All Aboard the Manic Train!

The train horn induces an ear-to-ear grin type of euphoria. Maybe it’s the heat with the sun shining the brightest it’s ever been. Maybe it’s the Tegan and Sara I’ve been playing on repeat for days. Maybe it’s because I will attend their concert in less than 24 hours. Maybe it’s because this is my first time traveling alone. Maybe I’m just excited to see my good friend and stay in her Chicago apartment.

(Side note: I ‘met’ this friend during a slightly manic phase about four years ago. Actually, I anonymously sought her out online because I liked the way she looked and thought she seemed cool. I randomly sent her a friend request. She surprisingly accepted. I initiated conversation until she eventually let me in. Exchanged numbers and life stories. And we’ve officially met in person twice now. Today will be number three.)

What caused this mental tickle to develop may be a combination of all the above. I don’t know. But I do know that I keep singing aloud on this hushed locomotive. I’ve also laughed aloud a few times. I just feel so amazing! I truly have so much excitement in my little self that I may explode! I am absolutely in love with everything and everyone right now.

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I don’t know if I should be taking notes on these incredible feelings. I kind of want to say fuck it, and just allow myself to really feel everything. Either way, I’ll check in at some point.

Well Hello There, Anxiety!

I welcomed this day wearing a smothering jacket of anxiety, accessorized with a shiny ball of nerves. It’s like I suddenly have so much on my mind that I am experiencing physiological reactions that include chest tightness and shallow breathing, on top of my severe distractability and a racing mind. A few days ago I mentioned that my wife and I are going on a road trip later this week. Despite my list of travel tips, (https://nectarmadness.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/travel-tips-for-bipolar-disorder/) I still feel unprepared. And I don’t think it’s so much that I’m unprepared for the trip itself- I mean I refilled my Lithium, I did a load of laundry, and I have directions. But it’s more an overwhelming feeling of tying up loose ends before we leave. My list of unimportant things that are sickening me with importance. Yeah those. For instance I recently got a brand new camera. (Little known fact: photography was one of my biggest hobbies, prior to a depression-induced hiatus that lasted for 10 years.) Now, I’ve been thrilled about releasing the ol’ shutterbug and cranking out something to put me back on the map. The thing is, I have no idea how to turn the fucking thing on! Sure there’s a DVD, there’s a booklet and online support. I get it. I haven’t had time to even charge up the battery until last night. I don’t have five minutes to dedicate to learning how this thing works and I am expected to bring it with me on the trip where I will be greeted by my family full of photographers. My first shoot back is going to be in the scenic oasis of beautiful, lush Kentucky. It’s stressing me the fuck out.

While I might sound crazy, we have to remember that I’m already getting triggered by the mere fact I’m going on a trip. Add in the overwhelming surplus of people who are also going on the trip. These people are family members who we don’t see very often, which is as unnerving as it is exciting. I’m also a little anxious about announcing our pregnancy to the cousins we don’t see but every handful of years. While I try to not let things like stereotyping and closed-mindedness enter my aura, I do have some family members who swing a little more conservatively, so I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t affect me a little.

While I’m on my anxiety tangent (I’d be shocked if anyone actually reads this entry!), I’m also coming off a recent high that I experienced over the weekend. And that is a surprise birthday party thrown for me by my amazing friends. My birthday is on the 7th and since I won’t be home, they threw it for me this past Sunday. I’m not one to really like surprises, but I managed to keep it together absolutely fine. I guess the biggest aftermath of the party I’m busy contemplating is the fact so many people showed up! I really would’ve never thought so many people really like me! I’m as gracious as I am overwhelmed. I do think my behavior got a little out of control later that night, and I am feeling anxious, today, about the level of intoxication I managed to get to. I feel guilty and uncomfortable about that part. Impulse control isn’t my strongest trait. Anyway, I’ll move past it. The party was such a wonderful surprise that I’m still glowing from it!

Now, with so much buzzing around inside my head, what I need to do is continue to work on my to-do list, pack up all that I’m bringing, and straight up get my shit together already! I’m convinced once we’re on the road I will calm down by at least 8 notches. If I ever get there.

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Travel Tips for Bipolar Disorder

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.

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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.