For the past several weeks, I have been depressed. I don’t show it much when that happens. Not really. My psychiatrist, The Good Dr. H, once said “Peggy, you’re not a public bleeder”, and that is entirely true.
When a person has bipolar disorder, for every down there is an up. Moods are like a sine wave, up and down, as are any person’s moods, but ours tend to be WAY DOWN past feeling a bit blue into dangerous territory, and WAY UP past feeling cheerful, into equally dangerous territory.
This makes me very suspicious whenever the moods change, or certain physical symptoms occur. Did you know that there is just as much physical mess as there is mental mess? Strange but true. It also makes it easy to discern when a mood change is just a normal old “well, I’m feeling cheerful today” or if it’s “Ok, there’s a storm on the horizon and you’d better give Terry all your credit cards cuz you’re fixin’ to get reckless.”
One of the things that makes it easy to tell Cheerful from Fixin’ to Manic is a pressure of ideas. I can’t talk coherently-words come too fast and I get them mixed up and my inherent perfectionism makes me have stop and start the entire sentence all over again…sometimes several times until I get it right. Writing is ok, though, and even preferable.
Another thing is a dismissal of…let’s see how to phrase this…Comfort Zone stuff. Maybe it’s part of the inherent creativity that is typical of a mild mania (also called hypomania). For instance, I make out biweekly menus. For the past several weeks that I have been depressed (actually an understandable depression, due to family stuff), I have had a hard time making creative and interesting menus. We ate a lot of same-old-same-old, because my mind wasn’t clicking very well. Cobwebs in the clockworks, so to speak. However, yesterday the fog started to lift and I felt BETTER…I took it as the depression lifting and that was all…and the menus reflect that. Tandoori chicken wraps, Jamaican grilled chicken with grilled plantains, black bean and quinoa veggie burgers, all stuff I’ve never made before but somehow this time positively GLOWED with possibilities.
All the information out there about bipolars give warning about money- hide the credit cards, cuz we get spendy. There are anecdotes about people withdrawing their entire retirement accounts and buying a racehorse…even though they don’t have a stable or the resources to keep the horse. I don’t do that. “Spendy” for me means a new pair of shoes or maybe some fabric. My ingrained (and frustrating) and inherent Scottish Thrift is strong enough (Thank you, Agnes McCalvinox*) to prevent such silliness.
Instead of spendy, I get BUSY. If I can keep this going without letting it get out of hand (it’s what I call “riding the wave’), I will have the yard fully landscaped by Sunday afternoon, the house will be spotless inside, and all the books will be nicely arranged by topic and in heightabetical order. You see, hypomania combined with mild CDO (that’s OCD but in alphabetical order) is a very happy combination when it comes to housekeeping.
It’s also a very good thing that 2 of the members of the household are elsewhere for a couple of weeks, as fewer people in the house means fewer people to get irritated. The remaining members of the household work a lot, and have the ability to make themselves scarce for several days, should this hypomania start to get out of hand and try to turn into mania. If that happens, I have medications. However, I will not use them until Terry says I need to, because…you know what? This feels GOOD, especially on the heels of a scary depression.
Physically,when I am depressed, it hurts. It’s an achy arthritic sort of feeling, only everywhere, not just in a particular joint. It’s hard to do things because you feel so HEAVY, like you’ve gained 100 pounds overnight and your muscles aren’t accustomed to carrying that sort of weight around. It’s hard to move, and your head hurts. Stuff that aches anyway (like my hands and shoulder) hurt even more, like they’re trying to get around the allover ache and make sure you know they are still there.
Physically, when I am manic, I get twitchy. I have to move or I’ll blow up like a helium balloon and float to the ceiling…ok not literally, but that’s what it feels like inside. I call it “being carbonated”, there’s bubbles all throughout and that extra 100 pounds from the depression is lifted and another 50 pounds to go with (don’t I wish it really happened!). Trying to sit still…ain’t happening. Something is always moving- a foot tapping, fingers typing on a keyboard while foot is tapping, and the entire time thoughts are flying around. While writing this post I’ve gotten a dress planned and figured out what to do with the area of the yard right behind the brick wall that runs along the backside of the patio. I also get itchy. It feels like this soft cotton nightgown is a wool sweater, and truly,being naked would be so much more comfortable, but again, Agnes McCalvinox and Presbyterian Upbringing will allow that no more than she would allow the purchase of a racehorse.
Oh, you know what’s REALLY weird? My hair and fingernails grow twice as fast when I’m hypomanic. Like trim them twice a week fast. I have to keep the nails short because of the itchy skin, too, or I’ll claw myself to shreds.
So, what I have to do today and this weekend, is keep that cool logical bit of my brain taken care of. That is the part that made me keep a 2 year mood journal before I ever saw The Good Dr. H, the journal that detailed mood swings, sleep patterns (which also go whack with bipolar disorder) and strange reactions to events. It is the part that was able to say “Houston, we have a problem” and get me to the doctor before I did Something Drastic. It was also the part that felt tremendous relief when he said “You have a mental illness that will last the rest of your life, but we have medication that will help.” I was so…SO relieved. Being told my issues were an organic disorder and not a character flaw was…oh boy…I can’t even describe how good that felt.
I woke up at 4am this morning, with my mind going about 80tpm (thoughts per minute). I’d been plodding along at a solid 2otph(thought per hour). At first, the energy and time at 4am was cheerfully spent figuring out a dress I’d like to make, then planning changes to the herb garden, then making lists of a bunch of other stuff…and I got up at 5:30. As I trotted down stairs (I never trot at 5:30 am) it occurred that…hum…this feels like the onset of mania. So now my decision has to be…how long to ride it, when to start the medication to slow it down.
Because…dammit, this feels GOOD. I don’t want it to stop!
*Agnes McCalvinox is the name of my alter ego. She is the Calvinist Scot (thus the name) in my brain that prevents all manner of self indulgence and excessive behavior. Sometimes she gets in the way of a good time “No, you are NOT going to buy that piece of fine worsted wool because you could send that money on something more practical.” and “No, you are not going to get some Massaman curry for lunch because you have perfectly acceptable leftovers in the refrigerator at home.” Sometimes she can be a real bitch, and sometimes she really keeps me out of trouble.