Seasonal change is a trigger
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar, my psychiatrist warned that sleep deprivation, together with stress and a heavy workload in my case, is a major trigger for (hypo)mania. Several months later, when Spring blossomed, I discovered that seasonal change had a huge effect on my sleep patterns now that I had bipolar. I now consider seasonal change to be a major trigger for (hypo)mania in itself.
Journal extracts during my first manic episode
Here’s a brief extract from my journal during the first Spring after my diagnosis:
Did good work till nearly 3:30 a.m., then watched the sun rising before going to bed. Woke at 8 a.m. Feeling great – not tired; not irritable (yet)!
On the next day, I wrote:
Great day, but there were several squabbles with Rob [my husband] caused by my irritability and his judgmental-ness. At the party tonight, I was confident, sociable, the “life and soul” – chatting, laughing, even spontaneously singing. I sat far from Rob. He looked so miserable. Men!
A day later, I noted:
BUZZING all day and madly irritable. Huge fight with Rob during which he kind of “restrained” my arm. Argh! And he used his foot to try to block my way out of the room. How dare he? ZERO hours sleep.
During this episode, I once went for over 40 hours without sleep, according to a feverish email I fired off to a friend overseas. (Next sentence mentioned that “I have become really irritable with Rob and the kids…” I wonder why!)
“Get some sleep now!”
It really bugged me when I was (hypo)manic when family members would cluck: “Get some sleep now!” As if I didn’t know that I should sleep. I simply could NOT! Sleeplessness is, after all, a diagnostic hallmark of (hypo)mania. It’s not that I was being “naughty” or inconsiderate by not sleeping. I was just being bipolar!
Not “beauty sleep”, but “sanity sleep”!
Since those early, out-of-control days, I’ve learned to treat my sleep like a precious newborn. I take every precaution to meet its every need… I no longer try to get “beauty sleep,” but rather “sanity sleep”! If you treat your sleep with every respect, you may prevent an entire episode or a relapse. Of course, please do take your meds as prescribed as well, now – during seasonal change – and always!
One simple trick I’ve learned is to wear an eye patch at night to prevent the playful, insistent early morning light in May from waking me up too early. (Once I wake up, I just want to leap out of bed and start my day, even though what I really need to maintain stability is to sleep for an hour or two more.) Remember, there’s nothing like lack of sleep to bring on a (hypo)manic episode.
I also try to get to bed half-an-hour or so earlier than usual, just knowing that my brain is at greater risk of sparking into mania during this time of seasonal change.
What other tips and tricks can you use to stay stable this season?
Have a wonderful Spring,