Pills to Poetry: The Burden of Non-Compliance

The conversation between my wife and I when I don’t want to comply with medication or sleep. A bipolar dilemma. A caregiver’s burden.

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~The Burden That No One Sees ~

“It’s late.” She’s barely awake, squinting.
“I’m not tired”, I tell her, and continue working.
“That’s the point”, she says under her breath.
“What’s the point?” I’m lost.
“With your condition…” she’s exhausted. I’m making it worse.
“Seriously I’m fine.” I insist.
“Take your meds.” She isn’t giving up.
“I’m not tired”, I say.
“You have a big day tomorrow.” She’s more patient than I deserve.
“I know. But I’m wide awake.” I continue working.
“That’s the problem.” Her face is pretty, even half asleep.
“What’s the problem?” I’m lost still.
“You’re getting manic.” Her tone is serious.
“Not manic. I’m just really busy. It’s a project…”
“It’s 2am”, she informs me.
“Okay. In thirty minutes I will.”
“No. Take them now.”
“Fuck. Okay. Fine.”
The bedroom door closes behind her as I pour a handful of perfect little pharmasanity shapes from the burnt orange, child-proof bottle. I choke them down with a large swig of beer. She hates when I do that but does not complain because at least I’m taking the goddamned medication.

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After a week or so of these types of conversations, she usually ends up putting me on a bedtime schedule with a tight ritual involving complying with meds. Because I love my wife and trust her, I often go with it. Well, okay, I put up a fight half the time, which occasionally puts her in the position to give me ultimatums. This is love. This is bipolar disorder. This is a bipolar marriage. And I still fucking hate taking pills.

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Commitments, Intentions, and the Bipolar Guilt Dance

Commitments, Intentions, and the Bipolar Guilt Dance

First, I need to thank everyone who is still following this barren blog. So many times I intended to recover from this 6 month hiatus. That desire manifested into way too many thoughts questioning what I could actually handle.

Those thoughts led to guilt for ignoring this site for so long. Then I became overwhelmed. So I avoided logging in altogether. Which made me more overwhelmed. Then I became angry with myself for the avoidance.

The 3 year anniversary of Nectar Madness came and went. I renewed my domain but decided I wasn’t ready to continue on with this commitment. And all of this is so silly because I really do enjoy being here! I’ve always felt connected to others in the blogging, as well as the mental health, communities.

I just feel like I have let down my regular readers. (Who might not be regulars anymore.) I feel bad for ignoring all of the notifications I received these past 6 months from readers with questions or looking for guidance on important matters.

Today
What I’ve Been Consumed With

What have I been doing? I don’t know if it actually matters since I’m rejuvenating the flow of this blog for present day, but here’s a synopsis.

June-August: Manic! Manic! Manic! Wonderful, addicting, dangerous bipolar mania. Things evened out & I continued treatment. I’m also still employed at my job. My biggest accomplishment this summer was cracking down on my writing, specifically poetry & fiction. It’s kept me very busy.

September: My baby boy started the toddler Montessori program. I’ve been a busy mom.

November: My second airplane ride ever. (Side note: my first was in 2009 from Michigan to California and it set me off into the most manic, anxious, erratic episode imaginable.) I was nervous, especially since I’d have to keep composure for my toddler, whose 1st flight this was. Obsessive organization is all I’ll say. And actually I will put together a bipolar travel post.

December: Seasonal depression. Yay. It helps that I’m a seasonal worker and get to stay home with my son for four months before returning in April.

Despite whatever reasons I had for not doing what I love on here, I am back. Today is the day! Now here’s a little bit about the thinking processes of people with bipolar.

Bipolar Thinking: The Shoulds, The Obsessions, The Remorse

Those who live with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric disorders experience thought processes differently than folks who are not suffering from a mental illness. Of course everybody experiences guilt, obsessive thoughts or worry, and remorse. It’s part of the human condition. A person with a mental illness might develop a thought based on something somebody said to them. Whether positive or negative, the thought will play over and over and over and over again until it has infested its way into every other thought that person has.

Here’s an example:
Tammy mentions to Paul that Aunt Beverly said he never calls her. Paul automatically feels guilty for not keeping in touch with Aunt Beverly. He goes home & can’t get it out of his head. Especially the fact that Aunt Beverly said something to Tammy. Paul now thinks he should call Aunt Beverly. But then she would think he is only calling her because Tammy told him to, not because he genuinely wants to. His anxiety is rising. Paul has now let this go on for three days. Each day he feels more and more guilty for not picking up the phone. He actively avoids making time for a phone call and makes excuses of why it’s not a good time to call.

From a bipolar standpoint, a few different things could happen here:

Depression: The stress and guilt Paul is feeling could trigger him into a depression. If this is the case, he might sleep or isolate to avoid the developing symptoms. He may never call Aunt Beverly, or speak to Tammy either.

Mania/Hypomania: The anxiety and escalating obsessions could trigger mania or hypomania in Paul. He could be restless and experiencing insomnia from the symptoms that have developed. He could either continue to avoid Aunt Beverly, or present her with a grand gesture, such as buying her an extravagant gift.

Of course this isn’t a real situation, but bipolar thoughts are real. Thinking obsessively can really wear a person down. In that moment, there is no escape. Feelings of guilt tend to snowball once they start. Depending on where someone is in their illness, whether they are depressed or manic, or rapid-cycling, for instance, plays a major role in the receptiveness of any toxic thinking.

What You Can Do

It is tough, but there are ways to alleviate these thoughts. As always, I stress that keeping in contact with your doctor is imperative. Please take your medication! I know- I have been there. And every single time I am med non-compliant, I become a hot mess. Another great tool is practicing meditation. It forces you to clear your mind. Try relaxation music and deep breathing. Select a mantra to focus on, such as a key phrase or positive affirmation. Continuous mantra meditation will slow the obsessive thoughts down and begin to eliminate how often they pop into your mind.  Staying busy helps you forget the feelings of guilt or remorse. Spending time with people who are positive and make you feel good helps as well. Lastly, I will quote my mother, “Do the thing you dread the most and have a better day.” Basically, stop the excuses and call Aunt Beverly. Just do it.

 

 

Death & the Swinging Mood: Grieving When You Have Bipolar

Losing someone you love is one of the hardest things a person can go through. But what if you have bipolar disorder? Death affects people with mood disorders in different ways. I lost someone very close to me this past week, along with others since I began this blog, which is why I want to touch on some important elements of grieving when you have a mood disorder.

Emotions + Stress = Trigger Central
Normally people go through five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Of course there are variances for everyone, and not every person follows the textbook definition of how to be in each stage. Usually, in healthy-minded folks, they kind of just run their course naturally.

Someone with a mental illness, specifically a mood disorder such as bipolar (or unipolar depression), may experience certain stages more intensely or much longer than average, causing triggers, which lead to an episode or bipolar symptoms. Severe depression, irritability, irrational thinking/behavior, drug/alcohol abuse, and suicidal tendencies are some common symptoms triggered by death.

I know I mentioned in past posts that I often struggle with suicidal ideation. A little over a year ago I was triggered by a funeral I attended, which you can read about here, and I utilized certain tricks to push those thoughts from my mind. I recall also having this experience at a friend’s funeral a few years back. I was actually in the middle of perfecting a plan to take my own life when I received news of my friend’s overdose. That triggered me and my suicidal ideation sky-rocketed. Side note: I am currently in remission from suicidal feelings 🙂

The Funeral Mania Phenomenon
Funeral mania?! Yes. What the hell is it? Funeral mania when someone’s reaction to a death or a funeral is a manic episode occurring instantly or within a week of bereavement. This term can also be applied to those who become manic when a loved one is dying and has a very short time left. Funeral mania is a rare occurrence, and can be uncomfortable for the person experiencing it.

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I have absolutely experienced funeral mania. In fact, I almost became relieved when I read that this is a real thing. Four and a half years ago, my father was on Hospice, and I lost my shit. I was his caretaker during his last two months of life. Closer to the end, I never slept. I spent hours at his empty apartment organizing books, scrubbing ceiling fans, and perfecting the entire place before he had to turn the keys in. And when I did make the 45 minute drive to my own house, I still didn’t rest. I baked cakes. I reorganized my own basement. I moved everything from his apartment into my basement. At 3:00 in the morning. I went nonstop from a good week before his death, until I finally crashed more than a week after his death. I was 27, married, working, and in college. My dad’s death sent me soaring. I don’t remember crying once.

My cousin died two years ago, from cancer she had been hiding. She was only 44 years old. At this time, I was already struggling to find stability, and had recently experienced a severe mixed episode. I was freshly on my current med cocktail and I know my body wasn’t fully acclimated to it yet. Her death produced surges of adrenaline and a strong need to help with funeral planning. I camped out at my grandparents’ house for three days and didn’t sleep a wink. We have a large Italian family, and their house has always been the primary meeting spot. I thrived in the chaos. Every song that played, every old photo, every out of town aunt or cousin, I soaked it up. The food tasted so much better than food should taste. The fall air carried a fragrance like no other. I remember never feeling so alive.

If funeral mania sounds crazy to you, count yourself lucky. If you’re reading this, thinking that finally someone understands. Please know you are not alone! And that it is okay. I assume you already know that any time a manic or depressed episode linger around, it is best to talk to your doctor.

Too “stabilized” to feel?
As we know, mood stabilizers work hard to prevent you from sinking to Hades or flying above the clouds. Rather, you are functioning afloat this coveted baseline- not too happy, not too sad. I take my meds each day and night to achieve this. Therefore, I am stable, but never really too happy or too sad. This is fine for me. Until BOOM! Life thwarts my plans and my dear loved one dies. I am sad. I am very, very sad. I know that I am sad. But dammit, I cannot feel the level of sad that I need to be in order to feel better. It is beyond frustrating. Of course I attempted to use this as a reason to stop taking Lithium, and I presented my argument to my wife/med manager. She helped bring a little clarity on the subject, and while it really sucks to not have the ability to dip down super low, at least I know I can get through this without uprooting the safe stability I’ve worked to achieve.

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Hopefully this gave you guys a little bit of perspective. I think I needed to write it as part of my current grieving process. 

Saying it Aloud Makes it Real

Apparently I’m fighting mania. Apparently I didn’t realize this until I talked about it. Apparently.

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I knew a few factors were surfacing, but I didn’t realize just how many signs of mania were actually present in my life until I shared my current state at my DBSA support group meeting last night.

Let’s begin by examining the facts – the manic stuff.

  1. It’s Spring. My witching season. Well, the start of it anyway. Summer is equally lethal. Warm weather heats my blood something good.
  2. I’m suffering from chronic boredom. Bored with work. Bored socializing. Bored at home. Bored in my marriage.
  3. I’m overstimulating in order to combat the boredom. Drinking. Music. A dozen social networks. Heavy involvement with friends.
  4. Becoming hypersexual. Collecting new erotic photography. Flirting. More self-stimulation than usual.
  5. Planning. I’m planning a mini vacation by myself next month to stay with a friend and attend my favorite band in concert. Okay- my obsession in concert. Which brings me to number 6.
  6. I can’t help the obsessions. Tegan and Sara have been my loves for over a decade. I can’t get enough. Literally. I’m also obsessing over my marriage. And the lack of sex.
  7. My mind is racing. I struggle to focus at work. My ideas are flying around. I’m quite forgetful.
  8. Irritability. I’m moody and irritable. I seem to get annoyed easily with customers. And traffic. And television. And a few acquaintances.
  9. Fleeting desire to skip meds. I don’t want them. I don’t like them. So there.
  10. Spending money. My wife is our financial manager, but I have managed to find an unusual amount of reasons to need money lately.

Let’s examine things further – the not so manic stuff.

  1. I am indeed still taking the meds. I toy with the idea of stopping. Regardless of those thoughts, I comply with treatment. My wife is mostly to thank for this.
  2. I have a job. And I go to it. Every day. On time. It’s often difficult to function with a spinning head and chronic restlessness. But I’m there.
  3. I take excellent care of my son. For some reason, this part really works for me. He’s healthy. He’s happy. He’s dressed, changed, fed, and snuggled. I manage to drop him off at my sister’s every morning. It’s a miracle, maybe.
  4. I’m not as bad as I’ve been. Maybe the meds are preventing me from falling into full-blown mania.

What is my next step? Well, that is a good question because I am conflicted. Right now I am incredibly tempted to succumb to the manic triggers that pacify my boredom. I flashback to last summer- too much booze, too much pot, too much fraternizing for a married woman, never needing sleep, and rounds of fighting with my wife. I look at how things are right now and I’m not where I was last year.

Am I heading there? I guess I can’t say for sure. I will try to vow to stay on the meds in order to prevent it. My psychiatrist already doubled my Seroquel to balance me out. The fact that I really am chronically bored and I crave excitement may be what drives my actions. It’s a vulnerable thing to feel so unpredictable.

 

How Does Change Affect You?

I’d like to say that I’m good with change and welcome it with open arms. But that simply isn’t the case. I have mood swings, irritability, feelings of chaos, and I’m often pretty manic. The bigger the change, the less I sleep, the more I obsess over things, the harder I am to deal with. Examples of difficult change for me include moving to a new home, starting a new job- or getting laid off from a job, a family member becoming ill or laid up due to injury, and any time I have too much idle time on my hands. Heck, I can’t even handle the change of seasons very well. In the coming weeks, I am about to embark upon a couple of new changes and I’m getting pretty nervous about it. First, as you know, we are having a baby. My wife is due to give birth December 15th. Of course there’s that uncertainty as to what day the baby is actually coming, and that is making my head go crazy! I want to be as prepared as possible for whenever it happens. But just having a new baby around is so much change in itself. I’m aware that this will affect my bipolar and I’ve had the conversation with my wife about it. Second, I will be laid off from work for the winter months. Last year, I worked through the winter (even though it’s a seasonal business), and had a hard enough time with the lack of work to do, but at least had a routine. Not working will replace my structure with leaving me to fend for myself. Granted, I assume the baby will keep me busy to a point, I just know the changes will be difficult. Lastly, the seasonal change from Fall to Winter is always a tough one.

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It isn’t uncommon for us bipolar folks to struggle with change. There are a few reasons why. First, if we fall out of routine, we tend to get a little lost. Routine is essential for building structure and staying on track with things like meds and moods. Off track means forgetting about tasks and appointments. It’s also easy to get anxious when we feel off. Another reason we dislike change is because it messes up our ability to predict and plan what is going to happen. Of course spontaneity is healthy, but for the most part we feel comfortable if we have knowledge to what is going on. My biggest anxiety is not feeling prepared. I will continue to post about my new life changes and whatever coping strategies I discover.

How are you with change? Do you become anxious when out of your routine? Do you have a hard time getting back on track? What helps you cope?

Suicidal Ideation is A Manageable Symptom

Some of us experience it, some of us don’t. It takes over your mind and consumes you. Suicidal ideation doesn’t necessarily mean you will kill yourself. Or that you really want to. It means you are preoccupied with the thought. These thoughts drag you to a very dark place, focusing on, or even obsessing over the notion to end your own life. People with these ideations often lack the desire to fully commit suicide. In fact, many people in this position would rather not discuss it. Ideations include methods, plans, notes, the aftermath, etc. Is this morbid? Does this make someone a sick person? No. Suicidal ideation is a symptom of bipolar disorder. I am one of those people who are affected by this symptom. For me, it flares up at certain times, and goes away at other times. While some may take great comfort in their dark thoughts, it makes me more negative and depressed. I do a lot of work on myself if I start getting like that, and I practice therapeutic techniques to clear my mind.

What triggers my suicidal ideation? A key trigger is whenever someone I know dies intentionally, a.k.a. suicide, or from a preventable cause, such as an overdose. It triggers me even further when the deceased is around my age. I begin to take mental notes, as if I’m learning a lesson from these people who passed before me. What did he overdose on? How did he do it? Why her? Why not me? Now these thoughts manifest into full on imaginative scenarios, thus romanticizing the notion of death altogether. I find myself sitting at funerals, in complete awe of the entire procession. I philosophize every aspect of it. From the excessive sobber, to the take-charge family member, to the hugger, to those apprehensive to see the casket, to the hospitable funeral director, and all the awkward others who seem to follow suit along with everybody else.

Where am I going with any of this? Well I attended a funeral yesterday for a young family member of my wife, who indeed took his own life. By young, I mean a day younger than me. An unthinkable tragedy, the pain he was going through must have been indescribable. I watched as family members mourned, their hearts broken, questions unanswered. And of course while I was beyond saddened for my wife and my dear in-laws, I started to feel the sprouting little buds in my mind. I pushed it away, and have been doing my damnedest to prevent anything from growing. It’s important to know your triggers, and catch them early in development. Using positive self talk can help as well.

The focus is to celebrate life. We celebrate those who have passed before us, those who are here with us, and those who will be joining us soon. (Our baby is due next month! Yay!) I know this is a hard topic to chew, but I really felt it was important because surely there are others with this symptom as well.

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Information on Bipolar Disorder

I thought this was a pretty clear breakdown of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

A Short Bipolar Disorder Summary 
Bipolar disorder, is a serious brain disorder. Also known as manic-depressive illness, it is a mental illness involving episodes of serious mania and depression. The person’s mood usually swings from overly “high” and irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between.

Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years or even decades.

ImageEffective treatments are available that greatly alleviate the suffering caused by bipolar disorder and can usually prevent its devastating complications. These include marital breakups, job loss, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.

Facts about bipolar disorder:

  • Manic-depressive illness has a devastating impact on many people.
  • At least 2 million Americans suffer from manic-depressive illness. For those afflicted with the illness, it is…

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Shamelessly Venting My Spinning Head

Hi everyone. Back to the daily grind, post-Labor Day. A lot has been going on with me lately. For starters, I’m in the process of making a huge decision about my future.  Specifically- grad school. Yikes. My poor mind is being swayed in so many directions with this. The thing is, my undergrad is in mental health, but I’m considering a Masters in Business. Reasons? Simple. While I have an over abundance of education in psychology/mental health, I have never worked in that field. I do, however, have a great deal of experience in business administration, management, and marketing. I’m trying to logically put my (apparent?) talents where they ought to be. This is hard and I’m coming down with an unpleasant case of freak out. AKA anxiety. It’s not just the decision that brings on anxious thinking, but it’s all the paperwork, financial aid, the required GMAT test, and commuting in the snow to a new university.

My anxiety about school isn’t the only thing that’s giving me heart palpitations. As you know, my wife and I have our first baby arriving in three months. While I seem to be doing (surprisingly!) alright with the notion of having a brand new baby to take care of, I’m getting really anxious over the preparation. We are throwing our own baby shower and there is a ton of work involved that we’ve taken on ourselves. Even my wife confessed to me that she is having nightmares about it going awry! While I keep telling myself that it will fall into place, I can’t help but spaz out in my head. Is it a good time to mention that we haven’t started the nursery? We know what we are doing with it, but the plan needs to be executed now. I’m also stressed that we won’t receive the essential items on the baby registry. I’m sick over all of it!

Okay this is beginning to sound like a vent session. I apologize. My next topic to bitch about is the weight I have gained. It’s like since she’s been pregnant, I have expanded as well. It’s giving me more anxiety, especially since I have to find time to work out and I have to say no to the food her preggo self is always trying to feed me. I need to watch that my medications don’t cause me to keep the weight on, since a couple of them have weight gain as a side effect. I hate that my clothes no longer fit and that my appetite is the size of a horse.

I should probably write something constructive after force-feeding my panic button to you. I could probably write how I recommend practicing deep breathing techniques, or saying positive affirmations. Well, as much as I do encourage you to utilize these tools, among others, I am not in the place, mentally, to take my own advice. Shame on me for skipping my Bipolar support group meeting last night, but I had such a migraine and my irritability wouldn’t have fared well for my fellow group members. Perhaps I’ll attend the next one. Perhaps my anxiety will be gone by then. Perhaps I’ll have answers and can calm the fuck down a little bit.

I know millions of people go to graduate school, and billions of people have babies. I know most everyone has gained unwelcome weight at one point. But have these people done it all at once? How about while living with Bipolar Disorder? Life is hard and it’s harder when you have to work harder to locate the coping mechanisms in your brain. It’s important to be mindful of potential Bipolar triggers during periods of high stress. That’s what I’m dealing with. All while going to work, cleaning the house, and attempting to be a good wife.

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Maybe Not Today

I’ve been pretty stable lately and I feel alright. My head has been mostly clear, well, clear enough to get through my day undisturbed. And I haven’t felt overall depressed, angry, or manic. Now, that is my usual. I’m not saying I don’t have days where I feel my moods alter into a wayward routine of up and down. Because I do have my less than perfect days. I know I flirt with hypomania, I know I experience crying spells, I also react to my boredom with abstract ideas. But I know it will be fine, even if fine doesn’t mean today.

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Hypomanic Denial? Or Do I Need A Clue?

It’s possible that I’m falling ahead of myself and stumbling, scraping my own dumb forehead in the process. My wife feels my recent behaviors have triggered hypomania, resulting in her fear of full blown mania. Is she correct? I don’t know, really. You could say it all started when I self-righteously decided to participate in alcohol related activities after a five year drinking hiatus. Not one drop of liquid intoxication for just over five years. Until now. About two months ago I had a drink, socially, with friends. It filled me with warm nostalgia, and a license to cut loose. I don’t know if this has anything to do with my changed view on life, or my desire to “live it up” before the baby gets here, but I know that I feel good. I have been a lot more social with my group of friends as well. Admittedly, I have gone out multiple nights in a row, on a few occasions. I also made the mistake of staying out until 5am. More than once. Okay, not my finest moments… But I want to take up every opportunity to have fun before we will be consumed with diapers and midnight feedings. I don’t think this constitutes as hypo anything. I usually listen to my wife’s observations and concerns, but I don’t feel as energetic as she says I am. I don’t see the downward spiral she sees. I see myself living up my last child-less summer. Am I selfish? Am I in denial?

I look at some main triggers of hypomania, and they include: drinking alcohol or using mind-altering drugs, taking a trip, major change or life event, over-stimulation and excitement, overall restlessness or boredom, excessive noise or partying. Examining these triggers makes me wonder if my wife has a point. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t describe my life as of lately. I just returned from a trip, I’m attending two music concerts tomorrow, I’ve been drinking with my friends, and to top it off, I have an out of town friend, whom I met online, coming to meet me this weekend for the first time. I’ve completely screwed up my friendship with my best friend, and I allowed my irresponsibility get the best of me two days ago, as I hurt my wife’s feelings in unexplainable ways. I suppose I’m moving fast and fucking up, but I feel fine, I don’t feel manic!

Mania is what I know. The racing thoughts, pressured speech, the euphoria, the hyper-sexuality, the larger than life ideals and philosophies, the grandiosity, delusions, and obsessions. This is not mania. This is living. Isn’t it? Am I naive to my own existence?    

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.

9 Triggers of Bipolar Mood Swings

I found this article on everydayhealth.com about the most common triggers of Bipolar Disorder. The article touches on things such as lack of sleep, dealing with triggers from a breakup, seasonal changes and how they affect mood changes, pregnancy, job loss, and more. One of the more interesting triggers that I can identify with is grief, or mourning the death of a loved one, and the theory of “funeral mania”.  I’ve lost several friends and family members over the last couple of years, and I hadn’t realized that it was indeed triggering manic symptoms in me. I knew I behaved differently because I felt like I should be more depressed, not the “busy-body” I become when someone passes. Anyway, check out the article and perhaps gain some new insight on your own triggers.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder-pictures/biggest-triggers-of-bipolar-mood-swings.aspx?xid=nl_EverydayHealthLivingWithBipolarDisorder_20130217#/slide-1