Bi-Polar

There is always hope

I was told once by a consultant that the important part of coping with depression is to ‘keep striving’.

Keep striving, doing the things that help.

Keep striving to be active.

Keep striving, doing normal daily activities.

Keep seeing people. Don’t shut yourself away.

Keep talking to those nearest to you.

Keep looking after yourself.

I would add:

keep writing ‘to do’ lists and ticking off what you have achieved.

keep a routine – this can be the hardest and often is the first to fail

keep in the moment – as in Mindfulness

keep hoping and don’t give up.

 

As my doctor said, ‘you know this will pass,’

And I have found that it does, eventually.

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Bi-Polar, Uncategorized

Suicide in those with Bi Polar

Living at the coast I am well aware of the power of the sea and how it should not be underestimated but in coastal areas there are other dangers, one of which is the accessibility to cliffs for someone wishing to end their life.

Recently this happened near to where I live. The person was Bi Polar and had stopped taking her medication a week prior to the incident. The dangers of ceasing taking medication when one is Bi Polar are profound. A friend whose Bi Polar son passed through a difficult phase, was advised by a doctor to cease taking one of his mood levelling medications. Within weeks he had committed suicide with devastating effects on his family.

It is easy for me as a compliant BPD sufferer to say we should never, ever cease taking our medication even if we feel particularly well. In fact this is the dangerous point in this most evil of diseases. Sufferers pass through a well phase, feel they can cope with anything and stop taking their tablets. The effect is to cause a sudden sharp dip in mood when the person will become suicidal.

While not wanting to cast an opinion on the role of relatives in this case, those close to the patient should be alert, particularly if they appear resistant to taking medication which is common. If you have a relative who appears reluctant and complains that the medication makes them drowsy and complains about other side effects, this relative is probably vulnerable to believing he or she can do without it.

Those close to me know I am such a fan of my medication they need not worry. This is because for years my non-aware GP failed to refer me for psychiatric help despite the fact that I had received regular checkups at my previous address and all this was documented on my notes. The result was a few years of miserable times coupled with manic highs when I risked much financially and fell out with people. When I was finally referred after the intervention of my partner’s GP, I was put on Quetiapine and immediately felt the effects (once the initial dizziness and muzziness had passed). Eight years later and this has changed my life. I sleep well – Quetiapine has a sedative combined – and the regular sleep has made a difference. Whereas before I had weeks without sleeping or only sleeping 2-3 hours and long periods of early waking – that awful jump start at 5am and the sinking feeling in the stomach that reminds you how depressed you are – I now sleep a regular eight hours and wake refreshed. At night, I fall asleep quickly which prevents rumination and anxiety.

I am not saying it is all plain sailing. There are difficult life events and periods when I may wake on and off and wake up anxious but I use Mindfulness and take a herbal remedy such as Kalms for a week or so until  the symptoms subside.

Years ago I often had suicide ideation – when you do not make plans but the idea is there that one day you might use that way out but this has passed. This is partly because of the medication and partly that I have seven grandchildren and made the decision some years ago that I would not want them to live with the knowledge that their grandmother had taken that route out of life. I want to be a role model for them so they have been my salvation.

My writing is also my therapy and absolutely free. I make sure I write something every day even if it is only a diary entry – when low sometimes the creative juices dry up. However, depression is common amongst writers and research has not established whether it is because depressed people turn to writing as therapy or whether writers are more vulnerable. It is a solitary occupation so writers need to have networks to keep up social interaction.

I feel intense sadness for the family of the person who chose to jump from our nearby cliffs. I can only guess at their heartache and the possible guilt they may feel that they did not recognise the signs or take any action. In mitigation I would say that Bi Polar sufferers are canny hiding their symptoms and mood swings. I am sure that, in this case, the nearest relatives were kept completely in the dark. We are quite private people. We may talk a lot at times and disclose much but we do not wish to burden people with tales of our darker mental states. Also those who sink to such low levels become quite secretive and quiet.

It is therefore no wonder that relatives find themselves unable to prevent such a tragedy. Beyond investigating if medical intervention and monitoring was sufficient – and lets’ face it the mental health services are in disarray with lack of funding, all of which is a disgrace to our present government –  all I can say is they should take some comfort from the fact that this was an action of choice albeit an unfortunate one.

If you know someone who might have stopped taking their medication you need to speak to a medical professional ideally someone with experience and expertise in mental health. Some years ago, it was planned that there would be a point of contact in each GP surgery – a mental health professional or counsellor who could deal with distressed patients or worried relatives on a ‘walk-in’ basis. As far as I am aware this has not happened.

It is time for the government to place importance on mental health services with a view to preventing such tragedies in the future.

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Early Warning Signs

 

Well here we are in February. A year ago I wrote about January depression but I seem to have escaped that this year, possibly because I am practising Mindfulness, which I will write about in another post, but also because I am applying strategies that I write about in this post. While this post is about Early Warning Signs, I have learnt that by working on the strategies listed further down, the EWS are no longer a problem.

 

There was a time when, following a move and a new GP, I struggled with depression and would pay visits to the surgery in the hope that some help would be forthcoming. When I related my symptoms I was told that I was being super sensitive to my feelings and these had arisen because I was frightened of descending into previous illness that had resulted in hospitalisation. I often wondered if she had read my notes.

 

After attending a self-management course, I learnt that these thoughts, feelings and behaviour are important for they are our EWS (early warning signs). While these may differ between us, many are commonly experienced by sufferers.

 

If you are reading this because you suspect you are depressed I hope you will be heartened by the knowledge that all these feelings will pass but there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better in the meantime.

 

My trigger is usually a period of stress even if I think, at the time, that I am coping. Sometimes, I may have a fall, a sign my balance is off centre or that I am not concentrating. I may have been exceptionally busy with normal activities. Holidays and Christmas can cause this.

 

So what are my early warning signs of depression? First I begin to wake up tired rather than refreshed and find it difficult to get up. I am aware that something in my life is missing and that is the sense of joie de vivre, being able to enjoy simple activities and generally looking forward to what life has to offer. Over a few days I notice I am feeling overwhelmed with a range of daily activities that I would normally take in my stride. I begin to forget things and find it difficult to plan ahead. Time becomes short and I cannot fit in what needs to be done. Time drags but also seems to fly and leave little time to complete tasks. This causes some anxiety and I become aware of a few worries. These increase over a few days. I begin to worry about my worries. I worry about getting more worried. It is a vicious cycle.

 

My sleep is disturbed. Whereas my medication usually knocks me out, suddenly I either cannot get off to sleep or I wake with a start in the night and cannot get back to sleep. Early waking might happen a common symptom in depression. While I have previously been enjoying my food, I feel sick in the mornings and am uninterested in food.  I may have difficulty swallowing, particularly where tablets are concerned.

 

As a writer, one sign my mood is dropping is that I stop writing or find it difficult to engage with a manuscript that previously had excited me. I begin to spend more time sitting on the sofa but achieving little. I get things out and do nothing with them, start to read an article but fail to finish. A number of half read papers start to pile up. By now the kitchen is untidy and my normal attention to cleanliness is notably absent. Dishes in the sink and cold cups of tea sit forgotten on the table, made before I wandered off to do something else, distracted. I am now feeling unsociable – after all I cannot ask anyone round to my messy house and I am reluctant to answer the phone or make arrangements to meet with friends. If one of my friends cannot meet up I may experience a feeling of relief.

 

Now none of the above is a serious warning sign on its own. As the peer specialist told us, ‘it is when several EWS are observed and they hang around.’ The key is being aware.

 

Luckily I now recognise these signs and rather than ignore them which my GP thought I should, I recognise that I need to take some action.

 

There are a few strategies which can bring you back on to a previous mood level before depression takes a more serious hold. Some cost money and others are there for free. For example, you may not have a computer but you can use them for free at the local library. The librarian will also help you and there are Adult Education courses for beginners which are free. You do not have to buy books to enjoy reading, you can use the library.

 

The following ideas are a mix but most cost nothing. You may not find them all helpful but some should suit where you find yourself at the moment. It might help to tick the ones you feel you could carry out at the moment and mark others for later attention. Perhaps colour code the strategies ie Green for go ie something to do NOW, orange for might do this soon, red for something you would find too difficult. Try to work out your own coding system. Here are strategies which have worked for me:

 

  • Getting out for a walk, however short, in the fresh air and, hopefully, sunshine, will boost endorphins.
  • Writing a mood diary and recording daily activities will get you writing. This also gives you something to read back on when you think you have not achieved much.
  • Reading poetry takes less concentration and might help. Try humorous poetry.
  • Setting achievable goals especially when tidying up neglected areas. Choose a few shelves or one file at a time. To plan to tidy the whole house is unattainable and will result in failure and increase your despondency.
  • If you can find a reasonably priced therapist and can afford it, book a reflexology session for deep relaxation.
  • Experiment with ‘tapping’ techniques. Tapping therapy or EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is explained on various websites along with videos. If you are unsure it would be worth paying for half an hour of therapy for a demonstration and help with setting intentions.
  • Write a To Do list every day with achievable tasks. Keep it short and cross off those completed. This aids memory too.
  • Phone or visit a member of your family.
  • Try to speak to someone each day, perhaps a shop assistant.
  • Smile at people you pass on the street. This has been proved to have the effect of receiving a smile in return which can make you feel good about yourself.
  • Watch ‘happy’ television programmes and avoid the news which can increase anxiety.
  • If reading is a problem, watch an interesting documentary dealing with a topical debate. Read a blog or website on a subject of interest. There are many blogs on improving mental health and reading these is easier than reading a book and you will engage with the writer and be able to comment. Try to post a small comment. A few words will do.
  • Write down three positives for each day. These could include cooking a meal, phoning a friend or watching tv. A walk in the sun, sending an email to a friend or writing your diary also qualify.
  • Take the pressure off yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not getting out of bed in the morning, give yourself permission to stay in bed for a short time. After all, your depression probably came about from being stressed and over busy so allow yourself to be lazy for a certain period of time. If it is a choice you will feel better. You will soon be getting up more smartly when you feel better.
  • Accept you have an illness and that this phase is part of your illness. I was told this a year ago and found it liberating.
  • Tell yourself that your brain worked hard and was overstimulated before this phase. Depression is often the brain’s way of ‘having a rest’. Let it rest and don’t fight it or force yourself to do things you find difficult at this time. Make a choice to rest your brain and keep occupied with physical activities that are possible at the moment. Sorting some photographs, or browsing magazines can keep you occupied. This is NOT giving in or being lazy. It is allowing your brain to recover.
  • Listen to music or play an instrument.
  • Do some stretching exercises each day. Practise yoga and feel the difference.
  • Remember depression does pass. You will not always feel like this.

 

Some of the points above I have already written about on my blog eg the idea of writing down 3 positives each day.

Other points here will be expanded on in future posts.

NB this blog first appeared in January 2015 but has since been updated.

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Sleep patterns in Bi-Polar Disorder

 

A key strategy for coping with Bi Polar Disorder is to understand and recognise early warning signs. I have been fortunate to attend self-management courses where delegates examine their symptoms and share experiences after which they are more aware of mood changes and how to spot when a depressive episode or a period of mania or hypomania is likely to occur. On any course, the stress is on sleep as the ‘key’ to staying well. Yet this is the first to go during a ‘wobble’. So what can you do?

 

If I sleep deeply for a reasonable 7-8 hours, wake refreshed and feel dopey for the first 10-15 minutes I am usually well. However, periods of disturbed nights or lack of sleep can signal the possibility of a manic episode. For me two nights of not sleeping or only getting 1-2 hours of shallow sleep is a warning sign of impending illness. When this happened two years ago, six months after an episodic illness I phoned the mental health line on my care plan and was phoned back by a Clinical Nurse. Unlike GPs, these professionals ask the right questions, establish what has been happening in the previous few weeks and fax my practice requesting a prescription or an increase in medication.

 

A simple sleeping pill has worked in the past – over a week a new sleeping routine is established. In the second week I try the occasional night without a tablet or break the tabs in half. I know that to take Zopiclone for more than 14 days could make me dependent. This dependency can be reversed but it can take several days to begin to drop off to sleep naturally.

 

The heart warming response of the Clinical Nurse makes me feel better immediately. Don’t feel guilty. You have an illness. Those with mental illness need to grasp that the illness is not going to go away. Bi polar is part of your make up forever once it has manifested itself. Being pro-active and getting help early when the EWS appear actually makes me feel stronger. The hardest thing to do when mentally ‘down’ is to take action or get up and out of the house to do something active. But once I have taken a positive action, I immediately begin to feel better.

 

One of my own Early Warning Signs for a bi-polar depression is excessive sleeping. Sleeping ten to twelve hours is a sign that I have perhaps overworked, skipped some self care or have not been regular with my sleep pattern. With all aspects of bi polar, the brain tries to balance itself and thus produces symptoms. When the brain has been over stretched, stressed or overworked its response is to shut down. In the past I have panicked when I have felt slow, lethargic and unable to function fully. Now I have changed my attitude. I view this ‘down’ time as the brain taking a rest. I allow myself to chill out and step away from tasks which may have become overwhelming. It is at these times the energy, I usually apply to my writing, seems absent.

 

At an author’s talk recently the speaker said there was no such thing as writer’s block. For someone with bi polar this view is a misnomer. There definitely is such an anomaly. Writing, usually a full flow activity, becomes difficult and the words will not come. Now I do not force myself. I sit back and find something to read. After all, reading good authors and excellent writing is one of the necessary tasks of a writer. Yet it is the writing which is neglected in the descent into the low period. Also, in a hypo-mania phase (less dangerous than full mania) I tend to write excessively but ignore the reading and editing of my work. When the ‘block’ sets in, editing past work always inspires me. This has a profound effect on my self esteem as I cannot believe I have written what is on the screen. Even I think it is wonderful stuff. One symptom of depression is the feeling of worthlessness and the idea that any writing you have completed is ‘rubbish’. This can hold you back from furthering your work but it is necessary to balance the mood to avoid the mistakes and embarrassments that accompany mania with the inflated self esteem and lack of judgement so typical of that phase. We all need to be confident and push ourselves and the difficult part for a bi polar writer, artist or teacher – or any other professional – is identifying what is good in the mass of detritus generated during mania. Writing uses the sub-conscious and removes the negative mental chatter which can affect sleep.

 

Reading is healing and can relax us at bedtime. This is not only  with self-help books although these can take your mind off your apparent problems. Reading a novel takes us into another world. When I am reading, I jot down words used by another author – even phrases – and promise I will use them in the future. Sometimes I use the word in a phrase or sentence of my own which I can apply later to one of my many WIPs (Work In Progress). My notebooks are the gold dust and when I am back on the roller coaster I will browse the notebook and find useful, pertinent phrases that I have put in my wonderful logs.

 

Excessive sleeping combines with low mood to prevent pleasurable activity. Sleeping late leaves little time in the day and low periods are usually accompanied by disorganisation, poor mental functioning, lack of procedural memory and much more. All this contributes to a day which is less productive. Often the only free time is late evening when the slow, lethargic body has completed tasks that, in better times, are carried out in a couple of hours per morning.

 

I usually accept the excessive sleeping with the idea that I need the rest but once I feel enough rest has been achieved I aim for better habits and a return to routine. I set the alarm, often late at first, say 9am and then move it earlier each day. Sometimes I have to force myself to get up but I allow myself to go back to bed with a tray of breakfast, turn on the tv and have my notebook ready. The desire to write returns and I begin to take my laptop back to bed. I don’t chastise myself about getting up late as I am, after all, doing some writing, which is my work.

 

An important task for a bi polar sufferer is to monitor the changes in habits and mood and tinker with a few things a day that may contribute to poor sleep. The following can help.

  • Treat yourself …. to nice food, healthy snacks, breakfast in bed.
  • Social interaction helps sleep so keep up with friends – keep a diary and note periods of more than a couple of days when you have isolated yourself
  • Speak to family. There is no need to burden them. They will know from the sound of your voice how you are feeling.
  • Use social media sensibly – scroll through posts on the newsfeed but resist the urge to click on an advert. Ignore (deliberately fail to click like) posts which you find unhelpful. Facebook remembers your likes and pushes those posts higher up the newsfeed. Is someone’s post is making you feel less worthy continue to scroll to find a happier one.
  • Do not comment on social media when low and DEFINITELY NOT when manic
  • Don’t worry if you feel you have nothing worth saying. Listen to others and try to concentrate. Listening is probably something you have not done when in a higher mood and lack of concentration in depression also affects listening skills
  • Go to bed earlier and read.
  • Take a herbal remedy, make a milk drink.
  • Avoid watching the news in the evening
  • keep a sleep diary for later reference

There is so much more you can do to alleviate the symptoms and terrible repercussions of disturbed sleep patterns in mental illness so I hope you will follow my blog and find something useful.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a substitute for paying a visit to your GP and is definitely not a substitute for medication. Medication is an integral and important part of the treatment of bi polar disorder as is regular consultations with the medical profession. You should always take the prescribed tablets and report serious changes in behaviour to your doctor. But self help can be a precursor to a doctor’s appointment and I will cover this in a later post.

 

About me: I was diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder in April 1989 after a high dose of steroids for inflammatory bowel disease induced mania. Since then, I have had long spells of ‘wellness’ and my most vulnerable time is when I am physically ill. Bladder infections affect my mood and a few years ago collapsed kidneys brought on a manic episode. I have attended Living With Bi-Polar courses in 2007 and 2014 and am so grateful that these courses are available. They are provided on joint initiatives by Social Services, local Mental Health services and the NHS. I am a writer and have a driven personality which allows me to pursue my long held dreams of being published.  My key strategies for staying well are ensuring I get ample sleep, a good diet, exercise, fresh air, zumba classes and, the most helpful – yoga and mindfulness. I aim for quality experiences and try to have short breaks or budget holidays to look forward to.

 

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Partying with Bi Polar

This is a recurrent theme at this festive time of year.

Each Christmas season I go to several turkey dinners with different groups. There is the musical theatre group and my local ‘girls’ night’ where all the wives and girlfriends go out for a meal without the men. In the past there have been dinners with some charity organisations and the friends of the trust for our local theatre.

Each year I treat myself to plenty of wine – sharing a bottle or buying the extra glass once the shared bottle is empty. This may be not unusual for the general population but as someone with Bi Polar Disorder, wine can play havoc with my meds. Also, whereas wine can send some people to sleep, my brain becomes over stimulated and prevents me from nodding off.

It is not just the wine but the fast conversations full of jokes and local gossip which later prey on my mind. I return home unable to relax. I have read several blogs by those on BP medications who maintain that partying is out. But I am a social animal. We all are but BP people often pass through non social periods when they cannot go out or socialise. For us, a good spell may not coincide with a Christmas party. I have in the past had to force myself to go out to a party or dinner only to sit with nothing much to say except for nodding and the occasional yes.

The answer for me may be to carefully select the functions I attend. Rather than grab every opportunity I only agree to dinners with people who make me feel safe and comfortable. A social evening then can be relaxing and sleep at the end of the night more forthcoming.

Another trick is not to expect to go to sleep immediately. I return home and make a cup of tea with plenty of sugar, get a glass of water and take my tablets. I then sink beneath the duvet to watch television. I choose happy films or music concerts. Very soon I feel drowsy and begin to drop off. My dose of Quetiapine is not excessive. In fact, compared to some it is fairly light but even so I am overcome with drowsiness within 20 minutes. My biggest mistake is to take the tablets when I get into bed and lie down. The time taken to drop off is then much longer.

I am not advocating drinking large amounts of wine for those on mental health medication.  However, it is something I have experimented with gently in the past. I was told by a doctor once that the wine will interfere slightly with the effects of the meds but if one is stable this is not a problem. I have been stable for several years, the only relapse being when a serious illness caused my kidneys to collapse, resulting in my inability to excrete the drug after it had done its work. The build up of drugs caused a manic episode.

Routine is important for Bi Polar sufferers and the late night after a function can contribute to lack of routine especially if sleep is delayed. If, following a night out, I sleep late, this puts me out of routine. What I have found best is to still set the alarm but slightly later so that oversleeping does not happen. After all I can catch up the next night.

So if you are frightened to drink or even go out for an evening of fun, try it, perhaps going for a short period and limiting yourself to one drink. You should be able to build on this experience and extend the length of your stay at a dinner.

After all, enjoying yourself is important. Bi Polar Disorder is hard enough to cope with, without living a dull miserable life which can easily happen. You do not have to become a recluse. You can try small doses of fun socialising and monitor your mood and reactions. If you come home thinking that someone ignored you and attribute this to your mental health condition, return to your Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques, hopefully filed in accessible location and focus on the alternative thought that perhaps the person had other things on their mind or that you were not as open to conversation as you could have been.

Never let Bi Polar rule your life. We are what the condition makes us and we need to embrace it accordingly, resting the brain when low and enjoying the medium highs and productive periods.

Enjoy your festive Christmas, what is left of it.

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Early Warning Signs (EWS) and how to deal with them

There was a time when, following a move and a new GP, I struggled with my Bi Polar and would pay visits to the surgery in the hope that some help would be forthcoming. When I related my symptoms I was told that I was being super sensitive to the feelings and frightened of descending into previous illness that had resulted in hospitalisation. I often wondered if she had read my notes.
After attending a Living with Bi-Polar course I learnt that these thoughts, feelings and behaviour are important for they are our EWS (early warning signs). While these may differ between us, many are commonly experienced by sufferers of BPD.

If you are reading this because you suspect you may have the condition I hope you will be heartened by the knowledge that all these feelings will pass but there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better in the meantime. However, if you identify with the symptoms you should consult your GP who may refer you for further assessment.

My trigger is usually a period of stress even if I think, at the time, that I am coping. Sometimes, I have a fall, a sign my balance is off centre or that I am not concentrating. I may have been exceptionally busy with normal activities but not manic. Holidays and Christmas can cause this.

So what are my early warning signs of bipolar depression? First I begin to wake up tired rather than refreshed and find it difficult to get up. I am aware that something in my life is missing and that is the sense of joie de vivre, being able to enjoy simple activities and generally looking forward to what life has to offer. I begin to lose interest in activities I previously enjoyed. Over a few days I notice I am feeling overwhelmed with a range of daily activities that I would normally take in my stride. I begin to forget things and find it difficult to plan ahead. Time becomes short and I cannot fit in what needs to be done. This causes some anxiety and I become aware of a few worries. These increase over a few days. My sleep is disturbed. Whereas my medication usually knocks me out, suddenly I either cannot get off to sleep or I wake with a start in the night. Early waking might happen but if I am lucky my medication will allow me to drop off again. While I have been enjoying my food when well, now I feel sick in the mornings and may feel giddy or uninterested in food. I may have difficulty swallowing, particularly where tablets are concerned. As a writer, one sign is that I stop writing or find it difficult to engage with a manuscript that previously had excited me. I begin to spend more time sitting on the sofa but achieving little. I get things out and do nothing with them, start to read an article but fail to finish. A number of half read papers start to pile up. By now the kitchen is untidy and my normal attention to cleanliness is notably absent. Dishes in the sink and cold cups of tea sit forgotten on the table, made before I wandered off to do something else. I am now feeling unsociable and am reluctant to answer the phone or make arrangements to meet with friends. If one of my friends cannot meet up I may experience a feeling of relief.

Now none of the above is a serious warning sign on its own. As the peer specialist told us, ‘it is when several EWS are observed and they hang around for a while.’ The key is being aware. Unsurprisingly most of the delegates on my refresher course last year identified with many of the above signs.

Luckily I now recognise these signs and rather than ignore them which my GP thought I should, I know that I need to take some action.

There are a few strategies which can bring you back on to a previous mood level before depression takes hold. Some cost money and others are there for free. The following ideas are a mix. You may not find them all helpful but some should suit where you find yourself at the moment.
• Getting out for a walk, however short, in the fresh air and, hopefully, sunshine, will boost endorphins.
• Writing a mood diary and recording daily activities will get you writing.
• Reading poetry takes less concentration and might help. Try humorous poetry.
• Set achievable goals especially when tidying up neglected areas. Choose a few shelves or one file at a time. To plan to tidy the whole house will result in failure and increase your despondency.
• If you can find a reasonably priced therapist book a reflexology session for deep relaxation.
• Experiment with ‘tapping’ techniques. Tapping therapy or EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) is explained on various websites. If you are unsure it would be worth paying for half an hour of therapy for a demonstration and help with setting intentions.
• Write a To Do list every day with achievable tasks. Keep it short and cross off those completed. This aids memory too.
• Phone or visit a member of your family.
• Watch ‘happy’ television programmes and avoid the news which can increase anxiety.
• If reading is a problem, watch an interesting documentary dealing with a topical debate.
• Write down three positives for each day. These could include cooking a meal, phoning a friend or watching tv. A walk in the sun, sending an email to a friend or writing your diary also qualify.
• Take the pressure off yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not getting out of bed in the morning, give yourself permission to stay in bed for a short time. If it is a choice you will feel better. You will soon be getting up more smartly when you feel better.
• Accept you have an illness and that this phase is part of your illness. I was told this a year ago and found it liberating.
• Tell yourself that your brain worked hard and was overstimulated before this phase. Depression is often the brain’s way of ‘having a rest’. Let it rest and don’t fight it or force yourself to do things you find difficult at this time. Make a choice to rest your brain and keep occupied with physical activities that are possible at the moment. This is NOT giving in or being lazy. It is allowing your brain to recover.
• Listen to music or play an instrument.
• Do some stretching exercises each day. Practise yoga and feel the difference.
• Remember depression does pass.

Some of the points above I have already written about on my blog eg the idea of writing down 3 positives each day. Other points here will be expanded on in future posts.

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Party Girl

Once again on New Year’s Eve I found myself in a conundrum.

Friends for drinks, more friends to meet in town and someone’s idea to go to another pub at the other end of our town where there would be a Karaoke.

it has happened before. By 10pm I have had a few wines – even the mulled variety has its effects – and much excitement donning fancy dress to march up and down our seaside high street trying to spot those we know despite the vast amount of makeup, wigs and costumes.

It is lovely to laugh and joke with friends and I didn’t want the evening to end. We saw in the New Year on the street and then were driven to the pub. By then it was nearly 1am, I sang my Karaoke song very badly following another large wine and then had to wait for my friend to have her name called to sing.

We didn’t come away until 2am which is early for most on New Year’s Eve. But not if you are Bi Polar. I knew at 1 am that I really needed my night time medication and to curl up in my bed to sleep for 9-10 hours. It is the only way I can cope with my condition. Luckily I did not get carried away and stay on until 4am which some other friends did in a pub elsewhere in the town.

Once through my front door I fell on my meds pouch like a starving child being offered food. I drank plenty of water and made for my bed.

Of course I didn’t go to sleep for a long, long time. Disrupted routine, alcohol and excitement do not go hand in hand nicely with Bi Polar. So I am still lying awake at 4 am thinking I could have stayed out but, actually, no, that would have made it worse. It takes me time to ‘come down’ from being a Party Girl and the insomnia is caused by a lurking worry that this disruption may signal a ‘bad week’. I do so well coping with my Bi Polar that I really do not relish the idea of a spell of bad mood.

But this year I am in luck. I eventually drop off and do not wake up until 10.30 and I know that the following evening I can go to bed earlier and catch up. Well, perhaps not that night as we have family visiting but by the evening of 2nd January I know that I am stabilising and my late night has not put me into a low and spoilt my grandchildren’s visit.

Phew, I have escaped. Next year I may decline to go to the pub following Auld Lang Syne. For now I am getting through January without the terrible debilitating depression I experienced last year.

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