Thursday, September 22, 2016

Struggling with winter

When the seasons change, what do I do with as a person with bipolar?

Seasons changing is a dangerous thing when you live with a mood disorder.

When the weather gets colder, and it starts getting darker earlier, there is a good chance your mood is going to shift as well.

I know this because I live it every year. I don't struggle with Fall, or Spring, but I'll be damned if I don't get knocked down every Summer and Winter...especially Winter.

There's just something magical about the dark nights, the bitter cold, and the holidays arriving. Something magically dark and dangerous, much like the Nothing from the Neverending Story.

I do wonderfully up until Halloween, and then on November 1st, it's like a switch goes off in my brain that says 'Holy shit! You're doing awesome! Let's wreak some havoc!'. And then I spiral downward, in a rapid succession.

How can you prevent the most tragic of spirals during the winter months? I don't have all the answers, but I have discovered some techniques that have really helped me the last 3 years.

First of all, I discuss it beforehand with my therapist. We know what to watch for with me months in advance. I don't surprise her with my internal struggles once they're at a crisis level.

Second of all, I have a game plan that my entire support team is aware of, and on board with. My therapist knows what my psych is thinking, and my husband knows what everyone is thinking. And vice versa. There can't be deep dark secrets when it comes to staying safe during a potential time of difficulty.

Third of all, I make time to do things that I value, and decide (before the crisis hits) that I will do them no matter what obstacles I may throw up. For example, it's a very important tradition to me to take my kids to go see the lights at Temple Square in SLC each year. It's one that me and my kids both treasure. We make the journey no matter what. Since that is such an important tradition to me, I make the decision beforehand that no matter how I'm feeling, or how my husband is feeling, the kids and I will make it there.

Fourth, I extend myself some leniency from the hustle and bustle that can happen during the winter months. I know that I'll need to take it slower than the average person, and might have to risk offending someone by turning down an invitation. But that's okay. It's me practicing self care.

And fifth, I try to go with the flow. I can't control everything. And that's okay. I want to control everything, that's something I'm aware I struggle with, so I fight it. The kids don't want to go caroling around the neighborhood? I'll sit down with them and color some cute pages out of our coloring books instead. I can't fight my 4 year old into her adorable new Christmas jumper? I'll softly sigh, 'Let it go" to myself.

Although this won't work for everyone, following this suggestions kept me out of the hospital last year for the first time in 3 years. It was beautiful. I fully plan on doing this again this year. In fact, preparations for my sanity have been underway for the last month now.

Of course, if you find yourself in a crisis situation, don't bother with these suggestions, seek medical care immediately. There are people who care, and want to help. Seek them out.

I wish all who struggle with mood disorders the best of winter seasons. Let's all make this year the best one yet!

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