It’s so important with a mental illness to be vigilant of errant emotions because it could be a warning sign of the start of an episode. This has happened only a few times since I’ve been stable on medication. The first time was during the summer a couple of years ago. I’m a teacher so I have the summers off. That year I didn’t get a summer teaching position so there was relatively no stress for me. It started off with just slight irritability and sleeping more than usual. By mid-summer, I was very concerned as I was very irritable and angry; totally unlike my typical self especially since I had no stressors. I went to the doctor which is the first thing you should do if you or someone close to you notices a change in your emotions or behavior. We discovered that the pharmacy had changed the company that produced my medication so it basically wasn’t the same medication I was used to. I changed pharmacies and haven’t had an issue with the medication since.
The next time was after my sister passed away and carried on into a vacation that I had planned more than 6 months in advance. I had put a lot of stress on myself when making arrangements for her funeral. I allowed too much responsibility to rest on my shoulders. I knew better but I was trying to make it easier on everyone and didn’t realize until too late, that I had made the grieving process 10 times harder for myself. I thought things would get easier after the funeral was over but it continued to snowball as there was an all-out rift in the family. It hurt my heart so much to see this crack turn into a chasm. It wasn’t fair for the children involved to see this right after their mom had passed away. I set out to do all I could to make it peaceful for them again. You see, I remember too well what it was like being a child, especially a child who had lost someone dear to them; a parent. They needed a united front and peace to help them heal and they were not getting that. So again I put my energies in trying to fix this and in turn I just received more pain. I was looking forward to the summer trip I planned to get away from all this friction and it ended up following me there so I ditched all my routines and almost relapsed. Thankfully, I was able to get back on track as soon as I got home. I learned a lot that year about myself and others.
Another time in which I was worried about an episode was quite recently. I was irritable and angry once again. I was worried that I had the same issue as before and made an appointment right away with my doctor. This time was a little bit simpler; stop taking on so much. I was planning 2 parties, working 3 jobs (one full-time and 2 part-time), blogging, as well as juggling the jobs of wife and mother. I cleared my scheduled and focused only on what was important; my full-time job and motherly duties. That week I practiced self-care and my symptoms of irritability and anger went away. I haven’t had any issues since.
The key in all of these instances was to be aware of the symptoms, acknowledge them, and face them right away. I called my doctor as soon as I felt there was a problem. I was completely open and honest with my doctor which helped us figure out exactly what was happening and start a plan of how to fix it. Recovery starts with effective treatment, a good relationship with your doctor, and awareness of your emotions/behaviors. You CAN have a successful life with a bipolar diagnosis and I am living proof of that.