Tag Archives: exercise

There When You Need It

My moods have been fairly stable over the weekend and at the beginning of this week, which is nice. I am certain the sunshine (which is only seen in Seattle for 3 months out of the year) isn’t exactly hurting!

Saturday morning the walls began to close in on me a little bit and I narrowly escaped both the apartment and an agitated state by getting outdoors and walking around the neighborhood. My energy level, which was seemingly normal, acted as almost a bottomless cup and it quickly became apparent that there might be some hypomanic energy below the surface.

Cut to Sunday, I went out hiking and my friends and I did ten milesTen miles! Something about that seems absurd to me, when I think about how much I’ve been sitting around on the couch lately.

Even more absurd, I must have tapped into that hypomanic energy that I tapped into on Saturday. I had one or two energy drains early on in the day (7 am and again around 9 am) but once I actually got hiking, the energy maintained an easy pace for 10 miles. And actually, beyond that because I went swimming after.

In fact, the soles of my feet were the only thing telling me to stop, but with the energy I had I could have gone on walking until they were worn down into nubs.

Was this energy there because of the sunshine? Being in the fresh air outdoors? Did I start some kind of motor that, once running, wasn’t easily willing to stop?

Or was the energy I found completely independent of all that and just happened to be there through the roll of the dice?

I don’t know about you, but for me that good hypomanic energy never seems to be there when I want itand I have no real way to predict when it will be present. Even this weekend, I didn’t feel any other symptoms of hypomania, and I didn’t find that energy until I was actively being quite physical and finding it easy.

I find bipolar disorder so interesting when it comes to not getting tired when I ought to or being quite tired for no apparent reason.

Maybe we’re all given the same amount of gasoline but mania tends to pour it on an already burning fire, and that recklessness means a gasoline shortage down the road.

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Little Victories

I have to take the time to celebrate small things. There are times, like in depression, I feel as if I can’t celebrate anything at all, and that is where I started picking up the habit.

Get out of bed? Celebrate.

I grew up in the 4-H club program, I trained dogs for something like 8 years. Each breed is different, but I quickly learned that training the dogs I had with a treat (as a reward for doing the right thing) instead of with punishment (for bad behavior) worked wonders.

Since my big depressive episode last year I’ve been trying to take that approach with myself a little bit.

Clean the kitchen? Get to play video games for two hours.

Thankfully things haven’t reached the point where I’m bribing myself to do everything  for a while. I’ve been motivated enough to get things done for the most part, but I’ve been taking the opportunity to celebrate little victories none the less.

I have a tendency to balloon up when I’m depressed, and I know there are other factors (my job, medications, physical illness,  Chinese New Year (candy candy!)) that have contributed but I can honestly say the only times in my life I’ve ever gained weight was when I have been depressed.

Go the whole day without stuffing my face with chocolate? Have one chocolate.

When I popped up out of depression this last time I kept waiting for the crest of the wave to break. When it finally did, I expected the weight to recede (the way it has done in the past) but instead it seemed to linger. I wasn’t gaining weight at the ridiculous speed I was previously, but it also wasn’t abating. It just… sat there, the highest digits I’ve reached so far in my life.

I don’t own a scale. I don’t like them. I don’t want to think about how much I weigh, and for the most part I don’t. I don’t even really feel any less attractive when I weigh more, I just get upset that nothing I own that is cute fits.

Put on something other than sweatpants? Go out and have a cocktail!

It becomes a dance I do. Do I buy more clothes to fit my new, larger body? Or do I hold out with the few things I have while I wait for things to recede? I don’t have much money, so I’ve been holding out on adding to the wardrobe. I can get away with wearing the same 3 dresses to work each week, right?

Yesterday was laundry day.

Do laundry? Um, you’re rewarded with clean clothes to put on your body!

I can’t do laundry when it is convenient, I always wait until I have worn literally everything I would even consider wearing over the course of the day. Of course, that makes it fun, because then I’m going to go do laundry on the 4th floor of my building wearing the weirdest crap ever. The only things that aren’t dirty are the things that don’t make any sense together, whatsoever.

Yesterday I opened my “pants” drawer hoping to find a skirt or something I could throw on to do laundry. I spied one of the 5 pairs of jeans that don’t quite fit anymore and threw my arms up in resignation.

I tried one of them on.

They fit…

Fit in your old jeans? Do a happy jig!

Maybe it was those 4 flights of stairs I’ve been going up and down each time I need to do a load of laundry? Or the loads of vegetables I’ve been eating. Or the fact that I practically have to put mountain climbing gear on to get groceries to my apartment at the top of a huge hill. Regardless, it was the BEST little victory I’ve achieved in a while!

Follow the bouncing (exercise) ball!

I was just taking Luna (my dog) out for a walk when I started thinking about exercise.

Exercise is important for everyone but, looking back, bipolar disorder has really had an effect on the role exercise has played in my life.

For example, when I am depressed it is extremely difficult to do anything, let alone take on the daunting task of exercising. Near the end of the depressed episode I just had I started doing yoga to try and make up for my lack of motivation to exercise. I found that yoga is a fun, energizing, and strangely relaxing way to exercise that I hadn’t tried before. Even doing yoga exercises that weren’t particularly challenging, I could only maintain a level of concentration and strength to complete about 30 minutes or so while depressed. But hey, every little bit helps right?

Today my thoughts were geared more toward the combination of exercise and mania. I was thinking back trying to discern if and when I experienced manic episodes as a child or adolescent, and looking at my exercise habits at different periods in my life is a way I’ve found of getting a grasp on when these episodes occurred.

When I am experiencing mania I generally have an overwhelming amount of energy. A tingling, pulsing feeling almost like a hum invigorates my entire body and it is extremely difficult and uncomfortable to sit still. In my teens I had no real idea what the feeling meant, just that when I was experiencing it I needed to exercise intensely to feel any sort of relief.

Through my late teens I spent an extraordinary amount of time hiking with Chloe, the yellow lab you can see here on the left. Chloe was an excellent hiking partner, and really any amount of energy I was willing to expel she would match it.

You can also see Violet in the photo (the pug on the right), my family had three other dogs besides Chloe -three pugs (which included Violet). Violet was willing to go on walks for a while (the other two pugs were much too lazy for longer walks) but in her middle age gave in to being a wiggly, wrinkly home body.

Really, the two dogs in the photo here do a pretty good job of representing my manic episodes and my depressed episodes. Chloe the lab was great for big, energetic bursts, while Violet was an excellent cuddler, able to meet my gloomier, couch potato needs. Unfortunately, both dogs passed away of (extreme) old age in 2010.

It was also lucky in some ways to have grown up where I did.

Our house was a mile at most from an incredible state park, and half a mile from the beach. Some days Chloe and I would leave the house like a bullet from a gun and hike 8-10 miles before heading home. Eight intense miles of uninterrupted hiking was usually what it took to feel a shard of relaxation and some degree of resignation in my body.

Needless to say, I was in pretty good shape at the time!

I’ve heard similar stories from some of the bipolar acquaintances I’ve made, stories about biking 40 miles without realizing it just to relieve the overwhelming urge to “go”, or people going for a run only to realize that they’ve somehow run all the way to the next town or city over without tiring.

Like many of the traits that coincide with bipolar mania, I’ve found this extreme energy both to be a blessing and a curse. On one hand there are times when I am able to complete physical feats I am not able to accomplish otherwise, like hiking 10 miles without breaking a sweat. As long as I am exercising in some way, the hum of energy inside of my body feels amazing, and coupled with the endorphins of a long work-out I can wind up having a great exercise high while getting fit!

That said, there’s definitely a darker downside. Both from what I’ve experienced and what others I’ve spoken to have told me there doesn’t appear to be any way to attach this energy to a specific time of day. If and when it occurs it does so seemingly at random, and it is incredibly inconvenient for it to happen at, say, 2 o’clock in the morning. That may not seem like such a bad thing, but when it happens and the need for exercise is so completely overwhelming that one can’t sit or stand still (let alone sleep) it can be very dangerous. Depending on where you live, it may not be safe to be biking down the road at night or jogging down the streets if you’re in the city. Doing so might result in being mistaken for a prostitute (true story, though I don’t know any prostitutes that wear sweatpants) or much, much worse.

Most of my life I’ve considered gyms to be totally ridiculous, because why run inside when you could just run outdoors? For the sake of this situation though I’d highly recommend a treadmill or stationary bike, even one of those big red exercise balls -whatever it takes to be able to expel that energy in a safe environment.

Plus, it’s really frustrating to have jogged your way to the next town over and have the energy burst dissipate. Trying to figure out how to get home in that situation makes having access to some exercise equipment at home or at a nearby gym priceless.