Making Plans with Bipolar Disorder

March 5, 2012 Natasha Tracy

I have a friend with bipolar disorder. A nice girl. Fun. Charming. Intelligent. She’s lovely really. We email a lot and sometimes she makes me LOL.

But seeing her is very difficult. She has a lot of trouble sticking to any plans we might make. This is because she can never predict her mood. Even if she feels like going out the moment we make the plans, even if it seems like a fun idea then, when the time actually comes she may not feel like leaving the house.

I know how she feels.

Ideas that seem good on a Wednesday, when they actually arrive on a Friday suddenly seem like the biggest imposition in the world and seem as impossible as lifting a mountain.

So how does one make plans if one can never anticipate one’s mood?

Mood Switching

Many people with bipolar disorder experience mood episodes that last long periods of time. Depressions, manias or hypomanias might last weeks or even months. For them, moods may be more predictable.

But for people with very rapid cycling versions of bipolar disorder (ultradian cycling particularly) we never know what our mood will be one day to the next. One day we wake up feeling fine, the next depressed, and hypomanic the day after that. And mix in an anxiety disorder, which many people have, and the combinations get ever more complex.

Mood Desires

And what one wants to do during any particular mood episode varies. Being very outgoing and social and heading out to a party probably sounds like great fun when hypomanic but sounds like absolute torture when depressed.

Planning for Moods

In short, you can’t plan for moods; that’s the whole problem. I don’t know how I’m going to feel on Friday, it’s only Monday. (Of course this is true for everyone it just happens to be more pronounced for a person with a mental illness.) I won’t even know on Thursday. It’s kind of a thing.

But does this mean I should stop planning? I don’t think so. True, I might not plan as far out as some people or set specific, timed goals like some people, but I do still plan. And then I set my mind to follow through. In my opinion it’s a mindset. If I’ve set a reasonable plan for a reasonable activity for a reasonable time then I’m going through with it. Period. And I don’t care how I feel about it. If I waited for the right feeling to correspond with the right timing I’d never get anything done.

Because the alternative is not to plan at all. And then that means not seeing the people I care about or getting things done (on time or possibly ever). And I just don’t consider that a reasonable strategy.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, March 5). Making Plans with Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

July, 24 2023 at 9:43 am

how do you plan a wedding with a bipolar partner? agreeing to start the planning process may happen during stable "normal" mood, and then couple months in, hypomania or mania starts, they push you away, suddenly change or cancel plans that you two made months ago, they suddenly declare they don't want to be with you, that they want to go on this or that adventure, etc. How does a partner navigate through this? Do they go along with these sudden mood changes and take what their bipolar SO says as fact? If so, do they just cancel wedding plans altogether cuz their bipolar SO now has their own, new plans? It's difficult when there are real consequences, like financial, appointments or contracts with vendors, if you were in the process of moving in together and bipolar SO suddenly bolts, do you continue moving in on your own or do you move back to your own place or break the lease contract? so many questions... it feels really unfair when you invest so much with a bipolar SO, and then see it all just disappear or taken back in a single mood change/episode. it feels very wrong to keep wearing an engagement ring after bipolar SO gets verbally aggressive and pushes you away or tells you they have never loved you. I wish this illness never existed. Any advice other than "seek professional help, seek couples counseling" ?

Kellie Holly
July, 25 2023 at 7:36 am

If you marry your SO, the behavior you're describing is something that you will potentially live with for the rest of your life. "Maybe they'll change" or "Maybe they'll find treatment to keep them stable" are wishes, but not currently your reality. Your reality in this relationship is at least emotionally abusive. So, there is no professional help needed. YOU must decide if your SO's behavior is something you are willing to live with 'til death do you part ... or not.
When someone says they "don't want to be with you" and "gets verbally aggressive", you have to be aware that abuse only gets worse, it never gets better. Bipolar symptoms play out differently for each individual, but "being abusive" is NOT a symptom of bipolar disorder. Bipolar and being abusive are two different issues and should be treated as such.
See :
"Are You in Love with Your Abuser? If So, There's a Reason" at…
"7 Consequences of Verbal Abuse" at…

May, 19 2023 at 9:07 am

I hate having commitments that are difficult to escape. I recently joined a Bocce league where I need to show up every Thursday night. It’s very difficult to show up and “be sociable” when I really feel like just hiding in my room and being alone. No more “league commitments” for my future. It just adds more stress!

May, 22 2023 at 8:57 am

Hi Ivy,
I know how hard it is to have timed commitments. Sometimes they can help pull you out of your shell and actually help a mood. Other times they are overwhelming and make things worse. It's a bit of a balancing act.
I'm glad you tried. Maybe you can try again at another time.
-- Natasha Tracy

December, 24 2022 at 11:35 am

This is difficult for me. I can make a plan while in hypomania, not really realize what I'm doing because, now that I'm on meds my hypomania is greater and lasts longer than it has all my life. I used to only get two or three mediocre days every few months. I try to plan for hypomania. Then all of a sudden, I wake up this morning and don't want to leave the house. Christmas eve plans are just not happening. Now I have no idea how long this is going to last and if I'm even going to be able to have a decent holiday through new years. I don't "buck up" because I can't. I've tried and I just make everyone around me sad. I generally hide in a corner. I used to get drunk so I could have some life, but I'm on meds now and can't. Please do not insist that we are supposed to be able to keep plans we made when we were in hypomania. I want to just cuss you out. This tells family and friends of people with bipolar that all we have to do is just do it. Some of us can't. And some of us are truly sorry. I used to just not make plans more than 3 hours in advance in the old days. But menopause happened and everything just got louder and worse and more pronounced. On meds, I can't even rely on last year's seasonal bipolar to predict exactly what's going on. I had to go down to the minimum dose of modofinil that I was taking for my winter depression. It was working fine for a week, then I got mixed states. So I lowered it. I went through a week of hypomania that steadily got higher. It topped yesterday and I crashed this morning. I don't know whether to take more modofinil to get through the day, or just stay canceled with all my plans.
Thx for nuthin'

September, 21 2013 at 2:42 am

Ms Tracy, I love all your columns. They are a terrific help to me.Keep them coming!

June, 10 2012 at 2:03 pm

the difference beewten the two is in bipolar you will have manic episodes and when you have a depressive episode it will be severe ( a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/ or energy levels. In a sense, it is the opposite of depression) whereas in depression there are no manic episodes and the severity fluctuates..i hope i cleared things up a bit take care hon

Natasha Tracy
March, 8 2012 at 6:28 am

I'm honoured to know lovely people. :)
- Natasha

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
March, 8 2012 at 6:17 am

She does sound lovely!

Sierra Sage
March, 5 2012 at 3:13 pm

I just re-read your note Natasha and you are in a
different place than I am with this illness it seems because you have the power to follow through
when you don't feel like it. I have it sometimes,
but there are times, believe me, that I cannot even
pick up the phone and talk to someone that wants to
talk to me...not because I don't want to...I Can't!
My state is such that I can't..or I can't answer a
post in here...I Can't arrange my words...just some
examples of extreme sitting in one spot doing nothing but starring out the window for can be the pits!

Sierra Sage
March, 5 2012 at 3:01 pm

I try to plan some, but am very careful to have an
escape route available if I feel agitation or
manipulation going on. This way I can politely leave the setting without making a scene. I prefer to visit with people in an open or public setting
like a lobby or restaurant instead of in homes..I
feel trapped with those other than very close family at home. Home is my safe haven where there
are no demands that I cannot meet, or expectations
that I cannot deliver. That is why I live alone and
love it! I do make plans though, and sometimes have
to call and cancel. I think that's okay too, just
go with the flow and make the best of it...

March, 5 2012 at 1:36 pm

I've found that carrying a day planner around with me helps with plans. I try to list things to do on a daily basis including taking to friends, going to the store etc. The planner helps me a lot, I can work on one day at a time which is sometimes the only way I can get through the week.

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