Beating Bipolar – Do What You Don’t Want To Do

August 13, 2012 Natasha Tracy

It is a sad reality that life is full of things we don’t want to do and mentally-different or no, this is something with which we have to deal.

And it’s even sadder to know that people with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses have a much longer list of things they don’t want to do than the average person. And, of course, ironically, the mentally ill are typically the least-equipped to deal with such things.

But beating bipolar disorder, or any mental illness, means doing what you don’t want to do, pretty much all the time.

What Don’t You Want to Do?

Anything. Everything. Many people with a mental illness would prefer to do nothing most of the time. This is thanks to medication, apathy, depression, anhedonia and a series of other things.

But “nothing” isn’t a terribly productive state. “Nothing” doesn’t move you forward in life. “Nothing” doesn’t pay the bills.

So “nothing,” while alluring, isn’t really useful.

Do What You Don’t Want to Do

So here’s the thing, no matter how much you don’t want to do something, you have to do it anyway.

And so on and so forth. Days are filled from the time you don’t want to take your meds until the time you don’t want to go to bed with things you don’t want, and wish you didn’t have, to do.

Why Bother?

I know that doing what you don’t want sounds like a really depressing message but really it’s just standing up to an illness that wants you to turn into a sick, crazy rock and saying, “no!” Really it’s just standing up to bipolar and saying that you won’t let it win. Really you’re just saying that you are more powerful than the mixed up messages coming from your brain.

So you bother because bothering means beating bipolar back. You bother because you’re better than the bipolar. You bother because you won’t let your life be dictated by chemicals that you can’t control.

You bother because by doing what you don’t want to do, you can turn your life into something that works. And one day you will want it again. Until then you just have to keep going until you do.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, August 13). Beating Bipolar – Do What You Don’t Want To Do, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

August, 14 2012 at 7:09 am

Thanx for the blog, and the people who place comments after the articles. I found this website today and am relating to most of the articles on this site. I've been crying (in relief)reading the similar experiences of the readership.
I was diagnosed 10 years ago with bipolar II (not sure if this was a "compartment" back then). I have been mostly in denial for 9.5 years. I asked my psychiatrist three separate times, 'how do you know?'. He showed me his notes over the years that clearly show the mood swings. After the third re-diagnosis at the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, I guess I belive.
I find it interesting that I have fully accepted Type 1 (insulin dependant) diabetes for the past 35 years, but still have trouble acknowledging and accomodating bipolar. I am stubborn to believe that I need to make changes, even though the energy required to maintain my high functioning bipolar life is beyond its limit.
My current point of crisis is that my medication mix is losing its effectiveness and the cycles are more frequent with the lows deeper and longer. My psychiatrist suggested I be hospitalized to recalibrate medications. Because of the increasing cycle frequency, I have a paralyzing fear that I'm not coming out.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated,

Natasha Tracy
August, 14 2012 at 7:31 am

Hi Pepe,
Nice to have you here. I'm always happy when people feel a sense of belonging when they find me.
What you're going through is normal. It's extremely challenging to accept any kind of illness diagnosis and for many people accepting a mental illness diagnosis is even harder than most. I'm glad you've gotten to the point where you understand the diagnosis and are getting treatment.
It's really understandable to be in crisis when medication stops working. It's happened to many of us and it is never fun. I wrote about it here:…
What I will say is that even if these drugs are losing their effectiveness, that doesn't mean that another combination won't work for you. If your doctor is suggesting recalibration in a hospital and that's an option for you, I would take it. It might be the fastest way to get you back on your feet. Don't get me wrong, it won't be fun, but it might be what you need.
It's OK to be afraid. I've been afraid many times. But just remember to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You handled getting treatment and you can handle this.
- Natasha

Jeffrey O.
August, 14 2012 at 10:45 am

The ups and downs with Bipolar, besides being in quick cycles also takes on a long term rhythm for me. There are times when Bipolar doesn't get the best of me. There are times, like in this post, that I must fight back and use my skills to the uttermost. Bipolar isn't the only thing that defines who or what we are, but it certainly makes being who we are more difficult at times.
Thanks for this great article!

Tina Barbour
August, 15 2012 at 10:36 am

Thanks for a great blog post! It was a good reminder for me to keep on trying. I don't have bipolar, but I have depression and OCD, and many days I just don't feel like doing anything. But if I want to move forward, as you say, I have to keep going.

August, 15 2012 at 10:51 am

Most people with bipolar struggle most with depression- and that seems the hardest to medicate. And depression makes it hard to do anything- but even worse, makes me want to do nothing. If I give in to the depression, I will have nothing, my life will be nothing, and even the things that I want in my better times, I will have no chance of getting. But, by constantly making myself do what I don't want to do, that also feels like denying a part of me, almost like killing myself one moment at a time. That is the dialectic that I haven't solved with depression, perhaps because there is no solution (other than to get rid of the depression). Am I more "true to myself" when I lie on the couch or force myself out the door and go to work while I'm screaming inside? Is that even a meaningful question?

August, 15 2012 at 11:28 pm

It's not that I don't want to do things. I desperately want to do things like I did before. It's just that sometimes, I can't. I'm too weak, mentally. This post is the first one that I can't relate to fully. Successfully doing something, achieving something, is like moving a tonne of bricks. Some days I can't lift it at all, other days, when I can lift it, it's slower. And even when I'm doing well, it's nothing like I used to be able to do.

Natasha Tracy
August, 16 2012 at 6:16 am

Hi Sarah,
I guess "want" isn't the best word but I think the complex emotions around the situation don't have a word invented for them yet :)
Yes, sometimes doing something is like moving a tonne of bricks but sometimes it's worth doing anyway. And sometime you just have to give up and rest. Both of those things are OK as long as you find a balance, that's what I figure.
- Natasha

August, 19 2012 at 10:04 pm

My problem is that I'm so used to doing what I don't want to do, that I no longer really know what I want. I don't know whether I'm fighting the illness or fighting myself. I feel like I've lost myself in the process.

August, 20 2012 at 12:23 am

Sometimes its like my brain doesnt connect with my hands and my legs. I have been with bipolar long enough now to know that the 'want' inside of us more than often fails to materialize.

Jennifer Person
August, 20 2012 at 6:28 pm

It's nice to have a place like this. I'm 44 and have had bipolar since 18 and I feel exhausted all the time with little interest or patience for anything. It is hard to have an illness that never stops pounding you and sometimes I wish it would all stop. I feel disconnected from myself too - as if I can't remember day to day what I have to do and struggle to do just the everyday tasks.

Aubrie Martinez
August, 28 2012 at 7:22 pm

Hi IV been bipolar my hole life cuz it genetic it really sucks. I'm finally coming to terms with being bipolar my doc wants me to go to a residential behavior health for 30 days and I don't know if its the rite thing to do I have 5 kids and a husband I'm afraid of missing them so much that I'm just going to get worse. WHAT do I DO help does anyone know what I mean ... now I'm so stressed about leaving ..I know I need the help let alone someone to talk about my problem s and my illness I didn't ask to be this way as I tell my husband everyday. This really sucks ... my problem it making sure I take my meds and therapy. It to the point I can't work. All I want to do is sleep my life away and feel sorry for my self and cry. Help as I cry out!

mayu carpio
September, 3 2012 at 5:39 pm

i am so glad, found you partners of struggle, am 49, been a bipolar since child birth , oh i guess since ever, but it got worse after secon kid, i am now very worried wether bipolars should take anitdepressants (i am on venlafaxine) since a year, i take 200 mgs, carbamazepine twice a day and lamotrigine 200mgs same way, have epilepsy due to an already taken off brain tumor, which seems to have quit on regrowing, so what read lately is one should stop antidepressants, also read opossite opinion, where so i get or can you please help me with this question, i live in ecuador and i wish you would tell me of a great center or a great psichiatrist in my country, MAYU, ecuadotorian

mayu carpio
September, 3 2012 at 5:41 pm

thanks every one, NATASHA!!!!! thank you

Natasha Tracy
September, 4 2012 at 7:17 am

Hi Mayu,
The issue of antidepressants in bipolar is a contentious one, to be sure, but try to remember, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." So, in other words, if you're doing well, don't change what is working for you.
If, on the other hand, you tend to cycle rapidly or are having other issues, then you might consider whether an antidepressant is right for you. Remember, sometimes an antidepressant is the right call and sometimes it isn't, but it all depends on the person.
I'm sorry, I don't have any information for you on mental health help in your country, but you might try this organization which connects people to helplines worldwide. A helpline might be able to provide you with more information:
- Natasha

April, 22 2013 at 2:49 am

Dear Natasha, A lot has happened since I last wrote less than a week ago. The single most important thing? I am exercising again and this seems to be pushing my sleep deprivation right off the map. I hired a life coach and this person, although not involved in my mental issues, is helping them beside himself by pushing me so gently yet firmly to put myself out there. I am walking a hilly route outside of 4 miles a day and peppering this with Tai Chi, Yoga, and Pilates. I cannot believe how much my anxiety is put into check by the areobics of walking the four miles. It's not easy and I'm sore as hell but it's worth it, I cannot tell you how worth it. I'm on Lithium and Depekote and they seem to compliment each other well. I still cannot hold a job, but my next life coach assignment is to get out there and volunteer one hour a week. So I cannot stay in the house much longer. And, I am driving again. Thanks for listening, Kathleen.

Diana Phillips
June, 21 2013 at 9:13 am

How does seeing a therapist weekly help with bi-polar. To ease the stress I self injure.

Eve Condon
June, 23 2013 at 8:29 am

I truly appreciate this post. This is the only model that works for me in my efforts to manage my illness. I strive to keep my goal in the forefront of my mind: to not let bipolar control my life. Setbacks are inevitable, but with the right coping mechanisms and support they can be mitigated enough to allow us to live a fulfilling life.

July, 25 2013 at 7:12 pm

How true this article was! I relate to it completely. I am bipolar, and if I let myself I could spend all day reading, napping, looking stuff up online, and eating. Depression is VERY hard to battle, and it seems so easy to escape it by just staying in and entertaining myself. But I DO make myself do what I need to, so that I have a productive day. It isn't easy, but when I do what needs doing, my day becomes meaningful.

Skinny Lizzie
September, 29 2013 at 5:26 am

Although I have had problems I have been in employment for thirty years. It has not been easy at times but I have been very lucky. I have encountered prejudice. But du to The Disability Discrimination Act I have held my jobs down. Although I work part time I am working currently.

August, 29 2014 at 5:35 am

This is a joke. I'm gonna assume the person who wrote this is not bipolar. I'd rather die slow right now than take this seriously. It's sad that people like me with bipolar might read this, I'm sorry I did. Live your life for sake. [moderated] this articles writer and [moderated] anyone else who thinks it's such a big deal that you must be medicated and live a respectable regular life until you die. If you have bipolar disorder and your reading this I just want you to know, I couldn't give two [moderated] about your life because I don't know you. But I know your a person probably with some special qualities that deserves to be happy. And you don't get happy doing things unwillingly. This idea is flawed. If this is the true solution to being "healthy" why doesn't this ever work? You need to want to sort yourself out, not force yourself against your instincts.
Do what you don't want to do?... Most insulting thing ive ever read.
Do what you need to do. And after that- do what you will. Could be fun, it might suck. Just disregard that lame article. I felt like a slave reading that [moderated]

November, 14 2014 at 7:55 am

When I was 23 I was diagnosed with Bipolar type one disorder. To be honest, at first I didn’t know what was going on with me. The one moment I was happy and the next I was euphoria and then weeks later, sometimes months, I fell into a suicidal depression which would last for a short while.
Thinking back, this started when I was 19 years old. I had lost 5 family members in a car accident that year, and little did I know at the time, that tragedy altered my life forever. I wasn’t an aggressive child, growing up, but I do remember not having a normal childhood. My parents ran a few businesses which took over their lives, leaving my gran to raise us up and to depend on.
My uncle at the time of my child hood, was like a dad to us. He would teach us the basic things in life, like changing a flat tire, to fishing, to fixing things around the house. He along with my gran and his wife and two of their four children were killed in that car accident that year. I was so angry and hurt, but mostly saddened by the loss of losing them all in a second. Two of my uncles four children survived the car accident. My parents were legal guardians over them so they came to live with us.
I felt as if I had been robbed of my youth. My mother (being that it was her mother, her brother, and his family that were killed) took a turn for worse. She had lost all hope. She deteriorated over the years so badly, that today, she has dementia, looks like skin and bone, and slips into depression going for days without leaving her bedroom. She is seeking help at the moment, working on the little steps to build herself up again. My dad on the other hand, buried himself deeper into his company, working all the time and never participating in family affairs. I gathered that this is his way of coping though it all. I had to learn how grow up fast, raise my brothers and my now new adopted brothers in a manner I didn’t know how.
Today, we aren’t much of a family anymore. All my siblings behalf of the youngest one, have moved out living a life of their own pretending that nothing has happened and that family isn’t of any value. I suppose there are many reasons why this has happened, too many actually that it is just too painful to revisit them again so we choose not to walk down that road.
I grew to hate my parents for not taking on parental responsibility. I tried involving a family psychologist but it doesn’t work if no one wants to participate in the healing. I was hurt by this because I knew then that we were now a broken family. I became angry, bitter towards life and hateful to everyone, blaming the ones I loved and of course religion. This triggered my bipolar off.
I had seen many psychiatrists, and they all just threw medication at me. They would tell me the details behind the medication and how the one will help the other etc etc…. But It wasn’t long that I was taking 15 different types of medication a day (from one psychiatrist)!! Now you know as well as I do that the kidney can only take so much until it starts to fail.
Two years ago I was admitted into hospital and almost died from kidney problems and decided then that this wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t going to let this kill me. I deserved better than this.
Today I am completely off bipolar medication. I have a better job, moved to a different state and stopped blaming everyone else for my issues. I am much happier living my life the way I want it to be, and not what others expect of me. I gave back the responsibilities that weren’t initially mine and owned my own.
We all have problems and we all have issues, but for some the problems may carry a lot more weight than for others. Although, regardless of the weight these issues may carry, in the end, it’s still an issue. Here you should ask yourself, “is it my issue or is it someone else’s issue that I’m carrying?”
If it is yours, learn to love it, own it and you will see that it no longer holds any weight on you.See the lesson behind it and turn it around to make it work for you.
If it is someone else’s issue you’re carrying then ask yourself, “If I didn’t carry this issue how would I feel?”
The answer is much lighter.
Bipolar is a mood disorder, but it’s a mood disorder pertaining to your feelings and thoughts patterns. I had been on many different variations of medication to help "balance" the chemicals in my brain, but none of them didn’t really help unless I dealt with my issues.
If you had to peel away all the issues and problems you have weighing you down, you would be doing LIFE better and solely for yourself!
My key to beating bipolar, was taking back my own life and changing my environments that best suited me.
Learn to be selfish, but not self-centred

February, 8 2015 at 10:17 am

Recently I told my psychiatrist that although there were many things I wanted and needed to do like housework, putting a résumé together, etc I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I felt worn out, apathetic, defeated, and on the verge of giving up, then he increased my medication. He told me I needed to build some structure into my life. So after the medication kicked in I worked hard on restructuring. Slowly I began to gain some momentum then my washer broke down and I was forced to wash my clothes by hand in the bathtub. If I wanted to have a bath the clothes had to be washed first. Since I don't have a dish washer my dishes also have to be washed by hand. Now I feel like I'm right back to where I started before. I know what needs to be done but it's just so hard to do because I feel so dammed exhausted. I hate this illness
But thank you Sarah and Bibiana for your posts. You've given me the courage and incentive to keep on trying.

March, 28 2015 at 3:53 am

Shaun I really resonated with your eloquently stated comment. Until someone has experienced this illness they would know that forcing yourself to do the "normal productive" things of society only continue the horrible cycle of the illness. I think to truly beat it you mist live through it and experience the emotions, and if while doing so are debilitated, so be it. When a cancer patient is ill and going through treatment, society doesnt tell them to just get over it and continue working as hard as before the illness. When in remissio. Often time cancer patients can return to normal work. Bipolar in my opinionis the same. There are periods of time when life is good, mood is good, and the ability to do tasks and feel happy is possible. But there are also times when you can only do what you can do. And if thats making breakfast, watching tv, and taking the dogs for a walk, then that is what it is. Currently i have been crying off and on for 3 days now and have not been able to go to work. Suicide has been on my mind but i cant bring myself to do it. I just want this feeling to pass. Medication goes so far but unfortunately bipolar is sometimes stronger than the medication. I hope all of you recover and have more happy days than not. I feel for you all because im living it too. Godbless.

May, 19 2015 at 1:08 pm

It's been three months since my last post on this subject. Even though the medications I'm taking are weight neutral I've still managed to gain a lot of weight which has resulted in more problems with fatigue and recently mobility. This in turn has contributed to additional weight gain and a deepening of the depressive symptoms. That is until recently I discovered the benefits of drinking coffee and LOTS of it. Not only does it help with depression and mental alertness but also with weight loss. I've been in the depressive phase of this illness for so long now that I was starting to lose hope. So far I've managed to lose 18 pounds which has helped to improved my self esteem. I'm eating much healthier now. I've cut out the junk food altogether and reduced the portion sizes. I've got an appointment this week to see a recreational therapist to get some more passes to a local rec centre. I feel like I'm starting to regain some control over my life again.
I know that coffee is a stimulant and maybe not the best choice for someone with bipolar disorder but I'm not overly concerned about sparking a manic episode since they've always been few and far between for me. At least coffee works while medication does very little to help since I have treatment resistant depression

October, 9 2015 at 3:48 pm

Shaun and Jenae you are so right. I have come to believe as you do. Yes I know life is hard when we're dealing with being bipolar. I used to be a high functioning competent individual in my twenties, thirties and forties. I didn't have many depressive episodes at all. Then I just fell apart in my fifties. I've been in therapy for over ten years now. Thank God for my therapist, because he is not at all the type to harp on me about what I'm doing or not doing. The goal is to help me when I need the help and most importantly keep me from beating myself up all the time. That is HUGE. Like Jenae, I've come to realize It is what it is and If all I can do today is write these few lines, watch some tv and wash a few dishes then I'm good to go. Some days its all about staying in bed, staring into space and wander around the house when I get ambitious. Other days are much eyes are flooded with tears and I feel like dying. I'll listen to songs whose lyrics and melodies express what I'm feeling...I'll listen to them over and over again. It doesn't pull me down deeper into a pit as one might think. Rather, these songs pull out what is buried deep in my soul and keep me company. They are like friends who can just sit with me and hold my hand. Yes, I would like to be as productive as I used to be. Yes I'd love to feel as though I have a life. Well I do have a life. I'm fortunate that there are days when all the sadness goes away and I think that maybe just maybe I'm ok now. But I'm not, I do what I can, I take what I can get and do my best not to let the bad days get me down just because they get me down. It just doesn't make sense to me to add to my own misery. I wouldn't be able to say that if I were just left to my own devices. That would be horrid. Maybe in another post I'll talk about how God is all over this thing in the worst of times. It's pretty good stuff...

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