This week has been great. I have worked many hours, completed student loan repayment applications, kept up with household chores, and generally felt well mentally. This has all happened for the first time in months, and it leaves me wondering where my mood has been. I feel good right now. I can concentrate again, and life doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I’m grateful for whatever shift has happened.
The one dark spot in this is that I have obviously been having mood issues without being aware of them. I’m usually good at picking up on mood symptoms and dealing with them before things get bad. The recent manic episode must have split what has been a months-long depressive episode. That’s all I can think of. Depression causes that soul-sucking overwhelm and inability to concentrate. I didn’t particularly feel depressed, but apparently, my mind was acting in depressed mode.
Whatever it was, I’m just happy it has passed. Does anyone else out there have mood episodes that you only see in hindsight?
Into A Pearl by the esteemed Justin Currie reminds me of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder. It’s not likely the inspiration for his song, but it really struck me. The aspect of a ‘stranger in your world’ that ‘only you can smother’ speaks to me. Justin is by far my favourite singer. The front man of Del Amitri (my favourite band), he has a flawless solo career. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him twice in concert and would follow him all over the world if I could. I never tire of hearing him. Anyway, give the song a listen. You might just relate to it, as well.
Here in America, my home of late, we’re preparing for Thanksgiving. I have loads to be thankful for. My FOC, my cats, my good health. All of that. For a girl who grew up in a cult and nearly died escaping it, having a good life at all is miraculous. Yet here I sit, typing away, confident in the knowledge that I am loved and wanted by a wonderful group of people (and wonderful cats). Yes, I am thankful.
I am not, however, thankful for bipolar disorder. It will be the unwelcome guest this holiday week. I’ll miss my nightly chat with my best friend Tuesday and Thursday due to his family obligations. My work schedule is different. My adopted grandmother of sorts and I will spend a day cooking together (great, but still out of the ordinary). And all the while, I’ll have to monitor my mood for shifts caused by the lack of routine.
If you have bipolar disorder, you know this dance. Your mood is stable. Friends and family arrive. Your anxiety rises. Partway through the new terrain that is this holiday week, your anxiety peaks just in time for everyone else to settle in. Your thoughts start racing from the anxiety, and pretty soon you start to feel the deliciously dangerous tug of mania. This is what a significant change in routine can do to me.
Self care is so important during these times. If I feel my thoughts start to race, I just go to my room and write or breathe or meditate. Whatever it takes. I check in with my best friend via text just to say goodnight. Even if we can’t actually chat, that brief connection makes a major difference. I force myself to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. That part of my routine remains intact. I used to think of this sort of care as selfish. Now, I see it as necessary. Without taking care of myself, I have nothing to give to others.
So this is my takeaway for all of you out there dealing with mental health issues this week: take care of yourself. Your family, whether biological or just in the heart, wants to spend time with you. Don’t let your disorder take your place.
Like most adult humans, I have a job. I’ve had this job for almost ten years. And I am burnt out. My therapist pointed this out to me when I went to her with the problem of actually *doing* my job. Getting through each shift is torturous. The problem here is the job is perfect for me as a person with bipolar disorder. And as a person who rarely likes to leave her house. I telecommute.
Bipolar disorder dictates alot of things about my life. I keep a regular sleep/wake routine, I keep appointments with my therapist and psychiatrist and I take my meds without fail. My job allows me the flexibility of setting my own hours and taking days off as needed to cope with mania and depression. It sounds like a dream job, and it really is a ‘sweet gig’ as they say here.
So why am I struggling with it? Anybody care to answer that question?
Focus is a problem. I’m not sure whether that’s a bipolar thing or just me having trouble forcing myself to do something that is causing me problems right now. There’s a certain lack of confidence in myself in doing a job I’ve done for years now. No idea where that is coming from. This has left me financially in a mess, and even that doesn’t seem to be a motivator. I have no idea what it’s going to take to set me right again. I’m scaring myself, and that is saying something. But my bipolar-addled, attention-deficient brain doesn’t care about my fear. It just wants to stare in to space and think of other things.
We’re nearing the end of 2017, and the beauty of a grey Autumn day with colourful leaves everywhere set my mind to this blog, which really isn’t much of a blog anymore. School is done, work is work, and my personal life remains relatively the same as always. There really isn’t much to say these days. But, as we are nearing the end of the year, I thought I’d look back at some positives and negatives.
Politically, the world is a mess. America has an idiotic prepubescent bully in the White House who would do better to be replaced by one of my cats. The UK has a deluded Prime Minister who thinks she can keep the UK in the single market after Brexit. These are our leaders, folks.
I don’t even have to remind everyone of the terrible shootings plaguing America right now. And according to the ‘President,’ mental illness is to blame. As someone with a mental illness and no desire to kill anyone, I take offence to that. I own my disorder, and I work hard to keep myself stable. I am probably the least violent person you’ll ever meet. Yet in the eyes of the man who runs the most powerful nation in the Western world, I am the problem.
Times like these, we have to look to the positives in our lives. I don’t get on with my housemates, but the centre of my existence lies outside my home, buried safely within my family-of-choice. These people never fail to amaze me with their patience and love. They deserve the best, but somehow they’ve ended up with me. Then there are my cats. Wonderful little beings who enrich my life every day. Whenever I hear of yet another terrible world event, I just snuggle one of them, and things fade a bit. It’s hard to be anything other than happy with a cat in your arms.
As this year winds down, I look to a comfortable ending and a bright beginning. In fact, I wish that for many things.
I’ve been cycling. As a matter of fact, I’m still on the downswing. It started with hypomania that I didn’t even recognise. My therapist pointed it out to me. This went on for roughly two weeks (which is why I haven’t posted). My thoughts raced madly, and I wanted everyone to shut it so I could keep talking. *Nothing* moved fast enough.
From there, the mixed state set in. The latest DSM did away with mixed episodes. The disorder, on the other hand, did not. This is the dangerous stage for me. All the despair and suicidal ideation of depression with all the energy of mania. I had racing dark thoughts. I didn’t want to talk anymore because I didn’t want anyone to get in my head. My paranoia shot up. *Everything* was dangerous.
Now I’ve fallen in to a light depression. It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable, but I feel I can cope with it safely. If not, I’ll definitely phone up my therapist. This completes my cycle, though. A couple of weeks of mania, followed by a week or so mixed, followed by sometimes months of depression. Here’s hoping this stage passes as quickly and as easily as possible.
It occurs to me that, since I have started blogging again, this blog will likely take on a new direction. I’m not the same person I was when I first started the blog, and I haven’t got the same concerns. Back then, life was all about finishing graduate school and coping with the recently-divulged secret of my multiplicity. Now, grad school is a distant accomplishment, and I am fully integrated. Life has definitely changed. Looking back at old posts, even the tone of my writing has changed. Frightening and exciting all at once.
So what am I doing now? Glad you asked. Now, my life focuses primarily on bipolar disorder– something that can’t be resolved via therapy– and veganism/animal rights. As well, I am proudly Wiccan and involve many Pagan practices in my daily life. These are the pieces of me that remain post-integration. I still deal with trauma flashbacks and will likely write about that subject from time to time. It’s no longer a daily focus, though. Now, my life is about using my beliefs to walk as gently as possible on the Earth. I feel whole in my mind and spirit, so my focus is sharper on the causes I support.
That’s the funny thing about change– it’s ok! We all change as life progresses, but we never lose our value. Thanks for following along with this new leg in my journey, dear readers. I hope you continue to share parts of your journey, as well.