Bipolar? At a Snail’s Pace

Hi, how’s it going? Hope you are doing well.

Ever feel like you’re improving at a snail’s pace? That’s how Margie felt. She had been doing everything she knew how for a long time when she came to me, completely disappointed in herself. She had made some considerable improvements over the past several years, but they had all taken a while to make.

She didn’t accomplish anything without effort, and she felt like it should be easier than it was. Wouldn’t that be nice? But, unfortunately, it’s not the way it works.

I heard something once about weight loss. This bit of wisdom said that if you lose a whole bunch of weight all at once, you’ll most likely gain it right back. But, if you lose a little at a time, then you’re much more likely to keep it off.

I think the same concept can be said about recovery. Recovery that happens in leaps and bounds is rare, and is as likely to backfire as not. But recovery that happens at a slow, steady pace will have long-lasting effects.

Have you ever heard the story about the tortoise and the hare? Well, the tortoise was slow and the hare was fast, and they got in a race together. The hare won, right? Well… The hare was irresponsible and a little irrational, too. He figured that the tortoise was so far behind him that he had time to stop and take a nap. While he was sleeping, the tortoise won. If you’ve ever heard the expression “slow and steady wins the race,” it’s from this story.

Well, maybe that’s the way we need to be looking at the race against bipolar, too. Slow and steady. Let’s look at the alternative for a moment. That is to say, let’s see what happens when a person doesn’t go slow and steady with their recovery.

This person is probably manic. They want to recover … NOW. They work on every coping skill they can possibly think of, and research a few others. Overnight. Then they make an elaborate treatment plan, probably by themselves. It’s most likely filled with goals that are unattainable. After all, they are manic.

The next morning (since they didn’t sleep much) they show their supporters what they’ve done, expecting to get praise. Instead, their supporters are horror-struck, for obvious reasons. This only serves to anger them, having them believe that their supporters don’t believe in them.

So they work at it even harder. At first, they even amaze their supporters, because they do make considerable progress. Or so it seems. But they are still manic, and they are using up all of their manic energy.

Eventually, they crash, realize their goals are unattainable, and go into a deep depression. Any new coping skill they had just “learned” went down the drain. And their supporters realize they were right all along, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

So see, wouldn’t you rather have slow, steady progress that actually lasts? There’s nothing wrong with a snail’s pace. They get where they need to go. You will, too. What are your thoughts on that?

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. Thank you, David. My bipolar spouse asked for divorce yet again…and this time he did everything possible for me to realize he needs to let go. I suspect in this case, he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder…and so does his mom. There was emotional incest from mother to son….with the stepfather’s death and the invalid mother needing to live with her son out-of-state….my soon-to-be-ex finally has his joys again….but, I also believe his patterns (although on meds and therapy) will resume. Going through all my money for their needs and wishes – so I am working on letting go and beginning anew. I have enjoyed your emails. Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed reading this story. I suffer from manic behavior and can absolutely relate. It would be helpful if you could provide any tips on how to slow ourselves down. Thank you.

  3. David,
    Have you any updated information on the possibility of a direct connection with thyroid problems and bipolar disorders? Could some bipolar problems by caused by thyroid dysfunctions?


  4. Dear David,

    I dont usually take the time to respond because I am usually at work in the days then in the evening taking care of my son. Your daily messages are a source of great comfort to me as a person with bipolar and gives me hope. I totally agree with this last piece since i also believe slow and steady wins the race.

  5. Hello Dave,
    Today’s topic really hit home for me. You see, it has taken me 5 years to reach this point of stability since my diagnosis of Bipolar II disorder in January 2006. (It had been misdiagnosed as depression for nearly 20 years). I am now nearly 54 years old. I was a binge drinker when I was diagnosed, and thought I could just continue drinking with my medication. I found out, the hard way, by getting really sick, that I could not. In fact, I ended up quitting drinking altogether, but this took some time. Also, I used to smoke a lot of hash, because it always calmed me down. My psychiatrist tried to warn me that the hash might be exascerbating my condition, but I chose to ignore him. I tried to quit 3 or 4 times in 4 years, went for therapy, even acupunture. Finally I just quit on my own. All this took a whole lot of time. My medications did not always “work” properly. I went through periods of time when they didn’t feel they were working at all, and needed to be changed. Then I went through Lithium toxicity, then a Lamictal rash, before going back on Depakote, which I was on originally. I went thru the gamut of nearly every antidepressant on the market, little doses, medium doses, larger doses, before finally going back to Celexa 20 mg. My sleeping med’s needed to be adjusted, changed, and adjusted again. I am now taking Clonazepam on an “as needed” basis, and because I have now become very aware of my moods, I know just when I need to take one, and do not “over-do” it. I have been through the break-up of two major relationships since my diagnosis, and am currently single and still have several issues to deal with regarding men, but am working on them. My whole life has become a “work in progress”, but at least it is moving forward! The way I see it is: It took so many years to finally get the proper diagnosis, the stability I seek and crave will not come without a lot of self-awareness and hard work on my part…but each day brings new hope, and I am constantly on a learning curve regarding MYSELF.
    Cheers to all of you living with B/P disorder, and just a reminder: Rome was not built in a day…stability is like the great guru at the top of the mountain, you just have to keep on climbing UP!!

  6. It is extremely frustrating to ride a “rollercoaster” that does not STOP, every day of your life. Sometimes I feel I’m going to be fine, normal, the Amy I knew before this one reared its ugly head. It doesn’t happen. I have been suffering for many years now, at first I was misdiagnosed. I feel ok right this minute and would love to feel like I feel this minute all the time. But as the day goes on ….. I never know how I will feel – its difficult to commit to plans with friends. I can’t imagine how my husband puts up with it. Except that he sometimes lashes out at me with verbal abuse. That doesn’t make me any better, its sets me back. I feel so alone. My grown children are leading their lives as it should be. I should be at a different place as well – enjoying life – I just pray every day. But, honestly ….. sometimes I feel that I just take up space. Being raised Catholic, I would NEVER do anything to hurt myself. But I wish I knew how to make my husband understand that he is verbally abusing me. He says I’m crazy and too sensitive and that what he says is NOT abusive.
    bye for now – getting tired.
    thank you

  7. Help Ia m going for my disability hearing soon and I am scared to death. I don’t know how I am going to be, what my mood will be.How am I going to cope? Will I give tha right answers? This whole situation is so stressfull, as a result I have dellusional thinking which is not helping.I don’t know what to do.

  8. I agree…I started as a child with mood swings back than my mom did not know what was wrong with me. I never knew until I was an older adult. Now she knows. I agree with the prior adult. It took years and now meds keep us going. We are, grandkids, husband. I also have a Verbally abusive huband. He states he will never leave me. If I Divorce him we will go on our “Sour Moon”?? I just take it day by day. I also have Epilepsy with this. So It can be me.

  9. Im suffeing from deoression for over a couple months now.. but unfortunately my first supporter(my husband) does not agree with me? i do nor how to explain more to him its not that easy, but he does not believe me..

    sad lady from boise

  10. I too agree, this is the second major manic episode I’ve had and I know it is going to take a while to get back on my feet. I was hospitalized for two months before my doctor thought I was stable enough to release, then at a crisis center that was court ordered for a month, and now staying with some friends. I need to get started though I am ready to go home! I have many things to do but find it hard on focusing on getting them done.

    I survived the last time, even though it was 15 years ago, I’m just going to take one-day at a time this time!

    My prayers are with anyone working on their recovery!!!

  11. yep that’s me a bit ‘manic’ at times far too much in a hurry then I crash and burn, thanks for pointing that out in a way that is easy to understand – by telling a story.

  12. About 20 years ago someone taught me that whenever you write out a Things To Do list and it has 10 lines to fill, go ahead and fill all 10 of those lines in. If you complete 3 out of those 10, thank your lucky stars because you accomplished SOMETHING! Be proud of yourself! Up til that time I believed the more I did the more I was getting accomplished! Sursprise! I was having to redo everything I did the day before! So slow down & be proud!

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