Causing a Bad Bipolar Day – What Did I Do Wrong Yesterday?

Causing a Bad Bipolar Day – What Did I Do Wrong Yesterday?

If you have a bad bipolar day, you might wonder what you did wrong yesterday to cause it. I know I feel this way. I know I look for causes. And I know it feels like it’s my fault. I feel like I must have done something wrong to cause the bad bipolar day. It feels like a punishment for screwing up the previous day.

What’s a Bad Bipolar Day?

A bad bipolar day is a day when you feel really sick because of the bipolar disorder. It’s like having the flu, but with different symptoms. A bad bipolar day is a when the bipolar really acts up. This is just like what happens with any chronic illness. There are regular days and then there are bad days with the illness.

You might have greater or fewer bad bipolar days than others, but I swear, no matter how many you have, you want them to stop and you look for ways to do this, namely, trying to find bad bipolar day causes.

Causes of a Bad Bipolar Day

Causes of a bad bipolar day can be anything as it varies per person. Some things I can identify as causing my own bad bipolar days include:

  • Alcohol – if I drink at night I know I will affect me negatively the next day. This is like clockwork. Alcohol affects mood and so when you drink, it affects mood.
  • Disruptions in sleep schedule – if I don’t sleep well, I won’t be well the next day. There is just no getting around this. This includes going to bed late/early, getting up late/early or waking up/thrashing about in the night. Sleep is one of the biggest affectors of mood.
  • Emotional stress – if I’ve been under emotional stress because, say, I fought with a family member, I’m likely to have a bad bipolar day. I’d say this is a pretty normal emotional response but amplified.
  • Being worn-out – if I’m worn out because I’ve done too much, or spent too much time with people or worked too hard, etc., the next day will usually be a bad bipolar day. It’s sort of like being punished for being too functional.

These are just a few of my bad bipolar day causes. Like I said, other people likely have their own. (And, of course, bad bipolar days, can turn into full mood episodes if you’re not careful so they’re very important to take seriously.)

Are Bad Bipolar Days My Fault?

I can tell you right now, that no matter the cause of a bad bipolar day, it is not my “fault” per se. I didn’t create the illness, I didn’t willingly contract the illness and the illness on the whole just isn’t my fault. That said, looking at the list above, obviously, there are some factors I can control and lessen the likelihood of bad bipolar days.

That said, a bad bipolar day always feels like my fault. This is a baked-in problem. A bad bipolar day, for me, will be at least somewhat depressed and I will feel like everything is my fault; and, certainly, bipolar that is acting up is one of those bad things I caused. It’s because I made a mistake. It’s because I was bad. The fact I feel bad is my fault. My brain says so.

What Really Causes Bad Bipolar Days?

Like I said, some causes for bad bipolar days you can track down. I try very hard to avoid these antecedents, and while I’m not perfect, I do my best to mitigate the negative effects of this horrendous illness.

Bad bipolar days happen, just like with any chronic illness. What's a bad bipolar day and what causes a bad day in bipolar disorder?That said, sometimes I do nothing wrong at all. Sometimes nothing stressful happens. Sometimes my sleep is fine. Sometimes (usually) there are no substances present. Sometimes I didn’t wear myself out. Sometimes bad bipolar days just happen. Maybe there’s a biochemical reason in my brain that I can’t track or fathom, but as far as I can tell, nothing can cause a bad bipolar day. They just happen, regardless.

I think feeling like you cause bad bipolar days is a double-edged sword. Partially, you may be right and this may help you take responsibility for your own actions and improve your life and the experience of your illness. That’s a good thing.

Of course, if you always blame yourself for bad bipolar days – something you so often have no control over – then all that does is make you feel worse. That’s a bad thing.

So I’m here, having a shit day, and I’m trying to figure out what went wrong yesterday. But as far as I can tell, nothing did. My brain just exploded. There is no reason. There is no cause. I didn’t do anything wrong.

I find this hard to accept because I want to believe I have control. We all want to believe we have control in our lives and in this illness; but the fact is, we have very limited control. I need to accept this. Not accepting this just makes these days worse. Beating myself up about what I can’t control is a waste of energy and not helpful. Because, after all, bad bipolar days suck enough without feeling like it’s all our fault, too.

So I’m going to try to give myself a break and just do whatever I can to make it through this awful day. And admit nothing happened yesterday and I don’t have control over my bipolar disorder.

Image by Flickr user: Live Life Happy.


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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