January 7, 2013 by Decorum DIYer
Okay, so the title is a little misleading in that this is NOT a moodboard post. Rather, this is the part of my blog description that files under ‘keeping things realistic’.
You see, I am bipolar/manic depressive, whichever term you prefer. It isn’t a diagnosis of which I am ashamed, but it isn’t something that I wear proudly as a banner either. I know I am not alone in feeling this way (having this diagnosis), but sometimes I feel very lonely, nonetheless.
In case you have never experienced or known someone with manic depression, here is a quick list of symptoms courtesy of WebMD:
What Are the Depression Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
The clinical depression symptoms seen with bipolar disorder include:
- Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Fatigue, decreased energy, being “slowed down”
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Persistently sad, anxious, or “empty” moods
- Restlessness, irritability
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
What Are the Signs of Mania With Bipolar Disorder?
The signs of mania with bipolar disorder include:
- Disconnected and racing thoughts
- Grandiose notions
- Inappropriate elation
- Inappropriate irritability
- Inappropriate social behavior
- Increased sexual desire
- Increased talking speed and/or volume
- Markedly increased energy
- Poor judgment
- Severe insomnia
What Are Signs of Hypomania With Bipolar II Disorder?
Signs of hypomania with bipolar II disorder include:
- Decreased need for sleep
- Extreme focus on projects at work or at home
- Exuberant and elated mood
- Increased confidence
- Increased creativity and productivity
- Increased energy and libido
- Reckless behaviors
- Risk-taking behaviors
I can honestly state that I have experienced all of the above symptoms. My husband and children can attest to that. Over the past year, I have been experiencing highs (mania) and lows (depression), but nothing so concerning that I felt I needed to seek professional help. In spite of being surrounded by love from my children, my husband, and my extended family, I have had some very dark days. Then again, I have also had some bursts of ‘get it all done’ energy – hence the delve into my blog and my frenzy of projects, moodboards, etc….
So, you are probably asking yourself, “Why are you telling us?” Well, I feel I owe my friends, my family (the bulk of my blog subscribers), and my ‘friends’ via the blog an explanation for my lack of involvement with my blog lately. I feel a major ‘episode’ of depression washing over me like I am slowly drowning and I just honestly don’t feel like doing much of anything. One of the hallmarks of depression is that one no longer derives pleasure from things and activities that one usually enjoys. For me, dance has been on the back burner and I have no desire to do anything blog related. Ironically, it is the expression and physical excursion of dance (and sometimes decorating/painting) that soothes my soul and keeps me on an even keel. Sort of like saying that I don’t want to take my ‘medicine’ that I know will make me feel better.
Speaking of medication, since I was officially diagnosed with manic depression in my first year of college (after suffering through middle school and high school), I avoided using medication. I was reluctant to ‘change’ who I am artificially through drugs. I was afraid that any anti-depression/anxiety medication would prevent me from being me and stifle my creativity. This goes for illegal drugs as well. I am proud to say that I have never experienced a ‘high’ from anything other than my manic episodes and more recently alcohol (in small doses – don’t worry, this isn’t leading up to me divulging that I am a closet alcoholic). That said, I don’t frown upon anyone that has, it just simply isn’t for me. Some of my best choreography and performances were spawned as an expression of my depression or as a consequence of my mania. I have always felt that dance is my therapy and my mental illness, in a strange way, is my muse.
Of course, I am ‘ill’ and when things get really tough for me and my family, I have turned to my doctor and have used various anti-depression medications. I hated the notion of taking medication and hated it more after trying Paxil and Zoloft, as they simply turned me into a zombie and I hated the myriad of negative side effects. Just before becoming engaged (and honestly, as part of a promise I made to my future husband), I tried Wellbutrin and found success. Wellbutrin didn’t make me feel like a different me, just a better me. I used Wellbutrin for seven years and was quite happy (really happy). In 2005, my husband and I decided to start our family and I was determined to have a ‘drug’ – free pregnancy. As much as I was enjoying my new life through the lens of Wellbutrin, I didn’t feel confident that I wanted to pass it along to the little one growing inside my belly. Sure, I was afraid of postpartum depression, given my history of mental illness, but I decided with my doctor that I would take it one day at a time.
Fast forward six years, and I have been medication free and now have three children. Thankfully, I managed to escape the grasp of postpartum depression after all three pregnancies, but I do feel the manic depression taking hold. Honestly, I think part of my decline is due to my stressful role as a stay-at-home mother (Being a parent, no matter your ‘job’, is hard!), my lack of ‘getting out’ of the house, and the void of creativity in the form of dance. I still take an hour-long dance class every Saturday, but it isn’t the same as teaching dance three days a week, choreographing, and dancing most of the week – as I was doing until the birth of my third child. I have a lot to be thankful for, but honestly, not having my support network as a dance instructor has really taken a toll on me mentally. I have lost my outlet for expression, stress, creativity, and physical excursion. I’d love to go back to teaching dance at my previous position, but I think that ship has sailed.
Given that I have been feeling the above, I decided to take a free on-line test. I often refer to this sort of test to act as a barometer. Sure, I ‘feel’ a certain way, but I don’t always keep a mental list of my symptoms. This test just reminds me of what to watch out for so that I can seek professional help, if needed. Of course, this test is not a doctor. If you, or someone you know, uses this test please only consider it a tool for helping you understand what is happening. It is a great checklist to present to your doctor, so that he/she can better understand what you or someone else is experiencing.
Here are my dismal results:
|Major Depression:||Very High|
|Seasonal Affective Disorder:||High-Moderate|
|Take the Depression Test|
I know, not good. It is okay, I have been here before. The good thing is that I know what to do. The first time this happened to me, I , and everyone around me, had no idea what was wrong and therefore I suffered for a long time. Now, I know I need to take better care of myself. Just to be clear – I AM NOT SUICIDAL. I have never felt the urge to commit suicide, I just want to hide, crawl under a rock, or transform into some simple life form that doesn’t need to worry about life and death.
Bottom line, I wanted to share this side of myself with you because I need to vent and I like I said, I owe you an explanation for my erratic behavior and, well, lack thereof. For me, I am going to start taking better care of myself. I am going to do the things that I know make me feel better:
- Exercise – I may not have dance the way I used to, but I have found a zumba class that meets twice a week that is affordable and which meets my family’s schedule. (Trust me, this is harder than it sounds. Another reason that I did not continue teaching dance.)
- Better food choices – It is no secret that I am F-A-T (like orca fat – Sorry, the corny film and music references don’t stop, just because I am crazy, if anything it is only going to become more frequent). I feel better when I eat well and drink a lot of water. I have fallen off of that wagon and need to fuel my body with appropriate nutrients.
- Consistent sleep habits – I often stay up very late just to accomplish daily items that I can’t do well with children underfoot or to do something crafty. This needs to stop. To be well and to be a better wife and parent, I need my sleep.
- Get out more – I have become a hermit. I only leave the house to walk my son to his bus stop twice a day. His bus stop is across the street from our house, so it really isn’t an outing. I may visit family once a week. From September to May, I have a dance class on Saturdays. Honestly, I need to work on getting out with friends. I have neglected my friends, especially those that are in more need of ‘cheering up’ than myself. I have been a very bad friend, indeed.
- Continue to monitor my mood – Approximately every two weeks, I plan to retake the ‘test’ to ascertain where I am on the spectrum. I’m not ready to see my doctor yet, as I don’t feel the need (or want) to be on medication. The fact is, if things don’t improve, I need medication. I owe that to my family and to myself.
I’m sorry if this post is rambling, but if you are paying attention, you will realize that it is part of illness. 😉 I often have erratic, obsessive, and random thoughts. I have trouble concentrating, remembering, finding the right words, and keeping a steady train of thought. I promise things will get better, but then again, I have an amazing husband that knows from experience how to help me during these times. He really is a saint.
That said, if you, or someone you know is suffering from the same, don’t hesitate to ask for help. At the very least, let someone you trust know what you are experiencing. Obviously, Tom Cruise is no help here, so I wouldn’t tell him. 😉 Brooke Shields, maybe? I digress. In all seriousness, part of having manic depression is not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you need someone who cares and that is non-judgmental to hold your hand and help you find the light.
Until next time (yes, there will be a next time), I hope that everyone is well. I would like to get back to my life in all of its dancing, decorating, and blogging glory. I need to take care of me and my family first. I hope you are all still here when I return in full force. 🙂 I’m not trying to solicit sympathy (or even empathy), I just wanted to share what has been on my mind. Love to all!