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Partying with Bi Polar

This is a recurrent theme at this festive time of year.

Each Christmas season I go to several turkey dinners with different groups. There is the musical theatre group and my local ‘girls’ night’ where all the wives and girlfriends go out for a meal without the men. In the past there have been dinners with some charity organisations and the friends of the trust for our local theatre.

Each year I treat myself to plenty of wine – sharing a bottle or buying the extra glass once the shared bottle is empty. This may be not unusual for the general population but as someone with Bi Polar Disorder, wine can play havoc with my meds. Also, whereas wine can send some people to sleep, my brain becomes over stimulated and prevents me from nodding off.

It is not just the wine but the fast conversations full of jokes and local gossip which later prey on my mind. I return home unable to relax. I have read several blogs by those on BP medications who maintain that partying is out. But I am a social animal. We all are but BP people often pass through non social periods when they cannot go out or socialise. For us, a good spell may not coincide with a Christmas party. I have in the past had to force myself to go out to a party or dinner only to sit with nothing much to say except for nodding and the occasional yes.

The answer for me may be to carefully select the functions I attend. Rather than grab every opportunity I only agree to dinners with people who make me feel safe and comfortable. A social evening then can be relaxing and sleep at the end of the night more forthcoming.

Another trick is not to expect to go to sleep immediately. I return home and make a cup of tea with plenty of sugar, get a glass of water and take my tablets. I then sink beneath the duvet to watch television. I choose happy films or music concerts. Very soon I feel drowsy and begin to drop off. My dose of Quetiapine is not excessive. In fact, compared to some it is fairly light but even so I am overcome with drowsiness within 20 minutes. My biggest mistake is to take the tablets when I get into bed and lie down. The time taken to drop off is then much longer.

I am not advocating drinking large amounts of wine for those on mental health medication.  However, it is something I have experimented with gently in the past. I was told by a doctor once that the wine will interfere slightly with the effects of the meds but if one is stable this is not a problem. I have been stable for several years, the only relapse being when a serious illness caused my kidneys to collapse, resulting in my inability to excrete the drug after it had done its work. The build up of drugs caused a manic episode.

Routine is important for Bi Polar sufferers and the late night after a function can contribute to lack of routine especially if sleep is delayed. If, following a night out, I sleep late, this puts me out of routine. What I have found best is to still set the alarm but slightly later so that oversleeping does not happen. After all I can catch up the next night.

So if you are frightened to drink or even go out for an evening of fun, try it, perhaps going for a short period and limiting yourself to one drink. You should be able to build on this experience and extend the length of your stay at a dinner.

After all, enjoying yourself is important. Bi Polar Disorder is hard enough to cope with, without living a dull miserable life which can easily happen. You do not have to become a recluse. You can try small doses of fun socialising and monitor your mood and reactions. If you come home thinking that someone ignored you and attribute this to your mental health condition, return to your Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques, hopefully filed in accessible location and focus on the alternative thought that perhaps the person had other things on their mind or that you were not as open to conversation as you could have been.

Never let Bi Polar rule your life. We are what the condition makes us and we need to embrace it accordingly, resting the brain when low and enjoying the medium highs and productive periods.

Enjoy your festive Christmas, what is left of it.

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