let’s hang out. I love you so much. And they just are done and spent. And so, then we have to figure out, okay, what can we do between leaving work and going home that will help you be able to tolerate the people in your own house. And so, we’ve said a lot of routines around that kind of stuff. So, it doesn’t have to be like your work day or your school day. It could be home and your inability to kind of wind down before you get home.
Gabe: I love that you brought this up because there’s a couple of quick suggestions that I have. When you’re building your own routine, if you spend a lot of time at home for whatever reason, whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, whether you’re in school, whether you’re retired, whatever the reason, if you’re at home a lot, how do you break that up? I think that’s the key word. How do you break that up? For example, I work from home. I get up every morning, I take a shower, I get dressed, I put on my clothes, and I go to a local fast-food restaurant where I get a Diet Coke. And that’s my routine. I like it for several reasons. One, it forces me to get dressed. I can’t hang out in my robe all day because I got to put on clothes to get that Diet Coke. The next thing is, is I do like people. I want to talk to people. People do, in fact, energize me. Now, your results may vary, but if you are energized by people and you work from home, that’s very difficult going out to get that cup of coffee or whatever can create that situation and it works great for me. So, the beginning of the day was really easy for me because Diet Coke was a reward, but the end of the day was really, really difficult for me.
Gabe: And I have just a couple of ideas that worked for me. You might be able to use them, modify them again, however you create your routines is okay. They’re very, very customizable. But what I did is I created a space in my house that was just for work. Now, I was fortunate. I had an empty room and I shut that door. Once that door is shut, the work day is over now. Then my wife started working from home and we didn’t have two places, so my wife started working on the kitchen table, which meant that she worked just nonstop. It was always available for her. So, what my wife did is she literally, at the end of the day, packed everything up and she did it ritualistically. It took, you know, a few minutes, but that was her decompression as she packed everything up and then she moved it around the corner. This also kept the kitchen table free so that we could pretend that we weren’t going to eat in front of the TV. But we ate in front of the TV. But then this also created a morning routine for her of setting everything back up. I really think that having a dedicated space that’s just for work
Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.
Gabe: And knowing how to shut the door to that room or put a towel over it or a blanket over it, I’ve heard people do.
Dr. Nicole: Yep.
Gabe: I think that that helps a lot when you’re at home. But whatever you do, make it a routine. I really believe that good routines are just about duplication. Rinse and repeat. You do the same thing every day ritualistically. It feels the same way and it reminds you of what you have to look forward to.
Dr. Nicole: I’m glad you talked about using your ritual as a safeguard to kind of protect you a little bit, because if you know that you’re the kind of person if don’t get up and shower and get dressed, I will not be as productive during the day. I will lounge around. I’ll mope. If you know that’s not good for you, then making things part of your ritual to help you or fine. And one of the things that people say to me the most is, well, you know, I just don’t feel like I should have to make it a part of a routine to get up and get dressed in the morning. Like that just feels like it’s unnecessary. There’s no such thing as unnecessary. We do what we have to do to be able to function during the day in the way that we want to function and in a way that brings our best self forward. And if that means adding some of those things to your morning ritual, then that’s okay.
Dr. Nicole: And we’re back discussing the benefits of establishing a routine when you have bipolar disorder.
Gabe: I’m always fascinated by how much we judge ourselves or how much we judge other things. This whole podcast started off with me admitting that I judged the process of setting a routine, even though, if I’m being honest, I already had lots of routines, routines to go to, the movies, routines to hang out with my friends, routines to survive. When mom and Dad visit, I already had tons of routines that I had put in place as a safety factor or just as a practicality factor. But then suddenly, because an authority figure, a doctor asked
Dr. Nicole: Yes.
Gabe: Me to do it, or somebody I perceived as an authority figure, I didn’t want to do it. Because of that, I judged the process. We judge these processes a lot and we use the phrase, well, I shouldn’t need to do that.
Dr. Nicole: Uh-huh.
Gabe: I really think that in many ways the I shouldn’t need to do that or this shouldn’t be a problem for me or other adults don’t have this problem is really one of the things that impedes our recovery because it’s not true. It’s just patently false. I’m going to go back to the example of my grandfather, the most mentally healthy, stable man I ever knew in my entire life, slave to his routines. He loved them. He was proud of them. And you could not you could you could not get him off his path. I am telling you, Saturday mornings were for golf. He played golf every Saturday morning. This is what he did. These were his routines. But if my grandfather had bipolar disorder, you might be thinking, oh, he does that because of bipolar. There’s that judgment. Stop it. He did it because it made his life better. We’re doing it because it makes our life better and they’re super easy to create.
Dr. Nicole: And whether you realize it or not, the only thing we want for you is for your life to be better. And I fully recognize that better is relative. Your better is not somebody else’s better. And I’m okay with that. I want you to be okay with that. So, I don’t allow people to sit in front of me and compare themselves to other people. Out loud. You can do it in your head all day, but you won’t do it out loud in my presence. I also challenge people when they use the word should, and I ask them, well, where is that written? Is there a rule book somewhere that I haven’t seen? Is there a bipolar playbook that I haven’t seen yet with rules? And it says you should do these things and not these. Nowhere are these things written. Most of the time when we say, well, I should be doing this or I should be doing that, it’s all made up.
Gabe: Two things. I desperately want to write the bipolar playbook. I just I desperately want to write. It won’t be helpful, but it will be helpful to me. I don’t know that it’ll help anybody else because it shouldn’t. We are all humans and this is really, really broad. Dr. Nicole one of the things that I think about are rituals around things that scare us. And believe it or not, going up on stage in front of a lot of people, even though being a public speaker is my job, it is something that scares me if I’m being honest. It is a scary thing. It’s less scary now that I’ve been doing it for a long time. But in the beginning, I mean, it was terrifying. They would say my name and I had this like what seemed like a thousand mile walk and I had to get those first words out and my mouth would instantly become dry. And if the joke didn’t land flop sweat, it was it was terrible. And the routine that I made back then and I still use to this very day. I don’t know if you’re an MMA fan, mixed martial arts, combat sports,
Dr. Nicole: Not a fan.
Gabe: But the announcer the announcer always says, we are live.
Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]
Gabe: And the whole time I’m standing there waiting to go on stage, I’m just running. Bruce buffer through my head. We are live in this corner weighing in at none of your damn business, bipolar Gabe Howard. And I’m just I’m just on this little autopilot because while I’m doing it, here’s the magic. While I’m doing that, I’m not focusing on all these people staring at me. I’m not focusing on I’m not worried I’m going to fall walking up the steps. I’m not worried about the eyes, the number of people that anything. Nope. I’m just standing there and it reminds me of watching MMA with my friends, which is a fun time. It’s a hobby that we all love. It’s a get together with people. It’s I’ve many, many positive memories. So, it’s invoking those feelings. Plus, listen, someday. Bruce Buffer will introduce me.
Dr. Nicole: Oh, all right.
Gabe: That is my dream. He will introduce me not to fight because I would
Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]
Gabe: Get my ass kicked immediately.
Dr. Nicole: I was like, wait a minute. Are we fighting?
Gabe: No, no, no. I’m not going to fight.
Dr. Nicole: OK.
Gabe: No fighting No. Just for $8 million. I will get in the Octagon, but I will immediately lay down as soon as that bell rings, I it takes my mind off of it.
Dr. Nicole: Yes. Yes.
Gabe: And it reminds me of happy times and it relaxes me. And it’s so simple. That’s when you think about routines. That’s what we’re trying to build up for each other. So, you had mentioned talking to your supervisor. Maybe when you’re sitting outside your supervisor’s office or a few minutes before go for a walk and do the Let’s get ready to rumble, whatever it takes, whatever you like. There’s an announcer. Is there a song that you like? We’re not going to take it. Rev yourself up. There’s no wrong answer to this. But people think that there is. In my mind, that’s one of the saddest parts of talking about routines. The number of people who think that they can do it wrong. Now, that said, can you do it wrong?
Dr. Nicole: Yes, absolutely you can.
Gabe: You can do everything wrong.
Dr. Nicole: You sure can.
Gabe: I just whiplash the audience.
Dr. Nicole: You, dude, they’re like, Wait, wait a minute. We’ve been talking about the positives of routines for 30 minutes, and now you’re telling me I can do it wrong? Yes, you can.
Gabe: I feel like we should hit the negatives, though,
Dr. Nicole: We should. We should.
Gabe: Right? We try to be balanced.
Dr. Nicole: We should. And when Gabe emailed me this topic, I put in parentheses. Routines within reason are very, very good, but within reason, because they can also become obsessions where if you can’t do this thing at this time, in this moment, your whole day is shot. And so there has to be some level of just ability to go with the flow within a routine like it’s your routine. But if, let’s say the power’s out and you can’t have that morning cup of coffee, is your whole day going to go to heck in a handbasket because you didn’t have that cup of coffee? So, we have to figure out if something happens to take away. There’s an emergency meeting planned. And typically, you walk at lunch, but you miss your walk and now your afternoon is shut. We have to figure out ways to work around those and create alternative plans. Alternative coping skills that you can use in those moments because being rigid about your routines is just going to add a whole nother layer of stress.
Gabe: I really like what you said about Don’t let your routine become an obsession. And don’t be so rigid that if any little thing goes wrong, it ruins the benefit of the routine. For example, when I get up every morning, I drive to the local fast-food restaurant and I get myself that Diet Coke and that’s great. But let’s say that there’s no car, right? Just for whatever reason, the car’s in the shop. My, my, my wife’s driving the car that day. Whatever happens and I can’t get access to a car, clearly, I’m not going to be able to drive there. But I’m flexible, right? I drink it out of a can. I create another ritual around it? I figure out what parts of this I like. Maybe I go for a walk around the neighborhood. I’m completely lying. I’ve never once gone for a walk around the neighborhood. I don’t even know why I said that.
Dr. Nicole: Never?
Gabe: But it’s a possibility. Figure out the parts that you like and
Dr. Nicole: Yes.
Gabe: How much you can duplicate. Same thing when I travel, right? I don’t even have a car. Can I walk somewhere? Can I walk downstairs? I like to leave my hotel room. Right? I don’t have that Diet Coke in my hotel room. And also, all of this is based on the idea that that I get up extra early. I don’t get up 20 minutes before I have to be somewhere and rush. I don’t like to rush. It makes me panicky, figuring out those parts. That’s an advanced skill for day one. It’s understandable if you’re rigid on day one, you’re just now learning the things. But keep an eye to figuring out what parts of that routine you like and that you can duplicate in other areas because every day is not going to be the same. You’re going to go on vacation, people are going to come to visit, there’s going to be a holiday. And of course, something could happen and you want to be flexible. These are advanced skills, but they also show your wellness. They also show your power and your ability to change and evolve and to learn and grow. And they’re all things that you can give yourselves a pat on the back for as you’re doing them. But that said, don’t beat yourself up.
Dr. Nicole: Yeah.
Gabe: One time I could not find Diet Coke at Disneyland
Dr. Nicole: No.
Gabe: And I had a horrible panic attack and I was so embarrassed because I felt like I was ruining my wife’s vacation, that that gave me an extra panic attack, all because I couldn’t find a diet soda. And I just it was it’s not a good memory. Dr. Nicole, I don’t want to convince you that it is. It’s not. But ultimately, I did survive it. I learned a lot from it.
Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.
Gabe: We made plans for the next day because now we know. And hey, we got through it. She still loves me. We. We have been back to Disneyland. I don’t know why. It is not the happiest place on earth. It is the most expensive place on earth. But my wife loves it and I survived. So, in that way, even the failure while in the moment was tough.
Dr. Nicole: Right.
Gabe: It still is empowering to know that, listen, it did happen.
Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.
Gabe: I acknowledge it
Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm.
Gabe: And I got through it. I rededicated myself to my routine and I moved forward.
Dr. Nicole: Yes. And you bring up two very, very good points. The first is you withdrew from whatever your routine is. What is it about that routine that was helpful So that can help you find the flexibility. A good example of that was during the pandemic, my people who are like hard core, I go to the gym every day. I spend this time I work out kind of people lost that at the beginning of the pandemic and then all of a sudden people were telling me, well, I used to go to the gym. That was my stress relief. And now I don’t have that. And so, I haven’t worked out in two weeks and I’ve gained weight and I’m like, okay, so was it going to the gym? Like the physical actually going to the gym, that was what you got something out of? Or was it the actual workout? And so, then it was like, okay, you have the Internet, right? Like YouTube has a million videos you can do, you can walk, you can run, you can take up a new exercise thing. If you’re canceling your gym membership, you can use that money to build up your home gym. If it’s weights for you or whatever it is. So, if exercise was the stress relief, not necessarily going to the gym, helping them figure out like, oh, I can find ways to do that without going to the gym.
Dr. Nicole: So, figuring out what is it about that routine that is necessary and what of it is just kind of, you know, a little lagniappe, as we say in Louisiana, a little something extra, you figure those things out. The second thing you brought up was if you do get stuck and you find that, oh, I couldn’t do this ritual thing that I do or this routine, and then all of a sudden, I had this happen and I wasn’t expecting that. It’s customizable to you. We can always use those moments as ways to figure out, okay, what are our other plans if this falls through? Again, let’s look at some of your other coping skills, some of your other routines. What can we do if they don’t work out the way that you want them to? We can always customize it. This thing is an ever-evolving thing because what you needed in 2020, may not be the same thing you need in 2023. You may change careers, you may change jobs, your relationship situation may change, things change. So, we have to be able to reevaluate these plans. And if they’re not working, then re customize them.
Gabe: I love my routine. Dr. Nicole I can’t say enough positive things about it. And I have created routines and subroutines and sub sub routines. I have routines for travel. I have routines for when people come visit. I have backup plans for my routines. Remember Dr. Nicole, I was diagnosed 20 years ago, so my routines have gone through many, many, many iterations. But when I consider where I started those 20 years ago from thinking that the whole thing was infantilizing me and taking away my power to 20 years later having routines, subroutines, backup routines, having routines that have fallen away because I don’t need them anymore. Routines for travel, vacation work. And I’m just I’m constantly evaluating and updating the routines. I I’m proud of myself because it’s an amount of control over my life that I didn’t use to have. And whether you call them routine or bad ass rituals, I bad ass rituals is growing on me. Whatever you want to call it. What it really is at the end of the day, is you controlling your own life and living your best life possible on your own steam. And that to me makes it worth it because I don’t want people to tell me how to live my life. I want people to help me live my life. And routines helped get me there and I’m super, super grateful for the Dr. Nicole of the world who did not just listen to my no and say, well, he doesn’t want to get any better and toss me out of their office. Thank you for not tossing stubborn people out of your office. You probably have no patience left, to be honest. I mean, isn’t everybody stubborn at some point in their recovery?
Dr. Nicole: Yes, I would.
Gabe: Isn’t that just par for the course?
Dr. Nicole: I would be patient-less if I kicked everyone out who second-guessed me or didn’t do what I asked them to do. Yes, absolutely.
Gabe: Dr. Nicole, thank you for being here. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” I’m also a nationwide public speaker who could be available for your next event. You can buy my book on Amazon because, well, everything’s on Amazon or you can buy it Signed and learn more about me over at gabehoward.com.
Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington. You can find me on all those social media platforms @DrNicolePsych to see all the things I have my hand in at any given moment.
Gabe: And if you can do us a couple of favors, wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the podcast. It’s absolutely free. And the second favor is share the podcast, tell somebody about it, put it on social media, send an email, mention it in a support group. Hell, send a text message. Sharing the show is how we grow. We will see everybody next time on Inside Bipolar.
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