Jen - If I knew how to "deal", I'd be working in a Poker Room or at a Blackjack Pit...
Now that THAT'S out of my system...
Dealing with Bi-Polar is no piece of cake, even on your birthday.
It's kind of like giving up but not giving up.
Accepting that there are some internal circuits that might go haywire now and then - is like waking up and noticing that your legs got eatten by tigers.
It changes "the game", but doesn't have to end it OR make it totally miserable.
In my opinion (which in MY OPINION is often worth more than Pdoc advice - how's THAT for delusional thinking) SELF AWARENESS is vital. Many sources will recommend keeping LOGS of everything. Meds. Sleep. Food intake (time and substances). General and specific moods. Exercise (amount and frequency).
We look for patterns and correllations. We ARE unique. No two individuals have the same wiring patterns, partially thanks to the fact that experience/learning is PHYSIOLOGICALLY wired through microscopic "connections" in our brains that depend on neurotransmitters to do their jobs. Experience effects mood which effects neurotransmitters which effects mood... It's the ultimate dominoe effect.
The more our moods go to the extreme, the more the wiring leads in that direction.
That's one of the reasons that psychiatry suggests trying to medicate prevention of extremes.
I am one of the less fortunate (perhaps) in that I also inherited EXTREME medication intolerance. Heck, I can't even tolerate cholesterol or hypertension pharmaceuticals for beyond 2 or 3 days (and THAT only on the first time my body experiences them).
Just like my father, the more they give, the worse I get.
I found through my own SELF AWARE observations, that I could get close to the "normal" effect by taking micro-doses BUT repeating THEM brought-about the same olde intolerance.
Typically, if "they" say it takes a couple of weeks to render any effect, I'll be feeling effects within hours. Conversely, my body emits its own counter-chemicals in desparate attempts at homeostasis. Hence the problem.
I was meant to be a madman (according to the DSM-IV). That is my genetic
heritage. Perhaps some distant cave-dwelling (no offense to any troglodites reading this) ancestor managed to go "bananas" and warded-off destruction at the hands of fellow barbarians or cave animals. Who knows.
I am what I am.
Now, the issue is HOW to peacefully fit in and SURVIVE in this chaotic world we call "civilization".
TRYING to be aware of one's self and tendencies helps.
Avoiding one's triggers helps.
Attempting to reduce overall stress helps.
Getting decent and balanced foods helps.
Getting EXERCISE helps a LOT.
In my case, keeping the meds on hand Just In Case is helpful.
And having a peer or someone you trust who can give reasonable feedback - so you can get a hint if self-perceptions are getting skewed... HELPS.
Best of Luck - and DO try to stack the deck in your favor !!!!