Bi-Polar

Alternative Therapies

 

Many years ago when I was ill for the first and second time, I knew little about strategies for regaining my sense of well-being. I was only offered tablets but, while in hospital, I did go to relaxation sessions. However, there was nothing more on offer. This was in 1989 and the early 1990s.

How much has changed now. Mental Health is on the agenda and discussed openly. Only this weekend, a Times Journalist wrote in the Times Magazine about his descent into and recovery from depression. Sports personalities also discuss their own predisposition to this debilitating condition. We are often surprised as we have only seen them as successful sportsmen.

However, stress and over activity can tip successful people away from being at the top of their game and they can find this difficult to cope with.

Over recent years I have used yoga and, more recently, Mindfulness, to bring myself back to some sense of normality. I have also found a therapist who is trained in several techniques. I have had Indian Head Massage, full massages and facial massage. The latter is wonderful when anxiety is at its worst and I wake up to puffy eyes.

But the most recent therapy I find beneficial has been Reflexology. This, I found more relaxing than a body massage. After one session about two years ago I walked home completely disconnected with the world around me, save for a wide smile on my face. The feeling of well-being was immense. I stopped at the cash point, inserted my card, requested the cash and took my card. I walked away without the money only to realise half way down the street but when I ran back it had gone. Luckily my bank was able to resolve the problem.

A few years ago I visited a Reiki therapist and found it helpful. The therapist then moved away. My love of reflexology over the last few years has caused me to forget that experience but when I discussed my recent acute anxiety with my therapist she suggested that I try Reiki again and, at the end of my reflexology session, she gave me five to ten minutes of the technique.

We have decided that I will have 50/50 Reflexology and Reiki for the next few sessions. I try to visit her once every three to four weeks but during a bad phase I will go more often. I am not rich but I have learnt how to economise in other areas of my life to enable me to afford these treatments. They are the gold dust.

Reiki is apparently particularly beneficial in dealing with anxiety.

I will be writing about my Reiki treatments on this blog so watch this space.

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Bi-Polar

‘Down Days’ or normal life?

What are ‘Down Days’?

I follow a mental health blogger, Natasha Tracey, and, while some posts don’t resonate with me every time, most of what she talks about I can identify with completely.

Many people will refer to being ‘down’ and they do not have clinical depression or a Bi Polar diagnosis. Sadly, these comments do not help those with serious mental health conditions as they trivialise what is, for those of us with such disorders, something debilitating and immobilising.

In her latest blog, Natasha talks about someone referring to ‘Down Days’ and she makes the point that hers are not days but more likely weeks and months. You can read her blog here and, if you find it of interest you can follow her and receive updates in your inbox.

http://natashatracy.com/bipolar-disorder/down-day-bipolar-mean/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+natashaTracy+%28Bipolar+Burble+by+Natasha+Tracy%29

I, too, don’t have ‘down days’. I know immediately that my mood has dropped. It will follow a period of busyness, project building, possibly excessive spending which, at the time, seems absolutely necessary but, in the time that follows, reality tells me that I did not need whatever it was I spent my money on.

I used to ruminate about recent spending but have learnt over the years not to take off labels, to keep receipts and seriously consider returning items, if that is possible. If I decide to keep some dubious purchases, I have discovered that a few months or a year or two down the line these items can be used and are not a waste. If you suffer from this behaviour, take heart that all is not lost.

But back to ‘Down days’. I recently had an email from a ‘friend’ who referred to her ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. She does not have Bi Polar or mental health issues. Her ‘high’ was related to a holiday or some success and her ‘low’ was linked to losing a relative to cancer. And this is where the boundaries between what is normal and what is a serious mental health condition become blurred. Hers were the ‘normal life’ happenings with natural emotional responses. Mental illness is something else altogether.

I do wish those who do not have mental health issues would not trivialise the emotional states of those who do by referring to themselves, as if they suffer the same states. They do not. The extremes with Bi Polar are so great that normal living becomes almost impossible. A high state can result in losing sense of reality and psychotic symptoms such as believing you can achieve the well-nigh impossible or drift into some paranoid state whereby one believes the people waiting on the street are police about to arrest you, when in fact, they may be Jehovah Witnesses discussing where next to visit. The ‘crash’ that follows a ‘high’ involves much regret at spending or actions taken and are far deeper than simple ‘down days’.

I know that some people suffer rapid cycling and can experience both high and low states in one day or in a few weeks but most people with Bi Polar will go through a period of wellness when their activity increases, their happiness is unbounded, optimism is high and life is good. That is fine until the mood slips slightly higher and the behaviour is more erratic.

The low period that follows such a ‘high’ period is not just a ‘down day’. It can suddenly envelop you in total inertia, lack of motivation and anxiety which can lead to an inability to get out of bed each morning. Even when up and moving, the brain and body are so slow that taking a shower is a major undertaking and simple activities such as making a cup of tea become increasingly difficult. The weight on my shoulders is so great that, after a cup of tea and a small breakfast, I am so exhausted I have to lie down and this repeats itself through the day as I try to overcome the lethargy and feelings of ‘walking through treacle’. Minor day to day happenings can appear insurmountable.

I dread the warning sign that I am sinking low as, unless I am very lucky and can stop it in its tracks, I know I am in for at least a month, possibly two when normal life will cease. It is, as I have said, more than just a ‘down day’, more like a ‘down month’. Luckily my medication means that I rarely go into deep depression for longer periods and I employ strategies to bring me back to a fully functioning human being. However, I am not complacent. I know that I could sink for longer periods as I did in the past.

But I have had help and advice, counselling and support.

So I know the following:

SLEEP is the key. If necessary I will take a small dose of Zopiclone for a few days to regulate my sleep pattern. I can increase my medication slightly .

RELAXATION is absent but must be reclaimed. I have a reflexologist who also has trained me in ‘tapping’ techniques. One or two visits will set me on the path to recovery.

EXERCISE is vital. Mornings are rubbish so an early lunch and then a long walk in the afternoon is called for. I combine this with sitting in the sun watching the waves roll in – the joy of living at the seaside.

CREATIVITY is absent so I try to write in my notebook each day. The entries make sorry reading later but I do include TO DO lists and the POSITIVES of each day. Re-reading these entries demonstrates how each time I sink low I need to explore why this has happened and how I can reclaim my equilibrium.

YOGA is essential for my wellbeing but is something I have often neglected before this phase. I start with 20 minutes on a blanket and try to increase it each day. This can strengthen the muscles which when we are inactive become weak.

DAYLIGHT is another essential. Sitting outside in the daylight, walking or gardening all helps.

DEEP BREATHING – also used in yoga – helps anxiety and aids relaxation.

LISTENING TO MUSIC is a recent addition to my strategies. Listening to classical music has been found to have positive effects on the brain. Uplifting music and dance tunes can also help. You may find yourself singing or jigging away, perhaps even dancing. Creating your own music ie playing the piano or another instrument can take you out of yourself.

As a writer, I need to WRITE but this is hard at these times. This when I turn to blog posts such as this which I hope will help others. One thousand words is an achievement. Of course, I would prefer it was a chapter in a long abandoned novel but it is keeping the creative writing juices lubricated.

COMMUNICATION – is so important, with family, friends but is one of the hardest parts of the illness. Keep TALKING even if only to yourself while out walking. I try to talk to someone every day when I am out for a walk. It keeps me connected.

Depression is often a state of disconnectedness where we have lost some of our ability to relate to others and the world around us. However, it will return. It will pass.

What helps you cope with these low periods?

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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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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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JANUARY DEPRESSION

So today, Monday 19th January is reckoned to be the most depressing day of the year. Reasons given are that it is usually very cold, the Christmas spirit is waning and people are realising they have not kept some of their new year resolutions.

Let’s start with resolutions. Setting unattainable goals is a precursor to depression Those prone to this devastating mental illness may set targets in the thought that this will keep them out of the new year trough of despair. But failing to keep resolutions can lead to loss of self esteem, a feeling of failure and a sense of ‘here we go again’.

If you do want to set resolutions, make them simple and achievable. For someone prone to new year blues, this could be to ‘go to bed earlier’ and ‘to get up earlier’, the first helping the second resolution to be achieved.

Avoid closed statements in resolutions such as ‘get up at 8am’ which allows for no flexibility on a bad day. To be ‘in bed by 10.30’ will not work on a night when you have been to the cinema or have friends round.

Ideal resolutions would include:

  • Keep a diary and make at least one positive entry each day – something done or planned.
  • Write down three positive thoughts each day
  • Go for a walk each day for at least 20 minutes. Increase the time gradually.
  • Walk in the late morning when the sun is at its best and temperatures are mild.
  • Don’t economise on heating. Being cold can lead to confusion.
  • Arrange to meet a friend or friends at least once a week.
  • Join a group such as a painting group or walking group.
  • Avoid junk and processed food.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Keep a mood diary. There are charts available but a range of -5 through 0 to +5 is the best. The one below is coloured. The green area signifies a normal mood, yellow is where the mood is higher but is not affecting function. Light blue is the ‘low’ mood area but again does not affect function. Dark blue at the foot of the chart would indicate deep depression. For those with Bi Polar the bright pink/orange would indicate mania.

Keeping a mood diary is useful if you need to see a doctor about your depression. However, you should be keeping a diary of events, encounters, stressful times, upsets etc so that this can be viewed alongside. For example, if you have fallen out with your partner one day, it would be perfectly normal for your mood to sink into the lower green/light blue area.

 As for the waning Christmas spirit, some people find this festive season stressful with family difficulties and reminders of those who are no longer in our lives for a variety of reasons. Try to plan some outings for January which will help ease your depression.

 For those who are physically ill or disabled, reading self help books and using social media to keep in touch with others should help mood.

 Let’s hope the rest of January is good for you.

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Overspending during depression and bi-polar highs

There is a common problem with those who suffer mental health problems that sometimes they get carried away with their spending and overspend often to the point of landing in debt.

It is a well known fact that we think that buying the ‘next thing’ will make us happy and using a £5 off voucher if you spend £35.00 in the supermarket is actually saving you £5 when, in fact, you are probably spending more than you would if you did not have the voucher.

I came across the article below which, forgive me if it is wordy, does explain some aspects of why we overspend. At this time of year when we are feeling drab and the nights are still closing in before 4.30 it is easy to think that going out shopping and buying something we have always wanted or a holiday that we see others enjoying will be the answer to our low mood.

http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2015/01/14/why-we-spend-are-you-falling-for-these-costly-biases/

I did read something about spending to make  ourselves happy. It is on a previous blog on happiness. Apparently we buy something and experience some temporary feeling of satisfaction so we think it has worked. In fact the feeling soon goes away and sometimes our mood can plummet when we realise that the purchase did not act as the magic bullet. The realisation that we have spent £x and got no long-term reward can send us into a decline of regret and evoke feelings where we ‘beat ourselves up’ for falling for this ploy once again. The temporary easing of our anxiety can bounce back to hit us full in the face, worse than before.

I am now subscribing to the minimalist theory. A few pairs of black leggings, a good pair of boots and a few tops and layers are seeing me through the winter. I have a lovely skirt I bought in the Mistral sale which I wear to go out and my previous purchases for winter come out occasionally. There is NO need for any more new clothes so the January sales will not be seeing me this year.

Try it and see if you feel better by NOT spending.

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