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I moved overseas when I was manic

By Megan Shultz

I have Bipolar Disorder.  At the end of January 2016 I finished a course of 15 ECT treatments for a severe episode of depression.  A couple of weeks after I finished the ECT I started to become very angry and irritable. The mania was setting in. You see, mania isn’t always euphoria, sometimes it’s lashing out at my husband for no reason and being irritable over nothing and everything. I’d started shopping and spending all of our money. I got my hair dyed by a professional instead of my usual box dyes and I got more tattoos. We now have so much debt in the U.S. that I’m scared to go back. That’s how bad it got. But then we moved.

Moving had been the plan for about a year. It wasn’t a sudden thing, it was something that my Australian self and U.S. husband had been planning for a while. The thing that we weren’t counting on though was me being manic during the process.  When we were cleaning out our apartment and getting rid of stuff I was ruthless, I held onto very few sentimental possessions which in hind sight I regret. It would have been worth paying for the extra suitcase or two. But what can I do now right? I just wanted stuff gone. I was anxiously counting down the days until we could leave.

When the day finally came I was just about jumping out of my skin. Finally, the day is here. The flight to Los Angeles, CA went by with ease but the wait for the next flight was long and arduous. Once we boarded our flight to Sydney I took my night meds and passed out for the majority of the flight. When I woke up they were handing out breakfasts.  I can’t remember what I had but I remember it was disgusting. I was just about jumping out of my seat with excitement; I feel sorry now for the gentleman that was sitting next to me.

Thankfully we didn’t have too much of a layover in Sydney before moving onto Adelaide where my family was waiting to greet us.  It was overwhelming but I dealt with it. My mania was about to come into full swing.

We’d been living at my mum’s for a few days and all of a sudden I had an undeniable urge to run.  So that’s what I did.  I got out my running gear and I went running. Up the road around the block, I went running. I felt like I could go on forever. I felt invincible. This was when the euphoric mania kicked in. At least for a little while. This went on for a few days. Then the hallucinations started again. I started seeing John again. He’s a middle aged man that I see sometimes. He means me no harm but sometimes I still find him scary. The auditory hallucinations started again too, and I couldn’t be in crowded places because of all of the noise and the people yelling at me, calling my name. Even alone the voices were sometimes too much. So off to hospital I went.

My hospital stay was three weeks. They tweaked my meds; took some, added some. I was well sedated for a while but came out of it soon enough as the medication settled. I was feeling better able to function but still recommended for disability.

I learnt a lot about myself and coping through all of this. I learnt more about what to look out for when I’m manic. It was the first time that I had had an angry, irritable mania; I didn’t even know that that was a thing when I was going through it. Now I do and I know to look out for it.

I also learnt that my mania can be exacerbated by travel: the excitement, the rush, the change, and the move. I’ve felt it on a smaller scale before too on short vacations but thought nothing of it. I guess in the future it would pay to take some time to calm myself down, take some time out, make sure I’ve got my meds and am taking them, and to make sure I’m practicing my DBT skills.  Also to make sure that whoever I’m with is aware of any possible mania and to watch out for it as I’m not always aware. What are some strategies you use to manage your symptoms while traveling or moving?


What I do is in general not travel too often. I know I can't go on weekend trips for more often than once a month; otherwise I will get confused about where I belong or get too excited (close to mania). Also, my holidays are more often trips to places I can reach by train rather than by plain, e.g. in my country or countries close by.
In order to keep a calm mind I take one Sunday per month off from events. Which means I go to church but then I go home, eat a good lunch (often cooked the day before) and make sure I do not get new input for the rest of the day. Which means I do not listen to music or the radio, I do not read any books (except in the Bible if I feel like it) and I pass the day on my own. So on such a "quiet day" I often take a nap after lunch, go for a walk, write a letter etc. I do not use my computer on such a day. This helps me to settle down and cope with whatever I may have experienced in the days and weeks before. Also: I do not own a smart phone; I just have a mobile phone to make calls with when not at home. I know I could not cope with the frequent contacts other people have through whats-app, twitter etc. Also, I know that I should not have easy access to the internet, because the urge to order and buy things might get too strong too easily.
I do not know about moving, though. I last moved to a different city 5 1/2 years ago and I am very happy to stay here and to make my apartment a nice place to live in. I enjoy friendships with the people I meet and in general my friendships become more fulfilling the longer they last.
I think after moving to a different city or even country we need to take time to adjust and settle down again and not to go to all the interesting places which might attract us too soon. I think because we experience things more intensely than other people we need to make sure not to have too many activities in too short a time. It is good to develop some routine and sort of schedule for the week before we do the exciting things.

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