Paying for Not Respecting Bipolar Limits

June 12, 2013 Natasha Tracy

Bipolar places limitations on our lives. It might be the fact that we can’t go out and enjoy a cocktail after work or it might be the fact that we can’t stay out all night. Or it might be the fact that we can’t work full time or that we have to live with medication side effects that make us sick. Limitations are there, no matter how you look at it.

But what happens when you don’t respect those limits? What happens when you choose to ignore them?

I can tell you. You feel like a dog’s breakfast. Just ask me. I did it on Monday.

Bipolar and Limits on Stress

And in my experience, people with bipolar disorder can’t withstand the same amount of stress as your average person – well, not without getting sick anyway. And on Monday I tested, and proved, this theory.

On Monday, I drove for three hours, gave three hours of presentations, and then drove another three hours back home. It was not at all pleasant.

In and of itself, each activity would have been fine (although presentations have, inherently, a certain amount of associated stress), but piled together, they were not fine. They were super stressful.

Paying for Not Respecting Bipolar Limits

Honestly, I knew the day was going to be too much for me but I decided to take a whack at it anyway because any other way of handling it just wasn’t convenient. It wasn’t a very good decision.

When I got back from my little jaunt, I, of course, felt exhausted. This is to be expected. What might not be expected was how entirely like death I felt the next day. I barely moved all day. It was like being hit by a truck. A depressive truck. It’s not that I was tired. It’s that I was beyond exhausted. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t make food. I couldn’t take a shower. I couldn’t do anything. It was an extreme overreaction to a situation that was pretty, darn normal.

Bipolar Limits are Not to be Trifled with

All this reminds me that bipolar limits are real and one ignores them at one’s own peril. My best advice is to accept limitations and make logical decisions, not emotional ones, when it comes to limitations and remember that your health is more important than anything. And absolutely not to feel bad about recognizing those limits. Sure, I’d love it if I were superwoman, but I’m just not her (I almost never wear a leotard).

Because the logical statement that must be remembered is this: if you haven’t gotten your mental health, then you haven’t got anything.

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

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, June 12). Paying for Not Respecting Bipolar Limits, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 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.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

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

August, 10 2013 at 11:39 am

Just posted (my first ever) the following on theotherbipolar blog (i.e. re bipolar II, where a Google search brought). Anyway....
John--Just read your blog/reply, and could definitely relate...although ECT brought me back and is (effectively(?)--certainly hopefully working. It has been on-going at regular intervals throughout the past several years.
Perhaps in some way, either direction, this can help in some way (you, me, and maybe others out there). Perhaps this will simply strike a cord.
So much of my existence is living in bipolar oblivion, denial, affect, anxious anticipation. And that's coupled with chronic, increasing pain from a serious, disabling injury approx. 25 yrs. ago. My doc suggested I be more "here and now" to avoid being caught in the web of the intellectual pursuit to get/stay better. Type-A I've been all my 60+ years of life, I've known that all too well. And hippie that I was, living life in the here and now--very cool (tried as hard as I could!)
I've been "living the life of bipolar II for almost 2 years: plenty of depression, lots of hypomania. Sadly, I entered the ring with a long, almost fatal bipolar I manifestation/diagnosis 15 years ago. I mean NO disrespect to bipolar II. I thoroughly understand your depressions. Bipolar--forget I or II--is bipolar...and it ain't easy. (In retrospect, I wonder: perhaps the chemical cause/roots of my lifelong A-type intensity was actually bipolar disorder just bubbling below the surface, perhaps foretelling its true manifestation.)
Now, my greatest concern is my family; my biggest terror is an episode...regardless of which mood...which or both...especially a major episode, diagnostically-speaking or "only" the way it impacts. "I", "II"...little difference here. That episodic pain results, "hypo-" or full blown.
I'm writing because I need help. (Still in pursuit!) I know my behavior can be hurtful to my family. Feeling guilty (yes, I know it's not "my fault"); trying not to be selfish...trying to stay sane to not further the circle of mood > affecting behavior > sparking pain in my loved ones/"caregivers" (& they heartfully have always put me #1) be humbly and truly sacrificial to reach those ends and NOT being "part of the problem." To END any resentment--real or imagined/feared--anywhere in any of us. Not that my pre-bipolar track record was perfect (hah!), but my motives have always come back to true with the journey of "enlightenment" (i.e. growing up): by endeavoring to do better--on a consistent basis; by way of my committed loved one(s)' sincere help, with honesty & love (our lifetime commitment)...through blessed epiphanies...through challenging self-examination.
To say nothing of "coming out." (This less-than-private post is a first for me.)It's all a convoluted dynamic. I want/hope to be the chicken who can DECIDE about the egg.

June, 22 2013 at 7:00 am

Hi Natasha,
I am a 56 yr old married man and was officially diagnosed with bipolar 2 last year. I spent 3 months in hospital due to a psychotic episode which I think was triggered by my heavy self medicating use age of cannibis. Prior to this diagnosis I suffered for many years with anxiety, depression and panic attacks. I suppose I have been an undiagnosed bipolar sufferer and the psychosis revealed all.
Even though I had all the aforementioned issues I worked full time and functioned at a very high level. Since my hospitalization I have been in a state of denial/guilt/self loathing and severe depression. My depression was so severe that I underwent 20 rounds of ECT. I did not feel any benefit from the ECT. Quite the contrary, I felt it was barbaric and dehumanizing.
In the last couple of months I have joined a very nice self help support group and feel that I m making some baby steps. A very nice lady in this group who is familiar with my history has suggested that I give her my résumé and that she will push it to her HR department. I am trying to come to terms with my new diagnosis and limitations. This is something that I beat myself up about constantly. How can I ever consider returning to a high functioning stress filled job that I used to be able to pull off? I am trying to apply of CPP disability because I feel like my brain has been through hell and my moods are torturous yet I occasionally think that ifI were to somehow return to the workforce that the structure may be beneficial. What a quandary. Is a return to work at this early stage of my journey to recovery a recipe for relapse? My family and those who know the old me see a successful businessman but they don't know the level of torment on the inside. Since my hospitalization I have lost my confidence and feel like I have lot my life. How many people with bipolar are really able to work in a competitive environment without jeopardizing their sanity?
I would appreciate your comments.
Thank you for sharing your story and logging.

June, 19 2013 at 7:48 pm

I abhor routine. Nothing irritates me more than feeling as if everyday is ground hog day. The alarm goes off at the same time, you shower, dress, eat, work, eat, work, go home, eat, sleep. I don't understand how people can eat the same damn thing daily, but there are such creatures. When my pdoc suggested that I establish a routine, I choked. How the hell am I going to get myself to adhere to that? I adopted a dog. A dog thrives with a routine. And they make it fun.
Of course you actually have to like animals and love being around them for this to work.

June, 15 2013 at 12:36 pm

Yesterday was my 44th birthday. It turned out to be a long, long day. The artist run gallery I'm with had an event that ran until 10:00 or so and afterward one of the artists brought out cake because myself and another artist had birthdays back to back. Conversation turned to age and I was the youngest by far, the others in their mid-50's and 60's. They went on about all the things they could do at my age in a day and how much energy people my age have, et al, totally negating my experience. I wanted to tell them off but I didn't have the energy.
Besides Bipolar II, I have arthritis and epilepsy and all the medications and side-effects thereof that go with the medications. I have so little stamina and live with a good deal of pain. I'm too damn young to be this old, but this is the way it is for so many of us that I've made my peace with it (most days).
I overdid it yesterday by a long shot and today I couldn't get out of bed until 5pm. Wow. Just couldn't move! I can't afford to play Ping-Pong with my sleep that way because of the bipolar, but I give in to the demands of society too often for the sake of immediate convenience and feelings of guilt and push myself. The sleep balance is my priority right now. Birthdays are my New Year's Day. I take serious stock and straighten out the nonsense. Little by little. And it comes down to health for me, physical and mental. To hell with the supposed-to-be's. I'm dealing with what is, and age is a totally irrelevant number for me.

June, 15 2013 at 8:52 am

This was very refreshing to read as I am getting very weary of articles talking about pushing our limits, not accepting them etc etc. I have several health conditions (bi-polar being one) that mean I need to accept my limits or reap the consequences. Since one condition is a very painful one affecting joints & muscles, that's the one I react too first. But the mental one is just as devastating.
Thank you.

June, 13 2013 at 7:31 pm

limits and acknowledging the need to adhere to them can be incredibly hard and not just because of what we do to ourselves but the expectations of others. I suffer few highs and lots of lows or mixed moods and this can impact greatly on what I can achieve. Pushing to do more than is reasonably acceptable always seems to end up in one step forward two steps back and often going against what I know is achievable in order to please others and I think whilst there is still vast gaps in peoples awareness of the condition and to be fair sometimes their only ideas of what it is like come from bad movie depictions,being able to say without fear of stigma or discrimination, I have reached my limit and can not do this today or tomorrow is hard to always put into practice. Sorry this is so long, will try to limit and be more succinct next time.

RJ Sauvé
June, 13 2013 at 11:22 am

Sooner or later you either look for potholes everywhere or you accept that life must be lived within it's margins if it is to have any quality at all. Refusing to do adjust your expectations to the reality of your limitations only creates additional stress that we can't afford to have in our lives if we want to be as healthy as we can possibly be.

June, 13 2013 at 4:24 am

Well written Natasha. I too find that I have limits. I used to always try to push myself further than I knew I could go, but like you, I always ended up depressed or manic. I believe that we shouldn't overexhert ourselves as we can end up making our condition worse. It is frustrating to feel limited but I know I have to respect my limits in order to protect myself from harm.

June, 12 2013 at 12:26 pm

I feel like someone who combines high intelligence and the constraint of bipolar faces a weird challenge in American society. Intelligence tends (often unjustly, IMHO) to be credited as the variable which has the most to do with where a person goes in life. It’s like people look at an unusually intelligent person and say, “S/he has everything everyone else has, *and* the advantage of being smarter than them!” But of course there are so many variables apart from intelligence to consider, and bipolar is one of them

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