Bipolar disorder made planning my first trip to Prince Edward Island (PEI) a complete nightmare. Don’t get me wrong. It was incredible. PEI is full of sunny beaches, mouth watering food, and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. However, bipolar disorder changes moods very quickly and routine differences are a common trigger for manic episodes. So, I needed to find away to cope in a foreign place and still have fun. I followed three main tips.
Tip #1: Have enough medication for the duration of your stay
I cannot stress the importance of taking your medication consistently. If you can cope without medication, great, but not everyone can. I talked to my doctor and pharmacist about my plans to leave Ontario and we made sure I would have enough medication for the whole trip. Travel can be stressful. So, don’t add more stress to your body unnecessarily. Do you want to deal with jet lag and withdrawal at the same time? I sure don’t.
My pharmacist gave me two weeks of medication for my trip. I also had an as needed medication if I felt myself experiencing symptoms of mania or depression. My health coverage was invalid in PEI. So, I made sure to plan ahead.
Tip #2: Plan for a manic episode
Manic episodes happen. So, take your coping mechanisms with you. If it’s medication, make sure you have enough with you. It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. If cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) helps you cope, write out the techniques that work best for you. Bring a CBT manual with you. Download a CBT app on your phone. Bring a small notebook of techniques that fits in your purse or satchel. Anything helps.
I downloaded a CBT app on my phone before leaving. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about internet access. Thankfully, I stayed in a cozy cottage with wifi. A helpful course of action is to plan for when you don’t have internet. What if there’s a storm or you’re staying in a trailer park? You still need to cope. So, keep everything accessible.
Tip #3: Use your support systems
See if the place you’re staying at has internet access. If so, there are plenty of apps you can use to stay in touch with friends and family. I recommend Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Google Hangouts, and Skype. If you don’t have internet access, keep money aside for payphones or hotel phones. Also, be honest with your support systems. If you’re having a tough time, reach out.
I used Facebook Messenger to video call my mom. This gave me a chance to connect with my family, as well as comfort myself with familiarity. I was fortunate enough to stay with my sister in PEI. If I was having a tough day, I talked it out with her. Support systems are your best friend in uncertain situations. Use them.
Travelling to Prince Edward Island was one of the best experiences of my life. It was the first time I flew; the first time I saved up my own money to go on vacation. I had an incredible time swimming in the frigid ocean, holding starfish, and making connections with the locals. The planning was stressful, but I made lifelong memories. My best piece of advice for travelling with bipolar disorder is to plan it out. Be safe and travel wherever your heart takes you.