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What It's Like to Experience 'Spring Mania'

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It’s only mid-February. Winter is here in almost full force in my area, but I’m already looking ahead to spring. Not so much in a good way though; it’s more a feeling of dread. Mania hits me every single spring, no matter what I do. I take vitamins, I eat healthfully, I take my psychiatric meds. But mania still hits me every spring. Most things make it worse, so much worse.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

One doctor finally explained that my circadian rhythm just doesn’t adapt well to the extra hours in the day. Well, great. I feel like the only person on Earth allergic to sunlight in this way. OK, I know that’s not true at all, but when I’m feeling sorry for myself or hating my bipolar disorder, it seems to be so.

It’s happened each spring since I was a teenager. As soon as the time moves forward an hour and I’m exposed to more sun, I have a pretty major episode. I’ve even started to notice physical changes during those times. My skin glows, my eyes and hair are extra shiny, it’s unbelievable. Sometimes my eyes actually turn more hazel than dark brown during “spring mania.” I remember having a kind of “glow” when I was pregnant. This is like that glow, but it’s that much more pronounced.

A good friend of mine commented on my change in appearance during an episode once. She said she couldn’t put her finger on it but that I looked noticeably different. Possibly younger, even. She asked what had caused me to radiate like that. She was suspicious, I sensed. She didn’t ask any more questions and we just let the uncomfortable silence hang in the air until I left. It normally would have been embarrassing but since I was in the throes of mania, I took it as a complete compliment. I thought everything was simply wonderful and I was happy everybody else thought so, too.

One time in college during one such episode, I was racing to a job interview, and I do mean racing! I was going so fast I sped past a cop while blowing through a yellow light that turned red. Of course I got pulled over. I remember the officer was so annoyed that I was in such a “good mood.” He kept trying to bait me into an argument about why I was going so fast, and he insisted on repeating that he should give me a ticket. I just kept saying, “OK” to whatever he said and smiling. Finally he threw my license back at me and stormed off. To this day I don’t know if he understood what was happening or not, but at least I didn’t get a ticket.

I’ve recently begun to read articles about spring mania. I’m glad that others know what this is like, though I hate that we all go through it. Nothing good comes from my springtime mania, and I almost always end up in the hospital. The last major episode I had was when I went to Los Angeles one April to visit a relative. That was a mistake. Not the trip, mind you, but the timing. I should have paid more attention to my symptoms. By the time I got on the plane to LA, I was already fully manic. I know that now. When I got home, I’d stopped sleeping and eating. I had the cravings I only get during mania. And my mood was off the charts. Needless to say, I had to become an inpatient. I’ve since learned that changing time zones during travel can cause a manic episode. Good to know!

I keep looking outside and seeing the gloom winter brings with it as an unwelcome plus-one. I know that we have a ways to go until the time changes and spring comes blossoming in, but I’m still preemptively nervous. I hope this time things go well and I am thinking positively, but I’m also prepared for what usually occurs. I don’t want to say it’s inevitable, but that’s how I feel sometimes. Here’s hoping the upcoming season only brings showers and flowers for me and all those who experience spring mania.

Here are some tips for staying well in the spring with bipolar disorder:

1. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, regardless if your body wants it or not.

2. Eat a well-balanced diet. Food definitely plays a role in how our episodes play out.

3. If you take medication, take your meds exactly as prescribed and be sure not to skip any doses.

4. Monitor any symptoms that may occur as soon as you notice them, then check in with your healthcare provider.

5. If all else fails, and you end up getting sick, please be kind to yourself. Get the appropriate help needed for the situation and don’t get frustrated with any setbacks.

Thinkstock photo via Thomas_Zsebok_Images

Originally published: February 21, 2017
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