Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Question “How Are You?”

I think probably anyone with mood swings or depression or who has had a particularly crappy day can relate to this, one of my biggest pet peeves.

In today’s culture a very common greeting begins with, “hi, how are you?

The thing I find disturbing about this is that most of the time people say it, they don’t actually want to know how you are doing or feeling.

The most acceptable answers to this greeting are something along the lines of “good,” or “fine” or “great” whether one feels great or not. Answering with anything else (miserable, stressed, anxious, depressed) often leads to a very confused greeter.

For anyone who has answered truthfully to the question of “how are you?” and received that blank, icy stare in return… it can be easy to fall into a pattern of always answering “good” or “fine” whether they’re feeling it or not.

Personally, I think it would be a lot easier for people to share how they’re feeling (and if they’re not doing alright) if there were less trick questions like this one. 

The solution?

Let’s stop asking people how they’re doing unless we’re prepared to listen to whatever (honest) answer comes next. Maybe retail employees and acquaintances and distant co-workers should stick to greetings like, “what’s up?” or “good to see you,” or “did you watch the Walking Dead last night?”

Seeing the Effects of Suicide First Hand

It is Monday, and frankly the most beautiful day I’ve seen in Seattle for weeks… honestly this isn’t what I wanted to start my week sharing, but it is all I’ve been able to think about.

Over the weekend my boyfriend and I found out that someone in our lives has commit suicide.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a first for us, and I remember the feelings of shock and confusion all too well when this happened with another friend last year.

As someone who has bipolar disorder, it can often feel like I spend most of my time feeling suicidal, and being so familiar with this trick of the mind coming from pain or mental illness or stress makes it easier (but not easy) to understand these situations.

I also feel, however, that being someone prone to suicidality, that one of the best preventative measures I’ve ever experienced is seeing the effects suicide has first hand on someone I truly care about. Witnessing my boyfriend’s reactions to this whole situation really puts into perspective what might happen if something were to happen to me. He isn’t someone I would ever want to hurt, making the fight for life that much more important.

In the end, these moments always remind me how important it is to remind people that they can ask for help, that they aren’t alone, and to share your experiences with the people around you. We don’t always know who needs our help the most, so being willing to give it at any time is the most important thing of all.

Mood Swings Return

The last three days has seen a resurgence of bipolar symptoms, and after the month or two I had of stability it hasn’t exactly been welcome.

I’ve been having mood swings, growing increasingly by severity and frequency.

One minute I’ll be laughing, singing, and jumping up and down, and then literally the next minute I’ll be crying, ready to throw in the towel at whatever I was doing moments earlier.

Yesterday I combatted this with a really good bowl of pho and a long walk through the socked in streets of Seattle, but I was blessed with three more big mood swings after that so it was really only a momentary band aid.

I’m not really sure where this is coming from. I was sick last week, but have felt relatively fine the few days leading up to when these mood swings began… could these swings be a delayed reaction from sickness?

I also normally have more issues with mania in October than depression, but the  more I think about it, the more these big swings seem to be on the verge of being mixed in nature.

All I can do at this point is wait and see what happens. The little green notebook I take notes in regarding my mood was a big scribbled mess after 4 incidences of my mood jerking me around yesterday.

The last few months have been so easy. The difference between living when I hate my life (in depression) and when I’m actually enjoying myself (not depression) is really extraordinary. I don’t feel ready to give that up, and it is frustrating to think that I might soon once again be in a place where I am working hard every day just to survive.

Shortened Attention Span

Though there have been some small speed bumps in my mood the last two weeks, I would have to say the most prominent thing I’ve noticed is that my attention span has become extremely short.

I’ve had this show up in the past in the form of not being able to finish a movie, or skipping from one project to the next very quickly… but something about this time around has been different.

I had some people over to carve pumpkins a week ago and it was something I was really excited about. As I sat down to carve my pumpkin, I decided to etch some designs in the skin. By the time I got halfway down the pumpkin, I felt exhausted, bored, and unable to finish.

Everyone else went on to continue carving for an hour or more on their pumpkins after I stopped.

The situation happened again this weekend at the corn maze. Frankly, I’ve been nagging Corey for the last four years about going to a corn maze, so I was extremely excited that we were finally going. But then, what’s this? By the time we were halfway through, I actually felt a little upset that the maze wasn’t over yet. The rest became a struggle of exhaustion, confusion, and frustration.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time in both of these situations, I was just extremely taken aback by my extremely short attention span.

I admit, I have been doing something more akin to existing lately rather than living with a purpose. Not working has me floating, trying the make the most of each day as it comes on. Is this what comes from not focusing myself on any one thing? The inability to focus myself when I actually want to?

Maybe I’m out of practice?

I can’t help but wonder if this is related to bipolar disorder or if it has blossomed out of something else. Is this something I’ve created, or is this merely a symptom of a passing phase?

Sick and Sore

Well, this week has been a sick one. I picked up some kind of flu that made me sleep for 14 hours at a time and flung my mood into a wobbly space where I was tearful 24/7 (as I predicted might happen here).

I wanted to give some explanation as to why the writing has been sparse. Though I’m feeling better, it seems like my brain (and mood) haven’t quite recovered, making it hard to do things like draw conclusions, focus, or not hold weird prejudices against people for no apparent reason.

In any case, stay tuned.

Bipolar Curious Two Year Anniversary

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

It is Friday, October 11th which is National Coming Out Day, which also means today is the two year anniversary of the bipolar curious blog!

When I started this blog two years ago, I was fed up with beating around the bush and living in fear of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Now that I’ve “come out” as a bisexual woman living with bipolar disorder, there have been a lot of changes in my life, and most have been for the better.

I’ve encountered an amazing amount of acceptance from family, friends, and strangers, made connections with people I never expected to have anything in common with, and learned a lot about myself.

In the last year in particular I’ve been certified in the ASIST suicide prevention training model and received a certificate from the NAMI peer to peer class. Though I haven’t been working, I’ve tried several new medications (none of which have worked out) and am ten months through applying for SSDI.

Most importantly, I’ve been grateful, impressed, and motivated by the people who have come to this blog to explore topics about mental illness by leaving comments or simply by reading. I know I have had a rather difficult time being able to respond to the number of comments I get on the blog, but I do read every one. I also try very hard to respond to every email I get, but I want to thank your patience and understanding around this issue.

I am someone who has trouble focusing my attention on one project for very long, so I am taking a lot of personal pride in the fact that I’ve kept this blog alive for two years. Blogging has been challenging, but definitely rewarding as well, so here are some high hopes to year three.

Bipolar and the Flu Season

As the flu season quickly approaches, you may want to consider taking steps to prepare for the chance of getting sick.

Those with bipolar disorder often have a lot more to think about when it comes to the flu, because illness and pain can be triggers for bipolar symptoms and episodes.

It is bad enough being sick, but being severely depressed, delusional, or having hallucinations on top of it can make it very difficult not only to take care of oneself, but also to take care of kids or other family members who might also be sick at the same time.

This year I am doing what I can to prepare in advance for the bipolar flu whirlwind. These are just a couple of measures I am taking to (hopefully) make my life a little easier when the flu finally does hit, and my mood goes wild with it.

1. Consider getting a flu shot

I know this can be something of a controversial topic, but I’ve personally never had a problem with getting a flu shot (and I used to have a very weak immune system). Many insurance companies will cover the cost of a flu shot completely, but if you don’t have insurance you might want to consider if you need to spend the $30 or so cost. If you live in an urban area, take public transportation frequently, work at a job with a lot of customer interaction, or have a lot of interaction with children or the elderly (who tend to be sick more often) it is probably a good idea to get the shot. In my experience, taking the extra precaution to potentially avoid sickness and bipolar symptoms is worth it.

2. Stock up on cold and flu remedies

If the time comes and you do indeed find yourself to be sick, having medicine available when it happens will not only keep you from having to go out when potentially symptomatic but prompt treatment of your flu symptoms could also keep you from having those bipolar symptoms altogether.

3. Have an emergency back up person

No matter if you live alone or with others, it is a good idea to have an emergency back up person who you can call if things start to get out of hand. This could be a friend or family member who you trust to help take care of things if you are rendered unable to.

4. Keep an emergency contact list handy

Having a list with your medication dosages and doctor’s phone numbers available to a helper (in case you can’t access it yourself) can help in a pinch if things start looking bad, both on the flu and bipolar ends. You may also want to discuss with your emergency person your emergency room of choice (if there are several in your area) ahead of time.

5. Take care of yourself

Pushing yourself too hard or getting too stressed out can really open yourself up for illness (both the flu and bipolar symptoms), so taking care of yourself and knowing when to spend a little time relaxing can make a big difference!

This year, I hope you are able to avoid illness and bipolar symptoms triggered by illness as much a possible, but where you can’t avoid it… prepare for it!