4 Ways Unexpected Change Affects My Mental Illness

In the last five years, I have discovered that change is a trigger for my bipolar disorder symptoms. Shortly after I got engaged, married, gave birth and bought a house, I experienced difficult times, despite the fact that all of these events were positive. Once again, life is changing and I’m struggling.

Our son started preschool a few weeks ago and ever since then, my moods have been all over the place. I’m up one minute, down the next and anxious due to the fact that I feel the fluctuations. I always fear that my stability is slipping away. I didn’t expect this life event to throw me off so much. On the surface, it didn’t seem like a major change in life, but as I take a closer look, I’m starting to see some triggers that have come along with the change.

1. Sleep

Most people with bipolar disorder may know how critical sleep is. I have to get up almost two hours earlier than I have been used to and I have difficulty falling asleep earlier at night to compensate for the lost hours. As a result, my energy levels have been low and that sluggish feeling sets off the depressed mood for me. In order to get energy, I have been drinking more coffee, but then I get more anxious. It becomes a vicious cycle.

2. Routine

Since I work from home, I haven’t had to be anywhere at a certain time on a regular basis in almost three years. With the exception of appointments or toddler gym class, my routine has been pretty flexible. Now I have to be sure that the two of us are up, he is fed, cats are fed and we get out the door at a certain time three days a week. As much as I try to prepare the night before, I still find myself rushing, which leads to stress.

3. Passage of time

For me, I have always become anxious when I think about how quickly the time is passing as I watch my family members age. Now I see that the little tiny baby I held not too long ago hitting a new milestone. As excited as I am to watch him grow and learn, it tugs at my heartstrings, especially since I don’t know if I’ll ever experience the baby years again in the future.

4. New people

I’m naturally an introvert. I love being around people, but it can quickly drain me. Just as my son is meeting new people, I’m meeting all the parents. I have socialized more in the last two weeks than I have in ages. While I’m excited about the potential of making new friends, I get stressed. A part of me still feels like I’m in high school. Will people like me? Am I too boring? Maybe they can tell I have a mental illness and they’ll think I’m “crazy!” Although these thoughts are irrational, they fuel negative emotions and more stress.

I hate being this sensitive to life events and I get frustrated, but I guess I have to be kind to myself. I wouldn’t judge anyone else who feels like I do, so why should I judge myself?

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Unsplash photo via Tanja Heffner

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