My Triggers For and Warning Signs of a Bipolar Episode

By Tammy OzolinnsSeptember 27, 2022

Managing and coping with Bipolar Disorder is often challenging. When I was first diagnosed (in my mid-twenties) I thought I had accepted it. But the diagnosis and the treatment plan went in one ear and out the other. Although I stuck to the treatment plan for a while, once I started to feel better, I stopped taking my medication and went back to my old habits.

My recovery did not begin until I truly accepted I would have to manage and cope with Bipolar Disorder for the rest of my life.

Once this happened, my life slowly began to change for the better. At this point, I have become so in tune with my body that I can identify the warning signs of a possible episode as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning. I can tell if it is going to be a good day or a bad day. If the seas are stormy, this allows me to enact my coping skills.

Here’s what that looks like for me:


Everyone deals with some form of stress. If my body is under a lot of stress for a prolonged period, whether it be personal or work-related (or both), it can cause a mood swing (usually a manic episode). The reason being is my thoughts keep racing (like Nascar) and my brain will not shut down. Concentrating becomes impossible and I get frustrated and my emotions scatter all over the place. Sometimes even doing the simplest of things is hard.

How I Cope: Going to the gym, running, lifting weights. I will also journal and write down what is stressing me out, or I’ll talk to my support system and get their advice on how to handle what’s stressing me out.

Lack of Sleep

When my thoughts race, I do not sleep well at all. Sometimes, I will not sleep for 24 hours and this can cause mania. A lack of sleep may make me physically tired, but my mind will not shut off.

How I Cope: If I do not get enough sleep (it’s often on Sundays before the start of the work week) then I will go to bed early the next day to catch up. How to I attempt to ensure that I’ll be able to sleep? I take a hot shower and I limit the amount of tv and computer screen time in the evening. But to be honest, sometimes nothing works, and I just have to accept that sleep isn’t coming.


Recently, I took an OTC allergy pill, and within the next few days, I noticed my moods were shifting. I was going through a depression episode—crying and having no energy at all. A few days later I was irritable, wanted to spend lots of money, and was talking a mile a minute. It went on for weeks and I assumed it was just a random episode that I had to hold tight and ride out. But then I started to think about what, if anything, I had done differently. The allergy pill! So I stopped taking it and found a different one. Soon, I was back to myself.

How I Cope: I pay attention to my body. When starting a new medication, I will write down the side effects I am feeling so I can give my doctor accurate details and track how it might be affecting me. It is so important to listen to your body and check in with your mind.


This one is on me. I have a Type A personality and I expect myself to be perfect. This equates to rigid schedules and panic if they’re off by even five minutes. Things need to be in order, I do not like chaos or clutter, and appointments or engagements on my calendar are made well ahead of time so I can prepare.

How I Cope: Learning tools through both individual and group counseling. I struggle with this the most, but I’m working on it. I make a short to-do list of tasks I can actually accomplish. I engage in positive self-talk, letting myself know it’s OK to make a mistake or “fall short.” I make time for intentional rest and relaxation where I release the need to check off anything on my to-do list. While I haven’t lowered my expectations, I have learned to modify them.

You are capable of living with bipolar disorder. Healing is still possible. We encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].

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Comments (4)

  1. Steven

    thankyou,, 30 year old struggle n , drink drugs n need my lithium,,, helps,, self harm n suicide,, gets me from bad 5am crazy,, to next 6am,,, im surviving,,, my story is not over,,, thankyou,,

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Your story is most definitely not over. Thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability, Steven. If you want more space to share or some support in finding treatment options, please don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected]. We’re here.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
  2. Gabe

    Yeah, this is me. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  3. Kaiser

    I’ve been struggling for years with my bi-polar and addiction. I was diagnosed in my mid 20s and when I started taking medicine for it, it was a game changer, however my coping mechanisms from prior diagnosis was deeply rooted in me and I continued to use drugs to cope with my mental state and to “feel normal” and get me away from suicidal thoughts. I was unsuccessful in suicide attempts and I thought I just suck at life all together, can’t even do that right. But my higher power wouldn’t let me leave this world I have so much more living to do. This article is very powerful and it’s honest in it’s writing. I enjoy the how I cope section, I wish this around 10 years ago would of helped me tremendously, but even for today it helps me in my day to day living. Everyday is hard but with shares like this I know it’s possible to have a rewarding life. Thank you!

    Reply  |  
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