People dealing with mental illness and bipolar disorder in particular talk a lot about mood swings: how they feel, what they’re like, how your life can be affected. What is discussed less is what things can trigger a mood swing — good or bad — and how to deal with them. Here I will cover just three of my big triggers and some tips on dealing with them.
Changes or stresses in personal relationships.
Missing a parent or friend, an argument with a spouse or child, your boyfriend breaking up with you, sister moving home… all of these instances have a profound impact on us mentally and so they also affect our mental health.
No one is perfect — not our friends, family or ourselves, and one of the quickest ways for me to slide into depression or rise into mania is on the words and actions of others.
I’ll be honest: I’ve lost good friends and even family over not being able to go out and socialize when I plan to, or attend regular church meetings or talk therapy because I literally cannot get out of bed. People say, “why don’t you ever show up?” Or, “just get over it.”
But the opposite can also be true. Just a small encouraging word can brighten my day significantly, or a good conversation can help me out of the dark hole I’ve started to slide into.
If there’s one thing I could say to others about this trigger, it is that your interaction with me go a long long way toward keeping me stable or swinging me into a phase of depression or mania. Be careful. Your words hold tremendous power. Use them to help heal wounds and build up friends, not to tear down. Whatever you say to me, my mind will take it and amplify it 10 times to shape me for a while. By being your friend and family, that is a big responsibility I give to you.
The state of things around me.
I cannot emphasize enough the mental benefits of a clean and organized home, though I know well it can be hard to do. When my house is messy and disorganized, my brain is in a constant state of anxiety and irritability, like trying to see through a kaleidoscope. This affects my moods, which affects my relationships. When my house is clean, I feel like I can finally breathe and remain calm. Though this cleanliness may not come around as often as I’d like and I have to work hard for it, the hard work is worth the benefit of thinking clearly and being less irritable.
Tip: take it slow. Don’t try to do everything in one day or you will fail and feel bad about yourself. Instead, make a list of the specific small things to do each day and tailor it to fit your needs. There is no right or wrong way to do this. An example would be clean the kitchen Monday and the bathrooms on Tuesday.
Time spent alone is another big thing that affects my mood. If I get too much time alone, I get depressed, but if I don’t get any time alone my mixed moods (depression and extreme anxiety) will get the better of me. So make sure you get regular time alone just doing something that makes you happy. You may, for example, take your dog for a walk, paint, read, watch a movie alone with popcorn, or my personal favorite: take a drive in the country, listening to your favorite music. Sometimes, these little breaks are all we need to keep a dive into depression or a rise into mania at bay. Sometimes, they are all we need to stay in the “normal” zone.
In a nutshell, the words others say to us, the amount of time we spend alone, and our personal environment all help to shape who we are, and where we are in this bipolar adventure. Some small, easy to make decisions can go a long way.
Walk on, my friends, and hold your head high, for you are an amazing person just because of who you are.
By Rachael Holster