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Archive for the ‘Coping Skills’ Category

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I am balancing precariously on the brink of depression. We had one of our sons visiting for two days, which was a joy to me. Then, on Thanksgiving Day we all drove to our oldest son’s home and spent the day with him, my daughter-in-law, our two grandsons and their family friend. It was a wonderful day and exhausting. I had been up at 6:00 am to cook our contributions to the feast. Then we left at 9:30 am to travel to our son’s place. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and an exhausting one at the same time. We didn’t arrive back home until nearly 9:00 pm.

This morning I woke up emotionally exhausted which also leaves me feeling physically exhausted. I am experiencing a dip in mood treacherously balanced on the edge of falling into a depression. This, after being hypomania and depression free for two years and 3 months, feels like a fairly new experience again. I haven’t thought much about the pain and agony of depression for a long time. What I know is that if I dwell on what I am feeling for too long I give it fuel to grow into a full-blown episode. I remember enough that I know I don’t want to go there again.

Right now, my body is craving sleep and I slept eight hours last night. There is no reason for me to need more sleep. I also have fleeting thoughts of wanting to die which alerts me to the fact that if I’m not careful I’ll slip into a dangerous black hole of despair.

So what am I to do in response to what I am feeling? I’ll put on some Christmas music and push myself to get a few things done around the house. Then I’ll take out a few things that are comforting to do to pass the time like doing puzzles, coloring, making tangle patterns, crocheting or playing my guitar. By that time my husband should be back home and this morning, before he left, he suggested we go out for lunch or dinner. I don’t feel like it but I know once we are out that it will be a nice distraction. During the evening, I’ll either get lost in a book (if I can concentrate) or the TV.

I’m not as worried about it as I used to be. I know it will pass and I know what to do about it. I’ll use the time to glean what nuggets of wisdom I can from the experience and keep myself moving forward at whatever pace feels comfortable. What I will not do is burden myself with guilt or stress because of it.

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Today is very special. It’s our anniversary. My husband and I have been married for 44 years. He stuck by my side through the best and worst of times. He’s a gem.

During the worst of times, when my bipolar was out of control, I didn’t feel I deserved him. I felt I was ruining his life. I wished I could die so he’d be rid of me and wouldn’t have to put up with my roller coaster moods anymore. During the worst depressions I would often think of ending my life. I figured that he would hurt for a while but then he’d realize that he was free from living through my hell with me. I tried to shield him from my moods but he could read me.

There were four occasions where I actually planned how to commit suicide and was ready to go through with it. I had promised my husband, that should that day come, I would tell him. I kept my word on each occurrence and he took me to the hospital for help. The last time was the charm—the doctor in that hospital put me on a combination of meds that nearly eliminated the cycling moods. The hypomanias have been eliminated completely. The depressions are now very few and shallow. They are pretty easy to control and keep from escalating. It’s been two years now and I’m still doing very well.

My husband fought this battle right beside me. He never gave up even when I wanted to. Communication was the key in our getting through it. He kept me talking and sharing what I was feeling and going through even when I didn’t want to but wanted to shut down. Those talks gave me the strength to dig deeper for tools to overcome and push through.

I know there are a lot of people out there with bipolar who feel alone, unlovable and that you will never know what it feels like to be well again. That is the greatest lie this disorder can tell us. It is the depression talking. It’s also the frustration talking. If you have a family member or close friend who you can talk to, share what you experience with him or her but initially do it when you are in a semi-controlled state if you can. You’ll be less emotional and make more sense. Our loved ones can’t help us if they don’t understand. The only way they can get a sense of what bipolar or depression is like is if we share and give them the information so they can learn. Direct them to websites that educate about bipolar. Let him or her come to an appointment with your psychiatrist for therapist so s/he can ask questions and learn. We need all the help we can get otherwise it’s a long and lonely journey.

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I’m tired. Tired to the core. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had two nights of a solid 8 hours of sleep. The weariness paralyzes me from tackling any big chores around the house. I know depression is knocking at my door but hasn’t quite taken a full hold on me yet. The lack of energy and inability to act on my motivation to get things done is a warning that depression is on my doorstep and is waiting to make an entrance. It’s frustrating because there is so much I want to get done. I have a basic weekly routine and I’m unable to follow it today. So I will work on the little things with the hope that my inertia is brief.

There is a tendency for me to feel guilty for my lack of accomplishment but I keep telling myself that at least I can pay attention to the smaller details for now, getting the house tidier than it already was. The big things will get done tomorrow or in the near future. This is a battle I don’t need to beat myself up over. Guilt accomplishes nothing but fostering a lack of self worth and I don’t want or need that.  I’ll be kind to myself, do what I can, and wait for better days.

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I’ve done quite a bit of traveling and visiting with family in the past month and a half. One trip to Kentucky to visit a son, a 3 day getaway with our oldest son, our daughter-in-law and our two grandsons, and a 7 day cruise to the eastern Caribbean. There were 6400 people on that ship although it didn’t seem like it, but I did have contact with a lot of strangers.

Among many of the recommendations for living well with bipolar disorder are keeping a consistent sleep schedule, having routines and structure for daily life, taking ones meds, using your coping skills and limiting stress. Travel requires disrupting one’s routine, a loss of structure, a change in sleep schedule, possibly a change in time zones, a strange environment, the noise and confusion of airports, ship terminals, customs and dealing with people—both loved ones and strangers. It all can be quite stressful and was. I tried to set up a morning routine and bedtime routine in each location so I wouldn’t forget to take my meds. I have to say I had to deal with a lot of anxiety but I coped with it all successfully and didn’t have any mood swing episodes in spite of there only being 1 ½ weeks between the first and second trips and two weeks between the second and third trips. I had just about recovered from one trip and off we were on another. I don’t think I’ll let us book that many trips so close together again. I have to say that it wasn’t very long ago that I couldn’t have dealt very well with that amount of travel in such a short span of time. I’ve come a long way.

But it was all good. We got to see most of our family and that time was precious. And the cruise was a special time set aside for my husband and me and we enjoyed ourselves. We met some truly nice people and even a few celebrities on the ship who were very down to earth.

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How do I cope with bipolar, depression and anxiety? One way is through writing. Through writing I can examine m feelings, symptoms, my successes and failures. I can keep a running record of my mental health journey by keeping a journal. It helps me in three ways:

  1. I am able to vent my feelings
  2. It provides a record of how my condition is affected by my inner and outer world
  3. It helps me to recognize my triggers.

My journal serves as a mirror of my progress as I navigate life. I notice what triggers a depressive or hypomanic episode. Sickness often triggers a depressive episode.   Sleep deprivation can trigger either way but for me it’s usually depression so I go to bed and wake up the same time everyday.  Too many social events or traveling too often in a short span of time can trigger anxiety. And that’s where I have to be careful—anxiety can trigger a depressive episode. My meds don’t let me experience hypomania anymore in this past year. I’ve recorded coping skills, what works and what doesn’t. I keep a daily mood graph for my psychiatrist where I chart not only my moods but also sleep, activities and meds changes. It gives a truly well rounded view of my progress and triggers.

Both the writing and mood charting help keep me self-aware. I try to always be aware of any changes in my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being, both positive and negative. The sooner I am aware of a negative change the sooner I am able to able to deal with it to ward off a full blown mood swing. If my thinking is becoming negative I consciously begin to think positively. I’ll avoid situations that cause me excessive stress or anxiety when possible. Meditation and prayer are a big positive factor for me. I find solace in reading the Bible. Music often lifts my spirit. Talking with my husband will often help me maintain a positive perspective.

Keeping a positive outlook and living intentionally go a long way to helping me manage my mental health.

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It is a given that having bipolar complicates relationships. We feel our emotions to the nth degree. We can leave our loved ones wondering why a simple disagreement can set us off to the extreme. Through it all my husband and I learned how to communicate and become stronger through all the ups and downs.

To have healthy lives and relationships we need to develop good communication skills sharing our thoughts, how we think and how we feel. Explaining what impacts us, what makes us feel bad or good, what disappoints us, what scares us, what disgusts us and why is necessary for us to be understood by our love ones. We need to share our experiences and what we have learned. We need to share about new people or doctors we have met, what impressions they made on us, how we feel about them and why.

It is important to share these feelings and not just the facts to help our loved ones connect in an empathetic way, strengthening our bonds. It’s okay to ask our partner to help us sort out our feelings if we are unsure of how we feel, feel confused or have mixed emotions. We need to make the effort to describe our feelings to the best of our ability and let them help us figure it out.

Sometimes topics that impact our relationships trigger fear of rejection or being abandoned or some other possible awful reactions from our loved ones. It is important to go deeper than just skimming the surface on these topics. Our partner or loved one needs to know how we feel about these things. It may have to do with health, behavior, finances, sex, other family members, etc., but no one can even try to understand how we feel about these things unless we describe our feelings.

Sometimes the issues or topics strike a sensitive chord and lead to rising anger or even a shutting down on our part or theirs. This is a symptom of deeper issues, which are imperative to resolve.   It helps if there is an agreed upon plan in place ahead of time to help a couple to get to the core of the issue in order to resolve it.

I call this plan Rules of Engagement. It helps partners get through the tough discussions and is something my husband and I have used. Here are the basics:

  • One person talks at a time
  • No interrupting while the other person is talking
  • Listen attentively
  • Respect each other’s opinions and feelings
  • Agree to disagree when something cannot be resolved

Having good relationships with our loved ones helps bring balance to our lives and nurtures our spirits and emotions. Healthy relationships are imperative to our living a healthy life.

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I’ve recently decided to undertake the mission of losing weight. I’m supposed to start today and already I’ve failed. I just don’t have the focus or willpower. Why? I’m battling feelings of wanting to die. Not suicidal, just the feelings of the need to escape life for a while.

I feel like there are two opposites of me in my body. The one is rational and logical; the other is feelings/emotionally driven. The rational me knows that the feelings and emotions are driven by a lie—I don’t really want to die.   The emotional me is trying to drag me down into a dark pit and tells me there is nothing worth living for, there’s no hope for a normal life and I don’t want to have to deal with people or my having to put on a normal face. It’s as though my bipolar brain is attempting to kill me with all these dark thoughts. But I’m not really depressed—just very tired. We had houseguests for 5 days and now that they’re gone I feel fairly spent. I know that the tiredness is behind all this negativity and I won’t let it take me down. I know how to deal with it and I’m remaining at a stable normal level mood-wise in spite of all of this.

I won’t burden myself with guilt over failing my mission to lose weight already. I’ll deal with getting rested and getting my thoughts and emotions in order. Once that’s done I’ll be in a good, strong frame of mind to tackle my eating habits.

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