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).

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2016 Rundown

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*

The Progress is Slow & Thanks to Helpers

5:07am – again. So many days in a row too early.

A bit stuck and confused these days.

strong

I haven’t dipped back into being down, but I’ve been struggling more than I’d expect for being up. Some of the difficulty is anxiety that may be orthogonal to the up/down of the cyclothymia. But I had expected to struggle less while I was, overall, up.

So that’s not fun.

 


Check-in: (aka “reviewing my triggers and coping mechanisms”)

“Information Diet”?: New category, this title isn’t right. This also overlaps / is similar to “interaction”.

I’ve been far more liberal with information recently. Both in ingesting but also participating online. And, while I think that can be OK, I know it can be difficult for me. With some other increased anxiety this week, I decided that I had to reduce this drastically to mostly not ingesting/participating. I can’t control all the inputs of anxiety but this can be a source of trouble and I can control it. So, no more for now.

Ingesting: this is mostly about news. And this can be problematic in two ways.

  1. More outside news input takes effort to cope with.
    This isn’t my primary concern as, usually, I can handle this fairly well. However, when I’m low on overall energy or have acute stress, I’ll take all the energy & effort that I can muster and so if cutting this down helps me even a little, that’s worth it.
  2. Participating.
    The boon that is social media and online communities takes a bit toll on me. I know this clearly and, mostly, don’t participate very much. However, there are a few places where I do enjoy and get sucked in. And I’ve been doing more of that.
    I’ve had the energy and “mental overhead” to handle this, so that’s a valid decision. But, as I mentioned, recent shifts mean I need to conserve energy. So I’m reducing this for the next while.

 

Caffeine: Strict none/little continuing.

At this point, I feel like this is probably more or less the life-long choice. It’s still to early to know, but it feels like having extremely little is sustainable long-term. Also, that little bit allowed just “starts” my brain & mood in the morning. It’s probably worth trying a longer period of no caffeine again to see if I can normalize to that. But it is helpful to have it now, so that’s where I am at.

 

Diet: Eating well, long stretch of this.

I’ve got several weeks in a row (two brief pauses) of eating well. I haven’t seen much effect of this one way or the other, I don’t think. But increased anxiety, stress, or down = less likely to be eating well. I think that’s the correct causal direction, not diet –> mood.

 

Interaction: Limited amount over the last few weeks. I’ve handled it exceptionally well.

I’ve allowed several interactions that are normally stressful and I’ve managed them like  a champ. My ability to manage them is probably the mot positive indicator of all in my list.

Part of the coping is simply being more aware of the cost and then allowing myself time to recover from the items that I know are going to be stressful.

So, part realist expectation for myself: “The day after X, I’m going to feel very down but that’s just my reaction to expending that energy. So plan to chill out and have a lot of quiet time / rejuvenating activity”. I try to remind myself that there is a physical element to this and it’s similar to sleep: I can choose to stay up all night or run a marathon – but then I’m going to be tired and will need sleep and rest. Same applies to my mental “energy”: I can spend it where I want, but some things “tire” it out and I need rest.

And part of my success is… mindfulness? I’m not sure if that’s right. But the “being aware” of the reaction and not having it “own you” or “define you”. The expectations and coping stem from the awareness, but the awareness is itself beneficial. It provides a level of separation that is helpful on its own.

 

Exercise: Not so good. I hate having this item here, since I continually fail.

Over the last few weeks, it’s been a mixed bag: a bit of good effort and then less so. However, having this item on my list reminds me that there is another thing I can do to help my mental health. And, given that I need more help, I’m going to do it more starting today.

That said, I have invested some time to get myself ready to exercise more (reviewing current exercise tools and resources and testing/fixing them). So that is a small step in the right direction, and something that needs to be done before I will exercise more.

 

Stress: Mostly low. But this week has been rough.

The stress this week came from unexpected sources, making it harder to handle, and I didn’t even realize its effect at first. That lack of realization is such a source of frustration on its own. But that’s part of my journey: recognizing what this mental health looks like and learning to manage and identify inputs and efforts.

There was a particularly acute source of stress and it wasn’t until a few hours after that I caught myself behaving in a stress-induced anxious way. Seeing those symptoms of anxiety was what made me realize that I was having a problem. In this case, it was the OCD-like symptoms (wanting to be ultra-precise and repeating something as needed to get it “right”) that I caught myself doing automatically.

 


It’s not ideal that I have to deal with these things. But that’s part of who I am right now, so I do manage them. And I’m getting better at doing so.

I do have some control: I’ll continue with the low caffeine, I’ve cut down my “information diet” (still the wrong name), and I’ll do some exercise that helps my mood and overall evenness. I am not without agency. Feels good even to say that and to know it is true.

In a moment like this where I feel like I understand the long-term nature of my mental illness, feel some power and ability to grow and manage better as a human, I’d like to thank those who have helped me get to this point. So far, those people haven’t been people who I know in person, so I can’t yet – but may some day. Because I can’t thank them, I feel a burden – they have gifted me this hope, and I want to return the favor. That’s probably part of why I seek to help others around me with their mental health, where I can.

So I’m saying thanks for helping: R, W, M, & J. You have guided and inspired and I’m better for your effort.

 

… also, this blog was started on just a “do it” feeling. But I think it’s been very helpful for me. The thoughts are nascent in my head, but the thinking is refined when worked into full sentences for the blog. And I benefit from understanding myself better.


Hey look, a song in my head.


Photo Credit: eltpics


 

The Progress is Slow & Thanks to Helpers

Stuck in a loop

3:07 am

Well, so much for being past the hypo-mania-induced sleep issues. I really thought I was over this particular blip, but I’m clearly not – still stuck in this loop.


Check-in:

Caffeine: Not an issue today – continued with having very little / none.

Diet: Continued eating “less well” so I don’t know what impact this may be having – but no change recently.

Interaction: This past week has been far more taxing. And, while I’ve been trying to be judicious and careful, sometimes I end up doing a bit more than I’d choose based solely on what I think I can manage.

Exercise: Continued doing very little. I haven’t taken the time recently that I should. That isn’t helpful my overall mental state.

Stress: No particular stress, but my anxiety has been flaring up recently: the feeling of small things that suddenly feel huge, the inability to make decisions (without running through all possible scenarios in my brain for ten minutes to make a minute decision), and general anxiety around inter-personal interactions.


Not taking the needed time to do activities that help me be healthy can be a side-effect of the hypo-mania, particularly lack of sleep. If I am having trouble sleeping and it takes more of my day, then I feel like I have less time in a day. And inevitable make some decisions to skip those activities (like exercise) that I need to do to manage better.

I’m skeptical that these things would solve where I’m at currently. Maybe there is a limit to how well I can manage sometimes and just have to suffer through a bit. I don’t feel like I have many answers or good ideas right now.


Not related, but what was in my head upon waking today

Stuck in a loop

Riding the high

Sometimes, when I’m in a bit of a hypo-mania, I just lean into it for a few minutes or a few hours where I know that some stimulus (extra caffeine, or positive music cranked to a high volume) will push me into a particular state of near-bliss. It’s such an enjoyable feeling, sometimes it’s an indulgence.

I don’t do this often anymore with caffeine, I know the long-term ramifications. A particular high achieved through caffeine for a few hours I may end up paying for for several following days with broken up sleep and other problems. And the brief high may even trigger a low period lasting longer. It’s way too much risk. Music is a briefer and less potent high, but also dramatically less risky.

Riding the high

I’m going to miss coffee

3:52am

Here I go again.

coffee-drips-daniel-go

I had stayed off the mania portion of the cycle for a good long time[1]. I hadn’t been particular up, mostly even with brief dips lower[2]. And, Murphy’s law, today is particularly inconvenient day for this – time commitments in place for later this day that will be more difficult now that my sleep is interrupted.

Without any great solution visible, I’m going to try taking stock of the usual elements and see how they compare.


Caffeine: I was on caffeine for a longer period than I prefer to be as I was trying to get a work project down. As I my mood trended down, one of the changes I made was to take a really long break from caffeine. Initially this didn’t help my mood: I was in a longer down period recently. But my body adjusted to it. And it’s possible being off caffeine helped me level back out.

And then, I allowed myself a small amount of caffeine. Really tiny amounts, like a quarter of a cup of coffee before noon only. It had the obvious productivity boost, and may have boosted my mood. That has been more or less where I’ve been for the last ten days.

And then, I had more and a bit later the last two days.

Hmmm… this could easily be the cause. I’ll come back to this in a minute.

Diet: Again shifting my diet. I had spent a lot of the down time eating “less well” and as a positive outcome of being more up I got back into a better groove. The last few days have been different. Timewise, that correlates positively with this shift but I’m not sure that is the cause or part of it. Interesting data point for future reference: shifting to eating less well correlated with an up period.

Interaction: Unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of the down period without a lot of interaction. And, even while being more level and up over the last few weeks, I haven’t resumed a normal schedule of external interactions. Last week more interaction, this week (including today), far more interaction. Again, positive correlation with the hypo-mania. A data point worth noting for future reference.

Exercise: I’ve been less regular, but doing reasonably well at getting a bit more regular exercise. No particular changes over the last week or so.

Stress: For the first time in a long time, I noted a particular sense of stress a few days ago. I chalked it up to a combination of being tired (hadn’t slept well: possible initial mania coming on[3]), the most caffeine I’d had had in a while (and part of the anxiety was just caffeine-induced), and then a few more unclosed loops – particular around social items and also some lack of tracking things well[4].[5]

 


Aside on caffeine and sleep. The above caffeine log and my lack of sleep would, for most people seem ridiculous. But this is how I think about caffeine more now: a mood booster. So, it isn’t caffeine’s well known effects as a stimulant on sleep. Since obviously have a quarter of a cup of caffeinated coffee between noon and 2pm today isn’t what “woke me up” directly.

However, as an additional element of pushing my mood into the “up” areas, kicking a hypo-manic period, that is how I think caffeine may be part of the problem. And the hypo-mania has as a symptom, being awake in the middle of the night.

As has been increasingly often, I am thinking of caffeine as a double edged sword: I like it and it can be positive to boost my mood when used wisely. But it seems like it is particularly dangerous.

And it might be particularly difficult to modulate when used regularly. Other than as an occasional boost to mood, it may be best to leave it alone. Not just temporarily, forever. As medicine, it’s useful when used for a specific application, but not something I should ingest regularly.

I’ll probably keep experimenting, but the above paragraph seems like a rational approach.


Not sure why, but this is the music in my brain this morning.


[1] Checking this diary, looks like it’s been the better part of a month since I’ve struggled with a hypo-manic period that robbed me of sleep.

[2] The dips were often less than a day.

[3] A few nights of waking up too early, though not in the dead of night, and without the “instant on” feeling that, together, are symptomatic of the hypo-manic sleepless period. Like tonight. And so many other nights.

[4] leaving generalized anxiety around having to do some tasking but not doing a good job of tracking the state of thing. In GTD terms: unclosed loops where the task then repeats in your brain and you don’t have the “mind like water” state.

[5] Some low-level exercise completely resolved this stress and even bounced back to a great state of contentedness.


Photo Credit: Daniel Go

I’m going to miss coffee

Bounce Back

5:23

glum-kid-simall-flickr

First couple of days bouncing back after a longer period of being down. I think previously I had hoped that I was over down periods. That seems silly when I type it. But it was my hope.

I had been in a longer period of pretty even mood. Not really hypo-manic any more and definitely not down.

I feel particularly at a loss to explain why the down period and the subsequent up period that is starting.

Caffeine: I’m several days into a period of removing caffeine – well past any caffeine being in my system or having any withdrawal symptoms any more. So it can’t be caffeine instigating this mood change. And it seems unlikely that it triggered the down period[1]. I’ve also had a few caffeine-free periods this calendar year and those don’t line up with any mood shifts.

Diet: I have been changing my diet recently – more switching from one pattern to another than changing. But as I looked back over this calendar year comparing other times of diet shift against up/down periods… I can’t see any correlation.

Interaction: I’ve severely limited external interaction. Between being busy with work and then down, it was the prudent action[3]. The few days leading up to this, it was reduced a bit more – I had more space and quiet. But the day that started the uptick, I had a bit more interaction. Given how little, this seems unlikely to be any trigger. If anything, I feel this is more correlated than causal: I allowed more interaction because I felt I could handle it because I was more up than I had been.

Exercise: I had well and truly fallen off any exercise for a longer period. Partly as a desire to get out of the down period, I started a bit more of this as well[2]. I also coupled this with some restorative activities – the main goal being trying to reduce stress and feel more positive. But it’s only been a couple of days, seems a bit early to expect any results from this.


I did notice a significant change in my sleep towards the end. The combination of being down and then off caffeine. Sleep came easily and long. And, after some periods of lacking sleep, it was a great balance. Other than the knowledge of the deep cave that that can become, it felt really great. The first day of not needing as much sleep also felt exceptionally great, as I was well rested and didn’t have the nagging concern that I was falling into a longer down period where sleep beckoned for too many hours.


As for my symptoms today (and yesterday). I’m don’t have “rushed brain” or any kind of really racing thoughts. As with yesterday, I was simply awake. Yesterday particularly I didn’t want to be awake or get up in the middle of the night (and didn’t). Today I was more alert, but still no particular thoughts or speed to them. As I evaluated what to do, I did have quick clarity of thought – but in pretty normal terms, nothing that felt unusually manic about my thoughts.

I am reticent to even call this “up” already. It seems to early and the symptoms too subtle. If it weren’t for the disturbed sleep twice running, I don’t think I would label it such.



[1] Unless there is some mechanism of having too much caffeine for too long that then my body eventually just wears out somehow and gets down after too much of the “up” stimulus of the caffeine. Possibly hypothesis to keep in mind, but no reason, at this time, to think it is true.

[2] And particularly focused on more relaxing exercise. Generally my goal is stress-reduction not stress-inducing-calorie-burning-sweat-it-up exercise.

[3] As discussed previously, I know that a lot of interaction can trigger a mood shift. Either up or down: more often “up” though if it pushes my too far up, that can be the downward trigger. And the unpredictable and sometimes unavoidable nature of interactions lend themselves to “overdoing”.


Photo Credit: simall


 

Bounce Back