As summer is beginning in Australia, my thoughts once again wander to the potential mania looming ahead. I have bipolar with seasonal patterns where I typically become depressed over the colder and darker months and manic over the warmer and lighter months. Though, this year I won’t be writing about summer mania simply because I am in such a different space compared to past years.
For the first time in a very long time, it is December and I am not feeling the alluring pull of mania, and it is very hard to articulate my feelings around this. It’s strange not to be even slightly elevated with so much sunlight.
I would usually be more energetic than normal, but I’m actually feeling worn down and I can’t wait for time off and a sleep in. I’m feeling disappointed that I’m not experiencing the extra happiness, creativity, flow of ideas and excitement that I have come to expect, but at the same time I am also relieved because I don’t want to go down that manic road. Having these conflicting thoughts and feelings is confusing and tiring, and it’s not dissimilar to feeling euthymic for the first time in a long time.
Part of me wants to embrace this without question and the other part wants to find out why, and there are two answers that I can come up with:
#1) Firstly, this year has been a big year for me. I began two new jobs, both of which I love. I started teaching undergraduate nursing students at one university and I became a Consumer Academic at another. I love these roles more than I love mania and they, above everything else I have done, give me an extremely good reason to look after myself and stay well. If I compare myself to where I was last year (weeks before I became psychotically manic and was subsequently hospitalized, I didn’t have much to remain euthymic for. I had finished up a job as a Research Assistant and I had submitted my Honours thesis so that was a summer of celebration. I want to make it clear that I am not saying I intended to become manic, but my bipolar management wasn’t at the forefront of my mind and I didn’t have a routine to stick to.
This year I have had a purpose and I believe wholeheartedly that this has been instrumental in helping me effectively manage my moods. There is no way that I want to become manic this summer because I want to start next year refreshed and work to the best of my ability. So, perhaps why I am not feeling the slightest bit elevated is because I have (without consciously knowing it) been keeping a tighter control over my sleep regime, recognizing when I need to take my as required medication, and importantly, regular work has given me a routine.
#2) The second reason is an interesting one. I wonder if people’s seasonal patterns can change, and if so, are my seasonal patterns changing?
As I mentioned, it is summer in Australia. I always associate summer with intense happiness and after my diagnosis I realized that intense happiness was due to hypomania or mania.
However, I remember one occasion where I was depressed during summer and it’s one I reflect upon often. That was five years ago when I was finishing my undergraduate degree, before I was diagnosed. In hindsight I had been elevated during autumn and winter and I became depressed in spring and summer (which feels very odd to write). In fact, at the time that was the worst depression I had experienced. I often put that down to two things: being biologically depressed to begin with and the stress of finishing university. During that time we had skills assessments, assignments, exams and a five-week clinical placement. I was worried I was going to fail but I was also dreading having to actually face the real world and work as a nurse if I passed. All of this seemed so incredibly exhausting and impossible. I have always attributed a lot of that depression to stress, but now I am wondering if maybe my seasonal patterns had changed and maybe they’re changing again. However, with that being said I am not experiencing any symptoms of depression.
Though it feels out of place to not be elevated at this time of year, I am going to embrace that feeling and I am going to embrace a euthymic Christmas, New Years and summer.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community