My weekend held a series of errors in judgment, which comprised poor self-care around my bipolar disorder – and were set in motion by a slip around my food addiction.
I have known for some time that peanut butter is a problem food for me, a food that I am prone to eating compulsively – and sometimes outright bingeing on. I have written about this twice in this blog. But I recently gave up gluten, when about the fourth person suggested this might help with depression. I actually took her advice to also get off dairy, a commitment on which I have since reneged. Bread and cheese have been such staples in my diet that I rationalized that I needed to add peanut butter – a quick and easy source of protein – back into my diet. What was I thinking? How much evidence do I need that it is a problem food for me? How great is my capacity for denial?
So I took a jar of peanut butter with me on a weekend trip to see my son, daughter-in-law, and new grandbaby. I love my son madly – and I know that he loves me deeply, but our relationship can sometimes get tricky – so it’s extra important that I take good care of myself when I go there, do everything I can to stay centered and grounded. If you’re already smelling trouble here, you’re right
After taking the peanut butter on the trip, my second error in judgment happened at Starbucks Saturday morning. I had some time to kill before the kids wanted me to come over (on the weekend, when the baby goes down for her first nap they nap also), so I took my laptop to the wireless internet at Starbucks. Probably even going there was an error in judgment. I don’t drink coffee – I know that, as someone who is trying to manage his moods, caffeine is a really bad substance for me. And i don’t even do decaf – it has always seemed like a lame substitute for the real stuff. I also (aside from periodic slips or extended lapses) don’t do sugar, which is also problematic for someone trying to mange their mood. I tell myself that other sweeteners with a lower glycemic index (how fast they metabolize in the body) are not a problem. But it’s hard to make a case that the 7 packs of honey it took to get my bitter grande decaf sweet enough for me was completely harmless. But i did it – actually it not once crossed my conscious mind that this was an awful lot of sweet stuff. More denial.
Honey probably is relatively harmless compared with sugar – and I’m not ready to take it out of my diet – but 7 packs of honey is a lot of sweetener.
We had a great day. That night, the chicken took a long time to cook and we ate pretty late. I ate kind of a lot (it was very good) – right up to the edge of overeating, or maybe a little over. I was very full. Then, since it was already pretty late, I went back to my hotel room. The beginnings of my trouble back there was my Zing bar. I know that those energy bars are very sweet, but I somehow had managed to convince myself that it made sense to buy one – after previously swearing off them – at the gym, after a swim earlier in the week. The blueberries I had had for dessert at my son’s house were really very good, and I was already quite full – but there was this candy bar calling to me, so I ate it.
My Zing bar was sweetened with agave and did have protein, but it was awful sweet – for me it was a candy bar.
I guess that just opened the flood gates, because for some reason I then got into the peanut butter – really into it. I was still eating it as I walked it down the hotel hall to find a garbage can to dump it in. That night my stomach tossed around all night and I didn’t sleep well – and woke up early.
The next morning it was back to the Starbucks for internet – and another grande decaf, with another 7 packages of honey. My son and daughter-in-law know a lot about my struggles with mood and I had over the weekend recruited their judgment about whether I was cycling high, which I had been concerned about on Thursday. We all kept agreeing that I seemed pretty level. But that morning (or almost noon, the appointed time to arrive at their house) I observed to my son, “Wow, I’m pretty chatty today. It does seem like I’m cycling kind of high. I think it’s the lack of sleep.” (The honey still didn’t cross my mind.)
A little while later, I had a tense encounter with my son. Perhaps the most telltale sign that I was revving high was that I made very little of it, and – when my time to leave came before the tension had been fully dispersed – I gave it no thought the rest of the day. This even though the next day it seemed pretty significant, enough so that I want to make a point of apologizing to him. Carrying some unconscious tension from this certainly did not help my growing mania.
When I left for the 7-hour drive home at 2 p.m, the genuine caffeinated coffee that I had at Starbucks was not an impulse move. I had told them of my plan. When they offered to make me some coffee, I said, “No, if I’m going to break down and have real coffee, I want it to be Starbucks.” And still, as I was announcing this decision, I at no point thought this was maybe a bad idea. Let me state it again: I don’t do caffeine. It had been many months – maybe a year – since I had had any. I was already describing myself as cycling high. What was I thinking?
Here’s where I think my food addict – with all the denial that goes with that – intersects with poor management of my moods. I had, during the last week, been outlining a blog post on strategies for staying grounded – lots of very positive ideas, which I was actively practicing and which are very valuable, and which I am still going to write up. But I may need to add some don’ts: If you want to get good sleep to keep from cycling high, don’t overeat before going to bed. Don’t consume 7 packs of honey. Don’t have caffeine.
So I went to Starbucks and – thinking I was being very disciplined – had only half caffeine in my 16 oz grande. The French Roast bold blend in my half-caf part (my request) made the coffee even more bitter than the decaf had been earlier that morning, so 7 packs of honey didn’t get it sweet enough. Rather than go back and ask for two more packs of honey, I grabbed two packs of “Raw” sugar. Let me say it again – I don’t do sugar. It had been several weeks since I had had any. And still it did not cross my mind that I was making a mistake – let alone being flat-out out of control. What was I thinking?
For someone who hasn’t had caffeine for a year, 8 oz. of French Roast is a lot of caffeine. Then there’s the honey and the sugar – and I’m trying to stay grounded? Sometimes mania has a mind of its own.
The trip home was uneventful. I never identified myself as revving high, though looking back some signs were there. That night I actually slept well and long (7 hours). The next morning, I did identify myself as revving a little high.. By mid-day I had a bad case of stomach cramps. All afternoon I went back and forth as to whether I was manic or sliding towards depression. (Being bipolar, it’s so easy to obsess over the signs – which way is my mood heading?) By late evening, I had chills and fever, stomach cramps – and I was depressed. Was I getting sick? Maybe, but I think it was the over-eating, the lack of sleep, the honey and coffee and sugar – and mania. Crashing from all of that can explain a lot – and gets me out of denial.
I had stomach cramps all night and didn’t sleep well. Today I have stomach cramps, feel lousy – like the flu – and am depressed. Maybe it’s the flu, but there’s no real learning in all of that. The real learning for me is to keep working my Overeaters Anonymous program and to remember some absolute basics for self-care around my moods: no overeating before bed, no sugar, no big doses of “innocent” sweeteners, no caffeine. All my positive, pro-active strategies for staying grounded are wonderful, but if I don’t mind the basics they don’t have a chance.
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