How to analyze your bipolar triggers
I learned the hard way! I now look at my bipolar symptoms as a clue, an early warning sign. I ask: what might have triggered or caused these particular symptoms at this particular time and place?
When I looked back at my whole history with bipolar, studying my daily charts and all the notes I had made over many years, I could identify triggers or potential triggers for about 80% of all my bipolar episodes. In the other 20% of cases, my mood simply switched, with no warning, apparently having a mind of its own!
Analysis of my triggers wasn’t foolproof, then, but it definitely did help.
From my analysis, I learned that triggers for depression included the following:
- my reaction to a family crisis in which I had become emotionally over-involved,
- getting a bad cold,
- feeling awkward in a social situation,
- attending a wedding with big crowds and loud music, and
- a deadline for work.
On the other hand, triggers for (hypo)mania included:
- going on vacation,
- change of the seasons (springtime),
- lack of sleep,
- stress around my mom’s death, and – ironically –
- starting on a new bipolar medication (Epival).
There were also a few cases where I identified triggers that pulled me back from depression and brought me into normal mood:
- work-related travel (three times),
- a trip to a cottage with all five of our children present, and
- starting on another bipolar medication (Seroquel).
Key strategies to block your bipolar triggers
When family dramas inevitably arise, I now use my daily guided meditation practice to protect me from getting emotionally overheated.
Because a flu-like illness triggered a depression, I now get flu shots every year.
If I ever end up in a social situation that makes me feel uncomfortable for any reason, I will simply leave at once. This includes leaving parties and other social events early if the noise and excitement feels too much for me.
Work-related deadlines can often be renegotiated.
I am now extremely disciplined about bedtime every night. I have to protect my brain by getting enough sleep, consistently.
Finally, if I get depressed again, I will immediately go for a massage or retreat, or ask my husband Rob to drive me to a quiet spot for a relaxing day trip and walk in nature, hoping that the time away will reverse whatever weird chemical reaction has triggered the depression.
What ideas might work for you to block your triggers and thereby prevent full-blown bipolar episodes in future?