Sunny With a Chance of Irrationality

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Today’s been a good day – mostly. I woke up in a grumpy mood but it soon went away. Then a few times during the day my mood has tanked, but not far and not for long. The trick here is that my bad moods tended to trigger bad moods in my wife, since she felt like she couldn’t do anything to fix my bad moods. I finally had to remind her that the dips into irrationality for me have been quick and not very bad at all. I’ve mostly felt lost, without direction, during those periods today and not at all truly irrational, although I was flirting with it every time.

The weird thing is that I can’t identify what I did to reverse the mood swings today. There’s not been some overarcing thing that’s kept my mood elevated, there’s not been anything to give my mood a hit either. I didn’t do anything to specifically distract me from the mood I was in. It felt like the downswings came on and were resolved naturally.

I can’t complain about that, though, although as the evening progresses I’m going to be monitoring things closely, as my mood tends to naturally take a dive in the evenings.

It’s been a good weekend, and I’ve enjoyed the time that I’ve been able to spend with my wife, even though we haven’t done much at all. Sometimes that’s the best time of all.

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The Insidious Power of Music

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I was having an okay day this morning. I got up with the alarm, I did my vitals and my meds and my breakfast, and I went back to sleep for a short little nap. Got up, dinked around on the computer, then went to go lie back down. The second nap was thanks to lack of something to do.

While poking around on the computer I managed to uncover a YouTube video of the extra tracks CD from the Genesis: 1976-1982 box set. This featured a lot of songs that I hadn’t heard before as we as some that I knew about and had heard before. So after my wife went to work, I cued it up.

I forgot one detail – this period of time includes music that Phil wrote about the breakup of his first marriage, and a lot of the songs that I was familiar with evoked feelings of loss, depression, desolation, and pain. Naturally, those were the songs that stuck in my head because of my familiarity with them.

My mood took a nosedive after that. I was sure that I was in everyone’s way, that I was a bother, that I should just keep to myself and stay quiet today while I silently suffered.

It wasn’t long that, against my better judgment, I reached out to a couple friends of mine and started to turn myself around. I’m better now – a bit lonely, perhaps, but I have a movie on (Guardians of the Galaxy for the umpteenth time) and I’m starting to come about and be productive with my day.

But I need to remember how much those particular Genesis songs affect me and have a ready counter to the mood they inspire whenever listening to them again. And I should likely be ready to reach out to others tonight as it gets later. I have a feeling that the evening might be a little rough on me.

NaBloPoMo Day 24: Digging Back Out

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So far today, my mood’s been fairly stable. I won’t go so far as to say it’s GOOD, mind, but at least it’s not pinging wildly back and forth between joyous, distraught, and angry anymore.

I think one of the things that has helped as much as anything is sleep. For several days before my mood tanked the other day I’d been getting somewhere between four to six hours of sleep a day. Last night, I got a full eight, plus a couple of naps this morning and afternoon. I feel rejuvenated, and I think honestly sleep had a lot to do with it. I’ve been productive more today than I have been over the last couple of days, even given the extra sleep that I’m getting, and I feel more accomplished because of it, which in turn is boosting my mood.

It makes sense, though. Experts talk about how important regular sleep is to mental health. I’m living proof of that. Several years ago, I was getting about two to three hours of sleep a night for about four months. The extreme sleep deprivation started affecting my decision making ability, and I decided that I needed to come off my medications. A week later, with no medications in my system and barely any sleep to speak of, I had a full-blown psychotic episode that lasted a week. It was the worst time of my life, and I’m thankful that my wife listened to me when I got thirty seconds of lucidity and begged her to take me to the hospital.

Part of the struggle with getting my care right is understanding that my body is changing as I grow older. I turn 50 during our next presidential term of office. That’s not that long off. My body has been regularly changing since I turned 40, and learning my new aches and pains and limitations is a growing experience.

Somehow I think I’m going to have to find a way of tracking my sleeping habits to see if there’s a more consistent correlation between the two. In the meantime, I think it’s going to be important to ensure that I get regular sleep from here on out. It seems to be affecting me more as I’m getting older. One long night once in a while won’t do much, but if I’m getting less than six hours of sleep a night for a few nights in a row, I’m going to need to listen to my body and let it rest for a while to head off episodes like this in the future. And if it won’t listen, I’m going to have to force the issue with a sleeping pill.

NaBloPoMo Day 23: Down the Rabbit Hole

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Today’s prevailing mood started last night – I can’t remember when or over what – but this morning I was absolutely determined that I was the worst thing that had ever walked on two legs.

My wife, to her credit, tried to pull me out of it, but as discussions between the two of us go whenever I’m irrational, it turned into a shouting match; me in a desperate attempt to just be right about something by trying to prove everyone else was wrong, regardless of facts, and her in self-defense and growing frustration at my symptoms as they rapidly took over my entire worldview.

And then it faded, just as quickly as it had taken over.

And then it came back in a rush, and left, and came back, and so on, throughout the day. I even started planning self-harm (which in my case, to paraphrase Louis C.K., is to eat until I hate myself).

I must have made four separate and distinct full mood swings today alone.

It is important to remember that even with my meds working perfectly, even with the tools and techniques that I learned in therapy first and foremost in mind, that there are times that nothing whatsoever can prevent this from happening. The meds can help to minimize the intensity of the symptoms, and the therapy can help to diffuse a rapidly deteriorating mindset, but neither of these are guaranteed failsafe.

I’m at the point where I’ve expended so much energy swinging that I don’t have any left to swing anymore. Right now it’s a very subtle swing between “tomorrow’s got to be better” and “well, right now sucks.” I’m emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

I hate days like today. I’m ultra-sensitive to my environment, and I need to remember that during days like today almost anything can trigger a swing. It makes it dangerous to stay informed, as the news can often be triggering, and it makes it dangerous to be around people, as their actions can be triggering as well, even if they don’t intend for it to.

Right now sucks.

But tomorrow’s got to be better.

 

The Pendulum Swings

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I’ve been talking a lot about how the addition of the one medication I’ve been missing has helped with my energy level, but haven’t really talked about how my mood has been affected.

Up until the last couple of days, I’ve been really enjoying a wonderful upswing in my mood. I’ve been more optimistic, I’ve felt happier, it’s been harder for things to agitate me or get under my skin – would it make sense if I told you that when I’m in a better mood I get a tougher skin, emotionally speaking? – and I’ve generally been more fun to be around.

I’m still easily overwhelmed by humanity, as my post earlier about the experience I had while waiting for the car to be repaired attests, but at least I’m okay with being alone and not being lonely. (When I’m having a bad day, I find that being around a lot of people exacerbates my symptoms, yet being totally alone exacerbates them as well, potentially even more. The past few days, however, I’ve been okay with being alone, which likely says more about how I’ve been emotionally than anything else.) I’m okay in my skin in a greater range of social situations than I have been over the past few months, and that’s a very good thing, I believe.

I’m still not ready to go jump in a mosh pit anywhere (are there still mosh pits?) but I think I can deal with humanity a little better than I could just a couple weeks ago.

The other side of that coin, however, is that with the improvement in my mood comes an increase in my energy level, which sometimes swings things from dysthymic (the medical term for a milder form of depression) to hypomanic (the medical term for a milder form of mania). Hypomania I can manage, to a certain extent. I tend to channel all that nervous energy into cleaning, which works so long as I have stuff to do.

Last night I got pretty hypomanic, and I had to settle the anxiety of doing all the things to avoid being in trouble down with an extra Klonopin. Been a while since I’ve needed the extras I’m prescribed. I’m doing better today, but last night was dicey for a while.

Hopefully this isn’t the start of a trend into hypomania. It can be productive but tiring, and I already slept about ten hours last night.

An Up and Down (and Up) Day

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This morning started with a lovely ride in to take my darling wife to work, followed by a leisurely ride across town to see my medication manager. (The majority of mental health patients see a psychiatrist directly for this function; in my case, I see a psychiatric nurse practitioner working alongside a psychiatrist. The relationship is arguably the best that I’ve ever had with a medication manager.) I got there with more than an hour to spare, so I sat down at a local coffee shop and had a cup of joe to while away the time.

I Frankensteined my coffee (what I do to coffee with cream and sugar changes its species, and besides, since Frankenstein was a doctor, I’m technically still “doctoring” it) then sat down to casually and happily peruse my tablet. It’s a new addition to our growing family of quasi-sentient handheld devices, and so I’m still tweaking it to get the widgets and apps just right.

At about 8:45 am I look carefully at my calendar widget. It tells me that today is Veteran’s Day, and that I have four hours and forty-five minutes until my appointment at 1:30 pm.

Suddenly my mind … transformed.

I was an IDIOT for driving all the way across town needlessly. I was less hip, more unattractive, almost downright scorned for being in this pretentious coffee shop. I wanted out, I wanted to hide, I wanted to just completely disappear with no one there having any recollection of my being there. I couldn’t suck down my trendily over-roasted coffee fast enough and slink off into the chill of the windy Austin morning.

The peace and tranquility of the commute across town was over.

It was driven even further from my mind when I missed my exit back home and had to punt to get back to my sanctuary.

I came home, stripped, crawled under the covers, and went to sleep. Some may call this hiding from the problem, but in reality a short, hard nap can do wonders for resetting a downward spiral in mood and energy for me and for a good deal of others that share my diagnoses.

A phone call woke me shortly after noon. The darling wife was checking in. We spoke briefly while I wolfed down the Black Forest turkey sandwich she had lovingly prepared for me earlier in the day. I could tell it was lovingly prepared; it was one of the better tasting sandwiches I’d had in a while, and I couldn’t discern any other flavors but turkey, mayo, bread, salt, and pepper. And then I laid back down to sleep.

I woke at 1:10. My appointment was a good 35 minutes away and I had 20 minutes to get there. A frantic call ensured they’d hold the schedule, so I flew like the wind and made my appointment. (I drove legally, of course; I never, ever speed–oh, wait, move to the left a few steps, would you, that’s about where the lightning strikes when I lie through my teeth.)

I had an errand to run afterward, so I ran that, and by the time I was done with the surgical strike at the bookstore, a thought struck me.

“Hey, Steven, why not gobble like a turkey the entire trip home?”

So I did. I gobbled to passing cars, I gobbled to cars that I passed, I gobbled to the Doobie Brothers on the radio. And by the time I got home, I was in gigglefits over how silly I’d become.

And believe it or not, the full mood swing of the day is fairly atypical. Usually by this time, I’ve managed three or four cycles.

Is it any wonder that I’m tired all the time?