Sun, Ecstacy, Rain and Suicide: Bipolar Disorder and Seasonal Changes.

Mallorca. One of the many islands I travelled to.
Mallorca. One of the many islands I travelled to. | Source
Brazil, Ubatuba. Another sunny paradise I enjoyed.
Brazil, Ubatuba. Another sunny paradise I enjoyed. | Source

The Sun Can Do Wonders

The effect of the sun, it's warmth and it's beautiful light, can mean the difference in beginning your day, happy and motivated instead of lazy and depressed.

Being Bipolarfor more than 15 years, I noticed a dramatic change in moods, whenever I traveled to a sunny destination.

Anyone suffering from mood swings, being sensitive to cloudy days and getting even more grumpy when it rains without stopping, should pay attention to the possible wonders of moving to a sunny climate.

Light Therapy and Palm Trees

While doing research on this topic, I read about SAD. This disorder seems to be related to Bipolar Disorder and the effects of seasonal changes. Patty English wrote an interesting Hub about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

When I read about light therapy to treat SAD in an effective way, I thought back of my numerous travels to islands like, Gran Canaria, Malta, Mallorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

I would never go on holiday to Sweden, Denmark or England because it has nothing to do with my need for sunlight, beaches and palmtrees. It was obvious I could reload my energy completely, just for being submitted to light, warmth and comfort, to go back to Holland and feel reborn.

Ibiza. My favorite island!
Ibiza. My favorite island! | Source

Feeling High in Spring

When I was going through long term therapy in Holland, my psychologist paid more attention to my warning signals, whenever spring arrived. We found out, I was more sensitive to getting hypomaniacal or maniacal in spring.

My first hypomaniacal episode was triggered by a very stressful job as a teacher and spring season. When Holland finally got more sun and days got longer, I felt so in love with the change in weather that I would wake up with another kind of energy.

The energy I had, changed into something toxic as it slowly changed myself into a person without the natural need for sleep. I started to work longer days at school and finally lost control by turning my classroom into a disco. My pupils were dancing, I was singing to the music and spring got my brains into overdrive.

My warning signals in spring were:

  • To fall in love easily with any guy (dangerous types too)
  • To take my pills later at night
  • To wake up earlier and get the day started as soon as possible
  • To break up with a guy more easily
  • To go out clubbing many days of the week
  • To forget about my day and night rhythm
  • To eat less and to lose weight on purpose though I was slim
  • To wear sexier clothing than I used to do

What I needed to do:

  • To set the alarm to take my pills on time
  • To set the alarm to wake up like normal
  • To take a nap during the day
  • To just lay down for half an hour without feeling the need to do so
  • To work normal hours instead of working late
  • To stay inside and watch a movie instead of clubbing
  • To say no to friends who ask me to go out clubbing

It all seems perfectly simple but it's not. The drive you feel inside to do exactly the opposite is huge. It calls for a lot of discipline to really get yourself back on track.

I didn't succeed in gaining back control for about six years while being Bipolar. I didn't know anything about my sensitivity to seasonal changes and the interaction it had with my warning signals. I've been hospitalized three times. Almost always in spring or summer.

Long Winters and Suicidal Thoughts

After everything I've been through, I'm happy to say I've never felt more depressed in winter. My depressions moslty followed after heavy maniacal and psychotic episodes, to literally get my mind and body into a long inactive mode.

Up to 3% of the population in the U.S. may suffer from winter depression, also know as SAD. While looking for some information about winter and suicide, I found an interesting conclusion about suicide rates in winter and spring.

"The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics report that suicide rates in the United States are lowest during the winter months and highest in the springtime (the reasons for this are not clear)."

(source: http://www.bidmc.org/AboutBIDMC.aspx )

Home Is Where the Sun Is

Valencia, Plaza de la Virgen
Valencia, Plaza de la Virgen | Source

Valencia Became Home for Me

When I was fed up with Holland and its weather, I booked a short holiday to light my energy up. My first goal was to look for an island. Secondly I browsed for beach destinations and for some kind of coincidence I stumbled upon Valencia, Spain.

August 2008, I spend five days in this amazing city. The sun, the beaches, the Spanish and its culture made me fall in love with Valencia. I felt I had found my destiny. A place where I could build my life. I was about to take the biggest step I had ever taken in my life as a single woman.

I was going to do what no one else would do. A Bipolar woman facing her biggest fears.

show route and directions
A markerValencia -
Valencia, Spanje
[get directions]

Where I could grow old

B markerTiel -
Tiel, Nederland
[get directions]

Where I lived for too many years

300 Days of Sun a Year!

Whether you have SAD, Bipolar Disorder or just some sensitivity to seasonal changes, emigrating to a warmer climate might seem a little crazy. I had the luxury to keep my pension for disabled people in Spain, but there's a lot more to worry about, if you ever plan on such a big move.

Just to give you an idea of the climate I was used to in Tiel, I inserted the following link. Tiel is very close to Nijmegen. The data can be compared to where I used to live.

Climate data for Nijmegen

Notice the hours of sun and the variety in temperatures. I am the type of person to feel cold very easily. In Holland I used to start wearing my gloves in September!

Now that I live in Valencia, I can enjoy twice as much sun than before and I only wear gloves in November, December and January. I finally enjoy spring, summer and autumn and Valencia treats me on 300 days of sun a year! It's not just the extra sun I'm sensitive to, but also the gradual way, seasons change in Valencia. Check out the difference if you like.

Climate data for Valencia

Walk Slower, Breathe in and out...

I always knew, Holland wasn't my country. Of course there are beautiful sunny days, food is great and life is very well organized but I've always felt, I didn't fit in.

Dutch people live to work. They're always in a hurry, you can't drop by spontaneously and you always have to compete in terms of money or status. Exhausting!

Spanish work to live, they drop by whenever they want to and they even walk slower! Food is more important than being productive at work, they take more time for eating, chatting, wining and dining, than they ever do for some kind of deadline.

It's all very chilled out, no one stresses and no one worries. The downfall of this all? They are poorly organized, everything takes twice as much time and the crisis in Spain, might very well be a result of being too chilled out.

Sunlight...it's magical to my energy!
Sunlight...it's magical to my energy! | Source

Reconsider Moving to the Sun

When I left to Spain, June 2009, one of my goals was to give more depth and power to the stability I had gained over the past eight years. I had complete faith in the effects of Spanish weather and Spanish life, knowing it would affect my stability in a very positive way.

I proved to be right and it appears to be extremely important to be stable, because I live in a country where hardly anything is arranged well, for the mentally ill in general.

I have a Spanish psychiatrist and I'm on the same medication since I left Holland, but life is tough at times wherever you live. Twice I ended up in a crisis situation but managed to get out of it on my own. Thanks to all of the therapy I've followed in Holland, my crisis care plan proved to be working.

My psychiatrist in Valencia didn't know how to react at all to my crisis, proved to know hardly anything about Bipolar Disorder, which left me no other option than to find myself a better one. I never did however and basically handle life on my own.

Spanish life made me more relaxed, I worry much less, I have a drink in the sun almost every day, and come back home, knowing tomorrow the wonderful sun will be there again. Cloudy, rainy or stormy days never give me that depressive feeling like I had before, because they don't last that long.

The light I receive every day, the happy faces I see, the alive feeling when you go out, women wearing dresses all the time, men wearing sportswear, children playing outside....it all comes down to the life I was yearning for.

A life outside the walls of your home, outside the indoor smell of an apartment that can't air all day, making me stronger year after year. Real stability and Bipolar Disorder is a combination many of us don't find.

I hope everyone reconsiders moving to a warmer climate if you only have the slightest premonition this might work!

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Comments 14 comments

tsmog profile image

tsmog 5 years ago from Escondido, CA

Awesome! Though written with purpose for those with a bipolar disorder diagnosis, it speaks to any and all who listen. Bookmarked in my BP file here at hubpages. I love the way 'hope' is weaved throughout this hub, a small little strand(s) not hidden, yet may not be seen. Very well written, Thank You for sharing, Escobana!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Voted beautiful, awesome, interesting, Escobana. You certainly have a lot of share. I feel more depressed in the winter than other months (am usually a bit melancholy all year long), so I can identify somewhat, but not to the depth of what you experience with being bipolar. If mine were more severe, I would certainly consider moving to a warmer climate. Kudos to you for your bravery in doing what you needed to do. I am impressed!


Barbara Turpin profile image

Barbara Turpin 5 years ago from N. California

It's amazing what we learn thru our own trials. I have hypomania, have not had a burst of 'energy' to keep me up for hours, or days. Sometimes, I wish I could experience just one

But I also know the long road back to 'normal' I'm one that seems to stay on a certain level of the depressive state of mind. Can be emotional WITH medication, you know what I was like before medication!

Great Hub, lots of research, experience and information. Glad to follow you. I voted for all, except funny .... because it's NOT a funny thing.


akune profile image

akune 5 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

I read this hub and wanted to hug you. I know someone who identified SAD, years ago when some didn't believe it existed. Your profile made me smile.


Sueswan 5 years ago

Hi Escobana

Thank you for sharing your experience living with Bipolar disorder. I found it very interesting and enlightening.

Voted up and awesome.


Escobana profile image

Escobana 5 years ago from Valencia Author

@ Tsmog...Wow! Thanks for Bookmarking my Hub! That's the first time anyone told me so. I like the way you read through the lines....a little strand, a big towel and a whole lot of sun! I'm very pleased with your comment. THANKS!!!

@ Victorio Lynn...Thank God you can not identify completely to the depth of being Bipolar. Even though your situation isnĀ“t that severe, I can highly recommend moving to warmer climate. There are so much more benefits to it. Changing your life that drasticly, can only make your grow as a person. Let me know if you ever take that step. I will be curious to know about your experience.

Thanks for the voting Victoria!

@ Barbara Turpin...Funny it ain't although I did laugh about myself numerous times, thinking back about my madness. Self mockery I call it. It cleaned my soul from all the shame before.

Glad you found my Hub so interesting and informative! I wouldn't recommend a full blown hypomaniacal episode. The road back took me at leats six years. I'm so happy where I am now:-)

@ Akune...I'll hug you back:-) I read one of your Hubs and loved it! It's a real pleasure to have found you and I hope this won't be the last time I'll make you smile:-)

@ Sueswan...I'll keep on sharing the way I do, hoping more and more people will find my Hubs enlightening. I love that word! Sounds hopeful, strong...

Thanks for your votes! Makes my sunny day!


lambservant profile image

lambservant 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

You sound like an amazing woman escobana. And you are very candid about your illness. I have bipolar as well and live in the state of Washington where it rains a lot. Overcast is common. It doesn't bother me most of the time, except when we have gray rainiy summers. My body and mind expect sun in the summer, and when it isn't then my mood goes down. How wonderful you get to travel to exotic places. Take care of yourself, that's rule # 1. Blessings.


Escobana profile image

Escobana 5 years ago from Valencia Author

Hi Lambservant,

Candid I try to be always, but about being Bipolar even more. I think it can help other fellow Bipolar friends a lot in accepting what they have.

So I guess I should never move to Washington? :-) The rain would really bother me just like it did in Holland. Good to know it doesn't effect you in a bad way a part from some rainy summers. Summer is all about sun indeed.

I'm definitely very lucky for being able to travel! A blessing for sure. Thanks so much for your comment:-) So nice of you to stop by. Take care and blessings to you too...


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

I worked at a mental health facility for adolescents. They can't be diagnosed at that age, but everyone knows what borderline personality disorder means. We are all bi-polar, some more than most. This is good stuff. Keep it up.

I live in Florida, so we get plenty of sun. I find that a garden takes the sting from a drizzly day. You are happy for your plants.


Escobana profile image

Escobana 5 years ago from Valencia Author

Interesing comment! 'We are all Bi-polar'.

I guess you mean we all have our different moods?

A long time ago my parents took me to Florida. I don't remember anything at all but if I'd have the chance to go back for a long holiday, I'm sure I'd visit Florida!

A holiday needs to be combined with sun, just like living a stable life with Bipolar Disorder. Thanks for the comment WD Curry 111!


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

Good to know you. I know you are hanging tough and that counts for a lot. Will power can go a long way. Peace.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 3 years ago from New Jersey

Hello Escobana,

My brother is bi-polar, although he doesn't have his life together like you. He tends to move around a lot. But now that you brought it up, he does do better in warm climates. He always seems happier and more together, he was living in San Diego, CA the last I heard. He's 10 yrs. younger than me, so I remember a lot about his childhood. He never liked winter. I don't know where he is now, and am very worried about him, but also know he has an amazing capacity to reinvent himself and pick himself up. I don't think I would do well in a rainy climate or a very dark one either. It's great that you were brave enough to make the move, and I'm happy you are doing so well!


Escobana profile image

Escobana 3 years ago from Valencia Author

Hello Jean,

I'm sorry to hear you don't know where your brother is right now but I understand how Bipolar Disorder can make 'us' wonder around. It's not easy for everyone with this disorder to pick up life and get things together again.

I hope he is well and in a sunny place where he will enjoy the effects of the sun on his moodswings. I was brave and scared at the same time when I moved out but I have no regrets what so ever.

I am another person over here, peaceful, stable and happy. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the sun as much as you can:-)


Salmon 11 months ago

U write brilliant about so many matters, thank you for sharing your stories.

I lived in top north of Norway, 23h dark nights in winter. Then in summer sunshine 24h....... Kaaaabom crazy nights no sleep no rest for weeks...... chrasing hard. But the beauty make me cry what a place:)

9 month to recover from burning out though

So I want to say to much/ to little sun affect you. But maybe if you have to much it send you into a mania easy. Spain have more steady days being close to eqator with regular night hours. I lived a year in sunny Australia how good it was:)

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