It has been 28 years since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I finally feel like I have figured out how to stay well for the rest of my life. It has been almost three years since I was  last hospitalized for mania. In the time since, I have made wellness the focus of my life. I work in the mental health field and my job is not too stressful. I work 37.5 hours a week and have good benefits and generous vacation time. It is never hard for me to get time off for doctors' appointments. It is a very good, healthy work environment. Having an interesting job that is easy to live with is very important to my mental health recovery. I have other health conditions besides bipolar disorder: PCOS, sleep apnea, psoriasis, allergies, and high blood pressure, and these health conditions are all well controlled by lifestyle changes and medications. I have found that keeping these conditions under control helps my mental health.

I am taking the lowest effective doses of my medications for bipolar disorder and they are working well: 200 mg. Lamictal and 100 mg. Seroquel. I have no complaints about side effects besides having to sleep a little bit more than I would like. It is much better than struggling with insomnia, psychosis, and mood instability as I have in the past though. When I think about the days when I was heavily medicated, being on such low doses of medications and doing well seems like a miracle. I also take the following supplements: a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D-3, and biotin. I take them because I believe they contribute to my overall wellness.

I stick to a routine. I have a regular bedtime and wake time. I believe that prioritizing quality sleep is the most important habit that keeps me well. I take my Lamictal and Seroquel between 8 and 9 p.m. and usually fall asleep between 10 and 11 p.m. I wake up at 7 a.m. on work days. I usually stick to the same routine on the weekends, but I occasionally stay out late with friends. Staying out late always requires sleeping late the next day because, with my medication, I always need 8-9 hours of sleep to feel rested.

I exercise every day. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I do a full-body strength training routine using dumbbells and a kettlebell. I have realized that I feel much better when I feel strong. Lifting weights also helps me to sleep much better. On the days that I don't lift weights, I at least take a walk, but I also enjoy cycling, hiking, and swimming.

I make time to spend time with friends and family. I am also friendly with my neighbors and people I encounter while out running errands and shopping. Having good relationships with people in my community is important to me. I eat well, limit my caffeine intake, and drink lots of water. I have made a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and I follow it. I meditate twice a day -- in the morning and at night. I also take deep breaths as needed. I never realized how much these habits would help me until I incorporated them into my life. I go to therapy once a week. My therapist is encouraging and helpful and understands the challenges I face living with bipolar disorder. This kind of support helps me stay motivated to stay well.

Staying well is fairly simple, but it takes attention to detail and commitment. Doing all of these things regularly and keeping a routine is what keeps me well. Life is good. The things I am currently working on to improve my life are losing weight and decluttering my home, and these things are much easier to focus on when I am well.

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