This Bipolar Life: The Oxygen Mask Theory

Air stewardess performing safety demonstration on aeroplane

As many of us are I am a busy person. This means I often find myself in a position where I’m always doing something. Rarely does it involve taking care of myself. Lately I’m learning just how important that can be. I’m a mom so I’m frequently found playing taxi or referee or doing some form of housework. Rarely do I find myself without a pressing need for my attention. However what I’ve decided on is that I need to be better at putting on my own oxygen mask first.

What do I mean by that? Well it’s based on the theory that you hear in airplanes. If you are traveling with children they always tell you to put your own mask first in the case of emergency. Why? Because if you aren’t functional you are helpless to your child. This is a critical theory in managing my bipolar but one I’ve only recently begun to embrace. I’m realizing that I need to “make the time to take the time” and spend a little bit of time just taking care of myself. My wife is really much better than me at this and I’m working hard to follow her lead. I’m learning though that if I don’t “put on my oxygen mask first” not only am I less effective at doing the whole “being an adult” thing but I am terrible at taking care of myself.

How do I do it though? I often find myself at a loss. Sometimes it’s as simple as telling the kids to turn the volume down on the TV or change the channel to something with real people on the screen. Heck, I’ll even sit through the Science Channel. I swear they get their hearing from their dad because they like the volume at maximum.  Not to mention that really there’s only so much Cartoon Network I can sit through without cringing. I also make sure to open the windows and let in the sunshine, despite the fact that it reveals my children for the video vampires they really are. After hours of game time they literally shield themselves from the light as though it somehow might turn them into piles of ash. They are a funny bunch, my kiddos.

However, I’ve discovered that it really does help me (and them) to just put in a half hour all to myself. Even a few minutes can help but a full 30 minutes can make all the difference in my mood. Whether it’s a hot bath, or coloring, taking a walk, or even squeezing in a quick nap. All of those solutions can really impact how I experience my day.

If I’m having a stressful day at work I will even crawl into my car and just lay and meditate for a while, despite the fact that I really suck at the whole meditation thing, I try and that’s what matters, right? Besides, it gives me a chance to think of something besides whatever is waiting for me back at my desk. Mind you, I love my job but it still requires being “on” and that’s something that can be hard for me, and other bipolar folks, to do for long periods of time.

As I mentioned above I enjoy coloring and that’s helped some but there’s not really any place in the house that I can do that solo so I came up with a solution. I just put in my earbuds and shut the world out for a bit while creating something beautiful. Sometimes I struggle to find just the right picture to color and find myself fighting back against the need to do it “perfectly” and have to remind myself it’s okay that I’ve put the blue where the yellow “should” be. Regardless, it’s helpful so I do it.

The other thing I like to do, and don’t do enough of, is put on a pot of tea and grab a good book. I did that a lot when my mom was visiting but it slipped away as a habit once she left. It’s something I’m committing to getting better at doing and I find it soothing to my spirit so again I’ll get back around to shutting out the world and carving out a bit of space for myself in the day.

So there you go, that’s how I get my self-care time in. I would love to hear what you do. Feel free to comment or message me directly 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s