My name is Terri Chaney. I'm a writer and I'm bipolar. Structure has always been an issue in my life because I would go through periods of just having no structure whatsoever
because I would be very depressed and unable to move, or unable to function and then manic where I just didn't care if there was rules or structure.
I didn't -- I just ignored it -- it wasn't until the last five years or so that I really began to realize how important it was for me to have a daily routine.
I thought against that my whole life.
We know actually from research studies that increased regularity of daily routines is associated with a decreased episode recurrence and increased likelihood of getting better from episodes.
So, it's something that that individuals can really take on themselves and make changes within their own you know daily lives.
The worst part of not being structured was that everybody got mad at me because I was so good about following the rules when I was sane. But then when I would have episodes of depression or mania,
my behavior would become so different that people didn't understand. They didn't know what was going on with me.
I would go through periods of depression and not calling them or not returning their phone calls, dropping out of sight.
And it was difficult to, you know keep the connection established. So, as hard as it is, I make a point of building that into the week.
And I didn't use to be able to do that, that also it's been very important for making me feel less isolated.
Not having structure can actually cause sleep disturbances. And that one of the early warning signs of new episodes is problems with sleep.
So, if sleep breaks down, it can lead into a new episode. So a lack of structure can be a direct precipitant of a new mood episode.
Having structure in my life really helps me manage my bipolar disorder because it's the only thing I can count on.
The rest of my life can be very erratic depending on what my brain chemicals decide to do that day.
So, if I impose outside structure on my life, I'm doing the one thing I have control over.
The first thing that someone who wants to make sure that they structure in your life ought to do is to set up regular sleep and wake times. It's important that each day,
you get out and have social contact with someone, you can always volunteer. Meal times are also important and ideally again, setting that up is a regular schedule.
Do something for yourself each day, something pleasurable and it's also probably helpful to exercise everyday.
Don't be so hard on yourself if you can't make it to every single thing that you said you are going to do.
It's important to have that compassion for yourself, as well, because structure can be very demanding.