Springtime Rules—Managing Bipolar’s Seasonal Mania

Planning Is Everything—Seasonal Mania & You

This article in BP Magazine reminded me of nearly each and every year for the past 36 years. For me ,it seemed that my depression kicked in early December – and stayed through easter. Mothers Day was the first truely happy time. The fresh flowers and wonderful weather change from Bostons long winter. Hope it helps you.
Liz
By Carin Meyer 6 Apr 2020
‘While saying good-bye to the winter doldrums and welcoming a brighter spring is usually comforting, it also holds the potential for seasonal mood episodes. Add to that our current state of uncertainty and social isolation, and it can feed into increased anxiety and instability. The longer days of spring is generally a positive change, but for those living with bipolar, this can be a dangerous path to mania, says Dr. Christina Girgis, a Chicago-based psychiatrist. “For patients who have good insight, they want to be careful to try to prevent this from happening.” Of course, it doesn’t help when mania or hypomania feels like a refreshing reprieve from a winter season of depression, which makes preparation that much more critical. Especially because summer—with its longer days and extended bright light—has a reputation for sparking more frequent and high-risk manic episodes. While not everyone is vulnerable to mood episodes that coincide with the seasons, for the many who are, planning for the onset of spring starts weeks in advance. One way to get ready is to understand the correlation between the onset of symptoms and disruptions in circadian rhythm, which is affected by physical activity, sleep patterns, and eating habits.

“Most definitely, people with bipolar have trouble with change with regard to circadian rhythms—jet lag, changing seasons, change in routine of any kind,” says Anthony Levitt, MD.

All of these often happen during spring and summer, so the time to plan for trademark triggers is now. This means being on the lookout for your own signs of hypomania or mania.

Both consistency—getting out of bed at the same time every morning, for example—and limiting overexposure to light are paramount.

Knowing she will be battling her most “dangerous season,” bpHope blogger and Alaska resident Carin Meyer—who has to transition from a dormant winter to “persistent sunbeams” in the spring—makes preparations to lessen the impact with her self-imposed “springtime rules.” They include journaling to monitor her mood, and always having a baseball cap and sunglasses on hand.

She has come a long way since she was first diagnosed, when the “longer days brought so many weeks of extreme agitation that my cycles would blur together until I could no longer separate day from night.” 

Growing Older with Bipolar
Bipolar disorder may become easier to manage in later life, but it’s important to stay alert to changes in physical health and how well your medication works.

By Robin L. Flanigan

One day you notice your smile lines have turned into wrinkles. Or maybe your back and knees creak after a flag football game. It’s inevitable: The passage of time brings changes in the body, in relationships, in outlook. The mantle of maturity often fosters a stronger sense of self, even as midlife marks the creeping arrival of “senior moments” and medical issues. Parents have to adapt to an empty nest, which can be an emotional challenge even as it leaves more time and freedom to focus on personal pursuits. Ditto for those who step back from the workplace.

How does bipolar play into all of this?

Mood shifts may change or intensify. Medications that worked for decades may lose their potency or start contributing to other health conditions. Yet years of accumulated knowledge can yield a better grasp of how to maintain balance.

Of course, everyone’s journey with bipolar is different. At 69, Dennis hasn’t noticed any differences in his bipolar I symptoms.

“They always say that as we get older, we change,” he says. “I’ve been doing well on the same dose of medication for 25 years. Maybe these things happen a little later than people think.”

Or maybe some credit goes to Dennis’s daily walks around Boston and longtime involvement with a local Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance chapter.

Anything that helps you stay active and socially connected will make the third act of life run more smoothly. It turns out “functional age” — how we perform daily tasks, whether we exercise, what we do for fun—may trump chronological age.

“There’s more data now that supports we have control over how we age, above and beyond whatever our inherited genetics are going to predict for us,” says Brent P. Forester, MD, MSc, chief of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. “We can impact the way we age because we can impact the way we live our life.”

One of the cornerstones of aging well is nurturing social connections, Forester says: “People who maintain relationships with other people tend to do better. That’s really, really important.”

Of course, that’s also a well-documented factor in recovery from psychiatric disorders. Beverly of Virginia counts staying close to the people in her support network, including family and dear friends, as one of her key coping strategies. Also on the list: eight to nine hours of sleep a night.

“The sleep takes a lot of discipline to manage, as I used to be quite a night owl,” she says, “but as I succeed, I’m motivated to try harder so I can keep succeeding.”

Beverly, who was diagnosed with bipolar II in 1997, is weathering a number of changes at midlife. Now 53, she has fewer upswings than in her 30s and 40s—a pattern of “flattening” in mood that others have reported as well.

It’s not uncommon for eyeglass prescriptions to get updated several times around age 50 after remaining constant for years; the same thing may happen with psychiatric prescriptions. Medication that Beverly found effective for years hasn’t been working as well.

“It’s kind of holding me at a moderate level of depression,” she says.

She’s also noticing a major alteration in concentration and memory. Not so long ago, she was handling a high-stress job as a speech pathologist in public schools. Recently it took her four hours to pay four bills.

As a result, she now finds herself able to commit to only one task each day, such as going to an appointment or taking a shower.

“But I see myself as a person who never loses hope,” she says. “I eventually come back to, ‘It will get better.’”

Why am I Bipolar?

Why am I bipolar?

I have thought for the past 24 years since my diagnosis I am bipolar of what is the ‘why’ that I am bipolar. After struggling to understand following observing my life from my 20’s thru my 60’s It is clear to me it’s genetic. Inasmuch as I am the ‘poster child in my family’ nearly all of the 8 kids in my family deal with bi-polar and depression. ( two are unmediated bi-polar). One is perfectly fine . That’s 7 of 8 children. My mother dealt with depression but was not aware of it until she hit menopause. I am sure the stress of raising 8 kids had her depressed at times however she found her solace in going upstairs and reading . Being a depression baby there was not only no understanding in that society that this was a treatable illness. Of course there were reasons why her life was stressful both economically and how to equally love 8 kids.

My mother was singularly the most intelligent person I have known. Both she and my Dad raised a large family of highly intelligent children. Of which, according to my syblings over years since my 20’s Continued to say that I was the smartest one in my family. My response was I achieve professional success because I work hard or noooo Johnny is a walking library his memory for facts is outstanding . Well, after many decades of my syblings saying I was the brightest in my family about 8 years ago I said. Ok you may be right.

When I was deeply depressed I felt I was a fraud and figured out how to manage social situations so no one would know. On the other end of the spectrum I was so empowered I felt like I could do anything I set my mind to. Both professionally and personally I did just that.

Net net in my opinion bi-polar is genetic and filled with many intelligent minds. Interesting fact my psychiatrist agrees.

We try to understand the what is going on and we strive for success putting one foot in front of the other no matter how hard it was .

Depression I am not sure. It may be situational. How you were raised to prepare you for the adult world or physiological. In America, depression kicks in for many during their change from adolescence to an adult. I have read it typically happens in women at about 14-16.

As I get older into my ‘twilight years’ I feel very lucky I have made it through the hills and valleys. Today, despite my current economic situation I say ‘every day when I wake up and my feet hit the ground is a GREAT day- and I go from there. This is working as I struggle maneuvering through life.

10 Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Wondering whether or not you have bipolar? Questioning your symptoms? Confused about how to distinguish one mood episode from the next? Wonder no more! Here are 10 definitive signs—plus their associated moods.

By Julie A. Fast

While reading each sign of bipolar, ask yourself, “Is this depression, euphoric mania, or dysphoric (mixed) mania?”

1. Sporadic Sleep Schedules

Noticeable changes in sleep when compared to normal sleep patterns.

2. Increased Irritation

An increase in irritation around children, around pets, and in public. The person who normally glides through life without making negative comments will suddenly turn into a negative, complaining, nasty, meanie! (Associated with agitated depression and dysphoric [mixed] mania.

3. Unpredictable Passions

An increase in goal-driven activities that are acted on immediately, then stopped when the energy runs out. (Associated with mania, with an emphasis on euphoric mania.)

4. Sudden Disinterest

A lack of interest in what a person normally finds very interesting, such as working on a car with regularity and then suddenly not even opening the toolbox. (Associated with depression.)

5. Fluctuating Mood. A noticeable change in mood that is in direct contrast to another mood, such as being the life of the party one day and crying in the car and feeling upset to go in the next time, as you don’t have the energy to be up and around other people. (Associated with euphoric mania and then depression. It is rapid cycling if it happens more than a few times in a year. Ultra-rapid cycling happens when the mood shifts monthly or weekly.) Read more >>

HOW WE CAN HELP EACH OTHER

How. We can help each other

As I read other blogs on bipolar, I am trying to figure out how I can both help myself as well as others. I have some questions for my readers who also have their own blogs or can give me recommendations. My hope is to get some input from you.

1. I want some recommendations on how you get responses and people to follow your blog?

2. Do you find any help or insight with my blog?

I know it is different than most as it is both educational as well as personal. Having said that the only input I have received back have been from non bipolar friends who have provide3d words of encouragement. This makes me feel I am not helping people who are bipolar or deeply depressed at times, families and friends of bipolar people or even medical professionals who may be learning about bipolar to better help their clients.

3. Do you feel your blogs are more like journals to help yourself release your current life’s issues or are you too trying to better the world and reach out to those who are trying to understand themselves and if this is something that they can figure out if then need help..

In a nutshell this actually makes me feel a blog isn’t my vehicle and becoming a waste of my time.

Another reason why I ask is my family siblings 3 of whom are bipolar ( one unmedicated and in denial) and 3 who are on drugs for depression and anxiety, didn’t care enough to read this blog. My hopes were so positive. I wanted them to ‘put their money where there mouth is’ as they proclaimed over the years they didn’t understand bipolar and wanted to so much because they love me. Sigh

Hopefully I can get some help here.

Thanks,

Liz

Boulder bipolar clinic to suspend ‘much-needed’ services as finances fall short

By LUCY HAGGARD |

November 24, 2019 

Bipolar disorder affects roughly 2.6% of the population. In Boulder County alone, that’s likely about 8,300 people.

Yet on average, about eight years pass from when someone first experiences symptoms and when they get treatment, likely due to stigmatization and lack of access to care. When Boulder’s Sutherland Bipolar Clinic suspends services in May 2020,

that access will decrease just a little more.

The clinic cited unsustainable funding as the reason for taking a break in providing care, though it’s not closing entirely. It’s the only clinic in the Front Range, and possibly throughout the state, that solely treats patients with bipolar disorder.

The Robert D. Sutherland Memorial Foundation raises approximately 80% of the clinic’s funds through donations. While the clinic isn’t free, it operates on a sliding scale to make care accessible for patients whose mental health often directly affects their

financial situation. The rest of the funding comes through small grants and in-kind donations, including its office at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Raimy Clinic.

Rachel Cruz, the foundation’s executive director, said that though the clinic’s budget — about $230,000 — is not a lot in comparison with other nonprofits, consistent funding has dwindled during its 17 years of existence.

“In an effort to still try and meet their needs for treatment and care, we continued to try and keep our center going with donor funding,” Cruz said. “Over the years, it’s become more and more challenging to ask for gifts in that manner. Mental illness is not one of those more prominent causes that people are willing to support.”

Not only does the clinic provide affordable, specialty help for those living with bipolar disorder; it also trains doctoral students to be the next generation of therapists. Natasha Hansen, a sixth-year doctoral student who has worked at the clinic for three years, said this trifecta of opportunities benefits everyone involved and has increased her passion for accessible mental health care.

“I feel like I’ve gotten an in-depth training in treating bipolar disorder, which really benefits from specialized treatment, but also a high-quality training for co-occurring conditions,” Hansen said. “It’s been incredible to work with individuals and help break

what can be a vicious cycle.”

A disorder that can be managed

Though bipolar disorder looks different for every individual, it often includes cycling between elevated and depressed episodes. In a manic episode, the high point of the cycle, someone can experience symptoms like racing thoughts, euphoria and irritability.

This can also manifest in a muted form, called hypomania.

The low point of the cycle is often a major depressive episode. Someone may not sleep well, feel emotionally depressed and even experience suicidality. Sometimes individuals will go through cycles of mixed episodes, with both mania and depression, or go directly from one episode to the next without any time in a “normal” mood. Occasionally bipolar disorder also includes psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

While patients are often prescribed medication, therapy can be more tricky than other mental illnesses. Hansen likens it to diabetes: both are chronic conditions, without a cure, that put people at higher risk for adverse health. They can also coincide with other conditions. Bipolar disorder often accompanies substance abuse, anxiety disorders or attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

Yet bipolar disorder, like diabetes, can be managed with a balance of psychological therapies and maintaining physical health. This degree of holistic care is often absent in clinics that are more generalized or when treating less severe mental illnesses.

“You can do everything right and someone can still flip into a severe episode, but at the same time these strategies make a big difference,” Hansen said.

Someone with bipolar disorder may experience signals — altered sleep schedule, for example — that could either trigger an episode or indicate that one is already on the way. The clinic’s patients learn how to recognize their own signals, consciously

intervene with behavioral strategies and manage their lifestyle to mitigate the frequency and intensity of episodes.

Hansen noted that patients also work on issues like interpersonal communication, navigating relationships and managing stress that any other person in therapy might address, too.

‘You’re not alone’

A large part of the clinic’s success comes through this all-encompassing approach. Often, this is through a community setting such as group therapy. Sam Shew, one of the foundation’s board members, said that the clinic has filled a much-needed niche.

“It’s nothing that anyone else is putting forth,” Shew said. “Being able to sit next to someone else who’s going through the same challenge that you are, you really feel that you’re not alone. It’s a much-needed service in the community, which is why it’s hard to see it closing.”

To be clear, the clinic isn’t closing outright. Right now, the clinic offers outpatient, individual, group and family therapy, as well as educational seminars for the general public. The foundation will continue to look for new ways toward financial sustainability,

which may include narrowing the clinic’s operations to the most impactful services.

“I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but the interviews I’ve had over the past couple of weeks have pointed to the need for us to keep our services available,” Cruz said.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to figure out a way to do this.”

Sharing the Knowledge and Growing in Blog-ism

The interesting thing to me about creating a blog, especially if it is very personal and has a specific focus and some goals, is that I find myself meeting strangers who are either a social worker focused on Mental Health & Addiction, Doctors & Nurses who have some insight & always people who know someone who is bipolar. I feel starting this post is liberating as I clearly am not afraid to share my ‘condition’ with trusted friends or strangers and I truly feel that with more exposure these pages will continue to reach out to those of us affected or have a loved one who is affected and are at a loss as to help. Having said that, it is clear to me inasmuch as this is very personal – it is NOT Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or Linkedin material.

I am embryonic at this social medium – and as a ‘child’ learning how to blog and insecure as to who will appreciate and understand its intent – and who will just judge harshly. Not that I am insecure at this ripe old age of 61 I could give a shit what people think or judge. Although I am very drawn to people who are willing to each day move forward baby steps but absolutely one step in front of the others -despite their struggles with life, economics, mental health or any other crisis. So I am doing this – baby steps and someday will grow to walk, and then Jog! I really want this to be both helpful and an effective medium.

Having said all that I hope some readers can give me ideas how to improve, what else would be interesting to research and write about and how to improve my site. I really want menus on top and lists of blogs on right but .. don’t know how. I also want others to be able to write a blog I can post — again don’t know how. I appreciate any and all thoughts. Thanks

Honest Talk about Life with Bipolar Disorder – someone has to tell the truth! Straight Talk on Managing Bipolar Disorder

by Julie A. Fast https://www.bipolarhappens.com/bhblog/honest-talk-about-life-with-bipolar-disorder-someone-has-to-tell-the-truth/

I had one year when I was 21 that I remember being rather stable. After that time, I do recall a few months or maybe half a year where I simply got on with life without being in a mood swing. Overall, I was in contact flux. I called it GOING THROUGH CHANGES as I had zero concept of #bipolar disorder until my then partner Ivan was diagnosed with bipolar one in 1994.

I was diagnosed at age 31 and put on a variety of anti depressants that greatly increased my already serious rapid cycling bipolar disorder. I wrote my Health Cards in 1997 in order to save my life. Meds were never a full option for me due to side effects. I take some meds now and wish I had more relief from meds. I would take more if I could.

Since 2002, I have had one long stability. It was 35 days. Stability means that I am not manic or depressed.

This means that in 16 years, I have had just one month of feeling like a regular person. It is as bound as it sounds. It is hell.

We need to talk more openly about the serious nature of bipolar disorder.

My first psychotic symptoms were at 16. Hypomania at 17 and 18 and then a full on psychotic, suicidal depression at 19. I have a genetic illness that affects every waking moment. I can stay positive and I can always look on the bright side of life and see that many things in my life are good and always have been, but overall, this is hell.

Talking about bipolar openly will save lives. I believe we need to let people know that bipolar is serious and dangerous.

It’s no different than insulin dependent diabetes. It can kill use if we are not careful. If we are careful, we can have wonderful lives.

I don’t feel we take our illness seriously enough. We focus so much on stigma and making sure that people talk nicely about the mentally ill that we have lost our way. I have a serious mental illness. It prevents me from doing what others can do with ease. It prevents me from working full time. It prevents me from traveling the world like I want and it prevents me from writing books in the way I want to write book.

Let’s talk more openly about what life is really like with bipolar and at the same time talk about what we are doing to create the best lives possible despite having this diagnosis. That is always my goal. I have a GREAT life in many ways, but this doesn’t take away the incredibly difficult life I live almost daily due to this illness.

How can you be pregnant and 37 and not know it at 9 months? I’ll tell you how! First Diagnosis

Ok, this is not the easiest thing to admit as I consider myselfa bright person but here goes.

At 37 once again I was single, unemployed and depressed.  I lost a man I thought I was going to marry, apparently that was because of the mania episodes that neither of us understood what was happening.  Iwas alone in a big apartment I couldn’t now afford.  It was winter – my prime-time depression was n full swing and I was isolating only to walk my dog 3 times a day.  It was Winter of 1996 and in Boston we got atotal of 108 inches of snow from November through February.  This made it difficult for me to see anyfriends who were outside of Boston Proper. 

Essentially the story goes like this. Apparently, I got pregnant in October of 1995, had lost my boyfriend and was deeply depressed. Life went on and I had few symptoms of being pregnant including getting my period in December 95 and then May 1996. In April I moved home to New Jersey so my Parents could pick up the slack of the essentials I needed but couldn’t afford. They paid for my first Psychiatrist who helped and put me on an anti-depressant which was an attempt to lift my spirits and enable me to do the real therapy needed. Being 5’ 9” I would always change clothes sizes from 10 to 12 in the winter, this year I was a size 8 in September moving to a size 14 in April. I was caring a girl who was very calm & quiet and above my waistline so there was no indication I was carrying a child.

I finally went to a doctor to see what was going wrong withthe weight gain I was having the 2nd week of June.  He did multiple tests.  Thyroid, pregnancy and others.  That evening I got the call I waspregnant.  Truthfully, I was so happy I learned that I wasn’t getting fat in my middle age I was pregnant.  Then my depression snapped shut and the manic times began in a big way.  We didn’t know how pregnant I was until the next day at the ultrasound and it was 33 weeks! Well 3 weeks later I had a daughter. She was perfect in the apgar tests and beautiful.  She slept and slept and ate and smiled.   For me I did what any person woul do – I stepped up and began to focus on being the best Mom for this sweetheart.  The mania was in full force so I could ‘leap tall buildings at a single bound’!

It wasn’t until a month later that I had a breakdown and checked myself into a hospital.  I was treated by a Psychiatrist who continued to be my ally and he let me know that the medicine Iwas going to take was lifelong.   It wasmy first diagnosis of being bipolar and at 37 I was quite in shock, but you bet I did whatever he said as I needed to step up and take care of myself because now I had my daughter to care for. 

I call this event ‘ My OPRAH Moment’.

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