Making the Big Decisions When You Have Bipolar

September 16, 2014 Natasha Tracy

A while back, I wrote a post on making unimportant decisions when you have bipolar disorder. I was talking about things like deciding on what socks to wear or what to eat for dinner because even those types of decisions can baffle people with bipolar and cause great anxiety. But what about when you have to make the big decisions? How can you make life choices when you have bipolar disorder?

Decision-Making and Extreme Stress

I’m buying a condo. It’s an unbelievably stressful thing to do. There are many stressful things like choosing a real estate agent, picking an area, going through candidates online, setting up appointments for viewings, assessing each property’s value and then deciding whether that, particular unit meets your needs. In other words, it’s decision after decision after decision.

And I can tell you that even condo-hunting – just viewingsstressed me the heck out. Trying to figure out what I could get for what I could afford was an extreme stress for me. I lost my appetite, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t focus on all the things I needed to focus on (like writing and speaking engagements).

And then the decision to actually put in an offer? Well the stress of that is absolutely overwhelming. I can honestly say that to function at all I’ve had to rest a ridiculous amount, up my sleep medication and use my as needed anxiety medication too. I feel like the stress is strangling me to death.

Anxiety over Making the Wrong Decision

I suppose a lot of the anxiety comes down to fear of making the wrong decision. Anyone would be worried about that when spending a massive amount of money (and I’ve spoken to non-mentally ill folks who have had sleepless nights over it too) but with bipolar and anxiety, the idea of making the wrong decision is crippling – like, seriously, crippling. It feels like someone has chopped out part of my brain. My memory is gone. I’m making silly mistakes. My concentration is shot. There is seriously something wrong with me.

How to Make a Big Decision When You Have Bipolar

Making big decisions can be hard but making big decisions when you have bipolar is even tougher because the stress can make your bipolar worse. Use these tips.I can’t say what will work for everyone, but what I can say is that I try to treat decisions in the most logical way possible so that my very powerful emotions interrupt as little as possible. For example, I’ve chosen a unit that is less expensive so I’ll have capital left over to put into the upgrades in the unit that I want. It’s also better to have some free capital for unexpected expenses that can happen when you own something. This is a logical decision.

Also, break the big decision down into small chunks. Only decide on what you have to today and understand that tomorrow you will handle another chunk.

I’ve also chosen to let people help me make the decision. I had two other people walk through the unit with me and give me their opinions. I wanted to get the sense, from people who knew me, if I could make it really work. If the place seemed “like me,” if my perceptions of the space were, indeed, accurate, as I know the kind of tricks my brain can play.

Finally, I’m discouraging myself from waffling. I’ve chosen a path at this point and I only want information that will reinforce this path and not distract me from it. I don’t know that I can be 100% sure in such a big decision but I’m choosing to move forward in ways suggesting that I am. This is important when negotiating and dealing with all the upcoming stresses that will be involved in the purchase.

So, in short, that’s:

  • Try to put logic at the center of the decision-making process – this might mean making a pro-con list, dong online research, etc.
  • Break big decisions down into a series of smaller ones.
  • Let other people help you make the big decision to try to counter balance any errant bipolar signals coming from your brain.
  • Don’t waffle.

Take Care of Yourself and Your Bipolar When Making Big Decisions

And, of course, take care of yourself as best as you can during this time. Stress is very difficult to deal with and tends to make anxiety a massive bunch worse but can make the other symptoms of bipolar disorder worse too, so plan for that and give yourself permission to deal with that in the best ways you know how. Try to pace yourself, if you can. Unfortunately, condo-buying requires certain speed, but not all decisions do. Sleep on big decisions. Things tend to look clearer when an entire day has not borne down on you.

Do you have any tips on making big decision when you have a mental illness?

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, September 16). Making the Big Decisions When You Have Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 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.

September, 17 2014 at 11:01 am

Topical for me right now.I had an opportunity to show at Fashion Week Brooklyn this past show (S/S 14)This would have been a huge undertaking at anytime but in the middle of relapse/med changing I had to let it go.I had to.Made me feel like a screw up once more but I really had no choice.I tried many scenarios in my head,even reaching out to someone to be my assistant but just that was making me worse.I finally decided I was going to have to make the decision and say thanks but not now. I figure if they like me now they will like me in 6 months, right?
Email has made it so much easier to do these things without burning bridges b/c I just don't show up.No showing up and pissing people off was my usual M.O.

chuck mistretta
September, 18 2014 at 4:19 am

Logic for a bipolar person can be a gun in the hands of a child. Ergo logic's intended purpose is often wasted on the wasted - but it does work. What your describing is what onyone would experience when making a life sustaining decision. I experience confusion when under stress, so I know to cool it (apply your own personal methodology). Thank you for making the rest of us feel normal.

Sandra Cobban
September, 20 2014 at 6:04 am

I'd say quite simply,baby steps.
Small goals when your unsure.
Larger ones over time...& for me extra sleep,as well!!
I cannot make a reasonable decision without many decent back to back good nights
Of real restful sleep.
Better to do nothing over a situation,than make a major stressful deal breaker .....
Health always comes first.
Always....other things can wait.
I learned that hard way
But the good part is that what I learn the hard way STICKS.

Sandra Cobban
September, 20 2014 at 6:07 am

Meaning all the above = logic for us.
Excuse lack of clarification.

September, 21 2014 at 2:36 am

I'm 23 and have only just been diagnosed. I'm still learning what's normal and what isn't. I just read "A while back, I wrote a post on making unimportant decisions when you have bipolar disorder. I was talking about things like deciding on what socks to wear or what to eat for dinner because even those types of decisions can baffle people with bipolar and cause great anxiety." I realised that I'm not a piece of shit and that it is actually something that comes with this disease. This all actually makes sense.

Richard Lenoard Bealey
September, 21 2014 at 3:21 am

I had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum is their any American link to the Bipolar Spectrum as Autism is Autism and bipolar is Bipolar but I came to my own conclusion that I may or may not have a bipolar disorder as I had a possible autism spectrum concussion what do you all think for those that had bipolar and autism alike? When I was a child I was having those lucid dreams that can be linked to Bipolar Spectrum as Bipolar is a chemical in the mind where you are experiencing codes of information and creative thinking which are also link with Bipolar.

September, 29 2014 at 4:57 am

This really helped me a lot. I found this website today, and I already feel so much better about dealing with my bipolar. I was diagnosed a year ago, and I've been learning what's normal for me since then. I'm finding it easier to recognise my moods (though usually I can oh do this during a hypomanic or depressed state that has lasted for at least a couple of weeks; never in manic states!) as I try to remember the ways I typically think and behave in each of these states.
I find it really helpful to ask those closest to me for a second opinion in making decisions (not all of them, I want to keep a little bit of independence), especially regarding the big ones.
Also, when I'm going to take on something new (I constantly want to change my career path, and therefore have often transferred courses, leading to 5 years of straight study with basically no qualification) I also ask for second opinions. This stops me from constantly changing what my goals are, which I now know to be a symptom of bipolar. As a result, I have had the same goal for nearly a whole year, and am back on track!
Although I'm probably in a hypomanic state (length of this post is huge!) having others help make, and not rushing the big decisions, as Natasha said is so important for me.

Barry Hingley
October, 24 2015 at 2:06 pm

Been dealing with BP for over 43yrs!Depression did not leave until 6-7yrs ago gave up drinking!Alcohol is depressant not stimulant as some may think!Some of us BPers don't fit within diagnoses or labelling or slotting!Why tell Pros look @total picture!Worked healthcare over 30yrs against Pros advice!Helping others was best therapies going!Plus BP gave me empathy &understanding of other;s mental &emotional illness!Do it all over again if could!

January, 21 2018 at 1:49 pm

There is no such things as Bipolar. It is a set of symptoms cause by unresolved trauma and systemic dependency. This can be easily demonstrated. Let's just pretend it exists; that way they can continue biz as usual and perpetuate another few decades of human misery and chaos.

Keely Hunziker
February, 11 2021 at 11:41 pm

I have sort of dealt with rapes and bi-polar by trying to not get in the way. I had good health until about 12 years ago and a bad surgery put me on disability. Its such a bad excuse, but now I feel so afraid. Afraid that maybe I just cannot cut it anymore. Hiking always helped and I have just gotten into it. My motivation sucks and I feel awful about that. Have not slept in days, Im sorry to say that I do not think that doctors really care or listen. I just want to figure out a way to get out of my head more. Im alone, everyone got mad at me when I got sick. I feel like a loser cause I do not make any money now. This is the first time I have ever done this because all my jobs were computer jobs and dealt with numbers. Bi-polar is good with numbers with me. I must insist on getting some self-esteem. I hope this did not bring anyone down even more. But it felt good to say something that I was really feeling and not pretend. I feel empty. I want to live, I want to progress, but my mind just gets in the way. thankyou for being here. kee

Leave a reply