Bipolar is a mental illness that varies in severity depending on the patient. There are Bipolar triggers, things that happen that can trigger an episode. I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be one. This post is based on the experiences of myself and my husband who has Bipolar II. If you or a loved one needs help with Bipolar symptoms please seek the advice of a trained medical professional.
Bipolar is a mental illness that I learn more about every single day. My husband suffers from Bipolar II and as his wife, I'm his caregiver. It's not easy to care for someone with a mental illness, it can be downright stressful. I lose my cool with him more often than I should but I just can't hold it in most of the time.
We can go days, weeks, even months without Bipolar rearing its ugly head. Unfortunately, during those times we are don't totally relax because we don't always know what will trigger a Bipolar episode.
What do I mean by “episode”? An episode is when he will become either very manic or very depressed. His moods can change in the blink of an eye depending on the environment he's in stress or any other triggers. It's important to know what the Bipolar triggers are in general, and the triggers for each individual person.
Bipolar is a mental illness that is not talked enough in our society. There is such a stigma about mental illness that those that suffer from it, suffer in silence. They do not want your pity, or to be handled with kid glove. They just want you to love them and accept them exactly the way they are. They often suffer in silence and unfortunately, some do commit suicide because they can not handle the internal pain anymore. Some people even family members do not know how to handle a family member that suffers from a mental illness, so they handle things incorrectly.
Anna from Life with Anna Cockayne writes:
“Growing up, I hid A LOT of my issues because it wasn't the “family” thing to have a mental illness. It wasn't until I was out of the house, suffering constantly, making HORRIBLE decisions (sexual partners, drugs, financial problems). Many people in my family never acknowledged mental health issues. You were told to “suck it up” and get on with life. Because “what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger!” However, my mental illness doesn't make me stronger, it makes me weaker, and now, I am okay with being weak, because that's who I am.”
What are some Bipolar triggers to watch out for?
Like I said, Bipolar triggers can vary from person to person. I only know the triggers that my husband deals with on a daily basis. Some I can help defuse as they happen, some I have no control over. When a Bipolar trigger that I have no control over happens, there is not really anything I can do but to ride out the wave and make it as easy on my husband as possible.
Stress is a very big trigger for Bipolar. Bipolar is a mental illness that causes their brains not work as well as it should. We all have stress from bills, to a busy schedule, taking care of the family etc. For my husband, stress comes in two forms.
1. From old “friends” that do not understand Bipolar and are self-centered. These friends never call him to see how he's doing or talk to him just to catch up. They call when they want something and then try to guilt trip him when he says no.
2. The other form of stress comes from within himself. He will think he does not provide enough for me, how I want/need more than he can provide. This usually happens when the depression that is very typical with Bipolar II comes in. I have to sit and reassure him constantly that he's providing for me and I do not lack of anything.
- Poor Sleep
We all need a good sleep routine to have a healthy body and mind. Unfortunately, Bipolar patients have horrible sleep schedules. There are times where he sleeps maybe 2 hours a night. Then there are other times he sleeps for 12+ hours a day. Sleeping aids do not always work because his brain chemistry is not “normal”.
- Medication Adjustment
Medication is a tricky thing when it comes to Bipolar. Medication is needed to help rewire their brains and way of thinking. However, not everyone reacts to the same medications in the same way. If you have any other underlying conditions this makes it more difficult. For example, my husband also has a heart problem and is VERY limited on what medications he can take because of this.
- The Weather
Believe it or not, the weather can affect him. If it's too hot or too cold he can have an episode. He has poor circulation and being extremely cold can set off an episode for some reason.
- A Change in Routine
Bipolar patients strive on routine. When they are hospitalized (which is an often occurrence) they are put on a routine right way so they know to expect certain things at certain times. Those things are wake up times, meals, medication time, therapy time, free time, visitation time, and lights out. This helps them to stabilize because the unknown schedule of any day can be stressful for the more severe patients.
- Depression/Thinking about past traumatic events
This one is a huge trigger for my husband. The poor man is suffering from an assortment of medical issues, physically and mentally. He also has PTSD from a bicycle accident that unfortunately his best friend did not survive. There are many times for no apparent reason he will start thinking of the past and kind of stay there. It's a struggle to get him to live in the now. His depression and PTSD is a major cause of his sleep problems I mentioned earlier.
An episode can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks/months. This all depends on the patient, what the trigger was and why, and depends on the type of Bipolar they have.
If you have a loved one that suffers from any mental illness, not just Bipolar, reach out to them. Talk to them like your equal. When they are having a good day talk to them openly and ask them what you can do to help them when they are having an episode or “crisis”. You never know, just simply asking can help them more than you'll ever realize. Having a plan in place will also help them when they are scared.