There are external stimuli that trigger my bipolar symptoms. Strict schedules, time constraints, too much time out of the house, and extended family gatherings all wreak havoc on my mood stability. My anxiety sky rockets and, if left too high for too long, it triggers a major depressive episode.
Seasonal changes affect my moods as well. Each spring, without fail, as the grass turns green and tree buds bloom, so does my hypomania. It lasts for about four to six weeks, fading out as the end of the school year approaches, which brings me to another trigger: change.
Each summer when my young children start summer break and each fall when they return to school, a mood shift occurs. Summer is unpredictable. It could be a return to stable from the hypomania of spring. It could be a dip into depression. In the fall, it is always a fall into depression.
I’ve learned to manage my triggers by avoiding them whenever possible or at least by limiting them when appropriate. I say no to, not all but, most volunteer work. I limit my social commitments. I get extra rest when pushed beyond what is comfortable for me.
I have to protect my mood at all costs. Does it always work? No. Some things in life are just unavoidable. I have to cook and clean and run my kids places and show up for some commitments. Sometimes these things all fall on the same week or day, and that’s when things get scary. That’s when I close my eyes and hope for the best while using the skills I learned in DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) as best I can.
If my mood doesn’t bounce back after my external world settles down, that’s when I talk to my doctor about a medication change. It happens a lot, and that’s Ok. I have to stay on top of this bipolar thing. It’s a matter of life and death.
What are your triggers? How do you deal with them?