Setting the Rules for Your ‘Bipolar Calendar’ as the Seasons Change

Setting the Rules for Your ‘Bipolar Calendar’ as the Seasons Change

Every year, the returning sunlight marks the coming of my most dangerous season, and so begins my preparation for another bipolar spring.

I have my very own bipolar calendar. And it is nearly always the same. Every spring, like clockwork, the sun returns to southern Alaska with an unnecessary force, and with it comes the manic eruptions that signal the end of the comforting darkness of winter.



Ridiculous thoughts

I just recorded a video of myself on my computer talking about how I feel when I am well because I am well now. This is for me to play when I am cycling. This is primarily because when I am cycling, I have obsessive, depressing thoughts that:

  • I am a terrible person
  • My husband doesn’t love or want me anymore
  • My husband is not being honest with me
  • I am ugly both inside and out
  • I am a bad stepmother
  • I am a bad wife

I recorded a video called “When I am well.” I recorded it today, when I am feeling well. I told myself that I am a wonderful person, that when I am well I know that my thoughts when I am cycling are ridiculous, that my husband does love me, that he is faithful and honest with me, that everything is OK, that I am a great stepmom and wife and basically that I am a good, lovable person.

I haven’t tried watching this yet when I am cycling but it might be a good thing to try. I am headed into spring and even though everyone tells me “don’t worry about it,” I do worry about it.

Bipolar and PMDD

I’ve been reading a lot about PMDD a lot lately. It stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (sorry to all the guys reading this). Every month, when I get PMS, my bipolar gets out of hand. I begin to worry, to cycle, to feel terribly insecure, to get this fluttery feeling of anxiety in stomach, but most of all, I become suspicious and even a little paranoid. I know it’s the bipolar making me feel that way, but I still can’t help it. I hate the feelings of suspicion most of all. I begin to think that my husband is tricking me. I begin to think that my colleagues hate me. I worry about everything– money, love, my marriage, my work. I often also have trouble sleeping through the night, or I have nightmares, or I wake up in the middle of a cycle.

I have trouble going to work. I hate being alone. I am constantly scared.

But then I seem to have three weeks of euthymia (at least lately). My husband, my therapist, my mom, my doctor, they all remind me that it’s temporary and will go away after a few days. But I hate it.

But, spring is coming and I need to be prepared. I start a new job next week and I really want to make a great impression. I am hoping it is less stressful and that my much-shortened commute will decrease my stress, although I am taking a major pay  cut.

Circadian Rhythms, Season Change and Bipolar Disorder

In southcentral Alaska, spring begins in April. For me, April is the cruelest month, bringing with it a violation of my circadian rhythms because of the sudden and dramatic return of the sun. April is the transition between the long, dark days of winter and the brilliant, long days of summer. It’s a period of adjustment, but for me that “adjustment” is rough and tumble, as the sunlight interrupts my sleep and completely turns my world upside down.

The instability usually begins in mid- to late March and continues into the first half of May. It is early February now, and, being a naturally anxious person, I begin to be afraid of what spring will bring.

I believe I am going into this spring strong and stable. I have help from my psychiatrist, my therapist, and, most of all, my husband and family. I am starting a new job, which can be stressful, but I believe this job will be enjoyable and less stress-inducing then my previous high-paying, high-pressure previous job.

I’m not sure if you too suffer from the season change and the disruption of your circadian rhythms, but I often wish I lived at the equator, where I sometimes think that the adjustment will be easier and less dramatic.

Here are some suggestions from my doctor that may help, as well as some things I have learned over the years:

  • Wear dark sunglasses and a baseball cap when the sun is shining bright
  • Try to avoid over-stimulation (for me, even the return of the spring songbirds can be irritating)
  • Make your house dark if possible beginning at 6 p.m. and don’t engage in outdoor activities after 6 p.m.
  • Use dark, opaque curtains
  • Have PRN medication at your disposal (I often increase my Seroquel as needed during these times)
  • As usual, don’t drink alcohol and limit your coffee
  • My doctor had a new one for me– take melatonin three hours before bed
  • Keep your sleep schedule exactly the same (don’t even change your wake-up time on the weekends)
  • Use your therapist to your advantage (I also call a free, anonymous counseling hotline as needed)
  • Avoid stress and your known triggers (if possible)
  • Keep your support system close and make sure they are aware of what’s happening (for example, it’s really important for me not to have my husband leave town for work during this time because it bumps me off my routine)
  • Keep a budget and give financial control to your partner or someone who is in your support system if you feel like you are starting to act impulsively
  • Be self-aware– watch out for those racing thoughts
  • Eat healthy and avoid too much sugar (sugar makes me go up and then crash)
  • I use essential oils, like melissa (lemon balm), lavender and Roman chamomile
  • Remember and practice your spirituality, if you are so inclined
  • Remember that spring can be hard for all bipolar people and that it is not your fault

I know we can never be “perfect” but maybe we can do our best to make it easier on ourselves through self-love, self-compassion and gentle self-care (like the ideas above) during our times of struggle.