Bipolar Strategy: Lighten Up – Don’t Be So Serious


These days, it seems that almost all of us are too serious. I heard recently that there really is a statistic out there that says that people who laugh longer, live longer.

I wish more people knew about this statistic, because in general, people are frustrated and angry about virtually everything these days – being five minutes late, having someone else show up five minutes late, being stuck in traffic, someone looking at them the wrong way or saying the wrong thing, paying bills, waiting in line, their meal being overcooked in a restaurant, someone making an honest mistake – you name it, and people these days lose perspective over it.

The root of all of us being so frustrated and angry is our unwillingness to accept life as being different, in any way, from our expectations. Simply put, we want things to be a certain way, but they’re not a certain way. Life is simply just “as it is.” I think Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Our limited perspective, our hopes and fears become our measure of life, and when circumstances don’t fit our ideas, they become our difficulties.” In other words, we spend our lives wanting people, things, and circumstances to be just as we want them to be – and when they’re not, we fight and we suffer.

The first step in recovering from being too serious is to admit that you have a problem. You have to want to change, to become more easygoing. You have to see that your own frustration and anger is largely of your own making – it’s composed of the way you’ve set up your life and the way you react to it.

The next step is to understand the link between your expectations and your frustration level. Whenever you expect something to be a certain way and it isn’t, you get upset and you suffer. On the other hand, when you let go of your expectations, and when you accept life just as it is (instead of how you want it to be), you’re free! Of course, being able to do this is no easy task (I never

said it would be easy). To hold on is to be frustrated and angry, to let go is to lighten up.

I know a lot of you are thinking, “Boy, that’s easy for him to say, he doesn’t have to deal with bipolar disorder all the time like I do.” Don’t forget, I’m also a supporter – remember what started all this for me – having a mom who has bipolar disorder. So when I’m talking to you, I’m just as much talking to myself! I may not know your particular situation, but I do know about being a supporter of a loved one with bipolar disorder.

In my courses/systems, one of the things I teach about is how to have realistic expectations. That’s how you can get over these frustrations and anger about things not going the way you want/expect them to:







Here’s a good exercise for you:

Try to approach a single day without any expectations at all. Don’t expect people to be friendly. Then when they’re not friendly, you won’t be disappointed. And if they are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Don’t expect your day to be problem-free. You still need to be realistic. Instead, as problems come up, say to yourself, “Oh well, another obstacle to overcome.” As you approach your day in this manner, you’ll notice how different your attitude toward your day can be. Rather than fighting against life, you’ll be more accepting of it. Pretty soon, with practice, you’ll lighten up your entire life. And when you lighten up, life is a lot more fun!

It’s still your choice, of course. You can continue to be serious. You can continue to have a negative view of life. You have the right – of course you do, because you’re having to deal with bipolar disorder! Everyone should understand that.

But you also have the choice to take the seriousness out of it. Oh, I’m not saying that bipolar disorder is not   serious disorder, so don’t get me wrong. Remember, I deal with it, too, so I know how serious it is. All I’m saying is give the seriousness a day off once in a while, and enjoy your life!

Just because you’re dealing with bipolar disorder does NOT mean you’re dealing with a death sentence! Life can still be enjoyable. You can still have fun.

I know a couple where they BOTH have bipolar disorder! They’re married, and yet every Friday night, they go out on “Date Night.” It’s nothing expensive or extravagant, but they go out alone, and enjoy themselves. Even if it’s just a movie. Just something that gets them out of the house, and something they enjoy together. Sometimes they just go to the mall, eat something at the food court and watch all the people.

Having bipolar disorder doesn’t have to make you serious all the time.

Lighten up, don’t be so serious, and put some fun back in your life!

David Oliver is the author of the shocking guide “Bipolar Disorder—The REAL Silent Killer.” Click Here to get FREE Information sent via email on how and why bipolar disorder kills.

  1. Dear David:

    My only comments are the following. All mediations out there are made for people who are bipolar 1. So what if you have a rarer type which is called Roman Numerial 2. No one is even making anything out there for this bipolar condition. The only thin that is suppose to help is Limictal. However I have a very unique situation. I a resistant to almost all medications, perscriptions and some over the counter. I became bipolar 2 in 1999 and have been fighting on thin air. I have improved mostly on my own and have improved a great deal. However the mood swings are terrible and the depression is terrible. None of the Doctors I have seen,(and I have seen the best), have a clue on how to help me. So I help myself. However do you really think the Doctors can fix the highest organ in the body that controls everything? The brain is some what like a computer and if it crashes somtimes you can fix it, but most of the time we throw away less the memory just incase so no one can try to get into it. I really feel at least in my lifetime there will be no cure for bipolar 2 when they are still trying to work on bipolar 1. Plus everything they give you is just a guess to see if it will work. It also is a very expensive guess and believe me when I tell you I tried them all. I just take Lexapro and Xanax and the rest is up to me and blood and guts? Got any answers for this guy David. I want to tell you that you are a fine man because you are trying to help people who are bipolar.

    Thank You,


  2. Oh my goodness, David, you hit the nail right on the head this time!! I do have bipolar disorder, am properly medicated, stick to my routine, don’t drink alcohol, get proper sleep, all the right things….however, I quite often get really irritated and frustrated, even volatile…when things don’t go like I expected them to. Thanks for a big wake up call!

  3. I contacted your website because I have been served with DIVORCE papers and am facing BANKRUPTCY, my bipolar spouse blindsided me with both and I was looking to you hoping to find answers…today…not next week…not next newsletter and not after I pay $$$$$ for your course. You have provided me with pages and pages and pages of what you are going to tell me…but never do. I have researched the disease. I KNOW what to look for NOW. I know what bipolar disease is and and how it affects families and friends….You have given me not one tidbit of info not already available to me on other websites. Your FREE information….IS FREE ON EVERY WEBSITE I HAVE VISITED. Really want to help me? Provide details on how to get legal control of our finances, postpone divorce & save my house & car from foreclosure by 6/30.

  4. I am a bipolar supporter, and while it is easy for me to say that you are so right about attitude affecting perspective, that may not always work for someone in the throes of a bipolar episode, or when the medicine stops working. However, I do believe that the more a person can do to “create their day” in the most positive way while they are well, the greater chance they will have to find means of recovery when they are ill. I honestly think that certain pathways in the brain can be reprogramed to work better, rather than always leading to discouragement, and laughter is just one of those ways.

  5. Daniel….that is not true, I am Bipolar Type II and there are lots of medications out there to help you. You need a regular antidepresssant (preferably of the newer SSRI variety) PLUS a mood stabilizer, preferably one that’s not too hard on your liver. Either Lithium (can be hard on liver), or like I take myself, Depakote. The antidepressent I take is 40mg Celexa daily, and it really helps. I am not suggesting that you follow my regimen in any way, shape or form, because obviously your body chemistry is different from mine, but if your psych. doctor knows you are Bipolar Type II, then he or she should be aware of how to help you.

  6. Warning, warning…you cannot improve on your own on a permanent basis, without medication. You may feel better for a while, but without medication on a constant basis, this insiduous disorder will try to destroy you and your relationships!! Please believe me, it has happened to me.

  7. Just had a go around with my son and then first thing I get is your e-mail. It’s an answer to prayer, thank you. Harry

  8. Life is not fair and I think just about everyone would agree with that. But when you are given a bushel of bad apples either make cider or wine and get on with it. Accept it for what it is and learn how to deal with it. My 90 year old Mother-in-law is living testament to the fact that those who laugh live longer. Stress is a killer. It effects every part of our bodies and my Mother-in-law says that if you can get a good belly jiggling laugh going at least once a day it is good for the body, mind and soul.

  9. The laughter thing is SO right!! I always feel a lot better when I can have a “belly jiggling laugh” as Helen says. It is a real stress buster whether you’re living with bipolar disorder or not, but especially if you are!!

  10. This is the best article I have read on this site. I think this applies to all of us, but have seen it most in 2 of the people I care for most and who have bipolar.

    I know when my Mother is stressed she is more difficult to deal with. My Mother is diagnosed bipolar and is on no meds. She is a handful. The meds have too many side affects and she refuses to take them. I can’t say as I blame her. Her hands still shake from the last time she was put on meds. I watched her when she couldn’t even get a spoon to her mouth. That hurt me more than her yelling at me and complaining all of the time. I have found if things go as she expects they should, she is alright though. It is just difficult for that to always happen.

  11. Thanks I needed some perspective …I was waking up stressed and he is away at camp! Laugh and the world laughs with you…its a good thing God gave us all a sense of humour!

  12. As a grown man dealing with bipolar for nearly 20 years I have come to an understanding of myself. Yes I get irritable…short…spend too much and deal with a wave of emotions at times. To a certain degree EVERYONE does. It is as you say a daily choice. The trick for me is how to get my mindset strong enough to see my choices for what they are. I have found the a couple of things are peril to my ability to do so. Sleep, diet, and excercise are three key things for me atleast. I try to stay away from aspertame(fake sugar aka:nuitrisweet)…..high sugar foods…breads…soda and pastas. I do take fish oil. High Frutose Cornsyrup is a NASTY thing they use rather than sugar today that we all need to be aware of. I exercise daily. 30 minutes of a good cardio workout is the minimum for me. Sleep is something I notice is more difficult as stress or my own stress that I cause enters my life. When I do not sleep well things become very challanging. I do keep a journal for myself and have found a lot of healing in reading my own enteries of days gone by. It helps me keep perspective on things and makes it easier to lighten up. No it is not easy all the time and no it is not fair that I…or we…have to pay attention to every aspect of our daily lives…but we do. EVERYONE does!! It is what big people need to do as I say to my daughter at times.

    Nita…your answers ly within the ability of a good lawyer. To understand bipolar and to save your marriage….house or financial life….albeit caused by the disorder…are miles apart. You are not alone of that be sure.

  13. I have been getting your emails for awhile and i read them and find them helpful. i would like to say thank you for forming this for us supporters of bipolar that have no clue what to do and we try to turn to the people who are suppose to help us and dont ( doctors, case workers, physcilogists), that is my experience. My recent battle has been with my sons school, i have learned to be strong in that area. My son is 10 years old he is so smart, academicly, he wants to go to college already, he loves to learn, and he enjoys books. This year his counselor gave him a old set of encyclopedias and he loves them. Again thank you for your information.

  14. It was meant to be funny…I laugh all the time,if not I would be over the edge….that was the point….sorry you took it seriously; and spent so much time in having to reply to try to lighten me up…………………I have to laugh….not sarcastilly,not fecisiouly(sp?)….but horrible things can happen in a persons life…we lost our nephew in Paul Wellstones plane crash..he was Pauls top aide..I wanted to die…I was so sick for all the families…however when we had the Memorial,and all the families and the Senators gathered for a meal together to comfort and support each other, before the memorial at Williams Arena….I found that instead of a horrid,morbid deep deppressing interlude….there was laughter and love….hugs and understanding….and this I found was so cathartic…and even though the pain was unbearable for us all;we got thru it…and felt a closeness that was uncomparable than anything I had ever felt.
    So, I understand that what I said must have come off cold and angry….we say it occasionally to break the ice….and it was intended to get a laugh….maybe just a very inappropriate moment in time… your site stll,Donna

  15. Someone some time ago gave me good advice. Look at whatever is bothering you and ask yourself one question: Is this situation within my control or not? Meaning you can control the outcome. If you can’t then let it go. Because trying to change the course of something you can’t control only leads to more anger and frustration. I also try to think of a obstacle as a challenge. That way I can gear up to handle it accordingly. A challenge presents itself as something I can deal with. An obstacle is something that is blocking me. So look at problems/obstacles as challenges instead and it changes your whole outlook on it. Keeping a smile in your voice makes you lighten the load. Thanks for the great advice. Kay

  16. David:
    This email could not have come at a better time! Today my 26 year
    old daughter (single mother w/ 3 yr odl)who lives with mewas diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This on the tailend of being raised my bipolar parents. Just when I was in the middle of my pity party your article hit me right between the eyes and opened my eyes. How right you are.Good
    to know there is a B.P.Supporter out there who is strong enough for us all.
    Thank you from the botom of my heart!!Yes, the choice is ours to wallow
    or glow.
    Debbie Crisp

  17. I appreciate your information and this one was fun and true. I have bipolar disorder and would appreciate info on how to access that blog. I do find the supporter info helpful as well. I, too, have bipolar 2 and my doctors have been able to provide me with medication. Daniel, I agree with Diane, there is indeed medication other than anti-depressants and zanax that are available. I take 90 mg. of cymbalta daily, 5 mg of abilify, 25 mg of seroquel and 500 mg. of lamital at night. Please use my info and Diane’s when you next see you md. Thanks again David!!!!

  18. My marriage is on the line from my sickness and I was without medication
    for 3 1/2 years , but now I m back on med serquil and my np said I manbic
    and I dont know how to approach people any more, I been separated for 2 months and I feel all alone.
    But now I keep a journal every day.

  19. Hi, Dave,
    Your daily information and comments are great. Today’s was especially meaningful for me. I realize that I do take things too seriously in my role as a bipolar supporter. I know better, and I do know that laughter is a very healing and healthy part of life, but lately I have been so exhausted and have felt very negative, and my negative attitude has affected my ill son’s “hard to deal with behavior”. Thank you for the reminder that joy and laughter is contagious, and it can have a marvelous effect on those aound us, even the ones who are suffering from mental illnesses.
    I do, so much, appreciate your dedication to helping people with bipolar illnesses and those of us who support them.

  20. Dave,
    Your message today was very beautiful and it goes for all of us. I think you is a very courageous combatant in a proactive way against this insidious ill. Lilian P.

  21. Danny

    It is wrong to think of there being two types of Bipolar Disorder. There is only one Bipolar Disorder, which can be extreme or it can be mild, or it can be at any point in between.

    It’s worth also noting that probably no drugs have been developed specifically for Bipolar (as far as I am aware. Rather, many drugs have been found to be effective to some degree or other. Take, for example, the current crop of mood stabilisers, such as Lamotrigine. It was not developed for Bipolar Disorder but for treating Epilepsy. Moreover, Lamotrigine is, I have read, generally less effective with the more extremes of Bipolar but can be most effective with the milder end (that you might define as Type 2.)

    BTW, I was originally diagnosed as being BP II as well, but I have occasionally shown some symptoms more usual for people who are BP Type I. So, what would that make me? BP I or BP II? Mostly BP II but occasionally BP I?

  22. How can I “lighten up” when I have the garnishment of my checking accounts by the IRS looming over my head? And all this problem was caused by my CPA who failed to file 2005 income taxes!! I’m inclined to sue her for the amount owed the IRS and VA State income taxes. I have a call into the lawyer who is SUPPOSED to have taken care of this for me; now, the ultimate “sentence” is here – and I have NO control over this outside element…

    I was doing OK all week, when the notice came yesterday. Now, I’ve had to take an extra Valium just to calm me down. “You can’t fight City Hall,” but this is something WAY beyond my control. It’s NOT a “laughing matter.” This is something SERIOUS that I had NOTHING to do with. And – being bipolar, I can only rely on the ethics and actions of those I do business with.

    Right now, I can’t find anything to be “joyful” about. I’m “locked” into the system, with more and more interest and penalties added to the debt. I’m NOT on a “pity party,” here, just trying to explain that sometimes it’s not so easy to “control” your environment. It has just sort of “blindsided” me at the moment, and – thank you for letting me vent.

    I DID get a call from my biological Mother today; look for the joy in ANY circumstance, because it IS there!

  23. DAVE, in many ways I agree with you. Sometimes, even when one thing after another goes wrong, it helps to see the funny side of it. I miss BPSerenity and her pearls of wisdom on this blog! Everyone should read the “Deep Thoughts for those who take life far too seriously.”

    However, not everything is a laughing matter. My boyfriend’s recent manic episode was no fun for me and even less fun for him to experience. Pain and sickness isn’t funny. Life in general though (I believe) is there to be enjoyed and make the best of. When everyone is throwing s**t at you, turn it into fertilizer and make the flowers grow.

  24. Dear Dave,
    Thanks for talking abt. ‘when things go wrong, we get mad.’
    I’m also a recovering alcoholic, and the frequent topic @ mtgs., or a reference to it, is ‘when things don’t go my way,’ and I get mad, frustrated, upset, etc. Our Step One is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—and that our lives had become unmanageable.” We talk abt. being powerless over people, places and things, and most also say that their lives can STILL be unmanageable sometimes, even in sobriety. Have you heard from any others w/bipolar illness, who are also in recovery? I’d be interested in hearing from them.

  25. Hello David, today you surpassed yourself, this is the best I’ve read from you yet (oh! and I’m dead serious). Thanks and keep well.

  26. Hi Nita,

    This website is not a quick fix, it’s a support system for living and coping with this disorder daily – and a lot of really good advice actually comes from the people who post comments. I have copied some of these entries and sent them to my supporter – because sometimes advice from the Experienced is worth more than that of the Qualified.

    In your current situation you need a good lawyer, not bipolar support – you need to do damage control now, not long term planning. I am truly sorry that you were blindsided and that you have all these legal and financial issues now, but I am curious as to how long you have been together, could he hide his condition or was it just ignored?

    It happens too often that the disorder is ignored because of a normal phase or that people think it’s cured or under control, then it gets shelved and no one notices when things start to go off track – until it is too late.

    This may not be your case, and I hope you get your problems solved and then find a way to manage this disorder going forward.

    All the best!

  27. Yes Dave, You are Right on the Money once Again…

    Have you been reading an early edition of my book? I talk all about this. Being grateful is a decision and so is complaining. Now it is, of course, normal to say “dang it!” when things don’t work out, or our dinner is over cooked, or someone is late, but we don’t have to stay frustrated. Lowering our expectations is one great way to ensure that we don’t get frustrated. I have heard that expectations are premeditated frustrations!

    Take the half filled glass. We can complain about the half empty part, or be grateful for the half full part. And as we go through life, sometimes it is full, other times empty. If we learn to just be grateful for the glass, which would be our lives, it won’t matter how full or empty it is, we always have our life to be grateful for.

    You are right on home base with me. I couldn’t agree with you more. Taking time to enjoy life, put bipolar issues aside for a while and just taking a break recharges our batteries and then we can come back to deal with it the stamina it takes to work through any problems it may be causing in our lives, or in the lives of our loved ones!!!

    Great Post Dave,

  28. dear dave, great encouragement on looking at life a little lighter. Also, in the midst of great struggles it is ALWAYS good to make a list of blessings!!Remember, a lot of those come to us also without our choosing–God just openly gives them to us. Bipolar is hard for everyone involved, it is a grateful heart, not a hateful heart, than can experience the best fully!! God bless you and your desire to help others through almost impossible situations.

  29. Dear David,

    My Bipolar has been hard, not only for myself, but so much for my loved ONES!
    But we must always start each day with the most positive attitude and thoughts!
    I’m just now starting to try and reach out to others for help! Baby steps, I feel like I have some hope today and always enjoy reading what you have to say. So very grateful!! I am just starting my journey! Today has been a better day, and so glad, and smiling!

  30. Thanks for the great advice. I needed to hear it. I have a sister that is bipolar and living with a girfriend that is bipolar. It is hard sometimes and your emails help.

  31. I am going through one of those bad times ….I am trapped in marriage i dont want to be in…because i can’t work I have several kids the oldest are 13 . I am trapped because my husband is my only source to my doctors , my meds, and the only help or supporter (if thats what you want to call him) makes me trapped even more . Trapped by my own thoughts , my own body I like a wild animal being caged when i go through this if feel like little volts of lightning are running through my body , I can’t relax, but I can’t sit still which makes it hard to go out, my mind racing crazy thoughts I am on all the meds they have for bipolar lithium, abilify, cymbalta for depression and other meds to many to mention , its hard to make it through the next day without knowing if this will be the day i have to go back to the hospital …will i get out of control again , how can i relax and just be able to even sleep which all the meds i take should knock me on my rearend not anymore i can’t fall asleep and when i do i have nightmares and can’t stay asleep ….send me some words to relax myself or something .

  32. To RAVEN: I have soooo been there. What with racing thoughts, the inability to sit still, the all-nighters when you just CAN’T sleep. I would suggest you contact your mental health supporters (psychiatrist, therapist) IMMEDIATELY and get assessed. You CAN’T feel like yourself when you’re in the middle of a manic episode. If your meds AREN’T working for you – they can find one that does – trust me.

    When I have gone into a full-blown manic episode, it didn’t take long before something REAL bad happened, at which time, I was checked into a hospital. You are doing GREAT harm to yourself by NOT contacting your doctor.

    I’m sorry if I sound like I’m giving you “tough love,” but at this point, you’re not thinking straight. A little meditation (or prayer) will help for awhile; turning to God at a time like this can be a great comfort. BUT – He can’t do it alone. You absolutely NEED to be seen by a professional; I’m no doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief, but I know someone in trouble when I see her, and you DESERVE to feel better.

    I hope to hear from you on one of Dave’s blogs, that you have been seen by a mental health professional, and are doing GREAT!

  33. This must be one of the best newsletters you have written yet.
    Why? Because it is advise that we can all follow.People with Bipolar, support persons, people with other mental/anxiety disorders and anyone else who draws breath. There are days when we all need to step back and take a look at ourselves.
    As the support person of child with ADHA [plus other problems] I have had to learn to shelve my expectation of what he should be like or what others his age are like and except him for who he is and “lighten up”.
    Somedays this stretches me to my very limits and occasionally I will blown my stack, but AT THE END OF THE DAY I FORGIVE HIM, I FORGIVE MYSELF AND START THE NEXT DAY FRESH.
    You might be wondering what this has to do with bipolar. Well, My brother has bipolar disorder and by applying the same rule in my dealings with him and by educating myself through you I have been able to save our relationship.
    Thank you for a great newsletter

  34. This is a little off of the subject but a month and a half ago my doctor took me off of Invega which was helping me a great deal. I did not have any major symptoms while taking this medication. He took me off of it because it was causing my prolactin level to go too high. After he took me off of this medication I became manic and my behavior became out of control. After a month of this I became really depressed and had to be hospitalized for 6 days. The doctor at the hospital put me on lithium which I swore I would never take. She also put me on an antidepressant. I have to say that I feel really good right now. I am not having any major symptoms. Making light of things is a good thing but is hard when you get really depressed and can’t even get out of bed. Now that I am feeling better I can see things in a better light. Thanks for your article. It was one of your best ones.

  35. Thanks for sending all the emails. I just have a question – how can a person with this problems can gain energy? A friend of mine has been suffering from bi-polar and he seems ok most of the time, however, he has no energy to do anything, thus, he is nervous and does not have confidence. He does have a good appetite though, still he does not seem to gain energy. What could be the problem?


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