I’ve been closely tracking my moods for the past four months because I slipped into a depressive episode back in August of this year. I keep an online journal that is password protected so that I am sure it is for my eyes only. This allows me to be as candid as I want to be, which I find to be extremely therapeutic.
I typically write in my journal every other week or so, making note of my mood or state of mind and writing all about what is going on in my life with regard to myself and others and my feelings and thoughts regarding all of these things. I also write about my hopes and fears and goals as they come to mind in random ways.
It has been a rough couple of months as looking back on my journal entries will reveal, peaking with a practice-go at writing a suicide note. I didn’t plan on writing one, but I got to writing about all of the hard things I’ve been through in my life and it just kind of turned into one. Then the weirdest thing happened: the next day I felt great and my mood has steadily improved since then. It’s like I just had to get the bad thoughts out of my head and on to the paper for them to no longer have power over me. I can’t say that it will work for you like this, but for me, it just does sometimes.
I am going on two weeks of an upswing in my mood and I’m real happy that things don’t seem so bad these days. They’re not wonderful, but they’re not unbearable like before, and you can bet I am writing praises about that!
There are many difficult aspects of having bipolar disorder. This I know since I suffer from it. The mood instability, which can vary from being manic or very upbeat and reckless to depressed, to the point of being suicidal, can wreak havoc on my life in many ways.
Bipolar and Commitment Issues
One of the main things I experience is the inability to commit to anything long term for fear that what I have the energy and motivation for now I soon will not when a depressive episode takes over. I feel like I have to leave my schedule flexible and open so that I can say no to things at all times without reprecussions.
It is hard to find that kind of arrangement in today’s workplace. Currently, I am self-employed, working independently in the creative arts field and that is going well for me.
Still I would rather be able to commit to more long term projects in my field so as to collaborate with other artists. It is isolating to have to do it this way.
Bipolar and Isolation
Bipolar by nature is an isolating disorder. It sets me apart from my family and friends because they do not have the disorder and do not understand the fluctuations in my moods, the agitation, anxiety, irritability, anger, saddness, or suicidal thoughts.
However, this is okay. I have my doctor and counselors and peers, including you, dear reader, who know exactly what I am talking about.
Bipolar and Journaling
I also have one of the best ways to cope with the frustrations of dealing with all of these bipolar difficulties and that is to write about them! Have you ever tried it? If not, please do!
Get it all out on paper or the screen. Spill it out of your head so it’s not mucking up your thoughts anymore. If you don’t release it physically, it will never go away.
H.O.W. to Journal
Just do what you can, when you can. It will all work itself out if you keep an open mind and are willing to do the work and be honest. That is H.O.W. you can journal:
2)(with an) Open mind
3)Willingness (to do the work.)
If you have any questions or want to chat, leave a comment. Good luck!
Researchers have recently found a way to measure neural signals across regions of the brain that decode patterns that represent a person’s current mood. They did this by using the intracranial electrodes already inserted in seven patients who have epileptic seizures. They tracked brain signals across the electrodes and asked the patients to report mood symptoms. From this they developed a decoder that will predict mood variations over time based on brain signals.
Their hope is that from these findings a closed loop system can be developed to treat individuals with depression and anxiety who are treatment resistant to SSRIs, other medications, and standard therapies. This closed loop system would in theory be able to stimulate the appropriate neural regions of the brain needed to affect mood in a positive way in real time.
They think this decoding technology could even be useful for other conditions that are not localized to one area of the brain and are spread out through various regions like depression and anxiety are. Some examples include chronic pain, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
New research shows those with depression have a five percent larger hypothalamus than those who don’t have the illness.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), is the system that responds when we are under stress by releasing cortisol into the body, giving us more energy to react to a challenge, and then returning the body to its natural state when the stressor has been removed.
In those with mental illness, the HPA axis is dysfunctional and releases cortisol even when no real stressor is present due to the over activity of the hypothalamus. It is unclear whether the increased hypothalamus activity is leading to its increased size or not.
Regardless, the larger size could explain the increased levels of cortisol and the periods of tension often experienced by those with depression.
Source: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. “In depression the brain region for stress control is larger.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2018.
Not barely one month ago I wrote here about my mental illness, and praised the universe for my glorious period of stability. Months of relative non-dramatic and chaos and anxiety-free days left me to do as I pleased with family and friends; with hobbies and productive work. I even made money doing something I absolutely love to do! ME! Someone on disability, making a dime doing a creative job for people that I would be doing anyway on my own. It was a dream come true this summer, I tell you, a dream come true! And then IT happened.
One day, all of a sudden, I dreaded the next paid gig that I was so eager to do just weeks prior. The thought of having to do it; of being obligated to do it now weighed so heavily on me I started feeling panicky. I was overwhelmed at the thought of all it entailed and so, so unmotivated to go through with it. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and hide for the next … well, indefinitely. I couldn’t focus on the amount of steps the whole job called for and I especially couldn’t cope with the social interactions it forced me to have.
Then two weeks later, the kids went back to school and things only got worse from there. My depression plummeted to another level as I spent every day at home alone in bed with no purpose other than to get up when they came home seven hours later. I came across this awesome mental health pain scale put out there by Rori, the Graceful Patient, and thought, “By God, I am already at a solid 6 going on a 7 here, and I was a fricking 1 five weeks ago!”
As an aside, before my stable period this summer, I was in a mild depression for several months through the end of spring. This is me. This is the life of rapid cycling bipolar disorder. It is not pretty or fun or predictable. Although, many times the depression does coincide with transitional events like the kids starting school in the fall and ending the school year in the spring, so there is some predictability in that sense. But, for the most part it is riding a mood wave that ebbs and flows over the course of weeks or months, sometimes even days when it gets really ugly.
So, here I am, turning to the thing I always turn to when I start to feel crazy: writing. I get into that darkness and I write myself out (i.e, “write into the light” = this blog’s name.) I also went and saw my doctor, of course, and told her what was going on. So, I’m starting yet another new med this week.
I have been on so many medications I couldn’t even name them all. No joke! I seriously wouldn’t remember all of them that I’ve tried over the last 17 years. I do know we make changes or adjustments at least a couple of times a year due to my rapid cycling. She told me one time she has some patients with bipolar that go years without a med adjustment but not me and my rapid cycles. I’m what they call “hypersensitive”…to people, to meds, to situations, to changes, to seasons, to temperature, to noise, to lights, crowds, to smells. I also fall under the description of an “empath” as well, which explains a lot of my ills after being around certain people and large crowds. It also explains my excellent intuition.
All of this just makes me realize this whole mood disorder, sensory system, personality thing is very complicated and intertwined. Who’s to say what one thing is and what’s another or where one thing begins and another ends? People are complex. Don’t judge or compartmentalize, if you can help it. We are all so much more than our labels. Kind of makes me want to retitle my post. But, for Google’s sake I won’t. Google search likes labels. 🙂
Do you or anyone you know experience rapid cycling moods? How do you cope with it? What helps you manage?
I was sitting here thinking about how I haven’t thought about the fact that I have bipolar disorder in a while. About two weeks ago I had a day or two of feeling depressed and it reminded me of the “old days” of when I was in a true clinically depressed state of being unable to get out of bed or eat or shower for weeks on end; of when I didn’t know how I was going to make it through another day of living; of how I hoped I didn’t make it through alive. I just wanted to die.
Thankfully, I don’t get that low for that long anymore. I also don’t get high enough to be up until two or three (or four) in the morning writing or painting or working on any other various creative projects that always turned out to be a waste of time. Many of the projects I start these days I finish, and they have some sort of functional goal or purpose to them as opposed to being just some sort of random jibberish.
Some major medication trials until the right combo was found and a complete overhaul in therapy to treat my childhood traumas both played a role in the stability I am enjoying today. It takes work, effort, and the help of good and caring doctors and therapists, but mental stability can happen.
I am fully aware that one of these days I may wake up and find myself in a depressive or hypomanic state once again that lasts more than a day or two as they have been. I dread the day if it ever comes. However, luckily, my anxiety disorder is also under control enough that this thought is something I can let go of and simply go on living my life as is until further notice. Thanks be to God!
Mental illness is “any of a broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning.*”
I listened to a talk today by a behaviorist who proprosed that mental illness is not a medical condition but rather a dysfunction of our subconscious programming mostly likely which occurred during childhood. He stated that in order to change our moods and negative behaviors, such as anxiety attacks, depression, anger, lack of motivation, sadness, etc. , we don’t need medication or therapy. What we need is to change our subconscious programming, which will in turn improve our state of being and positively affect everything in our life.
He said we must also develop an attitude of acceptance (versus resistance.) The more you resist something the stronger it becomes. Accepting doesn’t mean you don’t try and change things that need changing. It just means you aren’t resisting it as it is in the moment you are in.
For example, I am trying to lose weight by changing my eating habits. I am accepting where I am now with my weight by not beating myself up about how far I have yet to go and by saying to myself that it is what it is and I accept what is without judgement, while still making changes. If I was resistant to my weight as it is now, I would be filled with frustration and self-loathing and would probably give up on my goals fairly quickly. In fact, I have done this many times in the past.
He didn’t really explain how to change the subconscious programming except to plug his own life coaching services for further help in this area. I think his ideas on acceptance are very useful and beneficial to everyday living. I highly recommend living life in a state of peaceful acceptance.
I felt very discouraged by his claim that people don’t need medication or therapy to eliminate stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions in their life. He even said migraines could be eliminated immediately using the above techniques.
It scares me to think that people are advising others to go without treatments that could potentially save their lives. One thing does not work for everyone. So, please if you are reading this, be open to all possibilities when it come to mental illness treatment, because mental illness IS REAL and it may take all types of treatments to address it.
*”Mental Illness.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 15 May 2018.