Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

Reblog: Mental Health Blog Day

I need to go deeper into my depressions to get out of them, and use Jessica Dall’s suggestion number one, “Only write what is cathartic.” Writing something dark can take a lot of the bite out of a depression. I feel irritated when people tell me to cheer up, even though I know that they might be saying it with all of the best intentions. When I let myself go dark when I write, I feel spooked by the vividness of horrible images — and fascinated and illuminated. I would never deliberately read or write such things. Suggestion number one is refreshing.

When I am in my deepest depression, art is the last ability that I lose. Reading and writing are the very last skills that go, except breathing, swallowing, and blinking (yes, those become skills). I write quickly and keep my focus on the next word, so that I don’t have time to read or judge my work. I know that I might have to write dozens of pages to produce one keeper. That’s OK, because the keeper is exciting and rewarding, and makes the experience worthwhile. So, I want to proclaim suggestion number three from the rooftops! “Don’t hold yourself to any standards.”

Consider the statistics that Jessica cites, while you keep suggestion number three in mind. Consider that mental illness diagnoses are human constructs (standards) to help professionals to communicate. Therefor, perhaps art doesn’t make people crazy, and crazy people aren’t artistic. Perhaps the people who feel less pressure to be conventional, and more drive to be unconventional, are diagnosed as “crazy artists”. This idea makes suggestion number three all the more sensible.

Another sensible suggestion is, “Figure out if schedules work for you.” Too many people who think that they know about mood disorders insist that time management must help. It is only helpful when I feel well. Otherwise, it is enormously frustrating as I can’t accomplish what I aim for.

You see, suggestion number five, “Know it will get better,” is the one that I have the hardest time with every day. No one has persuaded me that “this too shall pass.” For example, when I have been down for a while, and then depression persists, then I am sure that I am deteriorating. I know that how I am feeling will never improve. I know that I will never be able to finish the many projects that I started. Instead of backing out to where I remember the light was, and not being able to find even a glimmer, I accept that I am in that state of mind forever. With practice, I am learning to reorient myself to accept my limitations. Even when I can only imagine what I want to write, that is something. I can’t imagine that I will ever feel better, but I find it easy to imagine that I could feel worse. Then is a good time to return to suggestion number one, and write my heart out!

Jessica Dall offers remarkable insight for people who deal with depression personally or indirectly. I hope that more people will see these suggestions.

Jessica Dall

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

Once again, it is American Psychological Association’s Mental Health Blog Day. Before, I talked about the use of mental disorders in fiction (something that can both be done very, very well and very, very poorly); today I’ll be talking about mental disorders on the other side of the keyboard (or typewriter, or pen).

In a statistic that probably shouldn’t surprise anyone, those who work in creative fields have some of the highest rates of mental illness in the general population. As this article puts it, “People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, especially writers, according to researchers at Karolinska Institute” (emphasis mine). They go on to state, “Like their previous study, [Karolinska Insitute] found that bipolar disorder is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors…

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Bipolar Snowballs

bipolar self-talk maniabipolar self-talk depressionPeople with bipolar disorder often hide the disease, afraid of being misunderstood. I want to share a story that might help me, and others, to reveal this part of who we are. Let’s see what you think.

Mexican earthenware figures 600-900 AD
The Walters Art Museum · Works of Art
CC BY-SA 3.0 US

Self-Talk Power: my best friend and worst enemy

I noticed that the snow plow had been through to push back the tops of the high snowbanks. When it passed our house, it pushed an icy snowball that was 4 or 5 feet in diameter off of the top of the snowbank — right to the middle of the entrance to our driveway.

I couldn’t move it, partly because my head had been like a pinball machine all morning: if I moved too quickly or the wrong way, I would trigger the tilt switch, which would make a migraine leap into action.

I considered the possible times to call my husband at work, so he would be ready to clear the driveway when he came home: immediately, before I forgot? But then he might dread it all afternoon. What if I took a chance on remembering to call him as he’s ready to leave for home? But then I might forget, and he’d arrive home ready to relax.

Self-talk Snowball

I walked over to see how bad the situation was.The snowball was so round, I wondered if I could roll it. As I lifted one edge of it, pieces fell off, but I was able to push most of it out of the way. I was surprised by how little it weighed. I thought it must have been full of air pockets, like Styrofoam.

Bipolar Self-talk

See the remainder of the snowball after I had moved it

The snow plow had also pushed several inches of dense snow into the entrance to the driveway. The sun was shining brightly for a little while, but the temperature was too close to zero Fahrenheit for the snow to melt away. The snow would be much easier to move at that moment, compared with waiting for my husband to move it when he got home after a tiring day at work, with the temperature falling, and darkness settling in.

As I got a shovel, I wondered if I could move any snow. I wondered what happened to the migraine, and my tiredness and weakness. As I moved some snow, I was amazed that the full shovel loads were easy to lift and toss over the tops of the tall snow banks. Where did my strength come from? How could I do this after spending the past few months in bed in a depression?

I cleared the entire end of the driveway, one minute at a time, taking a break after each minute: stand still, eyes closed, breathe, tune in, and decide whether to continue. This is what I heard myself saying:

I can do anything, if I just do it. All of these months, I wasted a lot of time lying around, focusing on what I couldn’t do, when I could have just gotten up and done what I could do. What a relief! I finally beat this bipolar thing! I am such a strong person. Anyone else’s body would have atrophied by now. My body is built like a bull. I know how to use body mechanics to do hard work. This feels so good. I used to know that I could do absolutely anything, and here I am, doing it again. I am glad to be the familiar Me again. I love being out in the sun, breathing the fresh air, working my muscles, doing something nice for someone else. I forgot how much control I have over what I can do. I just need to remember to focus on what I can do, and just do it. I have no idea why I ever think I can’t do a certain something. There’s nothing I can’t do. I’ve proven that over and over…

Redirecting the Self-Talk

Finally, I remembered my therapist advising me, many times, to do just a little at a time when energy floods my blood, rather than riding the entire wave of opportunity, and then entirely exhausting myself. Finally, I remembered my psychiatrist looking at me with astonishment as I mentioned being in bed all day for weeks and then very suddenly running up and down flights of stairs and being happily very busy doing many things all at once and keeping track of them all, and he asked me how someone like me, who is intelligent and sensible, could be so unreasonable about overdoing it when I became energized, aka hypomanic.

Finally, I realized that being out of bed for a couple of hours was strenuous enough for me for one day for right now. I saw many things I wanted to do, but forced myself to bed. I wanted to stay up and be busy. Instead, I called my husband to check my judgment. He reminded me that I accomplished a lot that day, and that I needed to rest so I wouldn’t feel like I got hit by a Mack truck. Oh. Yeah. I had forgotten about that Mack truck that shows up and runs me down after a surge of energy in the middle of a depression. After hypomania sweeps me away, I feel as if a brick wall fell on me. So, this time, I set myself to staying in bed, and then a wave of exhaustion overwhelmed me, and I was ready to settle down for the rest of the day.

How might someone as intelligent and sensible as I remember to take it easy when a wave of energy comes along? How does a wave make me so muscular? Sometimes, when I get one of those waves, I remember to ride it carefully, slowly and deliberately, but often I become extremely busy and irritable as I cling to the face of the wave until it crashes on the beach, and leaves me there depleted, as limp as a rag doll, and miserable.

Bipolar Snowballs

So, I need to rest a lot right now. When I find myself calmly up and around doing things without thinking about it, or when I am continuously aware of my limitations, maybe that’s a taste of “normal”. When I see my ability to do everything that I think of, maybe that should smell fishy. I’m getting better at recognizing the difference.

Bipolar might be like the snow plow that left a large snowball at the end of our driveway. Sometimes, we don’t notice the snowball. Sometimes, we can roll the big obstacle out of the way, and then overcome more obstacles. Sometimes, we continue shoveling away with unlimited energy, until we inadvertently and inevitably step in front of a Mack truck, and it flattens us.

What does your self-talk sound like? How do you recognize its nonsense, and overpower it? When do you find it helpful?