On Rising Well

I wake up this morning and feel like I’m in a rush

What a familiar “feel”!

In a rush…

To get somewhere I’m not even sure I want to be?

Lies!

Poke at the back of my mind

Speaking impending failure, embarrassment and shame

Of doubt, carelessness and disaster

Of looming danger and many reasons to panic

I’m running now!

Getting out of here is surely to my gain

No way to spend my time in fear, disgust and tears

I WILL SUCCEED!

No simpler way to put it

In fact, I’m counting on me

And that’s what’s real

backyard fun

 

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When Am I Normal?

The pursuit of Normal. Pressing on after depression and into…mania? Then into…depression?

As I try to navigate the path of swinging moods versus normalcy, I long to identify ‘my’ normal. I realize it’s my normal I seek and not anyone else’s (since neither of us are exactly the same), still I feel the need to consult others for whom the search is similar.

I recognize also that we have differing personalities and therefore, trying to converge on a common normal might be idealistic and not at all realistic.  However, for those who share with me, a mental disorder, it might just be worth the time and effort.

We have had to learn to cope with and ultimately manage ourselves in light of an illness that more often than not has caused us to lose sight of our bearings- a great deal. Some of us remember ourselves before we started experiencing symptoms of mental disorder and as such, have somewhat of a frame of reference by which we understand normalcy to be. For others, it hasn’t been as ‘simple’, as we have always had symptoms which have merely evolved with each stage of life.

With treatment, therapy, exercise, dietary adjustments and other ‘normal’ everyday situations, have come: battles with being medicated, then rejecting them because of side effects and the need to try and adjust to new combinations of medications; harrowing hospitalization (for some); the juggling of damage control and success in the various spheres of personal, social and professional life, while all along experiencing, at times, overwhelming hopelessness and at others intoxicating exuberance.

Can you relate?

“Deep” what?

Often, I catch myself having been holding my breath for how long I don’t know- I guess I breathe in just enough air to get through the next moment. So then I release it carefully and take a deep breath in and then I have to consciously let it out again…all of it!

Yes, I literally push it out and then, if I am not carried away by a passing thought or feeling, I inhale again, very deeply and as slowly as I can.

My father has always encouraged me to practice deep breathing. Needless to say, I never paid it much attention- i.e. until now.

These days, it’s as though I am learning to breathe all over again, except I don’t remember when I first learned.

  • Of course I was too young, what were you thinking?

–          You don’t remember learning to take your first breath do you?

On a more serious note, it seems, this dilemma “all boils down to” anxiety.

Gosh, it’s heavy.

I mean, I love knowing that anxiety pills are available for the taking but who wants to take another pill? I know…not you!

–          Not me either.

So, what’s the long term solution? Or, to speak in a more eco-friendly manner:

–          What is the sustainable solution?

Regular exercise, dietary change, a whole lot of prayer and, well, moments of deep breathing.

good grief
To A Sustainable Future!

Checking in after Hypomania

“Hypomania” falls within the ICD-10 criteria for a manic episode according to the World Health Organization (1992), and is

A disorder characterized by a persistent mild elevation of mood, increases in energy and activity and usually marked feelings of well-being and both physical and mental efficiency. Increase sociability, talkativeness. Over familiarity, increases sexual energy, and a decreased need for sleep are often present but not to the extent that they lead to severe disruption of work or result in social rejection. Irritability, conceit and boorish behaviour may take the place of the more usual euphoric sociability. The disturbances of mood and behaviour are not accompanied by hallucinations or delusions. (As cited by, The British Psychological Society & Gaskell, 2006, p. 86)

From April 7 to April 20 I had symptoms of hypomania; it being my most recent bout of bipolar disorder. I mean, the illness doesn’t disappear but lays low sometimes allowing me to experience some semblance of normalcy. It’s hard work and normalcy anyway is a moving target as I am sure you would agree. My normal is inherently different from yours and not because I have a mental illness but because we are uniquely created. I have never and will never walk in your shoes and vice versa so let’s not pretend that we can ever fully understand each other but we can try. This is me helping you to understand my walk (and maybe that of similar others within your circles). How about sharing with me about your walk?

My bipolar episode prior to this one (i.e. this period of hypomania) involved depression and didn’t last as long as 13 days; I don’t think…see my post entitled “Don’t take it lightly” on January 24 for details. That one happened at the beginning of this academic semester. I am now pretty much at the end. I must admit, that last year this time, when I had to take a hasty medical leave of absence (after having completed ¾s of the semester) I was in a much worse-off state than I am today. Thank God for improvements and for making a way for me to return to the programme as a part-time student and not least for parents who have willingly funded this endeavor. We won’t discuss my academic progress since re-starting the programme in this post. Exams aren’t over yet and I have another paper to submit. Pray for me.

The hypomania began differently than it has in the past. I can’t recall the actual beginning of each episode mania/ depression over the past 16 years but over time I’ve learnt to recognize untoward symptoms associated with one extreme or the other (thank God for the ability to detect these warning signs!). This time the hypomania seemed to have begun with increased anxiety and irritability. I am on anxiety medication and keep an active record of levels of both anxiety and irritability so I noticed the change. Turns out the change was linked to PMS (which normally comes along with depressed feelings) and slipped under the radar because I have had relief from those PMS-related symptoms for a steady couple of months; I guess you could say I got lax. So the PMS snuck back in as increased anxiety and caught me off guard. All that passed and somewhat suddenly I was hypomanic. I mean, since becoming hypomanic, I have identified what were probably contributing factors but what characterizes such factors I’ll address in another post 😉

Overall, to date, I have had more manic than depressive episodes and more often than not they both have appeared to come out of nowhere. Usually though, in retrospect and with a helpful glance at my planner, it’s easy to see that there is in fact method to this madness- my episodes hardly just “happen” it’s just that leading up to them is easy and it isn’t ‘til they’re over that I have the wherewithal to investigate what lead up to them.

They still seem to come suddenly though…, taking over my life; engulfing most, if not all of my consciousness and ability to reason and stealing me away from conducting “business as usual” in all spheres of my life.

In mania there is no driving, no classes, no church, no phones, no access to the computer (God forbid, the internet!), no going outside. Any form of external stimulation is discouraged as there is usually more than enough internal stimulation like racing thoughts, delusions and hallucinations. What fun! I must admit, during the early stages of mania (including hypomania and just before losing touch with all of reality whereupon I create my own reality (bad scene, as my sister would say): good feelings abound, nothing is too difficult and I can convince myself that everything is right with me and with the world. Sounds good doesn’t it? Not so much. If that goes on for too long, unchecked, I will most likely find myself at home (i.e. under house arrest, which is as far as it has landed me every time, thank God!).

Yes, under house arrest with my parents on shift duty to ensure I am monitored at all times; an altered regimen of meds and very regular communication with my pDoc (God bless him). Not fun for parents; or for me by the way. All this, however, has served very well to save me and others from myself. I know it’s not an easy scene to imagine. As I reflect now on the last manic episode, I shudder to think what might have happened had I not had a stable support system (in all respects: family, relatives, church family, friends and healthcare providers) and most of all a home to be arrested in.

At the other end of things is depression and having not had as many episodes of depression as I have had of mania, I don’t feel equipped to fully explicate what it is like but I will tell you how I have experienced it.

Depression left to itself is like being in a black hole that prevents you from seeing or believing in the possibility of there being a way of escape. I’d venture to say that it’s almost impossible to see hope beyond depression when it hits. I marvel at those who are able to resurface after undergoing long periods of depression…the thought of a very long period of depression scares me. It really does. I know there are sides to depression (and even mania) that I have never seen especially because I’ve never planned or attempted suicide nor have I been addicted to drugs or alcohol in the midst of my being mentally ill. Things can get really complicated in such instances.

I cannot say however that I haven’t thought that it must be easier to just cease existing (I’m sure you have too). In fact, I have longed for not living (as if I’ve been there before); and been convinced that I (yeah right) and the world (no, I haven’t taken a poll) would be much better without my being present on earth depressed or otherwise.

I’ve painfully woken up day after day to persistent darkness on the inside with each day being scarier than the one before because you begin to believe that it’s really never going away and quite quickly in times of depression I have lost all recollection of what it’s like to be undepressed. It’s crazy because of course I have lived more days undepressed than I have depressed but that’s what depression does- it is a deceiver- it tricks you into thinking that there is no life beyond it.

Depression is something that is hard to imagine experiencing even if you were to examine reports following a survey of persons who have major depression.

I don’t believe that people who actually take their own lives do so from a place of total consciousness. I don’t think they do a cost-benefit analysis and feasibility study before making arrangements to or actually committing suicide. They may consider all the people they will hurt by leaving but I don’t know…depression is a confusing place. Even if you manage to consider (while depressed) what you might be able to uniquely contribute to the world by way of having walked the road of depression; the self-hatred and anger that may accompany depression can make the unknown of “the dark-side” appear terribly intriguing. Have you ever loathed even the sound of your own voice?

I think depression actually steals your life without killing you– placing you on “life-support” while you’re still breathing. Although, depression can appear to the one suffering to be in every way an existence filled with absolute gloom and no possibilities of returning to normalcy- there is hope beyond depression and camaraderie has everything to do with it. We’ll get into that another time.

In times like these when I am better, I don’t recognize the person I’ve become whenever I’ve gotten sick. I am a different person then, understandably so, and just for the record, I don’t think the experience of feeling like a different person or not recognizing oneself is unique to having a mental illness. Thank God I don’t feel the need to reconcile the different “persons” I’ve been. I am done struggling with that.

Relationships have been affected of course; personally and professionally; some a bit more than others. Over time however I have come to accept that part of me as just that “a part” and I believe others have too. It’s really nothing to be ashamed of. It’s kind of crazy, that’s all.

Please note: the views represented here are not intended to be representative of the experience of all people with bipolar disorder, just mine :).

Hope beyond Depression

There is something about being able to speak to one’s soul; to declare the Word of God to and over oneself:

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

Those are some of the scriptures I drew on when depression laced into me last night. I felt it approaching the night before but by last night I was desperate. I turned on some youtube Christian music playlists and waited…cried of course, read the Word of God aloud and waited…

As hard as it was and may continue to be, the relief was sure…

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)