I preach education all the time. I believe that educating others about mental health, bipolar disorder, and suicide can greatly reduce suicide rates. AND YES, let’s never forget how important this is. But I’m talking about being hypervigilant about our own signs and symptoms. We’re often told, “You’re over thinking it.” right? … So are we? Is there bliss in ignorance?
There is a lot to watch out for as we all climb in age. Our bodies don’t have the metabolism it did when we were teenagers. The little diet, exercise, and sleep adjustments that need to be made when you live with an illness are multiplied. We carefully create a list of pros and cons before making any decisions (with the exception of [hypo]manic episodes.)
For example, sleep deprivation often leads to increased mood swings such as increased irritability and bursts of sadness or anger. Now multiply these feelings by 1000. A sleep deprived person living with bipolar disorder will rely on their adrenaline to get through the day.
This translates into a day of cycling through various mood swings… from feeling super hyper, irresponsible, and high in the sky happy (hypomania) to feeling super sad and depressed.
Mood regulation is a real thing and it’s always a work in progress for us. A significant contributor to our success is sleep. You can look it up to learn more!
There is no doubt that we are more sensitive, and that actually makes us stronger. We are extra-supercalifragilistic emotionally intelligent with this high alert intuition about other’s feelings, especially our own. In fact, mood regulation is so fundamental in our lives that there are now numerous mood tracking calendars, which allow you to rate your mood daily, and even associate it with certain events that have happened during the day.
Where do we draw the line so that we can actually enjoy the ride though?
I’m not saying that anyone is inflating or exaggerating their experience. I just wondering… are we nitpicking at every trigger, encounter, and symptom?
Depression is not an enjoyable ride but it’s still a necessary evil that we must “ride out.” It teaches us valuable lessons about ourselves and how to cope in the future. Now with gloomy ol’ winter in full swing, we are all victims of vitamin D deficiency and feeling depressed whether or not we live with a mental illness. However, others like myself are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. Basically a more extreme and debilitating version of the “winter blues” that can’t be solved by stressing less.
I can definitely say that my husband and I could’ve been a little less mindful this winter.
With all the rapid neurological changes I’ve experienced in 2016, my husband and I tore apart the triggers and encounters that I had in my day to day life from October to December. It was like my mind was on house arrest and we were probation officers. I went through a series of hypomania-depression-anxiety-hypomania-depression-anxiety (rapid cycling) for a full whoppin’ month until I fell lifeless on the floor from depression, which endured for a couple more months. It was exhausting.
Doctors and therapists would pick away at the situation too. They wanted to find someone or something that was accountable for this sudden change in my brain. Because everything must happen for a reason in science. It left my husband and I drained. Let’s just say that we are clearly not cut out to be probation officers.
It finally clicked when we let go and stopped paying attention to all the little triggers and signs and answers.
I dragged my feet out of bed one morning and said, “Fuck this shit.” I looked outside and realized that there had been zero sunshine in an entire week because – wait for it – it was winter! B-I-N-G-O! SAD just started way earlier than normal for me (in October, can you believe it?) All my hallucinations and mood swings were exaggerated symptoms of SAD this year.
No one knows why it started so early, especially because we had a warm October, but I finally waved the little white flag in that moment. Just as we work hard every day to let go of the little things, it can also be wise to sit back and watch the triggers and symptoms unravel themselves. You could’ve guessed from the beginning of this blog post that I never believed ignorance is bliss. Ignorance implies that you are unaware. Letting go is a matter of stepping away from the microscope and surrendering to those feelings and symptoms at a safe distance. There will always be those obvious red flags that you should address but not every little specimen has to be examined in a petri dish.
Everything happens for a reason but we are not always responsible for finding that reason.
Just watch Planet Earth; nature always has a way of sorting itself out and surviving. I hate spiders but they help kill the flies in my house too. Think big picture! When you step back from your situation, the fog will clear up in your head and the future ahead of you.