Bipolar disorder usually consists of moods alternating between extreme highs, or semi-highs in the case of hypomania, and extreme lows, with stabilized moods in between. The highs can include symptoms such as:
- Having lots of energy
- Feeling high or wired
- Having racing thoughts
- Talking fast
- Taking more risks
- Needing less sleep than usual to feel rested
- Having more distractions than usual
- Having intense senses, such as smell and touch (Source: WebMD)
The lows can include symptoms such as:
- Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Not enjoying things you used to enjoy
- Trouble with concentration, memory, or making decisions
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Appetite changes
- Gaining or losing weight
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Thoughts of suicide or death (Source: WebMD)
A person experiencing a mixed episode is having symptoms from the highs and the lows at the same time or in rapid succession with no break in between. This is a very disturbing type of episode to have and can cause much confusion and anxiety for the person. The person can, for example, feel depressed and tired most of the day with no motivation or hope, but still feel compelled to act out impulsively with regards to sex or spending money at times. They can be crying uncontrollably one minute and extremely happy the next. This can go on for days, weeks, or months.
Treatment usually includes some form of medication. Treatment by a doctor is definitely required as this is something that will not go away on its own and if left untreated carries an extremely high risk of ending in self-harm or suicide. Mixed episodes in particular are even more at risk of suicide than straight bipolar mania or depressive episodes alone.
The good news is with medication management by a qualified doctor these episodes can be arrested and a safe, healthy, happy life can be attained even with a life-time diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I am living proof of that.
Comments are always open for questions regarding my experience with bipolar disorder and how I’ve learned to manage and live positively with it after being diagnosed almost 15 years ago.
How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.
The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.
According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:
- “Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
- Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
- Restlessness or feeling slowed down
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
- Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)
If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.
Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!
Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.
Let’s face it. Holidays are stressful. No matter how many years of experience we have going through them, no matter how far we plan ahead, and no matter how hard we try to cut back, the stress is there.
But, it doesn’t have to be an all in, freaking out kind of stress. Or a overwhelming, panicking, losing sleep kind of stress.
How about we shoot for the slightly uncomfortable feeling of having a few extra things on our to-do list for a few weeks and leave it at that kind of stress?
The following list may help you do just that. Good luck and happy holidays!
12 Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress
1. Make space for difficult feelings like grief.
2. Create your own holiday traditions.
3. Set realistic expectations for yourself and the holiday.
4. Stick to your self-care routine.
5. Give yourself permission to let it be a normal day.
6. Make a plan and try to stick to it. Staying organized is key.
7. Learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
8. Shop online and stick to a budget.
9. Set boundaries with family and friends.
10. Avoid excess alcohol.
11. Stay active with exercise.
12. Ask for help.
Resources: Eli’s Place, Health Point, Blessing Manifesting
With the holidays bearing down on us I thought this would be a good time to talk about things we could do to lower our stress levels. Here are just several ideas.
- Breathe deeply
- Go for a walk
- Smell pleasant aromas
- Close your eyes and think of a happy moment
- Rub fingers together to take attention away from a negative thought
- Be in nature
- Call a drama-free person
- Drink chamomile tea
- Be grateful for life
What are some more ways you use to lower your stress?
Resource: no longer available
There’s solid evidence that expressive writing can be good for your mental health. I was planning on researching and quoting and referencing articles and telling you why and when and the how does it of it all, like this one: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/boosting-your-mental-health-with-expressive-writing-0823185 but then I thought, you’re an adult. You’ve got the internet. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and regurgitate other people’s articles, which by the way is one reason I hardly write here anymore. I feel like, “Eh, it’s been said, why say it again.”
Anyway, you can look up why writing can be good for you. What I am going to do in the meantime here is what is good for me: write! Not about my life. No. That is for my personal journal which is private. Sorry. Not that type of blog.
So, what am I going to write about then? I have no fricking idea. I’m still figuring this out. But I have a book of prompts. That could be helpful. I also have a list of different types of journals that we could go through together. I don’t know, what do you think? Let’s see where this takes us.
I have been blogging here for eight years now. I have written a lot of posts I am proud of and some that are so-so like the medical research ones. I say the are so-so because they are kind of fillers for the times I was taking a break from writing anything of personal substance because I became super paranoid that people in my real life were reading my blog and I didn’t feel like I could be as candid as a result.
My highest traffic years brought over 11,000 views and 9,200 unique visitors, which I know many people see in a month’s time, but for me this was good.
My subscriber count is just shy of 800 people. I have super slacked off on reaching out to other bloggers over the last few years and I took a year off from Facebook which hurt my page engagement, of course.
I’ve been back on Facebook for about six months now and things are finally starting to pick back up. It’s nice to finally know my messages of encouragement and hope are reaching more people again.
I’m fairly active on Twitter where people are really encouraging and friendly. I always enjoy sharing there.
I hope you find my blog useful and share its posts on social media and say, hi, and follow me on social media, too. I love to connect with other people and share ideas and thoughts.
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?