- Mental Health
Bipolar Disorder: Winter Blues And Handling 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.
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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.