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:

The Dip Day 2

Today I feel physically ill as well as mentally off. A bit of a chicken vs egg dilemma. Did I go from high to low because I am getting a cold or did I get this cold because I have psychologically dipped into the depths of my disease.

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow morning. I worked an hour and a half from home today but do not know if I can do much more. At least not today.

The thought of faking mental wellness around others is as tiring as the act itself, which is why I don’t want to physically go to work.

This disease is conniving. Last week I felt invincible- getting all my tasks done at super human speed. Asking for additional assignments. But at the same time finding it impossible to concentrate for more than four hours on work.

This week I feel a failure. Unable to concentrate at all. Barley able to return emails, and unable to fake professionalism on the phone.

Bi-polar for me is going from Wonder Woman to a Dickens’s wretched street urchin in a day.

 

 

Bloodlines and Waistlines

I have spent the past two days (while not working and sleeping) binge-watching Bloodlines, an intriguing family drama/suspense series which has done serious damage to my waistline. I initially guffawed at the media attention correlating binge TV watching to binge-eating, but my personal, non-mindful experiment has found it to be correct.

Time’s online magazine published an article yesterday, This is What Binge Eating Does to Your Health”, describing a recent study that states the more you sit in front of the television, the higher your risk of diabetes.  The article merely states that it is the act of being sedentary that causes the risk, not even addressing behaviors one partakes in while watching television.

Binge-watching & Eating

I had a junk food binge last night that would make a six-year-old left alone with an Easter basket this Sunday marvel. I’m not going to go entirely into it, but it spun me out into a “sweets” shame spiral. A study out of UT-Austin connected binge-watching to not only binge-eating and binge-drinking, but depression and loneliness.

I can honestly say binging on Bloodlines was not done out of depression or loneliness, but because I found it to be a kick-ass thriller. And thank goodness I have solid recovery, because the amount of tequila drunk in this series would cause Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo (Jose Cuervo ) to worship the porcelain gods. For me, it was the suspense, and my natural proclivity towards sweets, that caused the binging. Why would I take time to prepare and eat a healthy meal when I NEED to know what Danny is going to do next, and I bought snacks for my son’s first visit this weekend?

As they say in recovery, everything in moderation. So now that I’ve finished the series, I’ll kill off some calories by making this place teenager friendly for the weekend. Oh, and I’m sure shopping for those snack replacements will kill some calories too.