How to analyze your bipolar triggers
I learned the hard way! I now look at my bipolar symptoms as a clue, an early warning sign. I ask: what might have triggered or caused these particular symptoms at this particular time and place?
When I looked back at my whole history with bipolar, studying my daily charts and all the notes I had made over many years, I could identify triggers or potential triggers for about 80% of all my bipolar episodes. In the other 20% of cases, my mood simply switched, with no warning, apparently having a mind of its own!
Analysis of my triggers wasn’t foolproof, then, but it definitely did help.
From my analysis, I learned that triggers for depression included the following:
my reaction to a family crisis in which I had become emotionally over-involved,
getting a bad cold,
feeling awkward in a social situation,
attending a wedding with big crowds and loud music, and
a deadline for work.
On the other hand, triggers for (hypo)mania included:
going on vacation,
change of the seasons (springtime),
lack of sleep,
stress around my mom’s death, and – ironically –
starting on a new bipolar medication (Epival).
There were also a few cases where I identified triggers that pulled me back from depression and brought me into normal mood:
work-related travel (three times),
a trip to a cottage with all five of our children present, and
starting on another bipolar medication (Seroquel).
Key strategies to block your bipolar triggers
When family dramas inevitably arise, I now use my daily guided meditation practice to protect me from getting emotionally overheated.
Because a flu-like illness triggered a depression, I now get flu shots every year.
If I ever end up in a social situation that makes me feel uncomfortable for any reason, I will simply leave at once. This includes leaving parties and other social events early if the noise and excitement feels too much for me.
Work-related deadlines can often be renegotiated.
I am now extremely disciplined about bedtime every night. I have to protect my brain by getting enough sleep, consistently.
Finally, if I get depressed again, I will immediately go for a massage or retreat, or ask my husband Rob to drive me to a quiet spot for a relaxing day trip and walk in nature, hoping that the time away will reverse whatever weird chemical reaction has triggered the depression.
►► What ideas might work for you to block your triggers and thereby prevent full-blown bipolar episodes in future?