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Archive for the ‘depression’ 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 been well for two years now with just 2 or 3 slight dips in mood. I handled the dips well and they didn’t escalate into desperately depressed episodes. What I am desperate for is something to do since I am retired, have too much time on my hands and I don’t think I can handle the stresses of a full or regular part-time job.

Before my last deep, dark episode 2 years ago, I was volunteering for Hospice doing data entry for 4 hours once a week and I liked my job. I did it very well. While I was sick in the hospital, my husband called in for me telling my supervisor I was ill and I wouldn’t be back. I didn’t have any interaction with people there but I liked my work. My husband and therapist felt that having no interaction wasn’t healthy and maybe they were right. But now that I’m doing so well, I am desperate for something productive to do. I have too much time on my hands.

I tried volunteering at the Sheriff’s office doing fingerprinting. I had a 4-hour shift one day a week. The problem was that only one or two people came in to be fingerprinted during my shifts. Sometimes no one showed up. I would have to sit there doing crossword puzzles since they didn’t have any other work for me to do. I was bored out of my skull. I quit after only a few months.

I also tried helping out at our church office one morning a week answering the phone and doing some copying. I thought it would be fun but it was boring—no people interaction since I was covering for staff while they were in a meeting every week. I stopped signing up for hours (there were a few ladies who volunteered).

For a while I would go to the church café on Friday mornings and help six or seven older ladies stuff bulletins for the coming Sunday’s service. I was bored. The ladies were (and are) very nice people but the work was boring and the interaction didn’t grab my attention.

A number of years ago, I tried working at the animal shelter socializing the cats. The dander bothered me so I had to quit that.

My husband and former therapist felt I should sign up for classes at Joanne’s Fabric Store.   They have classes to make jewelry, knitting, decorative painting, crocheting and sewing. They even give occasional classes on cake decorating. The classes are one or two sessions long, are for beginners, which I would be one, but once you’ve taken the class where is the support to improve your skills at your newfound hobby?   Learning to knit hats and scarves in Florida is not practical. A sweater would be but you’d need an advanced class to learn the skills to do that and they aren’t offered. You need to pay for these classes plus the tools and materials. I don’t see the point in shelling out the money when the classes are so limited and I can’t completely learn a skill. Decorative painting sounds nice but you have to buy the items you want to paint plus the various brushes, the paint and the varnish/sealer. It’s expensive and I don’t have room in my house for clutter—I have everything I need—I live simply. You can only make so many gifts for people before it becomes clutter for them too.

So this is my dilemma: what do I do with my spare time? I can only clean my house so much. Once it’s clean it’s clean. There are only 2 of us so it doesn’t get too mussed up or dirty. I need something fairly stress free since stress is a trigger for anxiety which is a trigger for a mood swing.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

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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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Fear Overwhelms

We work hard, we follow our doctors’ instructions, we learn all the coping skills we possibly can, eat right, take our meds, get plenty of sleep, live a structured life, and work this plan as hard as we can. With all our might. Trying to maintain “normal” even when inside our mood swings are raging and we are far from it. Yet we dig deep into our wells of strength to pull out what little we have left so the disorder doesn’t win. We meet all or nearly all our daily obligations and appear normal at home and on the job. And at the end of the day, we are tapped out, possibly even crying to God in our beds at night to take us home because we don’t want to have to go through this again.

From communicating with many other bipolar folks, I’ve learned the scenario above, to various degrees, is what is normal for many of us. For me, I am at the upper extreme – I fight with everything I have in me to overcome like a warrior. But as I recently found out from my psychiatrist, it is a battle that cannot be won with aggression alone. Fighting so aggressively is fighting the fear of being overwhelmed, the fear that if we ever give ourselves a rest the “disorder” of the illness will overtake us again.

Rest Rejuvenates

Since talking with my doctor I decided to take his advice and I’m learning a better approach, but it has taken a year and a half to feel totally natural to me. He said to rest during the storms, especially during the deep and even suicidal depressions. Yes I still move forward using my coping skills to meet my obligations as best I can but I don’t push myself to the edge of my limit.   I know now that rest rejuvenates. When I feel I’m depleting my energy, rather than push harder, I back off for a while. It may be for a day or two days, maybe more but during the rest period I do the easy things, the comfortable things to give myself a break. I found my doctor was right. This gives my body and mind a chance to recoup by not trying to have a contest or prove to myself that I can overcome. Rather, by being kind to myself I am overcoming the effects of the cycles. I am no longer adding extra stress, which can actually fuel a mood swing to go deeper or higher.  I’ve been maintaining a normal level for a year and a half now. Yes, I feel the edge of a cycle creeping up once in a while. I acknowledge it, use my coping skills and go on with my day. Whatever comes I know I can adapt with the new tool, rest without guilt, in my toolbox.

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After fighting a deep depression for 1½ months, I finally came out and settled in at “normal”.   After a few days I should have been very pleased but I was frustrated. I felt bored. Totally and hopelessly bored and I didn’t know why or what to do with myself.

I had an appointment with my therapist. We talked about my sleep problems, I’d been getting only a couple of hours per night for a few weeks and by afternoon I would feel starved for sleep. We determined it was either my new meds causing it or a rebound effect from coming off the old meds if they helped me sleep.   It could also be a combination of both.

Finally, I told her how bored I felt. She asked me what I have been doing and I told her it was just the same routine stuff—nothing had changed. She said, “Oh, but it has.   How are you feeling?” “Normal.”, I said. And then she blew me away. She said that “normal” has left me with nothing to work hard at. When I’ve been at anything but normal, which is usually most of the time, I’ve had to work hard to continue to live a normal productive life.   It can be incredibly hard work but now I had nothing to work hard at, just routine chores or errands. She was right! It made perfect sense.

I’ve achieved 12 days of “normal”! And I feel free and content. Boredom fled when I realized the reason for it. This is bliss and I have to believe it will stay this way. I know in reality the odds are stacked that I’ll slide up or down again. But negative thinking brings me down. The work now is to stay positive, believe for the best outcome and live in the moment. That’s not very hard work at all.

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