Maybe you get nervous easily. Maybe you beat yourself up because pretty much everything about social interaction scares you, and you blame yourself for seemingly not being able to overcome these fears. Maybe you appear to have no control over your compulsions.
When you were a child you were called a perfectionist, flighty, creative, or told that you “probably have ADD”. Maybe you are sad, tired of looking for that foothold that will let you launch yourself into the appropriate direction of your life – are scared that, even if you try to, mania will continue to rear it’s ugly head and swallow any prayer of your success. Maybe you have been diagnosed with a problem. Maybe you haven’t, because you keep telling yourself that you have the tools to define this thing yourself, and to beat it. Maybe you are like me – labelled with an “unidentified learning disability” that has led pill-pushing psychiatrists to give you the No-Shit-Sherlock assessment of having generalized anxiety, clinical depression, and possibly OCD.
It is a little bit of pride mixed with the maddeningly frustrating acknowledgements over the failures of our modern medical system that have led me to conduct a lot of my own “research” on my condition. Even though I know some time with a proper psychologist is in the wisest version of my future, I have gained some valuable insight by reading about coping strategies for various disorders with which I have likened to my experiences, and I am not ashamed of this.
Today’s read came from http://www.helpguide.org. I was in a sinister rut for a few consecutive days and so instead of just skimming the article of choice, I ended up rewriting the useful information I felt I could really closely associate to. For this reason, most of the ‘verses’, I guess, begin with “I know” or “I will” – I was tricking my mind a bit, reinforcing optimism where there presently was none.
The reason I am sharing this is because I understand I am far from alone in any or all of the described experiences that I used to introduce this post. The article I have referenced today deals specifically with bi-polar disorder, but I feel somehow it is good for covering all bases in terms of lack of emotional control. If you struggle with anything even remotely similar to what I have described, I hope you can read along with my summary of this Helpguide article (link at the end of the post) keeping in mind that when you read the “I knows” and the “I wills” you can be thinking in terms of yourself – not me. Because I really do think that this is helpful information for everyone, and the fact that it is written with an air of certainty is meant to engage the sufferer more than simply skimming a wordy article that is an objective opinion about a condition or series of conditions that belong to you can be.
I know it is a bit long. But if you find these statements strike a chord, I want you to make an extra effort to read them carefully, to thoroughly absorb them, and to consider your level of commitment to positive change.
I can cope with the changes in my mood.
I know that depression follows a cyclical pattern, and every “down”, even if prolonged, will be followed by an “up”, even in a short burst, or at least a “level”.
I will take personal responsibility for my moods.
I will ask for help from others when I need it.
I will keep appointments made with health care practitioners.
I will practice self-advocacy.
I will continue to educate myself about anxiety, neurotic compulsive perfectionism, manic depression and ADD so that I can make informed decisions about my life, action plans, and treatment.
I will let others support me.
I will be patient.
I will manage my diet and physical activity routines to maintain a healthier state of mind.
I am confident that I can identify the triggers or outside influences that have led to mania or depression in the past. I can already identify some of them:
– Socializing with my best friends (I am afraid they want something from me, I am afraid we are not being honest with each other about how we are feeling, I am acknowledging their problems and feeling powerless to help)
– Stress (general – like waking up an thinking about the things I want to do in a day)
– Not being able to buy something on a whim (budgeting)
– Conflict or altercations (drama)
– Being made to question my opinions on something that is important to me from an ethical/moral perspective
– Seasonal changes
I know that I cannot and do not want to avoid these situations, so I need to develop strategies to regain stability when the stress sets in immediately after these occurrences.
I know the common signs for Depression and Mania/hypomania relapses and how they apply to me.
Warning signs of depression include:
– I quit cooking meals
– I don’t want to be around anyone
– I am craving chocolate
– I am getting headaches or migranes
– I don’t care about other people’s feelings
– The things that people are saying/doing around me are making me feel angry
– I am sleeping a lot or taking naps during the day
Warning signs of hypomania include:
– Research binges
– I can’t concentrate on just one thing
– When I speak I am speaking quickly or stumbling over words, even stuttering
– I am hungry all of the time
– People are telling me I am crabby or asking me what is wrong
– I feel restless (need to move around or pace)
I know that this knowledge will not help me unless I keep close tabs on how I am feeling. It is important to catch the “red flags” so that they don’t get lost and go unchecked amidst the business of everyday life.
I know that my options include keeping a mood chart (which is a daily log of my emotional state and other ‘symptoms’ I might be experiencing – try and generalize your feelings, even if that sounds boring or clinical. The management of this really is a clinical thing. Elaborate thoughts I tend to ‘plunge’ headlong into like humanity’s false senses of meaning and morality could be summarized as ‘people bother me’ which is a symptom of depression –) wait, what? That sounds like a ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario. People, morality, questions about life ‘bother me’ whether I am happy as pie or not. Let’s sit on that one.
Since I like writing, I know that ‘mood logs’ can be part of a journal, as long as the description of my emotional state and other ‘symptoms’ are a habitual inclusion. It is also good to include how many hours of sleep I am getting, my weight, any medications I am taking or unusual food I am eating, plus any alcohol or drug use. Keeping this kind of log will help me spot patterns and indicators of trouble ahead.
I know that being able to act swiftly to combat negative emotions or re-stabilize when I am feeling “off” is a key element of coping, and that I can do this by having a “wellness toolbox” to draw from. Some things that might help me and are worth trying to establish my personal preferences include:
-Talking to a supportive person like (think carefully about all of the people who deeply and truly want you to succeed. After a couple moments of thought I surprised myself by coming up with eleven, which was a cozy feeling in and of itself)
– Getting a full eight hours of sleep
– Cutting back on activities for a day to regain solid ground
– Attending a support group (like the one that was offered to me at the RVH)
– Calling my doctor or therapist (Reconnecting with the RVH psychiatrist and Nicole/Sonja at CFS to move on to a psychologist, and/or contacting the family doctor)
– Do something fun or creative to regain momentum
– Make time to relax and unwind
– Write in my journal
– Ask for extra help from loved ones (priorities responsibilities, which are my CHOICE, and delegate work to/assistance from those who won’t mind a short-term commitment)
– Cut back on sugar, alcohol, and caffeine (and establish healthy eating habits in general)
– Increase exposure to light (stay in the Sun for awhile every day. It does more than just deliver Vitamin D)
– Increase or decrease environmental stimulants, depending on whether I am experience depression or hyperactivity beyond my present control
I understand that despite my very best efforts, I still might relapse into full-blown mania and/or severe depression and I cannot guilt-trip myself for this. Evaluating whether or not these symptoms are threatening to my life/the lives of others can help my logical side to decide whether or not someone else needs to take over my care for some time.
I know that if I establish an emergency plan ahead of time, the preparation will somewhat alleviate the general feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that result, by allowing myself to maintain some degree of responsibility for my own “treatment”.
I know that a typical emergency plan of action includes a list of contacts (doctor, therapist, close family members), a list of any and all medication currently being taken on hand, as well as information about any other health problems I have been experiencing. Also, record symptoms that indicate others need to take responsibility for my care.
Knowing my treatment preferences (what I want, what I don’t want, who is authorized to make these decisions on my behalf in case that is necessary) will also help me to feel in control.
I know that having a strong support system is vital to staying happy and healthy. Likewise, it is necessary to limit contact with people who drain my emotional energy by making me feel discouraged, ashamed, or guilty.
I also understand that because of general anxiety and just because of my nature as well, often times it is the people who truly value me who subsequently make me feel ashamed and emotionally exhausted to be around. I think it is important, because this case is unique to me, to take time in my journals to entertain questions about why the people I love the most are making me feel this way today, so’s to decide how to either confront or cope with the problems.
I acknowledge that I need to stop being ashamed about being afraid, but instead to evaluate the fears and take small steps at a time to confront or cope with them.
Even though socializing with the people who are important to me can be emotionally taxing, I know that isolation and loneliness causes my depression to worsen.
I know that I have the option of joining a support group for all kinds of people who have similar emotional experiences; people with bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, clinical depression, extreme perfectionism, and ADD/ADHD, and sometimes schizophrenia and/or schizo-typo personalities have all expressed very similar thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
I know that taking steps to build new support networks through work, classes or civic groups can also help to alleviate boredom and loneliness.
I know that I already take a lot of the “right” steps to help alleviate depression, like talking to people about my feelings, volunteering, having lunch with friends, making sure there is at least one person in my life who checks in with me regularly, texting old friends, going for walks, doing extracurricular activities, making sure my living situation involves people being at a somewhat-close proximity at all times, and seeking counselling when necessary.
I know that developing a daily routine (but also planning for variations and excitement in my case, because I thrive off of change) will have a significant impact on my mood and help me to keep my symptoms under control (I also know that my symptoms have always been the cause of breaches in my routine, which is why planning to cope with anxiety and mania before it strikes is essential).
I know that the most important elements of a daily structure include sleep, nutrition, time for socializing, time for exercising, time for working, and time for relaxing. Not necessarily in that order, but once a regular pattern of activity is established it will help me through my ups and downs.
I know that aerobic exercise is proven as one of the most effective ways of coping with depression, and that Yoga/stretching is very effecting on anxiety. The consensus seems to be 30 – 45 minutes of activity, five times a week at minimum. Even walking is very good if I am too tired to do anything else.
I know that not adhering to a strict sleep schedule can trigger mania – in fact, all of my worst manic episodes have happened either in the morning when I have not slept enough or have over-slept, immediately after coming home from work or school when I am over-tired (the kind of exhaustion that can be caused by a lack of sleep and too much sleep), or very late at night.
I have a good arsenal of tips to let me adhere to a sleep schedule that will help me to stay in control of my mood, which includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding or minimizing napping (I will know how much is appropriate for me based on how it interferes with sleep at night), avoiding exercise or other stimulating activities very late in the day, avoiding caffeine after lunch (I have read no less than five hours before bed), and avoiding alcohol at night.
I know that keeping my stress under control is extremely important, because stress is a main factor contributing to anxiety, depression and mania. Because I also experience extreme perfectionism, I am always under stress, even when it appears to others that there is no reason for me to be feeling that way. I need to recognize when I am feeling overwhelmed and take time out for myself when that happens, instead of adding to the pile. Some ways that I already know help me to calm down and that I should utilize generously are deep breathing, meditation, yoga, browsing artworks, swimming, being outside, and doing creative things, especially the ones that expel energy like drawing and singing.
I know that it is O.K to need to do these things every day for 30 minutes or more if it means keeping depression at bay. Play is not an indulgence; it is an emotional and mental necessity and I must not feel guilty about putting certain things aside to make time for leisure.
I will stay calm and energized by appealing to all of my senses. I will look at art and natural beauties that appeal to my sight. I will listen to music that lifts my mood to appeal to my hearing. I will care for plants and certain fungi because these are things I like to touch. I will make sure to acknowledge good smells like my cooking and the outdoors. Massaging the hands and feet, and sipping warm drinks are other good ideas that appeal to the touch senses and make us feel relaxed.
I always tell people that the substances we put into our bodies have a profound effect on all of it’s systems, the way we feel, and our overall health. I will act upon what I preach by reminding myself that I am important as well, and that even if there are some things I cannot control, I am responsible for my own choices.
I will eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I will limit my fat and sugar intake. I will space my meals out through the day so that my blood sugar does not dip too low. I will avoid a diet that is high in carbohydrates because they make me prone to mood crashes. I also know that chocolate, caffeine, and processed foods need to be moderated because they are actually the difference between whether I have energy or whether I sit in a chair and cry all day.
I have already taken steps to make my diet better by beginning my book-free meal preparations in the fruit and vegetable drawer, and working around those. The one cookbook that I do own is all about vegan food, and this is to further ensure that my meals are build around a fruit, nut and vegetable base (even though I still choose to incorporate some meats and milk). I have alarms set on my phone to help me ease into the habit of eating at certain times during the day. I know that the best plan to maintain blood sugar is to eat four or five small meals a day as opposed to two or three big ones. I know that for me, twelve small gulps of water accounts for about one cup, so when I do that before my first meal, in between all five, and after the last, I do not become dehydrated. I make sure to keep stocked on certain vitamins that I have noticed make me feel more energized, particularly iron, copper, omegas, zinc and B-50 complex, and I choose one of these every other day or so, taken with my second meal of the day so that I can metabolize them safely and effectively. I know that eating right before bed makes me feel sick and upset in the morning, which can throw me off of a routine for the whole day and sometimes longer. I know that the chemistry of the bowel is closely interactive with the brain, so keeping everything “clean” and balanced is essential. I have read that the best way to do this is to stop eating 2 – 3 hours before sleep, so that the body gets a good cleanse during the night time.
I have learnt that attempts to self-medicate with tranquilizers and/or amphetamines are not effective to my particular symptoms and sometimes cause long-term damage.
Lastly and most importantly, I know that I need to understand myself – the positives, and the negatives – to allow myself to feel good about the positives, and to be patient but consistent in correcting the negatives. I will make my wellness my main priority. I will set long-term goals and I will allow the little, silly things that happen along the way to make me feel happy. I will not be afraid of asking questions and I will not be afraid of failing sometimes. When I do feel afraid, I will hash out the reasons for my fears and I will remind myself that it is O.K to tell the truth. I will keep close to the things that make me feel good about living, so that while I pursue solutions to conflicts and meaning for doing so, I will not be overwhelmed by hopelessness and uncertainty.
View the original article here: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/bipolar_disorder_self_help.htm
Visit the photographer who took the photo in this post: http://thephotogenesis.deviantart.com/