This Bipolar Life: The Coin Toss

Making decisions is not my strength, yet. I’m working on it but the whole finality of the choices gets me. Like, what if I’m wrong? What if it goes sideways? What if? What if? What if? Increasingly I am also making sure to wonder if I’m right too and that’s helping!

Fortunately I have tools to use. I use techniques like remembering to go through pros/cons and asking those around me to help play out the scenario over coffee/zoom. Their feedback is invaluable as I don’t quite trust my gut just yet (another thing I’m working on) because although my mind is on point my brain chemicals can get whacky occasionally and cloud my ability to clearly see options.

Seriously though, I’m a grown-ass woman who often get’s stuck and can’t figure out what to watch on tv, which craft to pick up, which project to start, business to launch, relationships to end/start, meals to make, jobs to choose, careers, empty nest decoration…just all of it. Talk about ridiculous, right? Well I have a tool that works really well, here goes:

My solution – AND IT WORKS 100% FOR ME – has been to rely on a coin-toss. After becoming fully aware of my choices, benefits and consequences I figure out my top two options and throw a coin up. While it’s in the air I instinctively know which one I want. Heads or tails, each representing a commitment to seeing something through, and I know. Instantly. Before it hits the ground, which choice I want.

ALWAYS. Then, no matter how the coin lands, I’ve finally made my decision and I can move on.

Just one tool that works for me. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too!

This Bipolar Life: News Round-Up 5/25/20

Hi, every so often I gather recent articles about mental health and bipolar particular. I’m never sure if it’s helpful but I do it anyway – my blog, my rules, right? LOL

Movement based Yoga Can Significantly Improve Mental Health: Aus Researchers – Natasha Chaku/Outlook, The News Scroll (05/25/2020)
This is an interesting and insightful (but brief!) review of how this mindfulness exercise can benefit those of us dealing with a mental illness:
“”Our review of available evidence shows that movement-based yoga improves symptoms of depression in people who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder. So, it”s very good news for people struggling in times of uncertainty,” Brinsley said.

New Device Quickly Detects Lithium Ions in Blood of Bipolar Disorder Patients – Hokkaido University (05/22/2020)
This is a quick delve into the medical info behind what could be a breakthrough for those of us with bipolar disorder. A new quick-result test is in the works and could take blood draws all the way down to a pin prick:
The researchers succeeded in making a colorimetric paper-based device that allows point-of-care testing in one step. The device consists of two paper-based elements linked to each other: a blood cell separation unit and a colorimetric detection unit. High-purity cotton blotting paper and blood cell separation membrane, which are both available on the market, are used as a substrate for each unit, respectively. Hydrophobic ink was coated on the device to allow easy liquid handling.

When I Finally Had to Admit Bipolar Disorder Makes It Hard to Work – Mindy M. / The Mighty (05/25/2020)
One glance into the reality of a person’s experience with trying to hold down a career while managing her bipolar disorder and the impact it has on her stability:
“I sat at my desk with my head in my hands, my head spinning with racing thoughts. “I don’t know if I can do this again,” was the prominent one surfacing over and over. Part of my daily routine was psyching myself up to get dressed and face my workday. I would pace in my office, dread each task and struggle to believe it was possible to make it to 4:30 p.m. when I could finally breathe again.

New study shows significant positive impact of vagus nerve stimulation therapy for treatment-resistant bipolar depression – NeuroNews (05/21/2020)
Interesting piece on a new form of treatment for bipolar disorder. Worth a quick read:
The study concluded that VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation) Therapy as an adjunctive treatment to TAU (Treatment as Usual) was more effective than TAU alone in reducing depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. In addition, patients who received adjunctive VNS therapy had a more rapid onset of response and more durable antidepressant effects. The study drew the conclusion that adjunctive VNS therapy is an efficacious antidepressant treatment for patients with TRBD (Treatment Resistant Bipolar Disorder).

Borderline Personality Disorder With Depression Raises Risk of Suicide Attempts in Mood Disorder Patients – Dibash Kumar Das, PhD / Psychology Advisor (05/20/2020)
Engaging article on the effects of this dual-diagnosis of BPD and BD combined and the potential impact on those struggling with the disorders:
Suicidal behavior is highly prevalent in BD and BPD, and the suicidal process can be theorized as potentially progressing from ideation to attempt or death. Researchers investigated the current and lifetime prevalence and risk factors of suicide attempts amo­­­ng patients with major depressive episodes in major depressive disorder (MDD) or BD, with or without comorbid BPD.

This Bipolar Life: Goldilocks and Me

Almost universally people with mental illnesses struggle with figuring out when they can trust their brains. Like, at what point is my depressed brain overriding my daily existence? When does it stop and I find a new normal? How do I know? When can I trust it? Now? Later? When I’ve gone X time since the last depression/mania? How long does that need to be before it’s okay to have faith in my thoughts and feelings?

These are just some of the questions that have bounced around my mind over the past several months as my moods have gone from chaos to relatively stabilized. See, I began weekly solution-based talk therapy about a year ago and four months ago removed some meds from my routine.

Now, when I rate my moods they’re all solidly in the middle, between ‘Slightly Happy’ and ‘Really Happy’ with the occasional ‘Kind of Sad’ but no longer any manic or devastating lows. Like, nothing. No spikes, no depressions, just middle. Like Goldilocks.

“Normal” is something I have worked for. Hard. I make efforts every single day to help live with my bipolar disorder but I still don’t trust it. I’ve lived with the chaos of depression and mania swings for so long this feels wrong. I mean, it’s good, not bad, but scary. Seems weird, huh? Like, how could you finally find a decent stability only to question it?

I do question it. I do worry. I want to trust it. So desperately.

Right now I’m taking a leap of faith.

In myself.

I can do this.

This Bipolar Life: Life lesson #2,437,604

Okay, so I keep trying to find something super interesting to write about and all I can think is to share my life as much as I can. So, here’s something I’ve learned about myself: I can be impulsive, overly so, to the point where it can become destructive and challenging to manage. It’s almost always precipitated by an anxiety attack and at some point some impulses become compulsions. I’m not sure when and which but I know it sucks. Note that this is one of the key things I’m working on in therapy, promise!

Impulsive behavior and thoughts are part of bipolar 1 and unfortunately not new. They are alive and well and one of the most common behaviors. Easily magnified by atypical anti-psychotic meds like Abilify and Seroquel (see pgk inserts) impulsivity can be risky and damaging to the world around us.

So, what do you think of when the word ‘impulse’ comes up? Huge spending sprees? Picking up a random item at the check out aisle? Picking up a small child for a quick spin-around? Hopping on a plane/train/car for a quick “getaway”, unplanned and unprepared?

I have done all of these and then some. However, no one talks about the other side of impulsivity: opening our big fat mouths and spilling out a stream of consciousness. Behind a keyboard or in-person, doesn’t matter. Although, frankly, having a keyboard delays me just enough to edit, which can be better than continuing to blurt out words that are unhelpful and destructive.

This is one of the most difficult and disappointing behaviors in bipolar, because words, once said, cannot be taken back. Yet I frustratingly continue to engage in it, less so now as I’ve gotten further into the self-work to deal with it, but still way more than I would prefer. Mind you this happens during mania *and* depression so it’s not like I ever get a break from it – ugh!

It’s almost as if whatever is bouncing around in my head causing anxiety just has to be spilled out and talked to death for me to put order around the chaos of the thoughts themselves. In the process I can bring up conversation topics out of the blue and blow them out of proportion. This doesn’t always involve tears and such, it’s just sometimes really hard. Difficult to accept the reality of the destruction I leave in the wake of my ugly energy in those moments.

Once I realized my impulsivity was a product of 1) bipolar, 2) an over-active imagination, 3) not all about me and 4) a reality about myself that I could accept or drive myself mad trying to change. Does that mean I’m not intending to work on it? Not at all. Just that I’m not going to keep spinning my wheels in frustration when really all I want to do is discuss things. I find it difficult that those same conversations sometimes lead to unpleasant results. See? Really what I want is to control the outcome but yeah, that’s a tale for another post.

Anyway, remember that crystal ball I mentioned? Yeah, that’d be really helpful *before* I start opening my mouth, right? That said, I also am working on honoring what does. It can be quite useful in figuring out my triggers and areas for growth. So, guess that means it’s last night has handed me life lesson #2,437,604.

And….on to manage the next impulse!

This Bipolar Life: Chronic Illness

I ran across an interesting conversation about this subject recently so I figured it’d be good blog fodder.

Chronic illness: Continuing a long time or recurring frequently.

Mental illness belongs in that definition too. It matters. It is a medical condition caused by a *physical* chemical imbalance and it comes with a set of spoons and vocabulary.

Mental illnesses can be and often are chronic. So are a ton of physical illnesses and I know so many people who are facing severe pain all day every day. Chronic illnesses are no joke. Almost all of them are frequently very tough with flares, pain, injuries, fatigue, weight gain/loss and so many more difficult symptoms I could not possibly capture them all.

My point is just that we don’t need to compare illnesses to use a common language. We’re here and can stand together in support of each other if we try.

Image credit: MediSave (no affiliation – just liked the image for the topic)

NOTE: The image is nowhere near comprehensive of all chronic illnesses and I know this. It’s just meant to be referential.