Why Looking Forward with Bipolar Is So Hard

January 7, 2021 Natasha Tracy

It's hard to look forward with bipolar disorder sometimes. Sure, if you happen to be hypomanic, or manic even, looking forward might make you feel great. You might feel like your hope is boundless, and your life is limitless. If, however, you are in a depression, or even if you're euthymic (not in a bipolar mood episode), you might find looking forward with bipolar to be very hard indeed. I'm here to say, though, while it can be hard to be positive about the future with bipolar, it isn't impossible to see a glimmer or two on the horizon. 

Why It's Hard to Look Forward with Bipolar

Obviously, it's hard to look forward with bipolar disorder when you're experiencing depression. Depression is like a wet, wool blanket covering every part of your body, relentless as you shiver, trying futilely to get warm. If you feel like you're never going to escape this frigid and painful reality, then looking forward with any degree of positivity is basically impossible. Looking forward with bipolar in this state just shows more of the same. Even if this isn't actually true, it sure the heck feels true when depression has invaded your brain.

That said, just because you aren't depressed, it doesn't mean that looking forward with bipolar disorder is a piece of cake either. Many people with bipolar disorder are chronically ill in many ways. They may have lingering symptoms that have not successfully been addressed with medications, or they may experience bipolar episodes every year no matter what. Plus, there is great uncertainty to bipolar disorder. Even if you're well today, it doesn't mean you're going to be well tomorrow. Just because you can successfully hold down a job today, it doesn't mean that you won't become so disabled with bipolar disorder that you can't do it tomorrow. And the uncertainty gets bigger and bigger the longer you think about it. It's no wonder that looking forward into that future is so difficult.

Looking Forward with Bipolar to 2021

For most of us, 2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year. Between all the anxiety around COVID-19, the mental illness ramifications of prolonged quarantine, and the insanity of the 2020 presidential election, people's mental health has suffered tremendously. Most of us can readily admit that.

So when looking forward with bipolar disorder to 2021, I can easily point to the fact that all those things will be getting better in the next year. We have a vaccine that is already being deployed. Eventually, we will be able to socialize again, like normal, even if that is months away. And whether you love or hate the president-elect, at the very least, the election season and the decision is over, so certainty is at hand.

My guess is that most people can see those things and recognize their positive nature. That said, I don't blame you if that doesn't make you feel warm and cozy, necessarily. It doesn't pertain to most of us, individually, and maybe "normal" isn't enough to look forward to. I do recommend trying to hang onto it, though, as it is a spot of light, for sure, but there is more.

Looking Forward with Bipolar, Personally

I believe that each of us has at least one thing to look forward to personally. For example, it's possible to look to 2021 as a chance to do something a little different than you did in 2020. It's possible to make a new choice. It's possible to develop a new habit. It's possible to give yourself a clean slate to start from. No, I'm not talking about making a cheesy New Year's resolution that you'll forget about by January 15th. I'm talking about making a conscious decision to do something new or change something about yourself that will truly make you happier. With bipolar disorder, this might be something like always taking your medication as prescribed. It might be starting therapy. It might be finding a new doctor because you've hit a wall with your current one. Whatever you choose, make sure it will actually lead to a better life and not just a better-looking life. It's also perfectly okay to say that you can't make any changes right now because you're hanging on by your fingernails already. I've been there. I know what that's like.

But on top of that, on top of the hope that doing something just a bit differently will lead to greater life happiness, stability, or whatever your goal, don't forget to make sure to keep and celebrate what's working. Even if you're having a lot of trouble right now -- and many people are -- there is always still a bright spot somewhere in your life. Maybe it's that you're a good friend to someone. Maybe it's that you have a child that you love. Maybe it's that you enjoy playing the violin. Maybe it's that you bake the best birthday cake. It doesn't matter what it is. It only matters that you see it, celebrate it and look to keep it moving into the future. This will help provide a tiny bit of consistency and certainty moving forward -- you did this before, and you can do it again.

Watch this video to see how I'm looking forward with bipolar disorder:

I wish everyone a 2021 full of better mental health. I know looking forward with bipolar is hard, but I know you, and I, can do it and find a spark somewhere.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, January 7). Why Looking Forward with Bipolar Is So Hard, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 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.

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