I live with bipolar disorder, and my moods are complete opposites of one another. How can I tell what is the real me?

My short answer: neither depression nor mania is the real you. Here’s my long answer: it’s certainly true that depression and mania can have a huge impact on how you see and experience the world. When depressed, you might overestimate the negative or bad outcomes of any action. When feeling manic, you might minimize or ignore possible bad outcomes to the point of doing risky or dangerous things. When depressed, you might be unreasonably self-critical and blame yourself for everything. And when feeling manic, you might be unrealistically overconfident to the point of getting yourself in trouble.

But you are still a unique person, despite that back-and-forth. The real you is defined by your abilities, your personal values, and your passions. Those are the things that will sustain you and help you stay grounded through ups and downs in your mood. Mood swings can distract you from the things that you care about most, so you may need to make a special effort to stay in touch with the real you.

DBSA’s Wellness Plan is designed to help you clarify and stay focused on the real you. As you think about your personal recovery goals, you’ll ask yourself questions like

  • What motivates me?
  • What interests me?
  • What would I do more if I could?
  • What do I want?
  • What do I care about, or what did I care about before my illness?
  • Where do I want my life to go?
  • What brings me joy?
  • What are my dreams and hopes?

Once you set some long-term goals, you can think about short-term steps to start with. Deciding on those steps will bring up questions like

  • What kinds of activities help me stay healthy and balanced?
  • What relationships help me feel secure and supported?
  • What things do I need to do every day to maintain my health?

Creating your own wellness plan is not just about avoiding symptoms. It really is about the important things that define the real you.

For more wellness resources, go to the Wellness Toolbox and FacingUs.org

About the Doc

About the Doc

Greg Simon, MD, MPH, is a psychiatrist and researcher at  Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. His research focuses on improving the quality and availability of mental health services for people living with mood disorders, and he has a specific interest in activating consumers to expect and demand more effective mental health care.