Know Your Treatment
Before you leave the hospital, make sure you have a written list of your treatment plan, including your medications (dosage and when to take them), talk therapy, personal wellness strategies, and avenues for peer support. Find out if there are any foods, medications (prescription, over-the-counter or herbal), or activities you need to avoid while taking your medication, and write these things down. Track your treatment plan and moods.
Make Sure Your Providers Communicate
Check with the hospital to make sure they send records to your outpatient care providers (medical doctor, psychiatrist, and/or therapist). If your outpatient care providers are not part of the same system, you may need to sign release forms so they can talk to each other.
Learn all you can about your condition. Talk to your doctor about new treatments you might want to try. Find out what to expect from treatments and how you will know if your treatment is working. If you think you could be doing better, ask another doctor for a second opinion.
Continue the routines that help you. For most people, daily routines or schedules (regular times for sleep, meals, physical activity) are helpful. If your stay in the hospital helped you to find a regular schedule, it can help to stick with it after you return home.
Take One Step at a Time
You might not feel better immediately. Allow yourself to slowly get back to your routine. Give yourself credit for doing small things like getting out of bed, dressing, or having a meal. Gradually work towards larger goals.
Prioritize the Things you Need to Do
Concentrate on one thing at a time. Write things down or ask friends and family to help you to keep from becoming overwhelmed.
Take time to relax. If you feel stressed or exhausted, you can say no or cancel plans. Schedule time to care for yourself and relax, meditate, take a long bath, listen to music, or do something else that is just for you.
Change Can Be Good
Some people are concerned that treatment will lead to less productivity or creativity. However, many have found that their decrease in symptoms has improved their ability to focus and helped them be more productive over the long term.
Stick with Your Treatment
Go to your health care appointments, therapy and support groups. Be patient as you wait for medication to take effect. You may have some side effects at first. If they continue for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor about changing your medication, your dosage, or the time you take your medication. Never change or stop your medication without first talking with your doctor. This can have significant impact on your current mood as well as the frequency and severity of potential mental health crises in the future.
Recognize your Symptoms and Triggers
Feeling very discouraged, hopeless or irritable can be symptoms of your illness. If you feel extremely angry, your mind starts to race, or you start to think about hurting yourself, stop, think, and call someone who can help. Keep a list of your triggers and warning signs, along with a list of people you can call for help.
Give Relationships Time to Heal
Your family and friends may be unsure of how to act around you at first. There may also be hurt feelings or apologies that need to be made because of things you may have done while in mania or depression. Your family members may feel the need to apologize to you for their responses. Recognize that everyone has been affected in their own way and needs time to heal. Show that you want to get well by sticking with your treatment. Encourage your loved ones to get support from a DBSA support group if they need it.
Help your Loved Ones Help You
Ask for what you need. Tell them specific things they can do to help you. If you need help such as housework, rides, or wake-up calls, just ask.
Take it Easy at Work
Explain to your supervisor and co-workers that you have been ill and you need to take things slowly. You don’t have to talk about your depression or bipolar disorder. If someone asks questions, politely but firmly tell them you don’t want to talk about it. Do your best at work. Try not to take on too much too quickly. On breaks, call a friend or family member to check in.
Seek people who have had similar experiences and are feeling better. Connect with a hospital aftercare group or DBSA support group.
Know Wellness is Possible
After hospitalization it can be very difficult to feel like you can get well. Most individuals, with proper treatment, do go on to live full and productive lives.
Find more information about general wellness in the Getting Well and Staying Well section.
How Can I Find People Who Understand?
DBSA support groups are made up of people with mood disorders, their families and their friends who meet to share experiences, discuss coping skills and offer hope to one another in a safe and confidential environment.
DBSA support group participants say the groups
- provide a safe and welcoming place for mutual acceptance, understanding and self-discovery;
- give them the opportunity to reach out to others and benefit from the experience of those who have been there;
- give them new hope and belief that they can recover;
- motivate them to follow their treatment plans, help them understand that mood disorders do not define who they are; and
- help them rediscover their strength and humor.
How Can an Advance Directive or a Medical Power of Attorney Help Me?
An advance directive and a medical power of attorney are written documents in which you give another person authority to make treatment decisions for you if you are too ill to make your own. It is best to consult a qualified attorney to help you put together an advance directive or medical power of attorney. These documents work differently in different states.
For Friends and Family Members
Often times, friends and family members have questions about their loved one’s treatment. Here is some information to keep in mind.
This material was reviewed by DBSA Scientific Advisory Board Member, Gregory Simon, MD, MPH Senior Investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, WA.
DBSA does not endorse or recommend the use of any specific treatment or medication for mood disorders. For advice about specific treatment or medication, patients should consult their physicians and/or mental health professionals.