Night and Day – Living with Bipolar Disorder out of or in a Routine

I do not know if the experience is similar for other people with a serious mental health diagnosis, but I find myself to be very anxious and irritated when I am not in my regular routine. If I am able to function at a 9 or a 10 (on a scale of 1 to 10) while I am home, I am able to function at a 5 or a 6 when I am out of town and out of my routine. And that is just for domestic travel and travel to a familiar spot. If I have to travel to someplace new or abroad I would have to rate myself even lower due to the adjustment and/or the jet lag and jet lag recovery. As an aside, I have discovered that melatonin does help tremendously with jet lag.

What does it mean to be so tied to a routine? Doing things like taking meds, going to bed, waking up, taking morning meds and taking noon meds are all things that function pretty much on their own when I am at home. I am more or less on auto-pilot with these activities. When I am out of town, I have to create this structure that punctuates my day at several intervals. Things go wrong or even slightly wrong and I have upset the apple cart. Everything starts to tumble and there I am trying to pick up all the apples. Little things like eating dinner at 8:00pm instead of 6:00pm gets my evening off to a rocky start. Things like placing my meds in a different location than I am used to can be a form of stress as well. Sleeping in a strange bed can also be a pain. Having to get somewhere early in the morning is also a challenge as my day starts around 8:00 or 9:00am at home.

I have often thought that because of my bipolar illness I have damaged my hippocampus in some way due to all the trauma over the years of accelerated and then slowed thought processes. So there may be a real medical explanation for all this routine dependency. As I understand things, the hippocampus helps orient you through time and space and helps you keep pace with your general well-being. Getting to a new location that used to be a breeze now with hippocampus damage may seem a daunting task. I have trouble with spatial sense of direction which is one of those skills you need when you are traveling in a new or relatively new spot. This was not the case when I was in my twenties and thirties. This is also one of those problems that is self-fulfilling. The more I tell myself how difficult it is to get somewhere new, the harder it becomes.

So much for loving to travel. I much prefer to be at home in my own routine however boring that may sound. What about you? Do you find that routine is a critical element of your functioning or can you pretty much establish your day and night in a new place without much thought or effort?

7 thoughts on “Night and Day – Living with Bipolar Disorder out of or in a Routine

  1. I have a traumatic brain injury and routine is critical for me. It’s so much work too but it’s a must to be efficient and effective and SO much work and a pain in the butt but is just life now for me.

    Like

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