Having struggled with two to three months of wading through treacle as I navigated the downside of my bi-polar, I began to feel my mood lift in July when the better weather and some family activities became enjoyable once more. However, I was still sleeping ten hours a night and not waking until 10am most mornings. The will to get up and enjoy the sunshine was just not there so I was rarely up and moving before about 11am. I consoled myself with the view that much as I was losing a good part of the morning I was, once I was up, making the most of the day. I began swimming in the sea, treating myself to ice creams as I read my latest library book on the sea front, initiated outings and enjoyed family visits. The bottom of the trough seems to trundle along for ever but when we look back it was often a shorter period of time than we thought. A mood and activity diary helps here.
In August I began to feel pleasure in activities returning and my energy levels began to rise. September was also a good month. However, I am aware that I have an abundance of energy at the moment, am full of ideas and confidence. The problem now can be that I agree to take on responsibilities or work commitments and socialise to such an extent that eventually when the mood drops I will be unable to sustain the activities. The usual pattern is to begin backing out of meeting up with people, hiding away, giving up doing things after which I suffer a damaged self esteem and considerable guilt which combines to bring on a further depressive episode.
But I am learning. Whereas in the past I bumbled along and let my moods control me, now, although there is not much I can change about my condition, I am more aware and avoid falling into some of the traps of the past.
There is much written about combating depression but not that much about managing the highs.
Gone are the years I sat up wide awake at night writing poetry until I lost sense of reality. My medication now ensures I do sleep a good eight hours. I do always take my medication. Tip 1.
Tip 2. I take myself to bed slightly earlier with a milk drink and a book. This helps me wind down from some of my more frenetic activity. I take my tablets earlier in the evening so there is no danger of staying up until the early hours.
Tip 3. I keep off Ebay and internet shopping sites. If I begin to plan purchases I tell myself not to do anything for a week. If I still need it after that time, then I probably will get it if I can afford it. A week allows me to think about whether I really can afford something. The answer is often that I can’t.
Tip 4 Since my last illness in April, I have agreed to discuss large purchases with at least two of my three daughters. On a course I attended this was called ‘The Rule of Three.’ But little things mount up. However, at this time of year I can satisfy the spending urge by shopping around for early Christmas presents – money I would spend later in the year anyway.
Tip 5. If I do go shopping I leave all tags on my purchases and keep receipts and bags. Then I take time to mull over what I have bought and often return items I feel were a mistake. Charity shop purchases ensure mistakes are not too expensive.
Tip 6. I drink camomile tea and take natural calming remedies such as Kalms.
Tip 7. I pace myself with my activity and take time out to sit and watch television programmes. Decorating is one of my activities when I am in an over active state so I set myself easily achieved targets so that I do not keep going on regardless. I take time out to sit and eat meals, check on my Facebook newsfeed and my emails. My return emails are always much longer in these phases.
Tip 8. I have friends and family who monitor what I am up to. One friend knows to phone my partner if my emails are excessively long and fail to make sense. My daughters asking ‘what have you been up to lately?’ is their way of finding out if I am doing more than usual.
Tip 9. Since discovering Mindfulness, I can switch over to a calmer state of mind. Also by practising this daily, I do not store up unhappy, negative thoughts which might spur me to write inappropriate emails or make bad decisions when I am high and over confident.
Tip 10. I do not drive when I am in a highly excited state. Bus and train travel is relaxing as we have to just ‘go with the flow’. There is nothing we can do to speed up the journey and there is the opportunity to read or write on my laptop, both relaxing activities.
In April I was taken off my anti depressants because I was in a manic episode. I am managing well without them and the moods are more stable. More about this in a later post.
Let’s face it we all like the highs and it is, after all, the chance to get a lot done after months of inactivity and lack of interest in daily tasks or pleasurable activities. All those jobs that we neglect when we are depressed can now be completed. It is good to remember in the down phase that it passes and eventually everything will balance out.
We just need to avoid hasty, impulsive activity until the mood drops back to a more normal level.
I say ‘normal’ but what is normal anyway?