In one week I will be going on a short vacation, traveling from Michigan to Kentucky to visit with family. Even though the trip’s a week away, the travel anxiety started days ago. You know that panicky feeling of not having everything you need in order to be comfortable and secure? Yeah that’s how I feel. My Bipolar tends to trigger when I feel unsettled. I hate feeling unprepared for things. One time my wife and I flew to California and I just about lost my flipping mind. I couldn’t control my outbursts or random crying spells. The time zone threw me off and I hated the airplane. I even picked fights with my wife. While I genuinely loved California, I sure as hell didn’t show it. From that point I vowed to not allow this scene to repeat itself. I vowed to be prepared for all future trips.
I have two separate lists. One is all the things I need to do before we leave, the other is everything we need to bring with us. I don’t care if the to-do list includes painting my toenails, because I know if I don’t do it, I will feel unfinished. Anxiety makes me hyper-sensitized to the littlest things. I’m confident that checking off my lists this far in advance will allow me to have a more relaxed and outburst-free trip.
I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of Bipolar Disorder and travel, and here are some good tips that I’ve come up with:
- If there is a time zone change, practice for the zone before you leave. This means going to bed and getting up on your destination time. The closer you can get to the time, the better.
- Sleep regularly while you are there. Disturbed sleep is a prime suspect in triggering episodes.
- Forecast your destination activities. Adrenaline pumping activities, unlimited access to alcohol, large crowds of people, personality-clashing relatives, crammed quarters, or even a climate you’re not used to can all affect Bipolar Disorder.
- Be prepared with your medications. Make sure you count out enough meds for each day you’ll be gone, so you don’t run out before returning home. Carry you doctor’s and your pharmacy information just in case. You might even want to talk to your doctor about trying something for anxiety if you feel it will be an issue during your travels.
- Practice relaxation. Try deep breathing exercises or meditating. These are great to use if things get a little too busy and you feel yourself start to lose it. Slowly breathe in, counting to five, then exhale counting backward from five. Repeat three times.
Overall the biggest piece of advice I can give is to plan ahead. Have your map, your GPS, your debit cards, portable snacks, and comfortable shoes all set and ready. If you plan ahead, you will be able to spend more time focusing on what’s truly important. So far I’m taking my own advice and I hope I can make it through the next week calmly, then enjoy some R & R.