Every person living with bipolar disorder, no matter how stable, lives with the realistic concern and fear of relapse.
However, how we respond when we notice we are vulnerable or beginning to experience relapse determines the consequences and severity of an episode in our lives.
This article will look at relapse from the perspective of:
- What to notice in ourselves when we are experiencing relapse.
- Recognizing triggers of relapse.
Part 1: What To Notice To Detect Relapse
If you have a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, you could be relapsing into depression.
If you become obsessed with a goal that you cannot stop doing, you could be relapsing into mania.
If you have unusual difficulty waking up in the morning, getting out of bed and doing your daily routine, you could be experiencing depression.
If you have more energy than usual, more excitement, more passion, more pleasure, more exuberance and more irritability, you could be experiencing mania. Especially if there is a sense of URGENCY that goes along with it.
How we are thinking
If your thoughts and memories are more self-destructive than usual with the EMOTIONS of sadness, guilt, shame etc, you could be experience depression.
If your thoughts are racing through your mind, you are having multiple thoughts at once and/or your thoughts get jumbled…that’s mania.
If your thoughts are solely obsessed on a goal and you cannot stop thinking about it, that could be mania.
How we are feeling
Depression makes us feel bad about ourselves and the world.
Mania makes us feel like we can do anything, that we have special abilities or higher powers…if you are feeling unusually like omnipotent (all powerful like God)…you may be experiencing mania
Depression steals behavior from us. It robs us of our ability to function. If you are having difficulty functioning, you may be experiencing depression.
Depression steals our sex drive.
Mania gives us an abundance of energy to do an abundance of behaving. Mania empowers people to be highly productive if it is channeled in that way. However, mania can be incredibly destructive and cause people to do RISKY (YET PLEASURABLE) behaviors that they would not otherwise do…if you are experiencing these behaviors, you may be experiencing mania.
Mania creates an insatiable sex drive.
How we talk
Depression makes communication difficult. Thoughts move slowly and memory gets lost.
People experiencing mania cannot stop talking. They have a flight of ideas that may not even be connected because mania causes so many thoughts at once.
How we feel in our bodies
Depression can cause people to not feel alive.
Mania can cause us to feel this burning energy inside of our bodies. People with mania (once they know what it is) can recognize that they are out of control in both their mind and their body.
Part 2: Triggers of Relapse
Circumstances: Loss or illness of a loved one. Loss of a job or income. Loss of your home. etc
Home environment: there is OVERWHELMING pressure and demands on you and no time for self-care; lack of peace; constant stress between family members;
Stressful marriage/relationship: you are not getting your emotional needs met or are not getting the support you need; poor communication; not enough time together.
Financial Stress: Not enough money to make ends meet.
Children are blessings, but they cause so much stress on each of these levels. Being a parent is HARD…and extremely hard if you are a parent living with bipolar disorder.
OUR OLD EMOTIONAL WOUNDS
Each one of us since the day we are conceived (I may talk about this another time) experience things that wound us.
Not all wounds heal.
In fact, many we just live with…and if we are lucky we nurture them so they don’t determine our choices and determine our lives.
We poke each others wounds all of the time. In fact, when we feel hurt, it is rarely what happens in the moment that hurts us….often times what happens in the moment connects us with all of our past hurt and makes us feel a WHOLE LOT OF PAIN.
Most of our early wounds are the ones that hurt the most and get built on by life. We seek out chances to heal those wounds by repeating hurtful things until we know better.
Those early wounds are usually happen in relationship with our parents, siblings (except in the cases of child abuse and sexual abuse that take place outside of the home) and our early peer relationships.
Rejection and denial of our emotional needs as human beings play a large role in the wounds that we ALL carry.
These wounds if torn open by an EVENT or the MEMORY OF AN EVENT can invite relapse.
People often don’t know their emotional wounds have been triggered until after the episode or after they have lashed out at a loved one or society. Some people never know and can’t understand why they feel the way they do.
ROLE IN THE COMMUNITY
I believe that a lack of fulfillment (a lack of giving of yourself…a lack of having something of value to offer others) can lead to relapse, particularly depression.
When people believe that they have nothing to contribute and are of no value, that may invite depression and drug use.
All people have something to offer others of value. If this gets ignored or goes without nurture in a person…I believe mental illness may get significantly worse.
Why It Can Be Hard To See Relapse
I believe depression is very sneaky. It can creep in slowly and then just clobber people.
Mania, well it isn’t as sneaky, it makes you feel better than you have ever felt before and it is very hard to not want to experience it. However, the consequences of mania, may be why people choose to take medication and prevent relapse in the first place.