My New Addiction

  
I have not left the couch today. And I am feeling quite well. For a week I’ve been sick with a fever and nauseous bug but that seems to be gone.

However, Bass is out of town this weekend at “band camp” – his twice monthly get together with his band in Wisconsin where they spend the weekend practicing and recording in his cousin’s garage. This means he takes the Mac mini with him, which is our main media streaming device. Knowing I was feeling unwell, he bought an Apple TV thingy to replace the Mac’s absence. 

I hooked it up today, and I am hooked. For some reason I cannot get our Netflix account to work but that does not matter. Where we live in the boonies of Southern Minnesota, it is impossible to get local TV, but with the Apple TV I can access most of the programs on network television, but with the streaming convience of picking and choosing what I want to watch and when. So here’s the best of what I’ve watched today  – the places I’ve been from my couch instead of living my life. 

  • Mercy Street- A new PBS civil war drama set in the Union- run Mansion House Hospital  in Alexandia, Virginia. Alistair Cookie and I give it 5 cookies.  
  • Kendrick Lamar on Austin City Limits. FREAKING AWESOME! I’m a fan of Austin City Limits on PBS and my 16 year old son is a fan of Kendrick Lamar. This has to be one of the best ACL performances I’ve ever seen. I watched the whole hour while dancing and singing along like I was there. Kendrick is a rap artist I can tolerate when my son is playing him while we are trapped in my car. But the ACL performance presented him in a way which engaged this old lady.
  • Colony- A new USA Network drama about a family and their life in a future Los Angeles, when aliens have come to colonize.

Well, at least now I feel a bit productive because I unglued myself from one screen to write on another. But I have to go – “Sherlock: The Adominable Bride” is presently cued-up to watch.  

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    DBT & Me

    I’ve been on a list to take a Dialetical Behavior Therapy course taught by my therapist and got the call today that there is an opening. Part of me is like “I’ve been doing this for five years and have my self-help DBT workbooks, do I really need the course?” And the type A me is exited to relearn these skills which are helpful for managing not just my bipolar symptoms, but maintaing my sobriety. Because I am a dual-diagnosis dame in long-term recovery. I’m coming up on three years of recovery, from both of these illnesses, and I don’t want to go backwards. So forward I go with DBT & ME!

    The False Veil 

    The false veil of this depression is lifting. I’m feeling quite well today! Got my son’s room ready for his arrival tomorrow.  Some xmas decorations up- just enough for it to feel festive. No tree. But it’s more than “good enough” as the veil lifts from this major depressive episode.

    Hope to talk more tomorrow about what worked this time. But in a nutshell, I surrendered. Didn’t fight the depression, tried to stay out of shame, practiced “good enough”, and probably most helpful began blogging again.

     

    Distinguishing bipolar depression from a “funk”.

    A very good hearted, well meaning friend, messaged me tonight to see if I’d be at a social gathering this evening. I responded honestly that no, I would not be going because I am going through a depressive episode and am laying low, taking care of myself.

    Her well meant response was “get out of that funk please!”  

     My job is to clear misunderstanding when the opportunity arises, so I responded “It’s not a funk. Life is great. It is just part of having bipolar.”

    So how does one distinguish a “funk” from clinical depression? In my opinion, a funk can be a black cloud of sadness brought on by an outside source -a break-up, financial troubles, work stress. Where as sometimes depression is brought in by outside circumstances, but not always. As I stated before, I am perfectly happy with my life as it is now, yet at this moment in time am experiencing depression. 

    So I went to google for a definition of a “funk” vs depression and this was the best explanation I could find:

    Am I in a Funk?

    Awareness and Education    

     “With every small act, you can build momentum to move out of bipolar depression,” Robin Flanigan bp Magazine: Hope and Harmony For People with Bipolar 

    This is my small act today to move out of my dip. There are some general misconceptions about bipolar that unfortunately I, one who has the illness, buy into when depressed. The best course of action for myself is awareness and education.

    Self-Awarness: This is the key to managing symptoms. Although during a depressive episode it’s a key which often opens a pandora box of self-doubt. So let’s bust some doubt-causing misconceptions with the facts:

    I do not spend weeks awake, spend loads of money, or go “postal” on people. Some symptoms of bipolar I mania are decreased need for sleep, reckless behavior, and heightened mood. Truth: Studies found that people with bipolar spend far more time in depressive states than elevated. Depression to mania ratio in bipolar I is 3:1. Meaning, 3 more depressive episodes to every one manic episode.

    “But Violet,” I tell myself, “You only have bipolar II so this is less serious.” False: Instead of mania I suffer from hypomania,“a milder form of mania.” Even by definition it sounds like hypomania is far more preferable than mania.

    And in many ways it is, but it’s what I call my “Wonder Woman” period, but I am entirely unaware that I’m acting superhuman. Observers often (as I’ve personally have been told by friends) admire the qualities I show during hypomanic periods. I’m highly capable of multitasking and taking on many projects. I convey a general sense of happiness; even if there are external difficulties the glass is always “half full.” I’m able to work, be social, engage in life to the fullest.

    How is that any different than being a “go getter American”? 

    Because the hypomania period is usually just a week or two,and by the end my mental activity is off the charts. I want more work responsibility but can’t concentrate on a single task. My speech, thoughts and ideas race around in a million different directions. This type of mania deceives me because  I’m on medications, sleep well, get things done. It feels pretty awesome and I feel totally in control until perhaps the last day of this “up cycle.”

    “That sounds wonderful, Violet, sign me up for hypomania!”

    In bipolar II the ratio of time spent in a depressive state to hypo manic is 40:1. That means for every 40 dips I get ONE Wonder Woman cycle.

    Presently I am in a major depressive episode. This generally happens to me after a hypomanic state. Good news: I only get this chemically down after a hypomanic state, and hypomanic states do not happen very often.

    “Just get off the couch and turn those lemons into lemonade.”

    That’s the worst misconception of all. Because, you see, there are no lemons. Everything in my life is great. This is what frustrates me the most, but also brings out the truth of my disease. I have a chemical imbalance, a disease that is separate from my reality. I am having a depressive episode, and am aware that I need to practice self-care.

    I have to have the awareness to practice “good enough.” I don’t have to go all “just do it” in regards to moving out of this depressive state. For example, I didn’t have the energy to shower yesterday but knew I needed to go see my therapist. A few years ago that would have been enough of a stressor to cancel the appointment.

    But I took a wet wash cloth & cleaned myself up. I even brushed my teeth and concealed my greasy hair with a hat! Winning! As long as I take these”good enough” steps and stay out of guilt and judgement. As long as I am aware that I am in a chemical state of depression and remember I can be happy, the small acts will move me out of this bipolar depression.

    Positives

    I felt optimistic on my 45 minute drive to the therapist this morning. Two bald eagles, at different times, flew right by me. Made me think of freedom and the AA slogan “Freedom from the bondage of self.” It’s all I really want right now.

    Then I parked my car, and immediately upon entering the mental health building I was struck by the shortness of breath panic that comes with anxiety. I’m agrophobic  when I’m depressed.

    I began crying before I could even check myself into the appointment. But I stayed. I met with my therapist. That in itself is a great accomplishment. A positive.

    General understanding I got through today’s session was that I lack compassion for myself. This only makes the depression worse as I judge what I am doing and what I’m not doing creating this shame spiral because I have expectations for myself that I cannot possibly live up to when it takes much willpower to just walk through a door.

    So here’s some positives going for me during this dip:

    • I’m not drinking. I have nearly three years sober and know from experience that drinking while depressed leads me to one solution: suicide.Because I don’t even view alcohol as an option, for the first time I felt like cutting myself, a form of self-harm I’ve never considered. I used my DBT skills and “urge surfed” this option- thinking all the consequences out and the urge went away.
    • Then I went to the DBT distress tolerance tool of distraction. I masturbated instead. Much more enjoyable than cutting myself or drinking to oblivion.
    • On the 45 min. Drive back home, I thought about being more compassionate to myself and gave it over to “the force”. Immediately this song came on the radio: