The longer days of spring bring with them the onset of my mania, but now I have the self-awareness and tools to manage my moods.
I follow my very own “bipolar calendar.” And it is nearly always the same. Every spring, like clockwork, the sun returns to southern Alaska with an unnecessary force, and with it comes the manic eruptions that signal the end of the comforting darkness of winter.
My love of winter has come with time. I have learned to find relief in the lack of sunlight, in the coziness of the long Alaskan night, in the cold that keeps me inside on dark evenings. Like Alaska’s wild plants, I often lie dormant in the winter, as the calmness of our darkest season eases the extremes of my moods.
When February first greets me with days that grow longer and longer, I begin to plan. Expectant and nervous, I realize that, yes, another spring is coming, with its sharp rays of sunlight, and I must prepare.
It may still be snowing
outside, but the sun returns. One day, there will be a little sunlight shining
sideways near the bottom of my bedroom window, and then there will be a little
more the next day, and the next, until the sun clears the still-white mountain
range just west of my house.
By the end of the month, I
will not have much time. There will be a jolt with daylight saving time in
March, and then there will be a flutter here and there until my skyward glances
begin to last longer than they should.
My mind, aggravated and stimulated by those persistent sunbeams, will wander until mid-April, when the rapid cycling and the mixed episodes will peak. I will love my newfound energy for a short while, and then I will hate it. And then the loving and the hating will merge until I do not know anything, and instead exist in a confused, dreamlike state.
While the returning sun
brings warmth and excitement to those without a seasonally affected mental condition,
I hide from its rays. For my friends and family, spring brings the thrill of
new beginnings, of gardens to be planted, of muddy mountain trails to be hiked.
They will talk about the nearby bear sightings, as the wild creatures that—like
me—hibernate during the comfort of the winter, start to come out for their
first ventures onto now-blooming mountainsides.
So I prepare. I start a journal to monitor my mood and see my psychiatrist and therapist regularly. We bolster my medication regime. My husband tacks a heavy quilt over our bedroom window, mimicking the darkness of winter night. I set a strict sleeping schedule and commit to being indoors by the early evening. And to shield my eyes from any light, I wear my ultraviolet-blocking contact lenses and always have a baseball cap and sunglasses on hand.
These are the “springtime rules” I set for myself several years ago. And they help. When I was first diagnosed, the longer days brought so many weeks of extreme agitation that my cycles would blur together until I could no longer separate day from night. I became paranoid, nonsensical, and even thought I was a messiah.
But that was before I knew
that April was the onset of my mania. Before I had the self-awareness to manage
the cycles. And before I started putting my plan into place well in advance of
the sun’s return.
Now, in late May when the king salmon begin their freshwater runs and the fiddlehead ferns unfurl and I regain my footing, I will write in my journal: “I think I’m through.” I will realize I survived my most dangerous season and can now enjoy all that our northern summer has to offer—but only because I followed my springtime rules.
Printed as “Polar Insights: Springtime Rules,” Spring 2020
Carin Meyer is a lifelong Alaskan who works in public relations. Her academic writing has won numerous awards and her science writing and other articles have been published in university magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets. She has a blog at www.carinrmeyer.com. She enjoys writing essays about bipolar disorder and mental illness. Carin has drafted a book about bipolar disorder, The Smartest Girl in the World, for which she is currently seeking publication.
Whether you live with bipolar or love someone who does, you can find comfort, wisdom, and strategies (maybe even a good laugh!) in these inspirational books. We can lose ourselves in the power of the written word, compelled by the raw emotions, deep insights, and humorous takes offered by others like us—people who share our...
Times have been tough. But so are we. The end-of-year holidays can be difficult any year, and, this time around, they pose new challenges to our mood and well-being. Let’s not forget: Living with bipolar has taught us how to navigate through uncertainty. Here are the coping skills I’ve been relying on to remain stable...
With bipolar disorder, we’re more likely to become overdependent on our digital devices. Here’s how personal tech can affect our moods—plus tips for self-protection. Are we too attached to our digital devices? That question has been debated for almost as long as the iPhone has been around, giving rise to the first National Day of...
With bipolar’s depression and anxiety, I struggled to be confident. After growing tired of feeling hurt by every slight, I discovered two effective ways to combat negative emotions. Reacting & Feeling Unworthy I used to find it very difficult to interact well with others. I was often hurt, and I reacted with anger—directed at others...