Travelling is not a Vacation from Bipolar Disorder

Most people look forward to their vacation—and with good reason. Vacations are a much-needed break from the demands and stress of everyday life. But some things you just can’t get away from. Bipolar disorder is one of those things.

Probably one of the most important things I’ve learned about controlling my bipolar symptoms is maintaining a regular, daily routine. Sleeping, eating, taking medication, and relaxation are key to keeping this illness in check. For me, my sleep schedule is paramount in balancing my moods. Losing hours of sleep can cause all kinds of problems. It can cause you to be irritable, tired, and potentially even manic.

Though you may be on vacation, your bipolar is not. It is a constant shadow that needs your attention and certain habits need to be maintained. It is imperative to follow your medication regime. Ensure that you have more than enough medication with you. Carry a list with you of all your medications and their dosages. This could become helpful in the event of an accident or illness flare-up. If you leave your accommodations for the day, be sure to bring your necessary med doses with you. It helps if someone can remind you when it is time for your meds. Arrange this in advance.

If you are travelling across time-zones, your circadian rhythm can be disrupted. Your circadian rhythm—also known as your internal body clock—is a 24-hour cycle that regulates many bodily functions including sleeping and eating. For someone with bipolar disorder it is crucial that these routines remain as close to normal as possible. Some relief from these travelling woes can be achieved by the use of the hormone supplement melatonin. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about taking this. It can be a real aid in managing your sleep.

With my family, I am going on a road trip this summer. We are travelling to a destination by car that is about 18 hours away. This is the longest driving trip I can ever remember taking. I am trying to prepare myself for this trip in every way possible. Having reasonable expectations can contribute to the success of your trip. I expect that I will be exhausted. Exhausted from the driving, the visiting, and the sightseeing. I plan on keeping to my daily routine as much as possible. I realize that the lack of structure that comes from a vacation will make parts of that challenging. I will be leaning on my husband for his help in controlling my routine and therefore, my moods. He will also act as a buffer between me and whatever problems occur.

I expect that my anxiety medication will be well-tested. On top of general anxiety, I also experience social anxiety, so large groups—even family—are taxing. Places like restaurants, shopping areas and other tourist attractions are bound to cause trouble. Relaxation can be helpful. You should try to take a vacation from your vacation. Plan to find a quiet corner and decompress for a bit—take a walk or a nap if possible—whatever is relaxing for you and will calm your anxiety. I already have a couple of spa treatments booked while we are away. That time away from everything else will be much needed.

Despite the realities of my bipolar disorder, I plan on enjoying this family vacation. Though I realize there will be numerous challenges, I hope that I have prepared for most of them. Vacationing is an important aspect of life. Everyone deserves a break. Despite the shadow of bipolar disorder, if you plan ahead, keep to your routine as much as possible, and practise coping strategies, you should be able to enjoy your vacation.

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Cynthia was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 and has since been through a myriad of experiences, doctors and treatments. Ten years later, she is now relatively stable—as stable as one can be with Bipolar Disorder. She is lucky enough to have a psychiatrist who actually listens to her. She uses writing as therapy and through Facebook, Twitter, and her own on-line blog, she is a strong advocate for those with Bipolar Disorder.

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