Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘mania and sleep’

I’m manic, no doubt about it.  After almost two weeks down (some of it pretty rough, but nowhere as bad as it often has been), six days ago I came up – and I have come too far up.  I’ve been missing a lot of sleep, but I’ve not been irritable, not making big errors in judgment, not spending too much money. I’ve been feeling good, having a good time at work, being very productive.  Let’s call it a manic-depression 4 – significantly expanded.

When I’m manic, expanded, the work is grounding.  Here’s one way I worked on that this morning.  i was at my Sunday morning ecstatic dance, having a great time.  And something happened there which sometimes tends to happen when I’m manic: I started to smile – big smile, big shit-eating grin that just stayed there for a minute or two at a time.  i was just that happy, that benevolent, that much liking myself and the other people around me.

Some smiles can return us to a state of innocence.

Some smiles can return us to a state of innocence.

So what’s the problem, right?  Well the problem has to do with being ungrounded, with getting too high.  This ecstatic state (and yes, it is ecstatic dance) can kind of blow the top of my head off, can be too dizzy – it doesn’t get integrated.  But this morning I came up with a strategy that worked pretty well: I focused on my feet on the floor.  This created a wonderful little energy loop – a connection between my head (where my smile was) and my feet, my high energy and some groundedness.  This made me trust the smiling happiness more – and made me realize that it was tending before to have a little out-of-control quality, even a little scary.  This groundedness allowed me to move in and out of dancing with other people in a kind of seamless way – enjoying their energy, their dancing, without losing track of mine.

So I was grateful for the smiling, which tends to not happen much when I’m depressed – and grateful for the grounding, which tends to more come out of my depressed state.  It was a genuine complex healing state (see the page above) – a real state of relative balance even though I was still mostly manic.  It was sweet, precious – and to be savored.  Tomorrow I may be depressed, but I still had this.  It was real – actually more real because it was grounded, less in my head.

Read Full Post »

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.

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.

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.

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.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday morning I participated in a contact improv dance workshop (improvisational dance done – at least sometimes – touching each other…see the page on ecstatic dance at the top of the blog.)  This morning, however, we had very little direct contact with each other – and a whole lot of contact with the floor.

It’s pretty classic for a contact workshop to start with “making friends with the floor” – mostly through a whole lot of rolling, then, when it gets really exciting, moving off of (all fours, sitting, standing) and back down to the floor.  This is a wood floor with no padding.  My creaky 66 year-old body and bony hips take a beating.

This old body creaks going across the floor.

This old body creaks going across the floor.

But it’s great for me in lots of ways – and maybe especially today, when I am in that most precious state of relative balance.  It’s always hard to hold this state – and I did have only five hours sleep last night, which always makes me vulnerable to mania.  It wasn’t mania that kept me up last night, but rather a precious opportunity to spend time with an old friend – but it will be important to get good sleep tonight.

So making friends with the floor is, intuitively, very grounding.  It really gets me out of my head.

Why haven't I been doing yoga for the last 40 years?

Why haven’t I been doing yoga for the last 40 years?

A previous therapist taught me, when I was starting to rev high, to pay fine-grained attention to my feet on the floor: What sensations did I notice from my shoes?  Are there parts of my feet that feel especially connected to the floor?  Other parts that seem kind of absent?  A really cool thing this morning was that even though we were not doing any exercises focused on the feet, when I would stand back up after rolling on the floor, I spontaneously felt lots more grounding in my feet.

All this was done solo.  We did then throw in more movement off the floor and progressively more connection with other dancers – in pairs at first and then trios.  Still almost no physical contact, but more “corresponding” to each other – letting our movements be influenced by what the other person is doing.  This kind of engagement with other dancers, which is for me often a really strong part of the dance – right up there with my solo self-expression – is also more stimulating.  When I’m a little depressed it can help pull me out, but when I’m teetering on the edge of being too speedy it can be too stimulating.

That didn’t seem to be a problem for me this morning (more encouragement that I am not actually cycling up, but just feeling good), but it was clear to me that the real payoff for me this morning – the main reason why is was meant to take this two-hour workshop – was to roll around on the floor.  I think I may do it on my own when I am at risk of cycling too high.

Read Full Post »

I don’t know what manic-depression score to give myself tonight.  I have been strung out all day from having only one hour of sleep last night.  I’ve been in a pretty good mood, though definitely concerned that maybe my mania is cycling out of control.  I attempt to reassure myself that there are very good situational reasons for running high – I’m extremely excited about three things at once:

  1. this blog, which is on fire
  2. the entrepreneurship training i just signed up for and my new vision about an entrepreneurial future for myself, and finally
  3. this speech I wrote last night (which,  on reviewing a couple of times today, I like a lot) – and which i see as one key to building the public speaking business that is part of my entrepreneurial vision.

So who wouldn’t be overstimulated?  Still, though, I know the risks of going without sleep.  Lack of sleep makes you a sitting duck for mania – and what goes up must come down.

All day long, I have been planning to go tonight to a “Salon” – a gathering of lovely friends to play together and to share creative performances with each other.  I went to the first in the series a month ago and it was a gas.  I have two sweet, fun summer poems to share with the group, which I know they will enjoy.  But I know the risks: I am already overstimulated and strung out.  If I was depressed, it would be really wonderful to get out with such sweet people and have such a stimulating evening – but when I’m already high it may be a bad idea.  Bipolar disorder is really two simultaneous diseases – what’s good for you when you are down is often not good for you when you when you are up.  And, even leaving by 10 (early), by the time I walk and feed the dogs, etc., it will be midnight before I go to bed.  Nonetheless, all day I have been unwilling to let go of it.

But having gotten some dinner in me around 5:30 (supposed to be there around 7), my system has gotten heavy and I am starting to seriously crash.  And i trust it – actually I welcome it.  “My manic energy is running out of gas – this is good news.”  So often, when I feel myself start to come down from a high, I run harder – afraid that I will keep going down and plunge into a depression.  But for some reason tonight i have no urge to fight it – I trust that i will be alright. I don’t know where it will lead: will I really sleep?  Will I wake up super early again?  But it feels super-sweet to just let go.

Read Full Post »

I’m in trouble – I’m not sleeping.  Having written late last night about the bad old days when I used to pull all-nighters, I came precariously close to one last night.

Yesterday I read that as part of the amazingly exciting six month entrepreneurship class I just signed up for, a member of our student cohort who owns a TV studio has offered to shoot and edit a video for each of us to put on our websites.  On fire with this vision, last night at 11 p.m. (time to be in bed, especially when I am already running too fast and got up at 4;30) I sat down to write a speech about bipolar disorder that was forming itself in my head.

An hour later i snapped out of the mesmerism of writing, having written a 17-minute speech telling in brief form the history of my bipolar disorder – really blinding fast for such a long speech.  And it’s hot – I know it is.  It’s powerful, poignant – at times brutal in its honesty.  Yet, after definitely descending to depths that resonate with just how low my true-life story has at times gone, it does come out into the light and ends in a golden place of hope.  Not rosy pie-in-sky happy – still grounded and realistic.  Not all healed, but definitely showing the promise of healing.

At a quarter past midnight, I wrote an email to a friend who I assumed was asleep – a good friend who has followed closely the events of my last few days: all the excitement around this blog and about my new training.  I told her, “When this video goes on my website, i believe that as soon as I start seriously marketing my public speaking I’m going to start getting gigs.”  And even now, the next day, this seems like not an unrealistic projection.  Pretty heady stuff.

I went to bed around 12:30, still very stimulated.  I thought, “If I sleep until 6:30, that’s six hours – not bad.”  i knew I was not that confident of making it asleep until 6:30 – that morning I had been up and writing at my computer at 4:30.  I looked on my little bedside table at the novel I’ve been reading at bedtime, and greatly enjoying, and thought – “Not tonight, too late”.  But I realized that I actually did not feel very sleepy, so I read for a while.  It is such a good story and so well written that it was too stimulating last night to soothe me towards sleep and I put it aside after 15 minutes, no closer to sleep than when i started it.  I don’t know how long it was until I actually fell asleep, but I know that when I did fall asleep, I slept lightly and fitfully.  And at 1:30 I was up to take a pee.  On my way back to the bedroom, I pulled a hard left and headed downstairs to the kitchen to get some peanut butter (a guilty pleasure of mine – for some reason peanut butter, one of my favorite foods, never tastes as good as in the middle of the night).  I told myself that putting a little something in my tummy might help me to sleep.

Five minutes and four spoonfuls of peanut butter later (my usual dose), I had the light off and was laying in bed awaiting sleep.  And it never came.  i first stayed really still, eyes closed, willing sleep to come.  Then my eyes popped open, but I still laid very quiet.  in my head, I had begun to write.  I was writing two pieces at once – part of my brain starting this blog post and another part editing the speech I had written last night.  The idea of getting up and starting my day after one hour of very fitful sleep was very threatening: “That’s damn near an all-nighter.”  But even when I am tending towards mania and needing the sleep, the artist in me does have a policy of “You don’t refuse the Muse.”  When she is giving you writing to do, it is at your own artistic peril that you refuse her.  It is exquisitely painful when she decides you are an unworthy host and turns her back on you.

So I got up.  I disciplined myself, as always, to make the bed – the chaos of an unmade bed disturbs my nervous system.  “But maybe I should leave it unmade, to leave open the possibility of going back to bed in an hour or two.  That would still only be 3:30 or 4:30.”  But I knew that was hopeless – I’m up now, up for the day.  So 10 minutes after planting feet on the floor, I was down here at the kitchen table at my laptop, writing (chamomile tea steeping on the table next to me – maybe that will settle me down a little).  And i tried quickly to transcribe both pieces I had been writing in my head, before either of them disappeared.  And I was mostly successful.

So here I am at 2:55, having had an hour of sleep and with no hope that I will get more.  I’m concerned about myself.

Read Full Post »

Nothing can defeat depression more consistently than a clear, powerful sense of life purpose.

When I am very depressed, my life is dominated by nihilistic mantras like “Nothing helps and nothing matters” and “This is all bullshit” – which, on  a really bad day, may audibly escape my lips several times an hour.  This kind of devastatingly negative experience of my personal world cannot co-exist with a positive vision for what I have to contribute to the world – how i intend to make the world a better place by living out my unique sense of personal calling.

I’m definitely running high today – at least a 4 on my manic depression scale (see page at top of blog).  This morning I woke at 4:30 – really the early limit on when I normally wake up.  But I was up and at the computer within just a few minutes, buzzing with ideas for this and a couple other blog posts.  It’s exciting, it’s positive, it’s constructive.  It’s infinitely better than the alternative when I’m depressed – lying in bed for hours, trying/pretending to be asleep, really just not ready or willing to face my life.   There is so much clear reason why I would be running high.  But I still need to take this running high very seriously, to do everything I possibly can do to ground myself.

The first big factor that has me running high is this blog.  This blog is so clearly linked to my own sense of life purpose that it is tremendously important to me.

The second, even bigger factor that has me running high is that in the last couple of days I have gotten dramatically clearer on my sense of life purpose.  I have more and more intuitively sensed that this blog is somehow central to my personal calling, but that sense has been mostly only intuitive – murky, not well fleshed out.  But in the last two days that vision for my future has come together: threads that for weeks-months-years have been floating around in background, in and out of consciousness, have coalesced into a clear picture.

Yes, this blog is central to my future – and here is why.  This blog is a jumping-off point for the business that will carry me into this last phase of generativity in my life.  Out of this blog will be birthed three books and a public speaking business that will allow me to devote my full time to powerfully making a difference in the world.  It all has to do with bipolar disorder.  It is something that is so central to the truth of my life, the unique personal path that I walk.  After working for 20 years as a clinical psychologist and dealing with this disease for so long, it is a topic on which I am uniquely qualified to speak.  I have, over the last 15 years, applied the personal consciousness that has been shaped by 35 years of personal and spiritual growth work, to the healing of this disease.  I have learned a lot – it is meant to be shared.

My poetry book - my first foray into self-publishing.  I have sold 130 copies of this xeroxed poetry "chapbook" - a good and encouraging experience around putting my writing out into the world.  You can order it from the link on the right!

My poetry book – my first foray into self-publishing. I have sold 130 copies of this xeroxed poetry “chapbook” – a good and encouraging experience around putting my writing out into the world. You can order it from the link on the right!

My first book - "finished" for several years now, just waiting for me to do something with it.  Really a pretty solid book - some people adore it.

My first book – “finished” for several years now, just waiting for me to do something with it. Really a pretty solid book – some people adore it.

My next book, for mental health professionals, survivors and family/friends.  The product of 20 years practice of clinical psychology and more years of struggling with the disease - and, now, of this blog.  I have a lot to say on the topic.

My next book, for mental health professionals, survivors and family/friends. The product of 20 years practice of clinical psychology and more years of struggling with the disease – and, now, of this blog. I have a lot to say on the topic.

A self-help book for people with the disorder.  Besides my clinical psychology and personal bipolar history, I have taught all manner of personal growth courses for 30 years, designed courses for management consulting firms, etc.  It's a natural for me.

A self-help book for people with the disorder. Besides my clinical psychology and personal bipolar history, I have taught all manner of personal growth courses for 30 years, designed courses for management consulting firms, etc. It’s a natural for me.

The vision that inspired my fire walk in June: what I was willing to do "no matter what it takes", what I would walk across hot coals to realize.  It was a moment of  personal triumph - and clear vision.

The vision that inspired my fire walk in June: what I was willing to do “no matter what it takes”, what I would walk across hot coals to realize. It was a moment of personal triumph – and clear vision.

Public speaking has clearly, for a long time, been meant to be part of my life purpose.  I’m a performer, it’s in my DNA – it’s my karma.  Back in Chicago, I won some very high awards  for my public speaking in that region of 1500 Toastmasters.  Here in Asheville, I have for nine years now performed my poetry four times a year at Jubilee, my non-denominational church – where we can get 500-700 people at two services on a Sunday and where my performance poetry is absolutely adored.  Three years ago, I and two other men poets attracted 75 people, midweek for $10 a head, to an evening of poetry.  I went into an absolute zone, brought the house down, and emerged from that evening into a mountain top experience where I knew that my writer’s voice – and my performing – were meant for a much bigger stage than Jubilee, bigger than Asheville.

A vision for a public speaking business based on this blog and these books.  I'm a phenomenal speaker - it's work I was born to do.

A vision for a public speaking business based on this blog and these books. I’m a phenomenal speaker – it’s work I was born to do.

But I never was able to find the baby steps to realize that overwhelmingly powerful vision and I collapsed into a very deep depression – actually into a downward spiral that went on for over three years.  Now I am back to that mountain-top vision, but this time I have baby steps to take – this blog, one post at a time.  This blog will lead me towards those bigger goals.

Read Full Post »

(Sitting at my front porch desk, slept 2:30-10.)

I woke this morning with a half-eaten granola bar under me in the bed.  I vaguely remember struggling to stay awake to finish it – obviously unsuccessfully – but can’t remember whether i ate it as i was first going to bed or whether i got it when i got up to pee (usually about two hours after i go to sleep).  The kitchen light was on, too, and i don’t know when i last had that on.

I remember that when i was sitting out back and giving Buddy his bedtime love, at almost 1 a.m., some new writing (some of it for My Buddy’s Blog: http://mybuddysblog.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/doggie-vision/) forced its way up into my consciousness and when i came back in i reopened my laptop (the lid of which i had closed for the night, thinking “Enough – go pet Buddy and then go to sleep”).  That writing – and whatever else it triggered, i can’t remember what – apparently kept me up for at least an hour.  I remember that Buddy finally decided to come in for the night, after all – and that i gave him another 10 minutes or so of cuddling to help him know that he is loved before he slept through the night.

But I’m fine today!  I try to remember to always feel grateful for each day that i’m not depressed – and especially after i was suffering so desperately just two days ago.  I have several tasks to accomplish that are truly time-sensitive (including finally getting some audio up on my poetry website, so i can send out an email blast about my poetry book), and i do feel just slightly driven about all that – but really mostly trusting that if i don’t try to push, the tasks will roll out as they are meant to.

And i have several nice social engagements scheduled for the next three days, which feels very good to me after my little burst of loneliness last night.

Oh, i remember now: I chose, last night, to respond to my loneliness with quite the little burst of emails to my friends – most of them replies to their emails, but one that was a note that i had been wanting to send for a couple of weeks.  (“Even though the hour is late”, 1:30 a.m., “I want to send you these reflections on our conversation after church, before i once again forget to do it.”)  All this achieved the desired effect of helping me feel more connected – and i caught up on all my recent email correspondence, and even a little bit of Facebook stuff like responding to two “friend requests”, but i spent two hours, easy, doing it.

I also did some good writing yesterday for my Being Lived blog (http://beinglived.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/well-howd-it-go/.  My sleep and life may be pretty ragged right now, but i love it when my wonderful new shrink says, “Sometimes a little hypomania just comes with the territory of creative periods – it’s just a matter of staying grounded enough that the inevitable crash is not too disastrous.”

Inspired by that last paragraph, i just went back and changed my mania-depression rating from a 5 to a 4: yeah, i definitely am just a little (I hope) hypomanic.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »