Mental Health Monday: Make up your mind, for goodness' sake!

Welcome to another installment of Mental Health Monday!  This regular series of articles from writers across the blogosphere was born out of a session on Depression, Anxiety and Healthy Living from Fitbloggin’ 15.  Every 1st and 3rd Monday there will be a link up for writers to share their experiences with mental illness – either from their own experience or from the experience of helping and walking with others.  The goal is to reach out to the world and let people know that they are not alone in their struggles.  You are never alone.  Join us – link up, visit new blogs, support others.  Speak out:  “I am crazy…CRAZY AWESOME!”

My particular flavor of mental illness (a mild form of bipolar disorder) comes with many fun habits while I'm in a manic period, such as:

  • My mind flying along at a million miles per hour, which can lead to and enhance,
  • Difficulty concentrating on any one thing and a tendency to be more easily distracted than usual,
  • Extreme optimism (this is usually when I decide to sign up for a crazy athletic event or take up some other time consuming new hobby without talking it through with TCB).
Of course, what goes up must come down, and my depressive episodes are more extreme than my manic ones, so these symptoms are more pronounced as well. They include:
  • Wanting to cry for no good reason,
  • Withdrawing from friends and family because talking to anyone feels like too much work,
  • Trouble concentrating,
  • Irrational irritability (TCB is usually the worst victim of this gift).
As miserable as all of those are, it's the in between times that are the worst for me. The medical community refers to it as "cycling" between the two extremes and that's a pretty benign word for something that feels absolutely wretched. Again, my highs aren't very high but my lows can get very low so that's a long way to go when you're in free fall.

Wonder if the designer of this title sequence had Cyclothymia?
When I'm in the middle of cycling, I usually have the fleeting thought that I'd rather stay depressed than keep going back and forth; it's miserable. It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for me to realize what's going on and that I'm back on the swing again, during which time I used to yell at those around me for no good reason other than what I thought was just a "really crappy mood". 

These days I generally pick up on the signs fairly quickly and remind myself that it's not TCB or anyone else's fault that I feel this way so I need not to make others suffer for my pain. And, as with most of my symptoms, just realizing what's going on in my head usually brings quite a bit of relief on its own.

Other habits I've picked up along the way to help with the cycling blues:
  • Dial back on non-urgent and/or non-important commitments - if it can wait, let it wait,
  • Get outside on my regular walks and listen to something upbeat,
  • Go to bed a little earlier, if possible - nothing is worse than being in one of these moods AND being physically tired, too,
  • Be kind to myself, listen for clues about what my body needs to feel secure and safe while it's dealing with this - this isn't a character flaw, it's a mental illness and I don't need to be punished for something I can't control.
Understanding how to take care of myself has made a world of difference in the way that I approach daily life, so I can't recommend strongly enough having a "sick day" plan that details how you'll handle your day-to-day routines when a mental health challenge arises. Think it through now, while you're feeling strong and capable, and perhaps you won't suffer quite as much with the next episode.


Bob Fenton said…
Thanks for sharing! This helps me understand others that I come in contact with and where they may be in or out of depression. I don't always get it and now can avoid making some incorrect comments to them. Thanks again!
LutherLiz said…
Cycling sounds very unnerving. I can see the appeal to wanting to stay depressed rather than ride the roller coaster. Thanks for sharing the information!
That Girl said…
This is the first I've heard of cycling. You explain it beautifully.
I can not imagine what that must be like, but I admire your strength. Thank you for sharing! Hugs to you!
Stephanie said…
Thank you for sharing this. As someone who hasn't dealt with bipolar disorder myself or know anyone who has it, this is really interesting. I agree though, whatever the issue, knowing how to take care of yourself is SO important.

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