Travel is exciting. Getting away from it all- the weather, no work, friends, beaches, family, new sights, languages, the exotic. It would be great if you could also take a vacation from bipolar disorder. Unfortunately this is not always possible. You may be someone who responds well to vacations and you actually get better mood wise. But for many, the stress of even the greatest vacation can create bipolar disorder symptoms. Luckily, there are strategies you can use to prevent these symptoms to ensure that your travels are the best they can be.
Bipolar disorder symptoms are triggered by outside events, especially those that affect sleep. Travel can condense so many bipolar disorder triggers into a really short space of time. The triggers that may affect you over a year at home can all be present in just few weeks of travel. Our concept of travel as something positive often gets in the way of reality as bipolar disorder doesn’t really have a concept of positive. For this illness, a trigger is a trigger whether it’s in Paris or in the mountains of Montana.
Bipolar disorder doesn’t like change and it doesn’t like stimulation.
This sounds ridiculous doesn’t it! How can an illness not like change? The concept is odd, but it’s our reality. The minute our routine is upset, our brain can get upset. This is why having a plan ready before you travel is essential for your stability.
Ask yourself now- have you successfully traveled in the past? Is your health the same now? Then you are fine to keep doing what has worked for you. But if you’re like me and travel has always caused problems, you need to change now so that your next vacation isn’t ruined by mood swings. When your excitement is stronger than your reality, trouble happens. Be realistic. Is Las Vegas the best for you? Or would a quiet trip to the coast be better. you will have to decide.
Here are questions to ask yourself before you travel:
1. If you take medications, how will you manage the pills if you’re flying for example? I ALWAYS take more meds than I need and put them in separate bags. If I lose one bag, I still have meds. What if you need a prescription when in a foreign country? Talk to your prescriber about this before you leave. Have an email process in place in case you need help when you’re away from home. Think of every single thing that can happen with meds when you travel and prepare ahead of time. A friend of mine traveled half way around the world and realized she had counted her meds incorrectly for her stay. Luckily, there was a doctor where she was staying and her prescription was filled easily.
2. What will you do if you get sick in the airport? Panic attacks are a common reaction to travel preparation. Many people are fine once they reach a destination, but wow, getting there can be a pain! Be ready for the chaos of today’s airports. I arrive HOURS before I have to. I would rather make it through the process without anxiety than have to rush through customs while trying not to pass out from a panic attack.
3. Who will be your travel companions? Do you get along? What can you do in advance to create smooth sailing for your trip? If you’re visiting people, how do you get along with them? Have you had problems in the past with these relationships? Remember, the past predicts the future with bipolar disorder. Who you travel with is as important as where you’re going.
These questions will get you started. I recently moved to France for a year. It has been a challenge. I planned it all very carefully and I still got sick. But I survived and am now where I want to be.
You can do the same.
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