Bipolar Recovery Update 6
First a quick announcement, despite my overly optimistic hopes that the new book would be ready this week, well…it was overly optimistic. Editing is taking much longer than I had originally hoped and at this point I am going to stop giving estimates. It will be finished when it is finished and I am happy with the final product. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
So it’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these and, since I can’t really come up with anything else to write about at the moment, it seemed like a good time to do another bipolar update. The last one of these was done quite some time back so it’s really overdue. I figure at this point most people have read earlier parts of this, if not you can find them all here. But I’m not going to recap everything over and over again even if it pads out the word count.
The Bipolar Itself
I’ve mentioned previously that both my hypomania and depression tend to be excruciatingly seasonal. I have typically ramped up around April/May (when the weather changes I think) and sink back down in November (when the weather changes and I run out of gas from hypomania). The good of this is that I’m at least better able to watch out for impending signs; at the same time it made approaching that time a bit terrifying. Like seeing a train coming at you. As I entered, I think it was late April or early May, I did start feeling a bit of a ramp up. Some of it was probably due to a lot of caffeine use since it usually went away in the evenings but I noticed a change. It was subtle but it was there.
Entering May or so, the biggest difference I really noticed was a set of stereotyped thought processes. I’m not sure how to describe this exactly but there is a certain way of thinking along with a certain type of thoughts that I remember from previous episodes and they were starting to intrude a bit more. My old obsession had also come back in spades over the book project; something that hadn’t been present. Along with that came something else that I’ll mention in a second.
Now, I have repeatedly mentioned that I have a number of safety nets put in place, friends I see at varying intervals so that they hopefully catch the problems. And for some weird confluence of reasons, I ended up not seeing them around this time. I was supposed to have a birthday dinner with a friend; something came up. I hadn’t seen my two female friends in a while although I was scheduled to see them the week after this started. And I hadn’t gone to DBSA meeting that week.
However, luckily I had a followup with my nurse practitioner. I usually Skype with her once a month and the meeting with her came up that Tuesday. And this is where you can really see the insidious nature of this disease. Before talking with her, part of my brain was already trying to convince me “You’re fine, don’t tell her about this, you’re about to get awesome.” That was the other part of the “voices” for lack of a better word. My sleep was still good and even that was a way for me to convince myself that everything was ok. But it clearly wasn’t.
And I still had some of that urge during the first part of our Skype session; to not tell her about what I was feeling or thinking. It really is a tough disease in that way; part of it is convincing you that you’re fine. And then it gets out of control.
Thankfully it was early enough in all of this that I was able to maintain enough self control to remind myself that not telling her honestly what was going on defeated the purpose. So I told her. It wasn’t easy and it’s the first time I’ve proactively realized that things were about to get out of control. She pointed out that this was a huge step for me and she’s not wrong.
I called my mom that night and told her about all of it; I always check in with her after my Skype sessions. Another first for me, usually I can fake it with her on the phone or just tell her everything is ok. I would tell two of my other friends to watch me a little bit closer in the upcoming month or two, that I was feeling the problems cropping up. And they did for which I am, again, very thankful.
I happen to be on the lowest effective dose of my medication and the simple solution was to double it to see what happened. I can even go higher before even getting close to the maximum dose.
I happened to see my two female friends the next day and I was definitely ramped up; some of it was excitement over the current book project but I was definitely doing my talking a mile a minute (think of someone on cocaine and that’s me during this phase) thing that happens when I get like this. I would tell them about what I was feeling and to maybe check in on me a little bit more frequently. Which they also agreed to.
And then, the next day, it was gone. The imposing thoughts, the style of thinking, my energy stabilized, the obsessiveness over the book went away. I’ll be honest that I was stunned that it worked that quickly. But I’m already on an effective dose and it was just a matter of increasing the effects; it would have been far more delayed had I just been starting.
But two days later I felt fine. I mean really fine, not convincing myself I was fine. And two-ish months later, I’m still stable. Or as stable as I ever get. No obsessiveness, if anything I feel a little bit on the low end energy levels but that’s fine too. I’m getting my work done, Arkham Knight not only ruled but ended up being a facilitator of my work since I made a deal with myself that I couldn’t play until I did my work. And it was so awesome that it made me want to do my work that much more.
I’d schedule my monthly followup, which would actually be fine and then she and I decided to move to an every 6 week schedule. I wanted 8 weeks and she wanted 4 and we just split the middle. But for the first time in at least the past 5 years, I not only caught the problem early but was honest about it to the people that mattered and got it under control. I still know I’m not fixed but this was a huge step for me and really is the key aspect of this piece.
I’ll be honest that my gym stuff has been a little sporadic of late. Not having a goal at this point in my life never helps; not having any focus to my training just makes it kind of blah. This was compounded by my shoulders getting wonky and making most upper body work uncomfortable. I’m not sure what it was.
Could be sitting at the computer too much, probably jumped into the OL’s a little bit too quickly given that I’m an old fart. I had some tubing stuff at home and was at least doing rehabby stuff for rear delts, rotator cuff, stretching out everything on the front and it’s starting to feel better.
But between that and being super-involved in this book project, it just sort of became easy to use writing as a displacement activity for going to the gym. When I’m in the flow of writing, I don’t want to interrupt that and since it usually happens in the early afternoon and I detest my gym in the evenings, it was just easier to skip. And it’s really just a habit thing for me. But I’m back into it as of this week.
Along with my training tends to go my overall diet. It hasn’t been awful but it hasn’t been fantastic. I’m one of those people who really couple good eating with regular training and when the second goes away, so does the first. There were other reasons my diet took a bit of a nosedive but I’m also back to that.
I’m still going to the DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Association) meetings every other week or so. It still bores and depresses me a little bit but I consider it part of my recovery and expect to be involved with it for some time. My mom is going out of the country and said she would feel more comfortable if I kept going. But my intention/belief is that until I’ve made it through my potential depression and at least one more potential hypomanic episode, it’s part of my life. It may be longer than that; some people have been going for a decade and meds can always stop working, etc.
Socially, I have basically given up on the nerd stuff, too boring, most people still annoy me. But I am dating someone not from what was a previously very unhealthy environment for me. Which is also a first in a lot of years. It’s probably part of why my diet has been off, we go out a lot. It’s very casual which is also a step change for me: usually about this time I fall head over heels for someone and it’s just super-intense right off the bat. This is much more casual and that’s a good thing.
And that’s it for now. I came up on a potentially very bad time, caught it early and admitted it to everyone in my life and got it under control. That’s a huge step for me. Once again, I know that bipolar is not ever cured, only managed. But so far I am managing it. Now I just have to finish this damn book…