On Wednesday I got excited…

[Author’s note: written two weeks ago]

The last three weeks have been a bit tedious, and boring, and uninteresting, and flat, and sleepy, and just hard to enjoy!

On the 19th May, after 5 days in the manic sphere having a fabulous super productive and energetic time, I collapsed! Literally collapsed into bed, fell into a coma (*exaggeration*) and hardly got up for week (*not an exaggeration*)! I left the house 3 times – Thursday, Friday and Sunday. A friend’s birthday lunch, a mother’s club that I nearly cancelled on, and the gospel meeting. I showered once. It was rough!

The last week of May was slightly better, I got out of bed every day and left the house a couple more times. I did next to nothing but I ate most meals and had a couple of laughs.

The first week of June I had a couple of ordinary days, an intermediate day that I thought might crossover into mania but didn’t (thank goodness!! Can’t take another huge mood swing!), and a couple days that felt like regular good days 🙂 I’ve had a bit more energy and for the first time in three weeks I actually feel like I could hit the gym! I’m even almost excited to go; to run, and jump, and lift weights, and be part of my fitness group again. This is great!

I mean I felt like it, I didn’t actually go; but I felt like it. So that counts, right?

So Wednesday. June 4th. Not a great day; an intermediate day. I left the house because I had an appointment with my psychologist/counsellor. Probably wouldn’t have left it otherwise. Got up late, showered – sad that this is noteworthy! I started well with a good breakfast, then had another good breakfast, then a couple of mandarins and it was starting down a slippery slope of sour straps and peanut butter that luckily got interrupted cos I had to leave for my appointment!

Getting out of the house makes a HUGE difference to how much I eat. This is something to always keep in mind. Having something productive or useful or purposeful to do in the day significantly reduces how much I eat. Mainly because I’m distracted from sitting and staring at food, and actively doing something else like driving or catching public transport or using my brain!

So off I go to the psychologist. Trying to think of something to talk about, and coming up with nothing! Nothing had happened in the week since I saw her last; no improvement, no gains. My brain is not getting exercised and can’t think of anything that we can work on. Luckily, she is a psychologist and counsellor and her job is to know these things.

So we got chatting about the week that had been, and things that had happened and how everything was going. Then about strategies to improve the days, to give me something purposeful to achieve, to help fill in the gaping hours. And it kick-started something in my brain. It jogged my memory again. It gave me flash backs of useful and interesting things that I had done, and plans I had had for other things that I hadn’t done yet, and which my mind hadn’t been able to access for the last few weeks.

It is amazing and fascinating that in down times I really can’t use my brain as well as in better times. There’s actually evidence to show that the pathways to creative and imaginative parts of the brain are diminished and much harder to get to when a person is in the midst of depression. The absolute opposite is the case with mania; the pathways are much easier to access and the creative brain is firing on all cylinders.

I started to get excited. I remembered my knitting, my drawing, my bird watching, my photography. I remembered how I’d been planning to join a choir, that there were pharmacy continuing education sessions I could go to during the day, that I had meant to go back to the zoo, to do a bush walk, have a bike ride, visit some gardens. It came to mind that I could call the pharmacy counselling number and have a chat to another pharmacist about where I’m up to and how I can proceed from here, that I could visit friends, finish my half-done quilt, sort some boxes from the shed, get involved in life again.

And I guess that’s why they pay psychologists the big bucks. This is why I definitely need my psychologist sessions. Just someone professional looking at how I’m going and offering a different perspective and some guidance on how to proceed.

I went into this session unable to think of anything to talk about, to discuss, and unable to see how I could be helped.

I came out of the session inspired with a long list of things that I could do if I wanted; interests re-remembered, hobbies re-energised and feeling more optimistic about the days ahead of me. I had things I could do, I had reason to get up in the morning, I had plans for spending the days. I had hopes and ideas and inspiration.

For that, I owe great thanks to my lovely psychologist. What would I do without her?

Choices

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So here I am. Bright, beautiful autumn day, not quite 10am in the morning and I’m in the gorgeous Fitzroy Gardens wandering my way back to the city. What a fabulous way to pass the day!! And that’s right, not quite 10am and I’ve gotten out of bed, dressed, had breakfast, walked to the station, caught a train then a tram to an appointment and now I’m out the other side, carefree and almost dancing my way along. It’s a sweet happy day.

In my mind is always the question, is it a too happy day? Am I tipping the scale into the slightly manic?

Today, the answer is: I don’t really mind, I’m happy, it’s a good day and I’m out lapping it up 🙂

Why up so early? Two answers.

1) I’ve changed over antidepressants, again! I’m up to number 7 now, all within 12 months! 5 of them in the last 6 months! It’s been hectic up in my brain!! But to tell the truth, number 7 is actually a repeat of number 2 which I really liked and had to stop because of side effects. So I’m “cautiously optimistic” as my doctor would say, but keeping in mind that I may have to stop this one again. Which would be very disappointing cos so far I’m loving me with this drug in my system! It’s been all of 4 days but it’s made the most amazing difference! I now wake up at 5.30 – 6am like I used to when I was first starting antidepressants again in December.

Which is an incredible change from dragging myself out of a stupor at 9.30am to try to start the day, cutting out all non-essentials sometimes including showering and doing my hair. Now I’m up and ready to start the day with the normal people 🙂 And I still get a pretty solid sleep thanks to my mood stabilisers, although it is a bit more fragmented. But I’ll take that over being doped out!

2) I have a 9am sharp appointment with a private psychiatrist. So far I’ve only seen one psychiatrist, not sure if he was a fully fledged psychiatrist or one in training but I really like him either way. He was friendly, professional, asked questions no-one had asked before and got really quite a lot of information out of me.That was way back now, in early March, two days after I was sent to emergency suicidal and utterly despairing. That day that I saw the last psychiatrist was the day when I realised that the question mark over me having bipolar disorder did actually make a lot of sense. Because from acutely suicidal on Monday night, to that Wednesday midday was the biggest change you could possibly see in a person! By Wednesday morning I was happy, active, energetic, motivated, full of life and ready to go gangbusters!! It really was that dramatic and gave a lot of credence to that theory.

This visit is not at all acute, it’s really like an all over review of my treatment to date and making a plan into the future with the expertise of the specialist. I’m very happy and confident in my GP but a second opinion and eye on the situation never hurts. So yes, 9am sharp! Which a week ago would have been physically impossible but today it’s all good! Yay for that!

So, choices. I loved coming to this point in the path and having the options. Where to go?

I have been given choices in my treatment. Choices about where to next, about what’s tolerable and what’s not, about what’s important to me.

Given the choice between flat, unmotivated and doped out or somewhat anxious and a bit zingy I chose pumped up. So I know I have to take the lesser quality sleep, shaking hands and faint but persistent feeling of something not quite right. It’s been a while, I must say I’d forgotten just what it was like to have my heart on full alert all day. That vague feeling of anxiety about anything and everything, but at least I’m functioning and out enjoying the day instead of thinking about dragging myself out of my slumber.

I chose anxious over depressed. Because I can handle anxiety. I’ve been seeing a psychologist for months now so I have the strategies, the coping techniques, the knowledge of triggers and stressors. So although it’s not what I’d chose given a choice between anxious and not anxious, it’s what I chose over depression.

Depression I can’t handle. I don’t like it, I don’t like me in it, I can’t manage it away. Strategies seem so unachievable, thinking differently is just too hard, mind over matter just isn’t a thing! The awfulness, the horridness, the terrible feelings are just unconquerable. All I want is to run away, escape, go into a time warp. That last one is my favourite. It doesn’t involve self harm or permanent damage or death or anything undoable; it’s just somewhere I can go for as long as it takes until the pain has gone away. So if there’s any option other than having to suffer through depression I take it!

In this case it’s anxiety. You’re back, old nemesis. But this time I’m running the show, I hold the reins, I control the degree and depth and frequency, as much as I can. I have my strategies, my re-thinking, my knowledge, my support, so much on my side.

It’s going to take some getting used to, it doesn’t sit well. I have to be aware of it, and not let it get started so that it can’t get out of control. At the same time it’s important not to get anxious about getting anxious. So back to all that. But the upside: not depressed, touch wood!!