How To Go About Getting Shit Done

It has been noticed and noted that having a routine is particularly helpful for me in terms of day to day functioning. Within that routine I have techniques that I used to get out of the house on time, to get out of the house at all and to get things done that need to be done, or I want to be done. They are methods and techniques I have quite frankly, made up, over the years. Very little of it is backed by any particular therapy I have completed, or any particular method that I know of being researched. I’ve just made it up via trial and error, and finally, I found some methods that work for me for now.

Since being away for just over a week, and having been away a few times over the summer break, I have fallen out of the routines and habits that have a sole purpose of getting shit done. My sense of routine has slipped, and this could spell the start of a downward spiral. Already I am finding myself not going out when I want to, not getting to places and getting a lot of fuck all done for a stretch of time. I am going to view this as an opportunity to re-install and maybe update my go to methods of made up-ness that get me by. 

It’s nothing major. I wouldn’t call it the begginning of an episode or anything like that. I am just currently out of sync. I just need to re-install these techniques and methods into my daily get go, switch myself off and reboot myself. The grand old ‘have you tried switching it off and on’ is basically me at the moment. 


The main initial hurdle is remembering what my techniques were. This may sound odd, but many of them were starting to become just how I do things and therefore requiring very little in terms of conscious thought. I haven’t even written most of them down, then again we all have our own ways right?

So I’m here, racking my brain for the, ‘how was I doing that before?’ answers, and the, ‘what was I doing and not doing?’. I have missed running crew due to scrolling social media right when I need to be leaving for example. It seems obvious to not do that when you need to leave the house, but it is something I need to constantly be aware of and reign in.

Hacks that involve not doing this kind of stuff are really what the following 10 ideas are about. The 10 methods listed are geared towards achieving a sense of contentment and purpose within my daily activities, and how to get myself to do stuff I want to do really, but maybe want to quit also because I’m tired, or anxious. So here goes:

  1. Don’t browse Facebook or any form of social media when I’m supposed to be doing stuff or getting ready to leave the house. Instead, browse when there really is nothing else to do: whilst travelling from a to b, or waiting for appointments, or avoiding social interactions for example.Keep social media for filler time, rather than I could and would rather be doing stuff time. Or the, I ought to be but I’m not kind of time.
  2. Leave too early for places rather than cutting it fine. You have 10 minutes for the train? Wait it out on the platform rather than from the comfort of your own home. That way, you won’t miss it and the 10 minutes waiting is still 10 minutes waiting. 
  3. Not feeling like doing your training run? Set a final time in your mind of when you will leave for your run. Plan a time and if you need to envision it slightly, do that too. Get out the house and just do it.If it really feels awful and today isn’t a running day you can cut it short. It is better to make this decision having tried rather than before any real effort has been made. That way you know you tried and haven’t given up or let yourself down without an effort.
  4. To Do lists on relatively empty days can fill them up with structure and achieve a sense of purpose from having done something. Include things you ought to do, i.e. chores, washing, dishes, and some things you want to do, i.e. reading, Playstation, Netflix. Really keep it varied between ought to’s and would like to’s.
  5. Check your Filofax in the evening, and plan the next morning if you need to. Also, keep it open and around because this is where you write everything you intended to remember, and you quickly forget when it isn’t open or to hand.It is basically my memory and planning all in one place, it’s a pretty useful tool to keep to hand.
  6. Meal planning.This makes sure you buy food you want to eat as well as making healthier choices. It also cuts the cost of food down, which is quite useful because then you have more pennies for the fun stuff, like the pub, or climbing or buying more stationary because, well… stationary.
  7. Rest when you need to rest. Push on when you need an extra kick to get on with things and learn to tell the difference between the two situations.
  8. Be mindful of your feelings so you can gauge how you are in general. Let emotions happen. Allow your feelings, the good and the bad.When you think your feelings are becoming disproportionate, take some time and space to gather yourself together again.
  9. Nap if you need to, and set an alarm to go off within 30-90 minutes depending on tiredness. Don’t exceed 90 minutes, and preferably keep it under 60 if you can. It is better to rest and refresh than to push on and crash, or risk mood instability due to tiredness.
  10. Be compassionate with yourself. It’s OK to go slowly. It’s OK to stop and rest. Be kind to yourself and others. Don’t quit. Keep on plodding, no matter how slowly, towards spending time doing the things you want to spend time doing, whether that’s studying, reading, learning music, being creative, making crafts, spending time with others.Whatever makes you feel whole and fulfilled is a worthwhile way to spend your time, even if that means watching TV or making art no one else will see. Recharge and be true to yourself.

Most of all, an overarching consideration is who are you doing it all for? Do it for yourself. Do it to feel good within yourself and about yourself. Aim to please yourself first and foremost. If you’re doing it entirely for the sake of others and it’s draining or taxing for you, or you’re not getting anything from doing that whatever it is for someone else, then stop. The most important opinion of you that matters is your own.


I realise I have veered from first person but writing to myself from myself in this way will hopefully provide me with a list of instructions to refer to as I build my stamina for doing things effectively again. Fortunately, once I am back from Berlin there are no more trips in the foreseeable future, and I’m going to keep it that way. 

 

Advertisements

Madness: A Bipolar Life – Book Review

Marya Hornbacher is known for her gripping memoir Wasted, about her experience with anorexia. I read this as a teenager whilst I was unwell. It was amazing; she’s an incredible writer at telling her story of and through mental illness. Although our experiences were very different, at the time I felt she captured how my mind was working in relation to food. She was the first person who’s writing I read that really resonated with me. She got it, she really got it. During this time I read a number of eating disorder related books as the obsession becomes entrenched into every aspect of your life and nothing else is of interest, programmes, channels, websites, books, journals, academic books; all of it becomes much more interesting than spending any time with anyone else or doing normal teenage things. My tutor described me as an oddball when he asked what I’d done over the summer and I told him I just read all summer and didn’t see anyone. I was 17 so I accepted his comment and took no offence because it is a slightly odd way to send your summer holiday at 17.

large-3

Hornbacher’s Madness: A Bipolar Life, a memoir of living with bipolar spoke to me, again 10 years later. At 16 when I read Wasted I never realised our illnesses would remain in a similar vein. She spoke about her experiences from childhood to learning how to manage her bipolar illness in adult life, including a good period of reluctance to accept her illness, comply with treatment and trying to deny anything much was wrong whilst conveying very deeply how very much was wrong. How very much she felt different and how bipolar disorder although known as a mood disorder is not simply about moods alone.

By exploring the cognitive aspects of the illness: forgetfulness, memory loss, psychosis and winding up in hospital to only realise a while into the admission that she’s there at all. Again, through writing about her experiences her experience resonated deeply within me. I am quite sure I am not the only one, her account is so accurate and profoundly detailed. Our stories are very different and our illness takes different forms at times: as is the nature of any mental illness despite having similar diagnoses. Having said that, whilst reading on my kindle I found myself highlighting paragraphs and pages of “Yes. That! Exactly that!” moments.

large

It made it clear to me how much I didn’t understand my illness as much as I thought I did. It also encouragingly gave me the hope that my current stay well approach plan, which has been shaped through many years of successes and failures, is going in the right direction for the lifestyle changes recommended for those living with bipolar.

The book provided me with relief of reading someone else’s story that I could relate to, comfort in knowing many of the strategies I’ve started incorporating are on the right direction of track and sorrow that we have to live through and experience this illness at all: and how much of our lives we lose to being unwell, seeking the right treatment and trying to figure out what and how to manage living some form of purposeful life with bipolar.

It’s such a multifaceted battle that when you initially get a diagnosis it seems pretty easy and straight forward. Take some meds and you’ll be fine. Sometimes because of the information about coming off meds for other illnesses you simply come off your meds when your feeling better. Learning and realising that this isn’t the case, the hard way can take years upon years and lengthen the amount of time that it takes – which is already extensive – of finding the right combination of medication.

large-1

 

It’s only when it gets to a certain point of illness that you start to resign from life a little and accept your disability. It takes a long time to accept that you can’t when you previously could, that you might not be able to like you’d previously dreamed, or that you have to put so much extra effort into functioning and getting through your days and life than – what feels like – everyone around you.

Yes people manage to work full-time and live very purposeful and successful lives with bipolar. This perpetuates the illusion that it’ll be just fine within a few months of diagnosis. For some I suppose it might be. For others, which is often not posted on self-help media and information online because it sounds a bit bleak, it might not. The key is to be realistic with people about how much they need to twist and turn and bend over backwards to accommodate their illness. She’s not going anywhere and you really need to walk on eggshells and twist like a contortionist to make your life work in a way you would like whilst working with and alongside your bipolar.

The temptation and automatic reflex to self medicate in some way can make things more complicated: drugs, alcohol, sex, food are all eligible candidates for self medication that significantly complicate the journey through illness to management. Pushing home the importance of taking your meds religiously as prescribed even if you feel well or good, and to avoid the temptation of letting a hypomania early signs become a hypomania or full manic episode can be difficult. This aspect of self-care with bipolar takes a lot of self-discipline because who doesn’t want to be achieving and having fun 24/7 with boundless energy to be the perfect super human being who can achieve all and encompasses almighty greatness above everyone else around them? Who doesn’t like feeling like that? It’s an illness filled with many steep learning curves, many great troughs that follow the epic highs that quickly become more menacing than exciting.

large-2

In my opinion it takes a number of mistakes, fuck ups and slips to learn this lesson and that although far less exciting, balance really is the goal, and balance doesn’t include highs of grandiosity, marathons of achieving from hours of energetic and directive goal achieving.  It takes learning to forgo the excitement and euphoria of the start of a manic episode in order to avoid the devastation, chaotic destruction and yet alluring manic episode. Winding up in hospital bounding around the ward is not a good place to be, even if you’re still enjoying yourself and your ability to achieve with your goal directed exertion is stripped away from you. You are in there bare, on forced rest by sedative medications and IM injections when you become the embodiment of the untamable beast that bipolar can become.

Remembering the patches of these memories – because solid memories don’t seem to form during this time – enough times will eventually teach the lesson of balance, staying out of hospital, and really taking self management seriously whilst respecting your new lesser limits as a result of your illness.

The frustration and anger are very real. The hurt that you won’t be the amazing person you were destined to be cuts deep. Knowing that you might not even be able to pass as normal with a regular full-time job when it feels like everyone else is managing just fine is upsetting. Not only will you not be magnificent, or great even, you may remain someone disabled by your condition no matter how much effort and time you put into following the prescribed lifestyle guidelines of living with bipolar.

The reality of living with bipolar disorders has the potential to be bleak. It also has the potential to be a life changing illness through which you learn a lot about the mind, yourself, and people. Bipolar can turn you into the biggest grandiose asshole and a very sympathetic friend to lean on because you ‘get it’. Bipolar can turn your life upside down and in the words of Daredevil, ‘no one can give you your life back. You have to take it back’. This entails a lot of learning, a lot of self exploration, a lot of ups and downs, naturally, and a lot of damaged relationships. It can be ok though. It can and often does get better. Hornbacher’s memoir takes you on this journey in 300 or so pages, and it’s an accomplished and succinct tale of her journey that I am sure, resonates deeply with many who live with bipolar.

Meeting The Forgotten Me 

I have noticed something new about myself lately. It is something I remember noticing as a teenager during a good patch and had since forgotten about. When at 17 I sat in my sunken sponge chair opposite my therapist I shared my revelation, “I have started thinking?” She was the only constant figure during my teen years that I could rely on to make me feel secure, safe and validated, “what do you mean?””I have thoughts. I have realised I’ve started thinking, having time and having energy to think about stuff other than food, calories, weight, bingeing and purging. I think again. I can think”


It was new territory for me. I had forgotten about this and the significance of it until just the other day when I realised again, that for the first time in a long time I’ve been thinking. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking for the past decade, it means that I have been less pre-occupied with trying to function, trying to organise my self whilst navigating the disarray of my mind, my symptoms and mood swings. Dare I say it but I think my current dosage of medication may be working. I am able to get up each morning, shower, dress, eat and move without it occupying too much thought or energy. I am more able than I have been in a long time. 

No longer am I a puzzle to be solved, a life that needs immense management in order to get anything done or maintenance semblance of control. I am by no means solved, my illness by no means cured. I am just more functional than I have been. With this saved energy from just barely functioning and surviving I have time, energy and room in my mind to actually think on a broader spectrum than before. I am now capable of thinking beyond my anxieties and hinderences. I can think beyond myself and managing myself in my immediate existence. 


I have noticed a curiosity to know beyond me and solving the complex puzzle my mind presents to me. I have lists of goals, activities, questions I want to research the answers to. I am not exhausted by just breathing and existing. I have energy, concentration and an urge to know more than I do. I want to learn the ukelele more and the saxophone. I want to read through a list of books I’ve been meaning to read for years. I want to develop my german beyond my age old GCSE and I want to know about the stars and galaxies. I want to research about nutrition, science and medicine beyond the bare minimum that my degree necessitates: what are the effects of dietary supplements on epilepsy? How does the ketone diet work for epilepsy? How exactly and why do psychiatric medications affect metabolism? How exactly does diet affect mental health? Which components affect what? What are the different star constellations? How is food used as medicine? Does a higher concentration of salt in sea water make me float more? And so on. 

I wonder. The curiosity of my mind has returned and once again, for the first time since I can remember I am thinking, asking questions and have a thirst for knowledge. This is me. I feel like I am becoming more me. Not the crazy long term mental health patient me. Not the bulimic me or the anorexic me. Not the over the top me or the distant dissociated me. Not the emotionally unstable me consumed by moodiness/euphoria or that sadness that people may think of when they think of me, depending on at which stage of mood swing that we met. 

The real me. The striving for something with a purpose me. The passion to know and share what I know me. The sometimes creative and always curious me. The me of ideas to write about for hours at a time and the concentration and thought organisation to do so. This is the real me. This is the me I know, knew before, the me that very few others know. This is the me I lost and forgot to being unwell and at mercy to my symptoms and their toll on my life. 

I had lost myself so much that I no longer noticed that I wasn’t me. I have had identity disturbance whacked on my list of symptoms in assessments. Is it really any surprise? I had forgotten that it was possible to think beyond myself in this way. It seems terribly self obsessed but being tyrannized to such violent symptoms of mental illness and mood swings that you’re entirely disabled in living any form of life resembling almost normal even is absorbing. Getting up and doing shit on a daily basis can be overwhelming and for a while you know it’s not normal, it is easy to forget normal. People say there is no ‘normal’ but there definitely is ‘abnormal’. 

Feeling abnormal in every aspect of your life and being incapable as a result leads to either a loss of hope in surrendering to it, or an all absorbing fight to at least stop being quite as abnormal. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in an attempt to get better and I still haven’t felt ‘right’ for a very long time. I started exercising and returned to studying during this attempt to fit back into society in some way. I wasn’t convinced I could find a place to slot into the world so I started to chisel and carve a way to make myself fit into the world in a space  I made for myself. I achieved a few things during this time but achieving them and managing still felt like a ridiculous amount of mental effort. 

I had even forgotten that my normal was considered abnormal until visitors on the ward I was on last month were looking around wide eyed at this environment they had never witnessed before. I remembered the first time I stepped on to the same ward – it hasn’t changed in 7 years – and realised that my normal was still abnormal, and not in a good way. I’ve been confronted about normalising my illness and experience, of downplaying it as being normal when really some of my experiences are very abnormal and stressful for others. I forget. I haven’t known anything much else for a long time. 

The difference is that I am technically not doing anything different. I havent made any drastic changes to my approach and techniques for getting through the day. The difference I am experiencing feels beyond behaviour change; I think it is the medication increase. I think for as many issues the medication can and does cause – I am willing to pay a hefty price for the ability to think, do and function better than I have done in years, if not ever. 


I am starting to re-realise who and what I am. I am getting to know myself again, the real me: the me who thinks, the me who writes and reads, the curious me. I am not sure exactly how long I’ve been gone for but I know it’s felt like an absolute age and definitely too long. I think I might be back and I like what it feels like to be me again, the real me. 

Rules To Live By In Numbers 

I am on holiday. Some people they may ask, ‘from what?’; I don’t work but I do study, part-time. I have been off from university for 2 months now, surely that counts as a holiday? I’m going to say no, not really. Firstly, I spent  ~a month of that time being unwell with the dysphoric hurricane of hypomania. I went in hospital and had my meds increased. I have since spent time trying to find my feet.

Although I’m not having a holiday from working, I am having a holiday, but what from?  I am having a holiday from being surrounded by mental illness. I live in a specialist supported accommodation which means there is no escaping mental illness at home because someone is always unwell, everyone is on meds and we talk about it amongst ourselves. There are no awkward questions about mental health because we all live there for a similar category of reasons. Also you’re constantly having to answer questions and attend assessments for how well, or not you are doing. Whilst here I have to keep taking my meds twice a day, and I need to use DBT skills to keep my emotional expressions proportional, and I have to take care in the heat because of my meds – there is no holiday from yourself after all – I am kind of taking a holiday from mental illness.

I am taking a holiday from appointments, seeing my social worker, psychiatrist and support workers. Whilst they provide me with a lot of support and access to specialist mental health care, it’s nice to not be talking about symptoms, side effects and how am I really so much of the time. I am taking a holiday away from the bubble I live my life in at home. I am exposing myself to new and unfamiliar territory. At the same time I’m staring anxiety in the face as I gain confidence with new experiences.


I’m taking a holiday from living well within the borderlands of self-imposed restrictions. I am taking a holiday from documenting habit trackers and mood charts. I could stop forever at any time but they are an important tool for my overall well-being, awareness and insight. Taking a week out to just be, live and experience is quite the luxury and a welcome break. This can only be done when I am relatively well and stable: which I am at the moment. This is as much of a break from myself I think it is possible to fathom.

Finally, I am taking a holiday from numbers. Numbers have played a significant role in my life for over a decade: calories in and out, body weight, body fat %, muscle mass, weighing food portions and the numerical data from my FitBit that I try to make perfect: steps, calories burned, hours slept, minutes of restlessness and wakefulness during sleep, heart rate, minutes of activity and exercise. My FitBit data doesn’t just quantify my existence, it quantifies the goals of my existence: calorie goals, BMI goals, body fat % goals, sleep hygiene goals, number of days active goals, heart rate goals, step goals – literally any way of quantifying my life via a watch that you could possibly want for under £200, it does. If I had blood sugar and blood pressure monitors, I would record that too. I shit not, I have previously looked into buying them – all in an effort to feel in control and achieve a way to be perfect.

 

I realise now that I treat myself more like a machine, rejecting how anything feels in order to try to obtain numerical perfection. It’s a great watch and that is what I bought it for but it can be tiring and distracting from the bigger picture. It seems this focus on numbers has become a replacement for my eating disorder behaviour. It is healthier and less destructive but that doesn’t mean it is healthy and not destructive. More numbers can be obtained to quantify my existence further with a premium subscription to FitBit. I have so far managed to resist.

When I left for the airport I saw my analogue watch, ticking away in it’s box from having been rooting for something else in the same drawer. I spontaneously, (get me being spontaneous) decided to switch it up. My analogue watch, get this, doesn’t even have any numbers on it. Not a single one. I need to have access to the time, I don’t like not knowing and can become disoriented with myself without a watch. I don’t think this is mental health related, I’ve been like this since I first got a watch and learned the time as a nipper. With this analogue watch I don’t know the time to the exact minute – which is why I haven’t worn it for the last 3 years it’s been sat in it’s box for. How could I possibly tell the time without knowing the exact minute of the hour? In answer, based on this week, just fine. Vaguely knowing the time of day and hour it turns out is enough.

My holiday from numbers includes not stressing about getting enough steps, enough sleep and enough activity to hit goals that equate to perfection. I have been able to let go a little this week. In my world, this small freedom equivelates letting my hair down, wild child I know.  On the way back from the hiking day to the Gorropu Canyon I wondered how many steps I had done that day, as if I needed to know the number as it would validate my experience and tiredness. Then I answered myself in my mind, it doesn’t matter; that day wasn’t about steps or minutes of activity. The day was about the experience, the memories and the nature I saw in numerous various forms. The number of steps wasn’t important to the experience in any way – and I recited this in a forced way in my mind, as if repeating fake it til you make it to myself.  The amount of calories burned was not important. The amount of time spent at fat burn, resting and cardio heart rates was not important. What was important was that my heart is strong enough to adapt to demand and by doing so allowing me to have days such as that one hiking through the mountains.

I feel quite liberated since cutting back on the permanent numbers game I’ve ben playing. I do find numbers calming, it is a form of coping mechanism for me which crops up more, naturally, during times of stress. Having said that, I feel like I do not need so many numbers in my life. They have evolved from a calming coping mechanism that allures a sense of control, to a controlling cage that traps me in trying to achieve the perfect set of figures across all platforms of my life: diet, weight, sleeping habits, heart rate, blood pressure…the lists goes on. Sounds familiar huh?

It is in this way that I have been giving numbers too much power over my life, letting them govern how I feel I ought to live my life and what I think is the right amount of everything. It initially manifested in an eating disorder, morphed into another eating disorder and now this. I’m a walking project of equations and sums. My experience is invalid without numbers in my opinion. I also know this to not be true.

 

I have had a desire to be clockwork and machine like for a long time, again, this was initially achieved by having an eating disorder. More recently it has been achieved by wearing my FitBit. The purpose is to not feel and to function impeccably. I want to do and power through life and for the whole while that my digits remain imperfect i have work to do. It hasn’t always been a helpful approach and has held me back in many ways in addition to always having work to do because I am human. I am an animal not a computer. Ironically, for want of a lack of feeling and human nature, this makes me upset sometimes. Most of us are familiar with not being what we want to be: a marathon runner, a CEO, rich, living in paradise but I have turned one impossible goal for another: being weightless for being numerically perfect in other ways. By doing so I have been choosing numbers over intuition and listening to my body or mind for what it really is.

Using numbers to control and restrict my life is not healthy. I don’t feel like I can preach balance when I am living my life so purposefully out of balance. Balance is not achieving perfection in any way be it weight, hours slept or heart rate. Perfection is not possible and life needn’t be constantly quantified in order to be living well – I am human. I am not a machine of equally spaced cogs designed to work like clockwork. Balance is less balance in the numbers of life and more adapting to the essence of change found in living. Evidently I have some way to go.

The All-or-Nothing Conundrum

The other day I scrolled through Twitter and stumbled upon a poll that went something like this:

‘I feel anxious, do I…?’
a) take a diazepam and risk napping and messing up my sleep tonight
b) drink a coffee
c) other.

In my response I opt for other. I suggest mindfulness. They don’t ‘do’ mindfulness. I suggest the Headspace app, they tell me their opinion of mindfulness is summed up in one word: bollocks. Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Then I realise something in myself. I am recommending mindfulness because I know the benefits, I’ve felt them. I recommend it as a useful tool for everyone to take a few minutes out of the day to just notice. I say this as if I couldn’t imagine a day without it. I say this as I realise I haven’t practised in over a week. Why haven’t I practised in over a week?

e37ea17b6f4e3232ad75e056f1e8d9e4think

I haven’t practised because I started to get unwell. I started to feel hectic and out of control. I started to sway from my stay well plan after a while of not being well. This is definitely the time when embracing and holding onto mindfulness would be really beneficial and I’m not. I wonder about why this could be and realise I am indulging in another patterns of ‘all or nothing’.

All or nothing thinking featured during my eating disorders, friendships, studying, relationships, working life, attending uni and now in my stay well plans. I’m getting well? I’m full force ahead: day plans for routine, exercising, goals, writing, eating healthily and of course, mindfulness. I try to stick it out for a while each time I get unwell. As my stay well plans slip and slide on the suds of soapy thoughts slipping in and out of my mind as I lose my routine without noticing until presented with the gift of hindsight I stop. I just stop.

I don’t eat well. I stop work outs on my plan. I skip mindfulness and daily structure plans. Before I know it, all structure is gone and I am at mercy to any whim the weather may take. I am flitting about in wing it mode in regards to filling my time. No longer is not having time in my schedule for helpful things to take an extra benzo or drink a bottle of wine to forget it all the motion of the moment. I have all the time. I have all the unstructured time to get wasted because I can’t handle myself. Self discipline is gone. The will to even engage with my stay well plan ebbs into a low tide further and further from shore.

b32eea1b5d130d03362e7b6fe7de2c6c

I have successfully gone from maintain all of my plan to none of it in days. I realise as i re-offend mindfulness on a pedestal to someone else sailing a ship with anxiety at the helm. I recommend this as I am no different. I know some of what helps me. I know some of what doesn’t. What I haven’t learned yet is fully how to keep going with just something, I haven’t learned mastery. I think moderation is a skill. I am learning. We are all always learning – this is something I realise I need to put more focus and thought into still. Just how I do that I don’t yet know.

Moving On From Hypomania

As with every episode, as it comes to an end and I regain the ability to think I start making plans to try to stay well. I reflect on what has been helpful for me in the past or in general. I look at the advice given by others with similar difficulties. I try to do what my CMHT tell me is helpful and not helpful.

It’s a lot. It’s a lot of studying yourself and others. It’s a lot of analysing what perhaps didn’t work so well, and what did.

large-2.jpg

I’ve made a plan, which focuses mainly around reinstating a form of routine to my days. Prior to this episode I had routine due to uni and studying for my exams. I’ve lost that and feel it needs to be established in some form over the summer months until September.

My Stay Well List:

  1. Keep engaging with the Headspace app for daily mindfulness practice as well as practicing mindfulness in general such as whilst brushing my teeth, whilst travelling and checking in throughout the day with myself.
  2. Eat well. Whole nourishing food. Start with eliminating added sugar to my hot drinks. Aim for an 80/20 distribution of micronutrient rich food and food just for fun.
  3. Sleep. Try to keep to a routine of waking up at a decent time. Currently aiming for 7:30am – with the view to push it to 6:30am.
  4. Make a routine out of nothing. Busy myself enough so that there is no abundance of unfilled time.
  5. Talk to and work with my care coordinator: even if I don’t particularly want to.
  6. Exercise – follow an outline training plan, which gives routine and predictability to each week.
  7. Create purpose by signing up to volunteering roles to help with routine as well.
  8. Take vitamin supplement with particular focus on magnesium and zinc in chosen supplement. Take it every other day. Also keep taking meds.
  9. Don’t get drunk. Just the occasional 1-2 drinks.
  10. Read for pleasure to keep the mind occupied. Recognise when to reduce stimulus and do it, even as caution if unsure.

That’s a lot! Unfortunately it all feels necessary. Mood swings seem to be accompanied by a lapse in my self-care regime and routine of activities. It can be hard to get the balance of busy enough but not too busy. Engaged enough but not in excess.

large-8.jpg

Balance is something that I’ve been working on trying to achieve more of since the beginning of the year. I’m still working on it. I suppose this is going to be quite the journey.

 

The Crash Bang

: The Phases and Faces of Hypomania

The tiredness hits. You’re grateful and glad to finally feel tired. It means you might actually sleep a decent amount. There is no predicting whether you will sleep properly or manage just a few hours again.

If you sleep a whole night, you may wake up with your eyes and your body aching, refusing to move. The crash is as much physical as it is mental. It’s a stark contrast in a very short period of time.

large-6.jpg

It can take hours to just sit up in bed. Your body is rebelling against the past string days or weeks of over exertion. It is refusing to comply. There are no thoughts: the brain also rebels, refusing to be alive. I am alive, but I feel like I may well be dead. I even wonder if I am dead or not. Did something happen and I’m not waking up? Is my body dead but my mind still active? Am I in a coma? Is this limbo before all consciousness goes?

No. It is none of these. It is just the sheer exhaustion from flying for days. There are no stores left. You’ve not been eating or sleeping yet doing so much. Your body decides that finally it is indeed human and subject to the same needs as everyone else: sleep, food and water. There is no choice in the matter. Sloth like doesn’t even begin to describe the slowness. You speak slow, you move slow, you are slow. Slow to think and slow to process – breathing feels exhausting.

They say the higher the high, then the steeper and deeper the crash. This is how I have experienced it with hypomania: mania is much more severe. Dark thoughts cloud your judgement but this time, you don’t have the energy to do anything about them. So you sit. You sit and you wait.

The advice I received during this phase was to just wait it out. Use distraction methods that are manageable: sleep when you need, and watch TV. Distract yourself until it passes. With the weather it will pass.

large-4

For as disappointing this part is, it is welcome in the way that finally things seem to be balancing out again. Finally, you can sleep and with the crash that means the ability to eat is closer to returning. It is probably the safest phase of the whole up, down, regulation disruption because there is no energy or drive to harm yourself or others.

There is desire to end it. The realisation that you’ve been horrible to the people you love, and worse to the ones you don’t. The regret and having no money due to a long list of unnecessary expenditures. These are all the facts of the aftermath that need to be faced upon returning to a more balanced place.

The worst though, is the realisation that you just had another episode. How many more to go? How much more time until the mood swings are a thing of the past? How many more times will you need to go up or very far down before things decide enough is enough and regulate?

Then I realise that there is no time limit. This is an illness that flares just as if I had recurrent chest infections due to asthma. I realise the things that went out the window that may have aided in the triggering of the episode. I realise that there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of just putting it all behind you and moving on as I would like with mental illness. Then I start to think that I can’t.

I start to think that I can’t do this anymore. I think about how tired I am of losing control. I think about how much time and how many plans I’ve lost to running around in a purposeless fever and how I’m now behind on my training. I get frustrated about not being able to stick with my training plan because these mood swings come along and disrupt any ability to stick to a regime – yet I need routine and order. It has been established that routine and order help me to stay stable.

Then I begin to realise how much more work is required for me to just wake up and manage each day than I think and perceive it to be for other people. Even if I do have the time of my life for a few days – I lose more losing my mind to rhyming gibberish and recovering in the aftermath of the crash.

The reason I don’t work, the reason that my life feels chaotic stares me right in the face, stares me down and with my tail between my legs I have to accept it. I would like to rise up and say “bring it’, but the battering is so much that I don’t feel able to…yet. Maybe one day. It is in this phase out of all of the hypomania phases that I need to keep hold of hope. I need to believe in hope during this phase just as much as when I’m depressed. Without hope all-purpose and drive is lost under a bus and I’m done.

So I start to plan how I’m going to move forward. I pick up my trusty FiloFax again. I make lists and plans. I write down ideas of what will keep me well and stable. It’s a long list that feels very much like a full-time job in itself. It’s tiring, no, exhausting! It’s destabilising. This was just a hiccup in the road compared to some episodes – yet enough to have rocked my boat so that I’ve thrown all the life rings out to catch the debris of me floating around not yet re-connected.

My confidence has been knocked. My self-esteem and belief in myself that I can achieve and do what I want with my life, or at least, some of what I want with my life. The need to keep taking my medication is reaffirmed to the point of being fearful of not taking it. It’s a slap in the face that knocks you over when you’ve just found your feet.

large-2.jpg

Every time I stand it isn’t long until I’m bitch slapped again. I feel angry, hurt and sad. I feel confused, slight disbelief and frustration. I feel disappointed, cautious, restricted by routines and measures to try to stay well, but there is no choice.

I may not always manage to stay well but I have to try. I owe myself and those that I love that much. I have to keep trying and when I feel like giving up I have to reach out for support despite my grand desire to be self-reliant all the time. My pride takes a hit with gusto. I am humbled to the point of slightly crumbling at the seams whilst I try to fervently stitch myself back up and get my life back together.

This is my life. I need to work on accepting that some more.