Dealing with Bipolar at New Year’s

December 30, 2012 Natasha Tracy

A commenter recently asked about how to handle New Year’s Eve celebrations with bipolar disorder. Basically, she was concerned because her husband wanted to celebrate New Year’s but she would rather sleep through it to keep her bipolar in check.

So the question is, what do you do if you’re feeling pressured into celebrations?

Recognizing Limitations

First, I would like to congratulate this commenter on recognizing what she has to do to stay well. She has recognized that bipolar disorder puts certain limitations on her lifestyle and she’s trying to act accordingly. Many people never realize this insight and spend many weeks in pain because of it.

If you have not thought about it yet, consider the impact New Year’s celebrations might have on your mental health. Typically New Year’s Eve involves drinking, partying and staying up late. Are these really the smartest choices for you?

The Problems with New Year’s Eve

As I see it, there are four problems with New Year’s Eve:

  1. Pressure to “celebrate” (which I put in quotes because “celebrating” is often no fun at all)
  2. Drinking
  3. Partying
  4. Staying up late

Any of those can cause instability for a person with bipolar disorder. And if you, like so many, have spent all year clawing your way into stability, it hardly seems worth throwing it away in one night.

Dealing with the Problems of New Year’s Eve – Pressure to Celebrate

I’m not one that bows to peer pressure and I’m not one who believes that others should make decisions for me. If I say I’m sleeping through New Year’s Eve, then that’s what I’m doing, period. But, there are other options, say, compromises. First off, you can celebrate the New Year’s at home where you have control over the environment and don’t have to feel the pressure of people around you. You can still wear the funny hats and shake the noisemakers, if you insist, in your own living room.

Also, you don’t have to celebrate the New Year in the same way, just because you have before. Instead of celebrating New Year’s Eve, how about celebrating New Year’s Day? People often like to do a polar bear swim on New Year’s and that can be a great way to welcome in a New Year that everyone can participate in.

Dealing with the Problems of New Year’s Eve – Drinking

As I’ve said before, medical recommendation is to not consume alcohol at all if you have a mental illness. Alcohol is a powerful drug that can both interact with your other drugs and cause mood shifts all on its own. Now, I’m not saying that a sip of champagne at midnight will kill you; I’m just telling you what a responsible physician would (not that I am one). Besides, isn’t a kiss at midnight better than champagne? I’m just sayin’…

Dealing with the Problems of New Year’s Eve - Partying

Partying is stupid. I’m sorry; it just is. Didn’t we all get over the urge to “party” at 16? Did we not all learn that there were ways to have fun that didn’t include lampshades on the head or dancing on the bar? Of course, if your idea of partying is to let loose with the Pixie Stix or some sparklers, then you’ll probably be OK, but if partying includes drinking, acting like an idiot and getting a massive hangover then you might want to remind yourself of your age. (If you happen to be 16 and reading this, remember, you don’t have to act like an idiot just because other people do. The fact of the matter is that this disease forces you to grow up. Sorry about that.)

Dealing with the Problems of New Year’s Eve – Staying Up Late

Yes, this is a big deal for people. It’s hard for the “normals” to recognize but routine is healthy for people with a mental illness and breaking that routine is not. And if your routine means going to bed at 10:30 PM then staying up until 1:00 AM might really throw you for a loop and it’s not fair that others insist you do this. Might I suggest something radical? Perhaps you could celebrate New Year’s with another time zone. Yes, I know this runs contrary to tradition, but so what? New traditions that keep you healthy can always be made. New Year’s is celebrated around the world at different times so pick the time that works for you and stream the celebrations from that city onto your TV if you like. Or change the clocks in your house. The “official” New Year’s as dictated by a time zone is rather arbitrary so I say change it if it makes sense for you.

New Year’s Eve Pressure

If there’s one night of the year that people want to pressure you into social, “fun” activities, it’s New Year’s. But remember, if these people love you, your health will come before the cultural notion of what you “should” be doing on one night of the year. Yes, I will readily admit it sucks to have to take limitations into consideration, but that suck can keep you well come January 1st and that is imminently more important than a “party” that you will soon forget (save the embarrassing pictures on Facebook).

Your health matters. Put it first. And build new traditions around that. Those that pressure you will be grateful for this when they don’t have to visit you in the hospital next year.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, December 30). Dealing with Bipolar at New Year’s, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

December, 29 2015 at 1:05 pm

My husband takes medications for his Manic Depression, but because of his inability to keep jobs very long, he doesn't see therapists very regularly. This past summer, I saw in the paper that a prom fundraiser was taking place. I thought since my husband and I didn't meet until 15-20 years after high school and that I never went to my prom, this might be a fun date night for us. I ran it by him and he said it sounded fun. That's as far as that went. I asked him about going a couple of weeks later, when the date for the even was drawing closer and he grumbled at me that he couldn't be around people and alcohol. He used to be an alcoholic before we met and has been sober for over 13 years. I don't drink, so I don't understand the problem. He blew up at me that if I wanted to go somewhere, to mark it on the calendar and he'd go with me, but to not complain he didn't take me anywhere. I was crushed that I didn't get to go. I recently saw a "new" New Years party that would be happening in our town, rather than having to go to the city. I've never celebrated New Years, but thought just once it would be fun to celebrate in a small scale setting with my husband. I mentioned it once to him, but never bothered to bother him again about it. I've suggested playing music and dancing in our own home, but he doesn't ever want to dance. What am I supposed to do for fun with him? I don't like feeling lonely all the time or having to miss out on things I think might be fun to attend, or to go places by myself all the time.

Sandra Cobban
December, 27 2014 at 2:15 pm

Of course when one comes to a certain age it's number one about any
Severe health condition & I never was much the partygoer even @ a young age.
I do think ( for many of us,notice I didn't say all)
Alcohol & staying up late,even for me,a heavy meal...
Are asking for trouble...
But we all have different physiologies,etc...
I'm used to going to bed the same time ALL the time but I'm 54 years old...
Can see how someone in their 20s would be very bored by this...
But I've many medical issues besides rapid cycling bipolar....
As far as alcohol,I agree wholeheartedly w Natasha,plus it makes me why?????
I don't even miss the stuff.
As a family we never made a big deal over New Yr Eve or New Yrs Day.
Except when mum was alive she'd cook a gourmet style dinner......
Anyway,I'm a firm believer in those younger that can drink & party in
Moderation go for it have fun..
But pls don't drink & drive!!!
Or take illegal drugs as well!!
I wish those who can have their idea of fun to experience it!!
The others that know their limitations ...that permit celebrating otherwise or even as Natasha said ( sounds my style!) sleeping thru it...
Happy New Year To Everyone...yours in bipolar,Sandra.

December, 31 2012 at 6:38 pm

I just found your website, and I wish I had friends that have mental illness to get together on New Years Eve. It is a depressing time for me, a single person alone and no I wouldn't go to a Bar alone anyways.

December, 31 2012 at 4:43 pm

Several people have made comments to this blog that seem downright ignorant to me. I'm sorry, but dealing with bipolar successfully isn't simply a matter of personal taste. If you think it is, then you're likely not treating your illness properly or taking it seriously. A good schedule is vital for someone living with bipolar; it's not really up to personal preference. Drinking has always had at least some effect on my mood, and at times it's been absolutely disastrous. I have to be extremely careful with caffeine, even though that's completely legal for all ages. Too much caffeine can easily lead to "flash" manias with me. One note. For years I criticized people who took their illness seriously, people who stayed on a really tight schedule, abstained from drinking and doing drugs, and took multiple meds to fully treat their bipolar. I did that because they drew attention to my own denial of the seriousness of my illness. In time, I ended up in a hospital again and had my whole life screwed up. It's completely misplaced to criticize Natasha for giving really good advice for those who truly want to treat their illness seriously. You want to get f-ed up and take your illness lightly? Go ahead. I've been there and done that, though, so you can count me out.

Stephanie aka Nubiana Love
December, 31 2012 at 7:22 am

Well I don't think there is anything wrong with a person with bipolar to celebrate on New Years Eve. There is nothing wrong with staying up late, as long as there is no major activity which needs to be done the next day. Now ,if the person has to work, then yes, maybe celebrating wouldn't be a good idea for a person with bipolar. The drinking part, yes I agree with you. That will not be a great idea for that person. Drinking for a bipolar person will affect their mood in a terrible way, so I totally agree with not drinking and consuming drugs. Great post.

December, 31 2012 at 5:38 am

I appreciate that you are tackling the issue of suffering from bipolar and "celebrating" the New Year. While it's true that partying and staying up late might not be helpful, I think it's the interpersonal issues that really trigger mood swings around the holidays- alcohol, lack of sleep just exacerbates it. Instead of repeating the advice of abstinence (which isn't always the easiest way), why not highlight ways to tolerate situations when they get tough so you don't feel like increasing the amount you drink or becoming upset isn't your only option.
While meaning well, your advice seems awfully black or white (stay in, don't drink, avoid OR act like an "idiot"). How about some greys for those of us that want to be able to live our lives while coping with our illness?

Natasha Tracy
December, 30 2012 at 5:05 pm

Hi Dingodongo,
Blogging on this site is done via contract. I recommend you contact HealthyPlace directly for more details.
- Natasha

December, 30 2012 at 5:00 pm

You're a prolific blogger! How does blogging on this site work? I've seen the ad for bloggers wanted. Are your efforts compensated?

Natasha Tracy
December, 30 2012 at 4:05 pm

Hi all,
To be clear, I do not "hate" the holidays. I have simply written a series of pieces on the troubles with the holidays because they are a real issue for many people and I believe that forewarned is forearmed.
And judging by the number of people who have read these articles, thousands are actually dealing with these issues right now.
- Natasha

December, 30 2012 at 2:58 pm

Like I've said before you can do anything you want with Bipolar but not everything you want. So drinking, partying and staying up late will increase your vulnerability to getting a mood swing. It's not a guarantee of a mood swing. But, if there's a lot of stress in your life, you have active symptoms, or if you are changing medications then it's a good idea to keep your bedtime. If new years is really important to you than by all means do it, just make sure you have a week or so to recover before there is pressure on you to do anything else.
I get the feeling Natasha just doesn't like the holiday season, so going through it exacerbates her bipolar. From her writing it seems to contain many trigger situations for her so it's understandable she hates it. Holidays are a source of peace for me so I tend to enjoy them. Conversely, right now I have to apply for a new job which IS a trigger situation for me. It's horrible. Natasha would probably enjoy the challenge of it.
Peace, love, and so forth.

S Baker
December, 30 2012 at 2:25 pm

I actually think this article holds a lot of good food for thought for a lot of folks, BiPos as well as those dealing with PTSD. Kudos!

Chuck Mistretta
December, 30 2012 at 12:37 pm

The human chemistry set we inherit from birth is different for all of us. Drinking can shift a mood or wash away all the good effects of medication while adding a few more surprises. If your with friends they will enjoy or overlook sudden burst of strange behavior. The most important thing to consider is the health consequences. Since I am not a health professional with a reputation on the line, I can say from experience, that the people who still speak to me are "crazier" than I am or love me with equal ferocity.

December, 30 2012 at 12:03 pm

I think for many there's no reason to be soooooo strict on yourself. And adhering "limitations" others set on you.
I myself will spend the Eve with a book, but because THAT'S WHAT I WANT, not some label I have. I don't like New Year's Eve because I hate partying and being happy on command (just as I hate love and romance on command of Valentine). So if you don't wanna go out, don't. If you wanna... do. If one works hard the whole year... we deserve a damn break.
One glass of champaigne will not kill you. Or in majority cases even land you in hospital. And in many cases refusing to drink will cause more hassle (questions if you are religious fundie, recovering alcoholic, plain weird and all three are bound to follow) than taking few sips.
I had to actually grin that 1:00AM is considered omg-late. Hey, that's my standard bedtime. And staying up later for one night, to unwind, if that's what you want... will not wreck havoc of you. IN most cases. Limiting your social life, especially with friends you like will have much worse impact on your stability.
Partying... is not stupid. there are many version of partying... it doesn't have to be Jersey Shore style. YOu can simply enjoy life.
I realized that sometimes few drinks and dancing to forget... help with ruminating. You sleep like baby after. No more absurd obsessive thoughts. Your problems are not solved... but often they were not problems at all in first place. Of course moderation is important.. but ability to unwind sometimes can be a true component in managing your mental quirks... and life.

December, 30 2012 at 9:50 am give the worse advise ever. Please stop. Just stop. The way you go about it, you'd suggest that anyone with bipolar or any kind of mental illness shouldn't lead a full life.

Leave a reply