Why Planning Ahead with Bipolar Is Tough

October 30, 2015 Natasha Tracy

People with bipolar have a hard time planning ahead. I know it seems like it would be easy: “Want to go to lunch Tuesday?” “Sounds like fun. Sure!” but it isn’t (How To Be Bipolar And High Functioning). And the reason is because bipolar disorder is highly unpredictable. Yes, I might feel fine right now but I literally have no idea what tomorrow will bring (Using Bipolar As An Excuse). This is why planning ahead with bipolar is really tough.

Planning Ahead with Bipolar

As I was recently explaining to a couple of people, if you imagine mood as a spectrum from -3 (not feeling good) to +3 (feeling great) with 0 being something close to average, most people float around a -2 to +2 most of the time, occasionally dipping down or floating up. This makes these people fairly reliable. This means that even if these people aren’t feeling their best, they’re still feeling okay enough to get their day done. It means that if you have lunch planned with them on Tuesday, they will not likely be stopped from showing up by their mood.

Bipolar, on the other hand, is very different. We live in more of a -10 to +10 kind of a world and where each person hovers is individual. For me, it’s probably a -4 on a decent day. So on my decent days, I still feel worse than the average person does on their very bad days. That’s the joy of bipolar.

But there’s more to it than that because at any given time I can fluctuate. Your average person does fluctuate, of course, but they don’t fluctuate drastically. They don’t flop from feeling really great to being suicidal when they flip a light switch. They don’t jump from feeling good to feeling like a genius deity because they blinked. They just don’t do that.

And some people with bipolar don’t do this either but, then, some of us do (Bipolar Mania and the Impact of Manic Symptoms).

And even if our moods stay reasonably level, our ability to deal with those moods may not. Our functionality with bipolar may be more or less impaired on any given day just because it’s any given day. Some days I truly cannot get out of bed. It just happens.

Planning with the Uncertainty of Bipolar

So, understanding that my mood may augment or deteriorate at any given time and given that my functionality may be, well, functional, or not at any given time, it is very difficult for me to look into the future with any certainty. I look out into the future and I see a whirling dervish of chaos; I see squiggly, tangled lines; I see confusion; I see unpredictability.

Nevertheless, no matter how squiggly the line, plans have to be made. For me, as a contractor, I have to book speaking engagements, I have to stick to deadlines, I have to firm up travel plans despite bipolar. I have to plan, plan, plan, plan. So how do I plan with bipolar disorder?

Next time I’ll talk about my specific tips on planning when you have bipolar disorder.

Does my experience seem familiar? Check yourself with the Mood Disorder Questionnaire - MDQ.

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

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2015, October 30). Why Planning Ahead with Bipolar Is Tough, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 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.

December, 7 2016 at 7:28 pm

I am on a new combination of medication. Latuda, Lamictal, Gabapentin, and now we have removed Temporary Seraquil and replaced it with Lithium. My brain is changing. I decided to not take more medication and plan ahead. I never think ahead. I'm not wired that way. I am always afraid to commit to plans bc I figure I will have to make excuses. I am starting to plan ahead. It's interesting.

Dr Musli Ferati
November, 8 2015 at 7:34 am

Planing ahead is the most strong indicator of health mental statement, because as Benjamin Franclin said it is the secret of him as the most successful man of all the times. Indeed, the ability to accomplish the planed things indicates the prerequisite to become successful and useful person. To possess this attribute isn't as easy as it look like for mentally health persons because it underlines great mental and physical effort to realize planed ahead engagement and duties, as well. When it is in question the persons with bipolar disorder the issue becomes more difficult, because their mood is movable and unstable. As it is known, mood determines personal, intellectual, interpersonal, occupational and psycho-social activity of respective person. Since person with bipolar disorder has got unpredictable performances through daily activities, it is very hard to expect and to believe that the same person will fulfil its expounded tasks. However, your genuine experience is welcomed and useful recommendation, as well. Furthermore, by this massage it could to maintain under control many unpredictable actions of bipolar ill person. For all that, it is necessary to subordinate current psychiatric treatment to person with this mood disorder.

November, 7 2015 at 7:10 am

Me too. I often accept plans to go out with others at a later date only to change my mind at the last minute. My typical excuse is that I am broke which isn't always the case (Usually I'm just too tired or irritable to be around others). This becomes a problem when friends get upset with me because I am contstantly reneging on our plans and then over time they just simply stop asking me if I'd like to come over or go out with them again. Since I spend most of my time fighting depression I'm often not up to pretending to be sociable when I'm feeling so crappy, but I do try to make the effort anyway now and then because I can't afford to lose anymore friends. Of course when I'm in a hypo/manic state, that's a different story altogether. When I feel like this I am obsessed/driven in fact to be going out all the time or doing something enjoyable and my behaviour can become a little 'over the top" at times which of course can a problem as well.
But for the most part now medication helps to even things out a bit but it does need to be adjusted from time to time to make life more bearable

November, 7 2015 at 5:36 am

I can so relate to this. I have a new "friend" who wants to do fun stuff all of the time and is trying to pin me down as to when I'll feel good enough to make plans. I want to say, "Never, and stop asking," because I just.plain.don't.know. I'm grateful for this post that so clearly explains the situation. My true friends can take me as and when I am. They are lovely, patient, dear people.

November, 4 2015 at 6:05 am

Being bipolar just sucks so much. Just had an episode, a manic episode. It feels like I am punishing myself over and over. My manic episodes seem to always come on from a trigger, and the trigger always goes back to the rape, and the blocked feelings from the rape seem to always lead to hyersexuality. This is just one insane circle, but at least I recognize the signs and with that knowledge maybe the episodes are not as scary. I hate this and the meds for bipolar put me in a nonfunctional state.

November, 3 2015 at 10:34 am

There is a related issue I think could be interesting if you wrote on while on the subject - maybe you have before but I haven't followed your blog for long. What I'm on to is bipolar anxiety - I think ppl with bipolar have very different experiences on this, some are obviously mostly suffering from their mood swings and seem to not be bothered much by anxiety while others like myself have this general crappy anxiety that drains me of energy and inhibits me from doing ordinary stuff. I think it has some biological basis but I also feel like anxiety usually has psychological triggers as well.

November, 2 2015 at 11:21 pm

Thanks for sharing on this topic Natasha! As wife to someone diagnosed with bi polar, it has been a source of frustration for me that it seemed so difficult to plan anything and stick to the plan... Understanding how it might actually feel on his side can be a challenge and your blog helps me a lot. Specifically on this point today. I look very much forward to your specific tips! God bless you!

November, 1 2015 at 9:01 pm

A related issue when it comes to planning, is the unrealistic, overconfidence which comes with mild level hypomania. This is one of the challenges that my wife and I had when sharing a car! I am now much more understanding to my wife's difficulty in predicting the time that things take to complete, and taking on too much.
It's been a bit relief to finally have my wife become more self-aware of our challenges, so we can begin to work on them together. Looking forward to more tips from Natasha.

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