Different month, same tune

Still in that possibly-hypo-manic-but-not-so-much-“up”-other-than-can’t-sleep-so-that’s-a-thing state. Ugg.

Also the anxiety is still back. Its effect has wavered a bit over the month of January, but it hasn’t fully subsided at any point. And the OCD is there along with it. I’m beginning to see the obsessive behaviors as related to my anxiety. While I have some obsessive tendencies at all times, when my anxiety is worse, my OCD is worse. And I think that I use my OCD is a mechanism to try to assuage my anxiety.

A simple example is being anxious or stressed about travel, I’ll fuss with my shoes and socks more[1].

I also heard something recently that equated someone else’s anxiety with an increase in their obsessive tendencies – which probably helped me make this connection.

The last few days have definitely had full bore “rush mental” state, so definitely a hypo-manic state – compared to previous, when I wasn’t quite ready to call it that.

 


 

Information Diet: Mostly good – that is “low” information. However had some external events that encroached and … ahh screw the abstractness. Craziness in the world[2] broke through my wall and I got sucked into watching more than was helpful or necessary. I’ve begun to see how social media[3] can exacerbate this for me and I now have a hard rule that I have to get off all social media when I’m not doing well – because I don’t want to stop, so I have a rule and have to follow it. I invoked that rule earlier this month.

Caffeine: Same old, same old. I think I had two days where I used a bit more later in the day to help grease the social wheels, but then also had several days where I just didn’t have any just as it happened (no particular plan). So, while I still miss having coffee, this new order of very small controlled amounts, works fairly well.

I still think taking longer breaks off caffeine is a good idea and I am due for that. But I don’t expect it will change anything. Always worth checking since caffeine can sneak up on me.

 

Diet: Doing really well in 2017 so far. I’ve allowed myself a few scheduled breaks, but I’ve executed according to food plan.[4]

I’ve previously worried that eating well could be problematic for me, maybe pushing me down. Well, that hasn’t been the case this month, so it seems clear that isn’t an issue.

 

Interaction: My interactions have mostly been limited. Mostly as an effect of being busy with work, but I just haven’t had time to add in other interactions. The few long draining interactions that I have had, I’ve planned well for self-care after them. And I have canceled other interactions – or said “no” – when I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle them.

More recently, I’ve been expanding interaction more. Thought I feel that is an effect of the hypo-mania pushing me to do more things and “expand my sphere to take over the world.” I’ll have to be guarded on this – expecting a potential future down -, but so far it has been a controlled and acceptable amount.

Exercise: This has been good or great. That is, regular, near daily light to moderate exercise[5]. Part of me worries that the mood boosting effects of exercise exacerbate hypo-mania. While I do think that could be a problem, I don’t know but – and haven’t even bothered to check research since – it is way too early, that seems unlikely, and I’m not about to stop unless I get desperate. And I’d read up on whether that is a potential problem. Again, I doubt it, since almost everything I’ve read is that exercise helps with nearly every aspect of mental health.

Regardless, this is a big change from probably the entire history of this blog to this point.

 

Stress: Mixed: medium-high. Only a two or three acute, high stress points this month. And the month ended with a medium-high level of stress that will contain for the short-term. So stress is going to be a bit higher for the next while.

I’ve been doing so great with various elements of life, I worry that this stress and the hypo-mania, and the crash that will follow it, may derail the great, solid, steady progress I’ve been making.[6]

I hate feeling that fragile.

I feel like a mechanical engineer working on some large steampunk Rube Goldberg machine – my health is this precarious contraption. I’m building an elaborate complex of gears and pulleys – it fills a large greenhouse up to the seventy foot ceilings… and all it will take is for some small rock thrown by the wind to shatter a window and destroy the machine I’m working on.

 

Induction: Yup. More recently. I’m in a season of life right now where there are concrete talks that involve positive futures, so it isn’t some daydreaming or general discussion. These are plans and schedules. So they are extra “inductive”[7] compared to other general discussions that are inductive.

Also lots of new learning recently. Which always has an inductive effect on my mental state.

All this isn’t bad or good – but definitely contributes to my hypo-manic, up, state.

 


[1] Socks and shoes and getting them on “right” is one of my compulsions – but just an example to illustrate: it could be any obsession compulsion.

[2] Reader from the future go read up on events in January 2017 – particularly geo-political and particularly in what was known at the time as “the United States of America.”

[3] I’ll say “social media” here but for me, it’s Twitter. And it would be Reddit, but I don’t reddit, just that I see the homepage and recognize it as: “Wow, that would suck me in and spit me out so fast” so I avoid it. Like, I imagine, a recovering prescription opioid addict might look at heroine and react: “Yup, that clearly would hook me – better not even taste that.”

[4] I’ve also been taking a multi-vitamin for a a few months straight. I’m not sure if this has any effect, I’ve tried the multi-vitamin on and off. But since I haven’t recorded my use very well against my mental health, I don’t have any reason to suspect that it helps or hinders. Hence this footnote. Currently, just finished a course of multi-vitamins and also a period of doing very well mental-health-wise followed by trending into a long hypo-manic period.

[5] Hello, New Year’s resolution.

[6] Not just the New Year’s resolutions, but I ended 2016 with a long, sustained period of slow progress at being better. Healthier mentally, physically, and that naturally also flowed into being healthier emotionally.

[7] Many “Henrys”.

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Different month, same tune

Could I be any more frustrated?

Haven’t had a good night sleep in too long. Probably 6 out of the last 8, including two or three terrible nights. And I had an early alarm set for this morning to catch up on some work.

So far, 2017 is not going well on this front.

Mostly rundown unchanged. Some interaction and stress – and the anxiety is definitely making a revisit. I managed (again) to pause, be controlled, and even sit down and meditate briefly to re-center and calm the anxiety (I did this once over the holidays as well). That’s a nice tool to have available.

Now to just figure out what is at the root of this sleep problem. Normally, it would seem hypo-manic, but I haven’t had the other symptoms (and very few of the positive symptoms – which feels like an extra kick in the teeth: all the downside with none of the upside).

Could I be any more frustrated?

Three things I learned about Mental Health in 2016

3am

Hi 3am. I know you, I remember this. It’s been a while, but here we are again. You and me, another episode of our epic wrestling match in the dark with this laptop glow centered and alone. This struggle steals the energy that I will need to perform my duties later in the day.

piero-fissore-double-first-fight


For the second time this week – not yet enough times to call this a hypomanic period – I am awake at the magical hour and my brain is flying along instantly awake. If I were speaking, I’m sure it would be pressured speech: I know my thoughts are moving at that speed. Last time I spent 5 hours awake. This time? TBD.


I wasn’t specifically doing any kind of retrospective, but finding myself here after very nearly a year, it’s inevitable to look back over the first year and ask how this diary helped (or didn’t).

I feel like, even without any other additional interventions[1], this diary has been very helpful. Primarily because I was more aware. Odd how much power there is in simply being aware of a problem. In a manner similar to the axiom:

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”
– Charles Kettering

I don’t want to gloss over this point too quickly: when it comes to my mental health issues, it seems that simply being aware of them helps greatly. When I saw “aware,” I mean more than just awareness. Since being aware means that my behavior changes in many ways. But the awareness, particularly as I’m self-aware in the moment of experiencing some of the symptoms of my mental illness, is helpful.


Secondarily the organized approach and reporting of things that did/didn’t matter. Over time, it is very easy to forget things: approaches tried, ideas added or discarded, or even something as basic as a list of metrics by which one loosely gauges overall health[2]. And having a set of metrics to measure against has been helpful – of course, only insofar as the metrics themselves are the right ones: measuring additional things that don’t drive or help with my health serves only to assuage my neurosis.


More broadly, my learning about mental heath this year has taught me to think of mental health as part of my health in general. And, importantly, thinking of mental illness as “sickness.” Raising mental health/illness to an equivalence with other bodily health/illness is a way of thinking that has been helpful to me. There are many helpful parallels.

When I am sick of body, it’s not weakness. So also, mental illness is not weakness: it’s sickness, illness.
I periodically get sick of body – it happens from time to time. So too, mental illness will encroach more or less periodically, sometimes it is worse, other times almost non-existent[3].
And, from the standpoint of those external: no one chooses to be physically sick. For my mental illness: there is no one on the face of this earth, more than I, who would rather that I weren’t being hypomanic, manic, crazy, or otherwise mentally ill.

I’m sick, but I’m getting better.


Into 2017, let’s take two things. First, some words from the great philosopher, T Swift[4]:

“It’s like I got this music
“In my mind
“Saying, ‘It’s gonna be alright.'”
– Taylor Swift

And finally, I leave you with Wil Wheaton’s exhortation on mental health[5]: raise it like a mantra for yourself in 2017: http://wilwheaton.net/2016/07/my-keynote-address-to-the-2016-mensa-annual-gathering/ (You can start at the part just before “Imposter Syndrome” – but don’t short-change yourself that way, read the whole thing.)

You don’t deserve to suffer. You are not weak. You are not a failure. Your brain, like mine, needs help to keep its profoundly complicated machinery working. Depression lies, and when it tells you these lies, you can look right back into its stupid face and say, “Shut up. Wil Wheaton told me that it’s okay to get help, and he pretended to live in outer space, so he outranks you.”

And

We need you. So please take care of yourselves.


[1] This is non-hypothetical. Despite a few attempts, I’ve done basically no other external work to get better at this: just my own thoughts, research, and records. (I did learn some techniques and tried some food related items, but I didn’t get any “traditional” help for cyclothymia / mental health.) As usual, the introverted and thoughtful approach worked well for me; YMMV.

I say this not as a badge of honor – I tried to get some other help – but, as always, just for my own future remembrance.

Definitely get help for yourself – do it.

[2] Again, completely non-hypothetical as I being reading back through my posts tonight to find the “rundown” list I’ve been using to gauge my activities recently and try to learn more about the potential cause of my current awake/up symptom.

[3] Aside: some of these healthy times jive with the periods of silence in this diary.

[4] Music, in my mind. But let it say that isn’t gonna be OK.

[5] I could have added to the useful approaches the idea Wil Wheaton has where he personifies his depression or characterizes his brain as lying to himself. Remember: the enemy is within and thinking of it that way is helpful.


Photo Credit: Piero Fissore


 

Three things I learned about Mental Health in 2016

2016 Rundown

This post accompanies the next. Wanted a quick rundown but it didn’t fit in with the rest of the post.

Information Diet: greatly reduced. Holidays, far less reading (though not none: should maybe have tried none).

Caffeine: Mostly usual strict limitations. A few times where a bit more than average (drip coffee laying available is a siren that calls to me).

Diet: “Poorly” (holidays! so the “poor” was planned, not a failing). Some supplementation continued.

Interaction: A lot. Possibly record new high levels (though different than the normal business/social types: time spent with family). And definitely some that was “inspirational” idea-wise.

Exercise: Slightly more than average (read: barely above sedentary).

Stress: Mostly low, a few moments of very high (mostly the period of time before holidays in the mad scramble of trying to get everything done).

Induction: First, what is this? Oh right: “what things are inducing, eliciting, or drawing me forward or towards happiness?”
This has been pretty good. Moderately higher than average. Again, some stressful items here (it’s possible that induction items will always spillover into some stress: good challenge inducing towards better things is somewhat stressful).

2016 Rundown

Some thoughts from the silence

5:08am

The interleaving months have been filled with various struggles, though none new.

Recent stress has brought a level of anxiety that I haven’t had to deal with in quite some time. Physical tics, itches, and muscle adjustments; stress from travel, extroversion, difficult memories, and reduced time to restore myself. These stresses exacerbated the anxiety but I don’t think they were the cause – the anxiety started before the stresses.


Coming out of the anxiety somewhat was unusual. The anxiety got dramatically better in the span of a day. I had spent time trying to relax and restore. This time I had scheduled, knowing I’d need the time and space following other stressful events.

However, it didn’t seem to help. And, after a weekend, I was at my worst – far and away. I continued with some activities intended to help, but wasn’t optimistic.

But, in that day, things shifted. As usual, it’s more of a realization noted while looking in the rearview mirror not in the moment. But I did realize that evening that I was better.

Despite thinking back on my activities, I couldn’t pinpoint a likely cause for the improvement. Not that I really think it works in an obvious deterministic fashion, but still worth the question for potential learning of how to care for myself.


On the whole time more broadly, being more conscious of my anxiety greatly improves my ability to handle it. Likely via a mechanism of distance and perspective. Simply being aware of mental health issues and thinking of them as such is the single more useful thing I’ve learned in the previous year.


As usual, entries here slant towards times of being up. Time of being down fill the silence. By definition, less energy to accomplish things translates into fewer entries. More nights of disturbed sleep, more entries.

Even keeled time also tend to reflect as quiet periods with fewer entries here.


Some thoughts from the silence

Meeting without Sleep

4:38am

I guess I should have expected this. I got one brief night of reprieve, but am otherwise definitely riding a solid hypo-manic/up period, including the sleep disturbance.

cafe-conversation

I mentioned previously that, being awake early can be a problem if an early morning meeting is later. Particularly if that meeting is around the time when I’d be getting my “catch up” / second cycle of sleep in.

Should I try to push though and stay awake? Should I use some caffeine to help make that happen?
When should I cancel such a meeting, even at the last minute? Sometimes, like today, that doesn’t feel like a real option for me: the costs would be too great in this case.

It’s a struggle, I’m unsure about what to do.

I’ve come a long ways to making peace with and accepting my condition, especially regarding this impact of lack of sleep that it can have. So my stress from the lack of sleep isn’t that high.

But I’m definitely concerned. I don’t have a record of trying various options in this scenario. That partly because I work to avoid being in this scenario. And partly because when I’m not hypo-manic, then this can’t crop up.

Yet here I am. In the middle of a hypo-manic period which is disturbing every night of sleep for nearly two weeks running, with an important, early morning meeting. Like two oncoming trains, the only question was when, not if, they were going to collide.


The only small changes recently to previous trigger lists are caffeine and interaction.

I allowed myself slightly more caffeine yesterday. It’s a weakness of mine. There was a weak justification I told myself in my head, but I drank more coffee because I wanted more coffee.

There was more interaction yesterday, after having less. In particular, the interesting and exciting interaction of new ideas and new connections (and again, fueled further by caffeine). When I got home, I said to myself that I was going to be awake in the middle of the night[1].


Maybe the sole bright spot is that there isn’t a song in my head this morning. Hopefully that is an indicator that this mania is subsiding.


 

[1] Long-time readers know that’s the easy bet: multiple days running of being awake, I’m in a hypo-manic period. Any given night will probably not be the first night of a changed sleep schedule. But still, I knew the ideas had hit me very profoundly and they would upset my internal emotional balance.


Photo Credit: Dave Gilbert

Meeting without Sleep

I need to sleep *cough*

3:58am

What is this, six days running? It’s at least five for sure.[0]

sleepless

Frustrated, on the one hand.

On the other, I feel like I’m doing a better job managing. I’ve had a morning meeting, and made it – despite waking up early (in the middle of the night) that morning. I’ve had a long morning hike, and made it.

And not just barely straggled through, but been fully present and engaged.

I can make it on five hours of sleep when otherwise rested. Five hours only for too many nights and that’s a problem. Six is completely fine for a night or two. At least the same hypo-mania that brings lack of sleep brings some energy to manage through the lack of sleep.

But I’m worn out from this lack of sleep. So definitely wishing for those days with more sleep.

Rundown? Thought so.


Information Diet: Reduced.

I’ve continued on the cutback diet, avoiding information that generally makes me less happy and sucks up time. I haven’t been overly strict with this, but still reduced and avoiding.

 

Caffeine: Mostly continued, slightly more.

I’ve continued the “new regime” of strict caffeine intact monitory. Strict and much reduced. Most people would think that the amount can’t possibly be affecting me. Maybe it isn’t, maybe the effect I feel is placebo. Placebo affect is real, even if the stimulus isn’t.

What I have changed is that, due to some increased interactions, I’ve had caffeine a few times in preparation for those interactions where otherwise I wouldn’t have. This is the approach I have been taking: trying to limit caffeine strictly but recognizing its use for boosting my mood.

Faced with an evening of interactions, late afternoon caffeine will boost my mood throughout the afternoon and evening but doesn’t interfere with falling to sleep. That works.

Of course, I don’t know that it doesn’t have an effect on my alertness at the 4am time spot.

I really want to have three or more days off caffeine soon. I’m not sure about when to do this abstinence given all the work I want to get down. Won’t be today

 

Diet: Well, some breaks.[1]

I’ve been doing very well here. As for the diet specifically, even finding some new tweaks that work better diet-wise. But a few breaks for various events.

 

Interaction: Whew. More.

Both social and works events. Work in particular much increased this past week with three events, one being higher stress in particular.

Above, I wondered if the caffeine use for interaction was part of the cause of this hypo-mania. That is, the caffeine as a cause.

Now I’m wondering if it is the interaction that is the cause. And the caffeine is merely correlated (more interaction means more caffeine use to keep up). If I had to guess, I’d guess correlated – but since I can’t know, it’s still worth taking a break from caffeine and seeing if that doesn’t even me out.

 

Exercise:  Back to usual.

After doing nothing, I’ve gotten back to the basics in a focused way this past week and done well. Even watching for some feeling “down” and planning to use that as a trigger to get exercise.

Being more tired, late afternoons once caffeine is clearly gone, I feel a bit dark. I noticed this and so exercised, the next day, expected this fatigue and related “down” mood to set it and planned to exercise when it did. As usual, exercise is the best antidepressant we humans have available.

Also did more this weekend.

 

Stress: Mixed.

While mostly low, there were a few extra stressors this week. From shuffling my overall medium-term schedule, as well as acute stressing events.

Shuffling my medium-term plans is stressful in two ways. One, changing plans generally causes me stress. It is frustrating to have to juggle and re-set things. Secondly, my medium-term plans were things I had been putting off but that I really wanted to do. I didn’t want to do what I was planning on shifting into, though I recognized its value so was going to change. Things haven’t finalized on this, so likely some low-level background stress continues to radiate from this possible-pending change.

Probably additionally enhanced by the “possibly” part: the unknown. That this change that I don’t want to make might still happen, but I don’t know so I can’t even just accept the change and get on with it. As possible, I’m trying to live like it isn’t coming and just ignore it. But it requires my attention sometimes so I have to then live like I’m completely sold on the change and that it will indeed happen. So completely ignoring it is difficult.

The acute stress event is related to the schedule shift: the event precipitating the change.

 

*NEW* Induction: Good, but may change.

New thing here: what things are inducing, eliciting, or drawing me forward or towards happiness? While the other items are stress, stressors, and managing items. This is more about things that elicit happiness, health, and well-being.

The medium-term shift to my schedule? Well, my current focus is on something I’ve been promising myself for quite some time. Explicitly for about a year, implicitly much longer[2] . Also, it is a really good thing to focus on.

So working on it has been a good thing drawing me forward. Imagining a better world and life.

It has also been something that was calling for a lot of good effort and learning from me. So it is beneficial in that way as well: the joy of learning and the satisfaction of being challenged.


I’m proud of myself for maintaining the activities that I need to stay healthy: diet, exercise, time to myself to think and relax. I know how I have sometimes let these slip, even while knowing how helpful they can be.

While my mania and its cause I cannot control. I can control activities that drive me to be healthier. And I’ve been doing those well. That’s within my locus of control, so that’s what I work with and accept the rest that I cannot change.


Beyond the things that push for unhappiness, other things push me towards happiness. I want to think about those more and monitor them more closely. My goal isn’t just to reduce or manage things that make me unhappy[3] and end up “normal” or “fine”, but to get to be healthier and happier in general.

Sometimes there are efforts, projects, work, or plans that can represent and bring about that better future. I’ve had more of that in my life recently and will be more conscious of seeking out more of those and cultivating those that I have. I’m not really sure the best ways to do this.


Anxiety has been much reduced recently. Not sure when it dropped off nor why. Feels so random that anxiety just shows up unannounced and then disappears equally as unannounced.



[0] Reviewing other posts, it’s possibly/likely that this is actually eight nights: since previous posts.

[1] Showing that increased interaction and stress, like experienced this week, doesn’t have to set my diet off. It’s more than possible to manage and maintain the activities needed to be healthy even in the face of stress.

[2] “implicitly”: I’m thinking of GTD plans/stress and “internal commitments” that we make without thinking about them. They can stack up as internal stress or frustration when I feel we are falling short of this expectation that we have even though we haven’t actually made any formal commitment to accomplishing something.

[3] I’m using “unhappy” pretty loosely here. I’m thinking of things that cause me to be down, depress, unhappy, or just generally aren’t where I want my life to be. Not just things that make me unhappy in some small, fleeting way.


Photo Credit: micagoto


 

I need to sleep *cough*