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

Updated on April 3, 2016
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: )

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.

Valencia, Spanje

get directions

Where I could grow old

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.'s magical to my energy!'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 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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