Bipolar Disorder: Winter Blues And Handling The Holidays

Being bipolar you can survive the holidays...
Being bipolar you can survive the holidays...

Surviving The Holidays Is Doable

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder for several years now, I am used to my medications, and live a fairly stable lifestyle. I maintain my well being with medications, therapy, a good psychiatrist and a family support system. Even with that in place I do not do well during the holidays. They are very hard for me. My family doesn't always seem to understand, but is still supportive.

I have a tendency to want to isolate myself. To be alone and not participate in all the activity. The activity on some weird level makes me feel sad and alone. I do not really know why, I just feel out of place being involved with all the hoopla of the holiday. My routine tends to get all erratic and I do not like that. Going to bed at different times, people visiting, or expectations I cannot fill make me feel scattered.

I stay in touch with my therapist and psychiatrist as much as possible, so if I do feel too much out of place I call them for support, or perhaps a temporary med increase.They have made several suggestions to me on how to get through the holiday without having mood swings or a breakdown. They are not full-proof, but I do work on maintaining a balance.

Routine is crucial. For me that is my biggest secret to staying on track. It was a hard lesson to learn. But I eventually came around. It may be boring but it keeps me out of trouble. With the holidays, you are invited to dinners, and parties, you are staying out late, perhaps drinking and partying to hard, this will categorically cause your train to derail.

The pressure of shopping, picking out a tree, entertaining relatives, and decorating can cause extreme anxiety for anyone, imagine someone with a mood disorder? Yeah it can get a little on the wild side. All the excitement can send you into the deep recesses of mania, or you might swing the other way into a silent depression.
 
I do not like the winter months. The cold is bad, but the darkness is pure hell. The days seem to long,  for people with bipolar, struggling to stay away from depression, the fall and winter are hard enough, adding the darkness, and holiday rush makes it even more difficult to deal with.

Stick to your routine, it is safer in the long run

 Alcohol is abundant during the holiday. If you are bipolar and take medication it can be a very dangerous temptation. Drinking and bipolar medications just do not mix. Alcohol is also a depressant, you start drinking on top of all the other stimulation, you are asking for trouble and heading down a deadly slippery slope. If you cannot be encouraged to drink during the holidays you are one step ahead of maintaining your balance.

Of course this is the time of year when spending is rampant. And if your bipolar, and in a manic cycle you know shopping is a whole lot of fun. I  suggest not keeping credit cards around during the holiday season. I cut mine up a long time ago. If I do not have the cash, then I go without. Better safe then sorry right?  When you do go shopping,  make sure you have a budget or things could go horribly wrong very quickly. I shop online, no ands, ifs, or buts. Many deals can be found that way. I simply use my debit card, so no overspending is allowed.

With so much going on during the holidays I tend to skip doses of my bipolar medications. If I am not careful, this can become a full blown episode. If you are bipolar do not be tempted to stop your meds to drink or have more fun. In the long run, it is not really worth the outcome. Skipping doses can lead to serious mood swings. Don't worry so much about what people expect of you. Do only what you can. Throw perfection out the door.

Let your family know what to expect of you. What you are able to handle and what you are not comfortable with. I do not like large gatherings, so I avoid them if I can. If I cannot I try to stay in a neutral zone. This often causes conflict. But my stability is more important than being guest number 37 at the dinner table.

Most of the family understands. If they don't, they don't. Do not spread yourself to thin. Select where you want to go.  You do not have to visit or entertain everybody. Saying no is a good thing once in a while.

I say it every year, I am going to go somewhere  alone. I am not having a family dinner with all the relatives, no family drama, no listening to the kids argue, no worrying if the food is cooked perfectly, no major meltdown if I am in another state basking in the sun on nice warm beach somewhere. But it never happens that way. Given the opportunity, I would like to go to a restaurant, or just stay at the local motel and play in the pool.

I do my best to perserve my routine. It does tend to get a bit out of whack if I am not diligent. I know my triggers, I try to avoid them as much as possible. Although I cannot avoid all  them.  It is just so easy to fall into the holiday trap. You must remember to take good care of yourself, being bipolar is hard during non holidays. Set your priorities, make a list of what you need to get done, who you are shopping for, when you will be shopping, what parties and dinners you must attend and so on. Keep it simple as you possibly can.

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Comments 20 comments

crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 3 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hello freedom spirit, I did okay this holiday as far as keeping my emotions under control. So many things though to set them off. I wish my emotions were less dramatic. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I always feel less alone when someone shares what I feel.


freedomspirit 3 years ago

This is really good stuff to know, thank you for your insight. The holidays get me a bit emotional, too, that's it-e motional.....that's what I struggle with the most, it makes all emotions more extreme.

Good hub, thanks!


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Hi arb, oh yes a chandelier! Something to look forward to. Thank you for reading, and understanding.You have a gracious heart.


arb profile image

arb 5 years ago from oregon

Sharing yourself, helps me to understand my daughters apprehension as the holidays unfolded. A week late, but there are many holidays in the coming. Thanks again. Though a lowly candle, the light illuminates the dark room. Perhaps in time, a chandalier!


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

hi Benoitsmidget- I am not real keen on New Years either. It does nothing for me. But if it triggers you I think crying and sleeping is perfectly fine. Crying and sleeping isn't self destructive, and it can be healing. I will more than likely be going to bed early, as I really don't get into the holiday. Or watch some television show marathon. I hope you get through it okay, and wake up feeling refreshed and better in spite of the new year. :)


Benoitsmidget profile image

Benoitsmidget 5 years ago from Boston

I also have bipolar disorder. Although I absolutely love Christmas, I have the hardest time with everything New Years. Right now I feel like I have mashed potatoes for a mind. How do you handle this? My usual routine when I feel like this is to cry it out and sleep it off, which is what I'm sure I'll be doing tonight.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Thank you stars439. The score was a HUGE surprise :)


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

A very informative hub. And congratulations on your high score of 100. GBY.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

lambservant I completely understand. The holiday is full of of so much 'noise'. That is what I have a hard time processing. I hope you start feeling better as the holidays start to pass. Maintain, and do what works best for you. The last thing you need is a breakdown.

Hi Kimberly- Thank you for your input, I have done the whole hypnotherapy thing a few times over the years, and it makes little difference in my mood swings. It may work for others but I find it only aggravates me.

Hi Luminaria-I was a complete mess without a routine. It gave me my life back. Being impulsive doesn't help either, so the my routine is quite strict. Along with medication of course. I do volunteer work at a senior center, whether it helps my bipolar or not I don't know.

Thank you for commenting, and I appreciate all the comments and opinions a great deal.


Luminaria profile image

Luminaria 5 years ago from Durham, NC

I was diagnosed with Bipolar over 15 years ago and while routine doesn't work well for me, my work does, helping others. I work with the homeless, people who can't do much of anything to help themselves, others who have mental issues and substance abuse, and the elderly.

I realize this isn't everyones cup of tea, but if you try it you might find it works for you.

Thanks!


Kimberly Bunch profile image

Kimberly Bunch 5 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

You should try hypnotherapy. There is a lot you are holding in that is manifesting your conditions. We are 90 percent subconscious and knowing that reveals to me that there is so much locked away that needs out or that we need to connect to, to understand ourselves better. For the reasons why.

There is so much that we have suppressed, etc. Get in touch with your inner self. Your soul being. Your higher self as well and it will produce a miracle in you. In one form or another. It is up to you.

Believe in yourself and change your perception and your reality for how life is and how you are will change.

Want a miracle then open the door for it and you shall receive it. You hold the key. The power to your own change.

I know transformation is yours if you are willing to dive deep within your being for the riddles that want and deserve to come forth.

Blessings always,

=)


lambservant profile image

lambservant 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Oh thank you crazybeamer. I am bipolar as well and Christmas, the whole month of December for me brings on depression. I am recovering from a serious relapse in October and now that the holidays are here, all I want to do is hide in my bedroom, stay home. Being around laughing, talkative, happy people when I feel dark and despairing usually sends me out the door for a long walk, getting a ride home, or holing up in someone's bedroom. Too much.

I am glad to hear you speak of rountine. I just started this in my life and when I follow it, it helps tremendously. I get very out of sorts when I slack off. Thanks for the article. Merry Christmas?


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

A couple people at work have been having a hard time with winter, and I told them it was almost summer, and I thought they were going to slap me. LOL! DzyMsLizzy I am going to use go jump in the lake next time someone expects to much of me, because you are so right.

I hear ya Seakay. I lived in Florida for a long time and miss the sun, but I am adapting to the winters here in MI. I think I am starting to enjoy the blizzards. :O

Thank you guys for such great comments, I so appreciate them.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

Well, cheer up, everyone! The winter solstice marked the longest night/shortest daylight hours of the year--from here on out, the nights get shorter and the daylight gradually longer!


Seakay profile image

Seakay 5 years ago from Florida

Hey,

I also am not enjoying the early darkness. It's disconcerting. It's also winter here and that's just another annoyance. Living in Florida, I really need the sunshine and the warmth! Dark at 5... I just can't stand it! I think if effects everything and everyone's mood.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

Bipolar or not, all you can do is all you can do. Too many people "don't get it" and it leads to trouble for many during this time of year, regardless of any type of mental issue.

I agree with you about the cold and dark. I hate winter, and it seems to last so much longer than summer, which is my favorite time.

As for anyone looking for perfection, I've long said, "If you're looking for perfection,you're on the wrong danged planet!"

And finally, anyone who doesn't like your self-imposed limitations can go jump in the lake. Taking care of yourself is important.

Thank you for sharing your perspective, and for your courage in doing so.

Many holiday blessings upon you--in whatever form you prefer. :-)


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Thank you so much for your kindness and support. It means a lot that people do understand. It is people like yourself who help stomp out stigma. :)


Kulsum Mehmood profile image

Kulsum Mehmood 5 years ago from Nagpur, India

A very close and dear person is suffering from bipolar disorder, so I do understand your plight. Do not get discouraged. There is a saying that if you cant beat them, join them. You do that. Live life fully. Live and let live. Be regular with your medication and as you said, you have already the best combination. Have faith in God. You are going to be alright. Best wishes.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 5 years ago from Washington MI Author

Many thanks to you. My medication is crucial, I have the best combination right now. Thank you for your kindness. Your comments are appreciated.


Kulsum Mehmood profile image

Kulsum Mehmood 5 years ago from Nagpur, India

Believe in God and have faith in His wisdom. Bipolar is a hard thing to live with. Find the silver lining in the stormiest of nights and be very very particular in your medication. Wish you all the very best in your life. Take good care of yourself.

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