Over the past 16 years of working and interacting with people with mental health issues, I have notice that when we are moderately stable, we begin to fill our lives to the fullest with tasks and activities. It is as if we have to make up for the time lost to unwellness.
The problem I have at the moment, even though thankfully I am slightly elevated, is that I have taken on Tooooooo MUCH! But then again, not.
I have been working on establishing my business and realised I haven’t got a clue what that entailed, so I have taken on a couple of courses learning what needs to be done to establish and run a successful business. As the courses are for set times and periods, I am juggling everything else around them to allow me to attend them.
Whilst I have taken on an Incorporated Committee position as Secretary, which is requiring three times the work I anticipated, I have been self-aware enough to drop two other committee/workgroup positions to accommodate this.
Then there have been things in my personal life that sent it into utter turmoil, requiring much of my time and attention, draining my brain and physical energy. But also, some very exciting things happening as well.
This has been a common theme throughout my life. I am either going full throttle or laid up in bed with a blown motor. I have been reflecting on this lately and the impact this has on my stability. How do I maintain a semblance of moderation across the ebbs and waves that is Bipolar?
I am far from being an expert in this area and I am usually driven by my energy levels and the hyperactivity that comes with hypomania or elevated agitated mixed states. I have however made some changes.
When I am lacking in energy because I am becoming or are depressed, I have learnt to still get up with my 6.30am alarm and work on my computer until at least 11am before going back to bed for a sleep. This time is spent working in my PJ’s and accompanied with lots of coffee (which has no elevating effect on me and I drink it purely because I like the taste). By doing this, at the end of the day I still feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement, which aids my mood, in that I don’t feel useless and worthless. Even if I didn’t accomplish much in those working hours, I am proud of myself for the effort I put in and that I hopped out of bed at all. I am learning, albeit slowly, to acknowledge what I do achieve, instead of focussing on what I didn’t achieve. This seems to have a positive effect on my mood, so I am grasping it with both hands.
When I am elevated, I list everything I have going on, want to achieve and am committed to. My rule of thumb is, if the list is more than half a page, if anyone asks me to do something or commit to something else, the answer is a resounding, “NO, I cannot assist you at this point in time”. I no longer make excuses or feel guilty or like I am letting them down or that they cannot survive without my help. I have learnt the hard way. If I commit to more than I am capable of, I become overwhelmed, experience negative stress and ultimately l am triggered into depression. Which then sees me letting them down anyway, because I can’t get out of bed. Of course, then I go through the guilt, worthlessness and self-recrimination.
The other thing I do when elevated, is prioritise the list. Write the three most important things on a page by themselves and place the full list behind it. Only once I have achieved and completed a task in full, do I move the next prioritised task to the front page. This helps me maintain focus on the most important tasks and prevents me from becoming overwhelmed by the length of the list. When I become overwhelmed I lose my ability to concentrate, focus and comprehend things, thus I then decline into a depression again.
I also espouse to my friends, coworkers and clients, Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care. Over the past year I have learnt to implement my self-care strategies without guilt or shame. If I need to lay down because my brain is shutting down, just because or due to overload, I do it. If my mind is racing too fast and I can’t focus or concentrate, I go and read and escape into another world for a while, until my mind has calmed. If I am agitated and tense, I go and have a spa and practise some mindfulness while in there, to try and relax the muscles in my back and shoulders and calm my agitation.
I am slowly building a bag of resources that work for me. But it is one thing to have the resources and another to use them. If you don’t implement your self-care strategies, then they are just words on paper or details in your mind. They are not effective unless you do them. Which is what I was bad at for a long time.
I’d be very interested in what strategies you use to help you through your changing states and episodes. Shoot me a message and whether or not you are happy for me to share them on my Facebook page.
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