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

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Meeting without Sleep

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 likeĀ  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

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

Definitely

4am

There’s definitely a pattern here. Lots of music in my head is a symptom of the manic. Weird. Or I guess not really weird.

4am today, 3:30 yesterday, 4 before that.

Juggled work hours, relaxing time, bedtime. But I’m still awake. Far less frustrated by that than usual.

It could also be coffee: I dialed it back for a while and had had more the last few days. Not after 2pm, but caffeine as a drug that increases happiness could be a cause of this up period.

7417277818_f396a5bafd_o
Coffee: delicious but cursed?

 

If it’s not the coffee, then I don’t know what it is. And that’s worrisome. I had been doing so well at managing hypo-manic symptoms.

There is some stress, but not crazy amounts. There are some other social things that could have driven energy levels higher. So it could be a mix.

It probably is, but I don’t know for sure. That uncertainty is very hard to deal with. If it’s a clear problem, then I can make changes and test things. Or, I can decide that it’s too much work just right now – but at least I have control and can do that.

Not knowing really drives a feeling of helplessness.


 

On the positive side: I’m also getting the productivity boosts and assertiveness boosts for this hypo-manic period.

Still bouncing along the high points as discussed previously.


Photo Credit: waferboard

Definitely