Bipolar Disorder and the Holidays

I am having a really hard time with the holidays.

I woke up shaking mulitple times in the night and just felt so much despair this morning.

I was just thinking, this sucks. It will never get better. Why am I like this? Why do tiny changes in my routine seem so impossible to handle and throw me off so much?

Then I read this article that I thought was really helpful.

The beginning goes through reasons why the holidays are so hard for people with bipolar disorder. Relevant for me are:

  • Disrupted schedules. ” “The biggest single problem with the holidays for people with bipolar disorder is that they take them out of their routine,” says Ellen Frank, PhD, director of the depression and manic depression prevention program at the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

    Studies show that people with bipolar disorder do best when they’re on a schedule — getting up, eating, exercising, and going to bed at roughly the same time each day. Even the loss of just one night of sleep can trigger a mood swing. But during the holidays — when you may be traveling across time zones, partying, or staying up until the wee hours — it’s all too easy to get off track.”

    • Overstimulation: no alone time!
    • The winter season in general: can cause extra depression and anxiety issues with shorter days and longer nights disrupting your body’s cycle.

    Then it goes on about how to mitigate symptoms.

    • Say “no” when you need to
    • Stick to your regular schedule and habits with eating and sleeping and other activities as much as possible. For me, the eating one is most important and just having my regular wake up-swim-activities routine.

    I don’t know why, but reading the whole thing helped me to feel okay with needing these things right now. I think everyone would do well to use them, but I think it is really important for people with bipolar disorder to recognize that these feelings and the INTENSITY of the symptoms caused by the holidays are OKAY and common for us.

    For me, the most important thing that I am going to have to do for the rest of my life is always remember the balance between reflecting on how I am normal and more like others than I think and reflecting on how I have special needs that need special measures to manage sometimes.

    It depends on the situation what is helpful to me. I really know when one or the other is going to be helpful though. I can feel it.

    For instance, sometimes it’s helpful to think about how everyone has emotions, the same ones I have. That anyone would be going nuts living at home with no job when they are 25 years old.

    And sometimes it is helpful for me to remember that I struggle with mental illness and I need to do certain things to take care of it that other people don’t need to do. And that’s OKAY.

    So tonight I am going to stay home and not go to my uncle’s house and get some time to myself.

    I also have to walk the balance in general about when to relax and when to push myself. Right now, I NEED to go swimming even though I don’t feel like it because the pool will be closed tomorrow and it will get me back on track. It will feel good. I need it. But I have to hurry because the pool closes in an hour!



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