Bipolar Disorder and Recuperating After Times of Stress

October 31, 2013 Natasha Tracy

As I mentioned, I recently took a trip east to see some family. In addition to 5-hour plane rides and meeting a long series of people I didn’t know, there was also the three hour time change to contend with. In other words, there was a lot of things that could, and did, mess with my bipolar.

Now, like many people, I’m quite good at handling stressors in the moment. I can travel and meet and charm with the best of them and I can say it mostly went very well. The trouble, though, is upon return. Upon return I feel like I’ve been hit by a bloody truck and act pretty much the same way.

Planning for Travel

Of course, I was anticipating this need for recuperation after travel so I did what any good writer would do – I worked my little behind off and wrote enough to publish through the time I was gone and beyond, leaving me a day when I had already written what was on deadline. I figured I would use that day to sleep and watch TV.

And I did that. I slept and I slept and I slept – I love it when a plan comes together.

The problem was, when the day came and went, I wasn’t done with all that sleeping.

More Recuperation Time

When you have bipolar disorder, it's important to spend time recuperating from stressSo what I needed was more recuperation time. This ticked me off because I had only been away for four days and I thought that one day of recuperation was quite enough, thank-you.

But I was wrong and no amount of being annoyed with myself was going to change that. So I spent another day sleeping. And then I spent another two days trying to regain my productivity and get back on schedule. That’s right, I was only gone for four days and it took about four days for me to regain my productive self again.

Don’t Underestimate What It Takes to Deal with Bipolar Disorder

What it comes down to, I suppose, is thinking I could handle more than I could. I underestimated how messed up this disease makes my life and I underestimated what it takes to deal with it. My bad.

So the lessons I learned were this: take more time. Save more time. Make more time. Don’t underestimate the value of time. And stop thinking that I can “pull myself up by my bootstraps.” Stop thinking that I can become functional in my time. Recuperation from a stressor takes its own time – and that’s not my fault.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, October 31). Bipolar Disorder and Recuperating After Times of Stress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 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.

March, 6 2016 at 4:21 am

Dear Natasha
I was re-reading this. It showed up in my memories. I remember reading it for the first time. I had always felt so guilty for being like that after a trip. It took around four days. I didn't sleep but instead I sat on the couch feeling guilty because I didn't have the motivation to do anything. I fought it, to no avail. Reading this was such a relief. Knowing it is pretty normal for bipolar folks, I now makes plans for the return. I clean my house real good (I get so depressed and feel so overwhelmed when my house is a mess). I make sure the laundry is caught up & clear my schedule for a few days. That way when I sat on the couch too much, the guilt isn't nearly as bad. I love your articles and I'm glad to call you friend. You rock!
Love, JoAnn

February, 18 2014 at 3:02 pm

Thank you Natasha. I have similar traveling issues. Ok while I'm there, holding it together. But once I get home it takes me a week to get it together. And I don't even have a job (I'm a stay at home Mom). Your honesty has allowed me to view myself and my bipolar symptoms with more compassion. It's hard not to judge myself.

November, 14 2013 at 8:07 am

I had a crazy "career" for a while where I had to fly back east regularly. In the winter I would freak out days before because I have never driven in snow and what would I do it it was snowing? Ugh. Then the time change. Then getting up at 4 AM my time to be at meetings with my bosses. That was some crazy stress. Add the alcohol for the socializing after meetings. At this time I was undiagnosed and unmedicated, well except for alcohol.
I tried a few thing to help a quick time change. Melatonin and Valerian root. I also exercised EVERY DAY. Things just got crazier as I could not keep up my apartment or my work wardrobe needs because of my schedule. UGH. I remember one time of mania on the plane when I got back to the airport I got in a cab with a total stranger and we went to West Hollywood. I bought a $1200 dollar latex outfit.
I went on an extended trip to Oceania after my mom passed away. When I got back the first day I could barely stand. The next day I tried to make coffee but I forgot how the coffee maker worked. I had every possible jet lag symptom. I had no idea how extreme it could be.
I went to the dentist two days ago. Seriously, my back and neck muscles still hurt from the anxiety it generated. Hot baths, ibuprofen and two days, I can only say I feel 30 percent better. At least now I can hold back on the drinking and eating to try to solve the problem and just try to live with it.

Wayne Woodward
November, 13 2013 at 8:06 am

Dear Ms. Tracy,
I enjoyed your most interesting article, in fact I could have written it myself as I can relate to what you went through. In my life, recuperation is a weekly event; a way of life. I consider myself a full time patient. No I have not given in to my conditions, but have been weakened by them. It has been more than forty years of doctors, diagnosis, this medication that medication, new diagnosis, new medications, withdrawal, side effects, weight gain, migraines. We all know the terrible symptoms that we endure, in spite of doing everything that we can to remain healthy, not to mention the stigma.
I have asked doctors and therapist for years: why do I feel like I have been run over by a truck, when I wake up? It takes hours for me to get going in the morning. I don't understand why this occurs.
My internist recently suggested that I try Gabapentin, stating that my problem is most likely myalgia. Well yeah, I understand medical terminology and myalgia it is. So why did it take them forty years, of me complaining of pain, (first priority of a doctor is to alleviate pain)?
Well, I felt compelled to write, as I said I certainly relate to your recuperation needs.
Kind regards,
Wayne Woodward

November, 5 2013 at 10:27 am

This help in toe specific ways, 1) I'm flying home to Canada with my kids from Australia in 20 days, and that takes it out of anyone, but second he helps me feel validated to recuperate from real stress over the past five months. Eleven months really. All I wanted to do was sleep, gently leaving my room, my enclave. I will makes plans as much as possible and try to establish a sleep schedule as soon as I'm there.

November, 4 2013 at 2:59 pm

I went to Vegas this past year too.
In addition to bipolar disorder I have some issues with anxiety (and was previously diagnosed with panic disorder).
Vegas was so overwhelming and overstimulating that I ended up feeling disoriented for the first few days I was there; the lights, the sounds, everything just got to me.
I had trouble with the crowds of people on the strip, and couldn't stay in a store for more than five minutes without starting to hyperventilate.
It got so bad that I physically got sick the day before leaving for home. I couldn't leave the hotel room. I felt so bad, as I was with others on this trip, but I just couldn't do it.
I needed time to rest and recuperate, even during the trip. Before the onset of my disorder, I would likely not experienced this. I needed a day or too at home after coming back too.

November, 4 2013 at 3:23 am

It is with an aching heart that I read your life stories, your tough journey, it is a huge battle each day just to get up and get out of bed, try dress and get through 1 day. The world needs to wake up and start caring about Bipolar Disorder sufferes, show the same compassion as people who have cancer. It is much the same 'cancer of the brain' I lost my precious son from Bipolar who took his life, what a brave warrior he was. Sadly I have a daughter too who suffers from this devastating disorder. Show kindness, care, a hug, treat them with respect, educate yourselves and realize what a deadly, life threatening disorder it is !!! Help them by understanding about their disorder. The stats are high suicide, a brave decision. I pray that God watches over you all. Sending you all a warm, embracing hug. From a heartbroken Mom
Do not look through them see them as they really are and love them just for themselves.

November, 4 2013 at 3:13 am

I read with aching sadness the hard road you all travel, lost my precious son to Bipolar Disorder - he took is life at 27 years 11 months. My beautiful daughter suffers from Bipolar Disorder too. Hello World how about educating yourselves and showing love to these brave warriorsm give them the support they deserve, empathy, a hug, a cup of coffee. It's a lonely world, they feel they don't fit in, belong, show you care. Mentioned the word cancer and everyone reacts !this is like cancer of the brain ! May God watch over you all.
Wrapping you all in love xxx

November, 3 2013 at 9:51 am

I think it is hard to find the right balance- knowing when to push myself, and when to give myself a break. I'm still trying to figure it out.

Zakiyyah Jobes
November, 3 2013 at 6:49 am

Natasha, Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with Bipolar Disorder. I have a brother who is Bipolar and I am trying to educate myself with ways to help him in his struggle. I love that you have taken charge of your situation and can assess yourself in such a way. May you continue to strive forward in your journey. Be blessed.

Julie Bennet
November, 1 2013 at 8:43 am

I so get it. I'm trying to recoup from a major toxic exposure black mold nightmare and 2 trips to the ER! Drs couldn't find what was wrong forever meanwhile I was spiraling out of control. The spores permeate the air & fill your lungs so you can't breathe and that's panicy enough then you get brain fog.....HELLO! More brain fog for me = brain gone. I was then told I could not go back to my condo AND had to clean all of my clothes & things! Had to find a place to stay...friends hesitant to let me in their homes because of the exposure. I'm on disability so can't afford movers much less hotel and to clean & dry clean ALL OF MY CLOTHES! Its been a bi+polar nightmare. My blessed therapist helped me & talked me thru or I would be in a different wing of the hospital! Soooo I don't know how long it will take me because its been 2 months. I'm better but my nose, sinuses & breathing passages are SO sensitive I throw up if I smell perfume, pets,

November, 1 2013 at 6:22 am

Am in the middle of relocating, staying with family while getting new carpet, etc. I have been here almost a month and have felt so off balance-mind racing, sleep deprivation,etc. I am in the process of trying to center down, so I completely understand where you are coming from. I can sense when I'm wading in dangerous waters. I forget what change does to my system and how it affects my bipolar disorder. Thanks for the reminder that I am not alone.

October, 31 2013 at 11:13 pm

Four days to recover? That sounds quick in my opinion. Well done for getting on track so quickly. I would be taking a few weeks to allow myself to come up to full speed. Even though you were gone for only four days, that is an enormous jolt to the system and enough to trigger an episode.

October, 31 2013 at 9:34 am

I had a similar experience with travel. I went to Las Vegas with my husband. Wow! I did not drink alchohol or gamble (besides the penny slots only.) I also did not have chocolate or any other form of caffeine either; however, Las Vegas is just a super stimulating place. I loved it. We had such a wonderful time. But I could not get rest. I could not really sleep despite the dark curtains and nice quiet hotel room. Returning home, I also had to rest for days in order to get back into my routine. Just recently, I have found that meditation/new age music is very helpful in calming me down. I have bought albums from Liquid Mind, Helen Jane Long, and Kevin Kern on itunes. I also have ocean, storms, and rain sounds loaded in my music library as well. My husband, myself and my dog love to fall asleep to those at night. Very soothing and mellow. Next time, I am definitely bringing that kind of music to Vegas.

Leave a reply