Tomorrow the kids and I are headed out to the lake for five fun-filled nights and six lazy summer days. Other than spending time with my siblings and their families, the best part about this particular trip is that where we are headed there is no cell service, no wifi and no way to connect with the world outside of this perfect little haven of peace and paradise. That means that there is no way that negativity can come and burst my pleasant little bubble, unless it wants to get in the car and drive quite a few miles up the mountains and into the woods to find me, I’m completely cool with this. Too much negativity triggers me and if I don’t get a handle on that, I start to swing. Right now I’m tired and I’ve recognized that my tank is running dangerously close to empty and if I don’t do something about this I will suffer for it, so I’m taking the proactive approach and inviting some self-care into my life right now. I’m taking some Me Time.
This all sounds great and I’m really excited but there is another factor here that I haven’t yet considered, one that has the power to make or break my entire little mini get-a-way, and she’s already started to toy with my moods a little, she of course is Mother Nature and she can throw my balance off like no other, and I’m not the only one. It is astounding just how many mood disorders are affected by not only the changes of season but also sometimes just a simple change in the weather.
I cycle all year long, but I have learned to manage those cycles pretty well — sometimes. Without fail though I will have two major shifts in moods in one calendar year, major shift in moods. In the spring/summer I will go up. You can chart the seasons by my major mood swings into mania and again into depression when daylight savings time rears in the autumn. “Spring ahead fall back” has an entirely different meaning for someone living with bipolar disorder.
About 20% of people with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder experience fluctuations in mood when the weather changes. Seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. is common with those who live with mood disorders. It comes down to sunlight and how your body’s circadian rhythm responds to changes in daylight hours. It’s fascinating when you get right into it. Last year my psychiatrist wanted to do everything she could to help me out during the autumn slide into depression so she suggested using a light box. She did warn me that some people are prone to light box induced manic phases, and wouldn’t you know it, I was one of those people. The science behind light therapy for S.A.D. is pretty promising, but those of us with mood disorders who tend to get a little manic at some of the slightest things, may not all be good candidates for it. Always check with your health specialist before proceeding with any new treatment, always.
Even though it’s not daylight savings time, the days are getting much shorter and the weather has been unseasonably cold and rainy lately. While these temperatures have been great for our drought and wildfire season they have been brutal for my moods. I’m already wound a little too tight and life has been throwing me some curve balls lately, so add in some gloomy cold weather and my instinct is to go into hibernation mode. Since I shut the AC off in the house and have pulled out the long sweaters (in July) I am reminded that summer fun will come to an end and preparations for when depression strikes will have to be put into place, again. I find myself feeling a little bit angry that my summer fun is being interrupted by this little pity party I have going on, or am I angry that my pity party is being interrupted by summer fun? Hmm. Either way the weather is 100% without a doubt a huge contributing factor to my moods, so here are the things I’m bringing on our camping trip in case the sun fails to show her lovely face.
- Books. Lots of books. I love to read and I’m bringing so many books. I have books from my favorite authors, some whom I am even lucky enough to call friend. I’m bringing them with me, which is kind of like bringing my friends.
- Notebooks and pens. I’m working on a writing project right now and there is almost no better world to get lost in than one you’re trying to create yourself.
- Board games. I will whip my kids at Sorry, it’s never happened but this week it will. I am the reigning non-champion of board games in my house.
- Hiking Boots. There is no better place to embrace a beautifully rainy day than exploring deep in the woods.
- My Dog. He makes everything better.
So while Mother Nature may have some power in this situation, I think I gave her too much credit before when I stated that she could either make or break my trip. I’m ultimately the one who will decide whether or not to make or break my trip. I’m completely aware of my current mood, situation and desperate need to get out of town for a while. Disconnecting and going somewhere that I can appreciate nature and be still is perfect for me right now, even with the threat of some cycling, because I think once I’m out there, I can curl up in some cozy camping clothes, enjoy my family, and marvel at Mother Nature’s power in her own setting. Embracing that part might flip it and if all else fails, swimming in the rain is a great mood booster.