Vacations Can Make Bipolar Depression Worse, Not Better

Vacations Can Make Bipolar Depression Worse, Not Better

June 23, 2015 Bipolar blog

Do you have bipolar depression and feel like you need a vacation? Well, I have sad news for you, vacations can make bipolar worse, not better. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t have to, and if you’re in a good place in your bipolar right now, you might just have a great time, but if you are really sick with bipolar, that vacation you want might make your bipolar depression worse.

People with Bipolar Want Vacations

It’s natural to want a vacation from work and your everyday life. Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want to step back for a minute and put their toes in the sand or lie beside a pool or eat croissants in Paris? Totally normal.

But people with bipolar disorder may want vacations for a different reason. People with bipolar may want vacations because they want a vacation from the bipolar disorder. People with bipolar may be lulled into a sense that if they just took off and spent time on a Grecian island for a while, their bipolar would be better and they could have a break.

I can say this because I have felt this way myself. I mean, everyone else loves vacations so much, why wouldn’t I?

Vacations Make Bipolar Worse, If You’re Already Sick

But I’m here to tell you that vacations are not a break from bipolar they are often a worsening of bipolar. Really. This is not to be depressing here, this is just to be realistic. When you upset your bipolar routine, change time zones, eat different foods and put the pressure on yourself of expecting to have fun and feel better, your bipolar depression gets worse, not better.

Like I said, if you’re lucky enough to be doing well before you leave, this might not happen to you, but if you’re in a deep bipolar depression before you go, a vacation is not going to “fix” your depression. If it were that easy you would find me backpacking across Europe right now.

My Vacations with Bipolar Depression

It's summer and the desire for a vacation is normal but, unfortunately, vacations can make bipolar depression worse, not better.I can tell you what has happened on my few vacations with bipolar – I felt like crap most of the time.

Yes, I love Paris. I think it’s one of the most magical cities on the planet. Shopping there, getting palmeirs from bakeries there, wandering through the streets there are all very good things, indeed.

But if you think that gives me a moment of respite from my bipolar depression, you’d be wrong. Wherever you go, there you are, as they say. Wherever you go, there your brain is. Wherever you go, there your illness is. Trust me. Bipolar gets on the plane with you.

Take the Pressure Off If You’re Bipolar and Vacationing

I think part of the reasons that vacations suck so much is because everyone else loves them and we feel forced to love them too. When you go to Palm Springs or Hawaii or Disneyland or Barcelona and then you sit around in a massive depression unable to do, let alone enjoy, anything, you just feel worse about yourself. You feel less human because you’re having a reaction that other “normal” people don’t have. You’re doing the opposite of what you want, what you went there to do. You went there for a break and to be happy and when you don’t get that it’s like salting the depression with, well, more depression.

I think it would be helpful to not put pressure on ourselves to have fun, feel better and love the experience. Without that pressure, it might not be quite as salty. We have to realize that symptoms like anhedonia, apathy and sadness don’t disappear on foreign shores and just accept that. Forgive that. Live with that.

So, No Vacations with Bipolar Disorder?

I’m not saying don’t go on vacation if you have bipolar depression. If you want to go, go; just don’t expect it to make your bipolar depression better. If you were in an everyday funk, like an everyday person, without a brain disease, maybe then, maybe then it would cheer you up; but that’s not you. You’re different. Sadly.

And if you’re going to take a vacation maybe consider one that interrupts your routine less. Maybe stay in the same time zone. Maybe keep the same hours. Maybe don’t eat local cuisine off food trucks. Maybe don’t abandon your exercise. Maybe even consider staying home and just doing what you love in your own space. After all, there is a lot to say for spending extra time with friends or in your favorite local places you normally don’t have any time to visit.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news on this one but I’m just trying to prevent you from spending thousands of dollars to end up in a magical place with no Earthly way of enjoying it. Maybe there will be a better time to see the French Riviera. Or maybe you’ll discover something you love closer to home.

Either way, just remember, vacations don’t fix bipolar depression any more than they do cancer, seizures or diabetes. There are no vacations from those things. That’s just something you have to get used to.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.


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