So I’m only three months late in reviewing my year of Breaking B.A.D, things snowballed back there leaving me with little time to sit down and write about everything.
I wasn’t in a great place when I started this blog, trying to work out how to manage the whole manic-depressive thing (Y’know, forever. No breaks. Nada) in such a way that I might spend less time at the far ends of the spectrum. Or at least enjoy the steady-as-she-goes in between times more. Turns out that the second part has been easier to achieve than the first part. But that’s probably not surprising. Most difficult to accept has been the fact that there’s only so much you can do – dodging the whole mood switching business is impossible. Yes, this is obvious. I know. Doh. However, by trying everything possible within the limits of my brains and budget I’ve actually been able to let myself off the hook a bit. Shock -horror, you can’t organise yourself a wee holiday from bipolar.
Writing this blog made me confront some of the things I had been trying to avoid facing down (such as the above) whether I included them in my ramblings here or not. I changed jobs, did battle with my sleeping pattern (ongoing…) and tried to shake off the bitterness that was creeping in – so many lost and broken opportunities man, you know that riff. I revisited some hobbies, started selling some doodles, took up some music work, kicked off exercising again and got a slice of mindfulness into my life. I’ve given up Ben & Jerry’s too *weeps* in the hope of getting into my summer clothes. A decision wrought as much by practicality as vanity -the moths in my purse have left because the conditions are so poor; purchasing a new wardrobe is not currently an option. Plus the spending blips of past-me mean that future-me will have plenty to wear. In about an inch I reckon.
I’ll have to shake things up again at some point so that the mice don’t ship out too for fear of starvation.
Overall things aren’t to B.A.D (ugh, sorry).
Toodlepip for now x
I read Ruby Wax’s ‘Sane New World’ recently. On television she unnerves me, but I’ve always found her writing on depression to be heart-crunchingly direct and sort-of-painful to read. Which is the only way to write about it, isn’t it?
In order to write this book she developed expert scholarly knowledge of the brain. She then set about explaining all sorts of complicated stuff in ways that made it seem simple. Phew.
My interpretation of some of this stuff is extremely basic; the more we do a thing the better we become at it. Ergo, depression makes us good at being depressed. You practise playing the piano to become a better pianist, the only difference with depression is that we’re not choosing to play, depression is playing us. There’s a bind.
Neuroplasticity means that we can make physical changes to the brain (Ha, think happy thoughts and you can fly! ) If we can make an intervention in our brains and pause one depressive thought whilst we evaluate its’ actual truth we can find ourselves getting better at not-being-depressed. Knowing that is the simple bit of course, doing it is another thing altogether. I like this little ray of hope though. That’s where the Mindfulness part comes into play in ‘Sane New World’ but call it whatever you like there are plenty of methods of dealing with our ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) if we can be in a good enough place to make a start.
Years ago I had sessions with a therapist who pointed out to me (ouch) various coping strategies I employed when discussing anything emotional. Mostly by responding to my hilarious little asides by not laughing and saying something like ‘I just want to point out to you something I’ve noticed…you’re making a *crack about (whatever) when we are talking about (whatever)… why do you think you’re doing that?’ He didn’t label it, he just did it. *hilarious and sophisticated comment
Aaargh. I hated that. But he was right. And now I have a tiny Jiminy Cricket- esque echo of his voice whenever I’m about to derail a serious & uncomfortable conversation or situation. It doesn’t always stop me, but I know I do it and so it’s less automatic. It also happens when I begin to have catastrophic thoughts ‘It’s the end of everything, I have forgotten to do something at work and I will lose my job…then my home…then I will be cast out by society and have to live on a leper colony and the lepers will ignore me because I don’t have leprosy…waaah.’ Jiminy Cricket Pause. Check the facts. For example – Do leper colonies even exist now?
Again, I can’t say it always works, this time last year I was floored by a depression that has really only just lifted. But I will say that it maybe wasn’t as dark as it could have been. It has worked best for me in dealing with anxiety rather than depression.
Some people use the ‘grateful thoughts’ technique to train their brains Neuroplasticity-style. Or there’s good old CBT for ANTs
One side-effect of all of these methods though is that I sometimes find myself staring off into space or tuning out whilst I do a brain intervention. This probably looks pretty weird. But I am pretty weird, so it’s ok.
These have been some busy times, I’ve visited over the last few weeks and then got waylaid halfway through writing a post. In fact something is bound to distract me any moment now…No? Phew. I’ll keep going then.
I officially left my job at the end of August and since then have been drawing up a different sort of career plan. Currently I’m marginally under-employed but building up hours slowly – I’ve been lucky enough to find work doing the things I love and am getting mildly entrepreneurial with some drawing stuff too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty broke and I will need to get a ‘day job’ to keep things ticking over but I’m excited about work once more after feeling so miserable about it for so long. You don’t realise how bad things have been until you begin to come out the other side.
If there’s been a challenge over the last month or so it’s been to hold my nerve and not simply hop back on to the treadmill – it would be easy to do, it’s what I have always done before – for short-term financial stability. Writing this blog really made me look at the B.A.D patterns in my life, one of them is that I burn out super- fast under stress and take a long time to recover. I’ve spent a lifetime railing against this, imagining that each new set of circumstances will yield a different result. Like banging your head against a brick wall and expecting it not to hurt if you do it enough. So I’m trying out a new way of doing things. If I end up eating sawdust-bread and living in a shoe box I will know that the old way was better.
So, October will continue to be a ‘hold-your-nerve’ challenge and I’ll be looking at research about how we break patterns and cycles and make changes. Brain stuff an’ that.
In the meantime,
Well I made it back from my travels in one piece, which is always nice, and now it’s time to actually start job-hunting properly *tiny sigh*. In order to delay this for as long as possible I’ve been doodle-tastic – designing cards, setting up shop on Etsy, organising market stalls and also uploading some work to zazzle and redbubble. Man, it takes up a lot of time . To be honest it’s a nice way of indulging in something I like without feeling too guilty (it’s entrepreneurial innit) and it might just keep me sane once I get back on the treadmill too (the work treadmill that is, not the other sort, I’m still working off a lot of ice-cream. Damn you Ben and Jerry and your delicious, cellulite inducing desserts ).
So, if you feel like making people look at stuff-they- can -get- you- for- christmas on the internet, experiencing the outcome of summertime hypo-mania by-proxy, or just analysing the extent to which people will go to avoid doing anything sensible, then go and hang out at the slightly rustic (eg. just about holding together) http://www.doonesdrawingroom.co.uk
Anyway, I’m going to make myself finish some application letters now, no doubt I’ll have some musings to share about the whole process along the way.
In the meantime, peace x
Darwin T Platypus – a highly cultural monotreme
If I have been quiet recently (virtually, not in person, much to the dismay of those around me) it’s because I have been out and about with this little chap Darwin, we are currently in Romania and one of us is a little bit sunburned.
Now might be a sensible time to explain about Darwin and his link to this whole bipolar business…stay with me now…
A few years ago my daughter played me a clip from Phineas and Ferb, a Perry the Platypus clip as it happens, wherein Perry remotely controls Dr Doofenshmirtz, resulting in his transformation into coolness. Or something.
Anyway, the point of this, according to my daughter, is that sometimes I am not entirely in complete and total control of my behaviour thanks to the whole bipolarity issue…thus she has decreed that there is a platypus controlling me.
And so on and more tenuous.
But the platypus became a thing and a slightly twee and friendly way of referring to the overtly bipolar times in my life.
So now I have an actual platypus puppet (most romantic birthday gift ever. Truth) who travels about on adventures with me.
Yes I get a lot of funny looks.
So now you know.
My next challenge is to be less weird. Just kidding. Once I’m back home I’ll figure it out.
In the meantime, peace x
Ketamine is an anaesthetic and also a pain-management drug, it’s mainly used as a horse tranquilizer and is not approved by the FDA. It can have hallucinogenic effects and invoke feelings of detachment – a floaty, out-of-body type experience. Ketamine’s a class B drug, so recreational use can get you into considerable trouble with the law…However it has been trialled as a short-term treatment for severe depression and there seem to be some positive outcomes. It seems that the effects are not long-lasting but can alleviate some of the worst symptoms of depression with relative speed. Essentially it helps you begin to get your mojo back.
I like the sound of that.
It’s probably not going to arrive at a pharmacy near you any time soon, but it’s one to keep an eye on. In the meantime you’ll have to make do with trippy kids programmes and camomile tea.
So this is one of my new enterprises. Just thought I’d leave this here in case anyone’s having a greetings card emergency situation. Y’know. In case.
You can click for a look if you like.
That’s all for the shameless self – promotion 🙂 x
Well I’ve been tiptoeing around the web trying to find out what’s going on in the world of Mood Research and it’s made my brain ache a bit. So many diagrams, so many long words. Anyway, I’ve picked out a few choice things (that I vaguely understood) to share with you.
It has been suggested that the manic-depressive episodes of bipolar disorder are the result of a kind of evolutionary ‘feedback loop’ gone awry eg. our successes generate confidence and failures a lack thereof. This feedback loop misfires in bipolar disorder and creates an exaggerated perception of success/failure leading to an unbalanced sense of confidence (‘of course I can build a flying machine, just one more empty washing up liquid bottle and we’re airborne!’) or inadequacy (‘ I failed to create a flying machine because I am a worthless mess of a human & will never know love’) But, this doesn’t really explain why the feedback is all wonky in the first place, which is kind of what I want to know.
Research points to a genetic factor, according to The Black Dog Institute, having a parent with BAD gives you a 10% chance of developing the disorder, rising to 40% if both of your parents have it. It kind of goes without saying that stressful life events play a role in triggering symptoms of the disorder, but you can’t blame them for ‘causing’ it…and you’d need to have a word with your pineal gland and a whole raft of neurotransmitters to find out what on earth they are doing to make your moods bounce around so much. Nobody’s worked out how to communicate with the little critters as yet.
Brain imaging though, seems to be making progress into picking out the general areas of the brain that are doing odd things in patients with bipolar disorder. According to Psycheducation
Evidence is growing quite strong that a region of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex is underactive in people with bipolar disorder even when they are having no symptoms at all.
My basic understanding is that this underactive cortex wotsit is linked to decision-making and multi-tasking eg. difficulties with. Makes sense. And…this part of the brain has been shown to be more active in those taking mood medications. Which implies correlation at least.
I’m still pretty sure my brain looks like this
but I can’t prove anything. Yet.
Anyway, my next little wander round the net is going to involve Ketamine. Reading about, not taking (the internet doesn’t need Ketamine. It’s weird enough. As am I) Apparently it’s being trialled as a treatment…interesting…
Busy times afoot in the Breaking B.A.D house, my exploration into ways to work from home led me to set up a website for my own enterprise (long running but a bit neglected) and also to start putting my doodling to good use by designing some greetings cards (cheeky plug) and setting up the means of attempting to sell them. I’m also job-hunting…I have plenty of enthusiasm for entrepreneurial ventures but I don’t think they’ll cover the rent so I’m going to need a day job. Luckily I’m probably in a decent position to get agency work, but I’m wary of getting drawn back in to the same career. If anyone needs a slightly odd but friendly bookseller, look no further! I can start Monday 🙂
Anyway, having been side tracked by recent events I am back on the mission to find ways to break B.A.D and this month’s slightly late starter is going to involve checking out the science bit and finding out about more on research, theories, therapies, meds and all that jazz – know thine enemy. Here’s what NIMH has to say about the current status of neuroimaging and mental illness.
It’s nice to be back, I shall try to stay well enough not to whinge for a while.
Just in case doing ‘a bit of this and that’ is a bit too vague a career plan, I’ve been investigating what sort of work might suit the predictably unpredictable brain. It seems to me that flexibility is a key thing – for me anyway – so I’ve been looking at ways to work either from home, or in an area which allows time for a sideline…or in fact is a sideline…flexible see?
On my internet travels I wandered across a few random job ideas that had never occurred to me. If you like to get out and about you can earn a crust (and dig into one too) as a mystery shopper. Having worked, once upon a time, in a chain-restaurant, I recall the fear of the mystery-customer and the awe that was inspired by colleagues who could spot them. There was probably a book running on how long it would take me to spill their drinks.
If you’ve a good eye for detail but don’t wish to strike terror into the hearts of retail assistants and waiters there is probably proof-reading and editing work that you can do from home, although you’ll have to be mindful of the work-from-home scammers and sales-pitches for expensive courses. It’s a good idea to check out the legitimate training and employment opportunities here.
If you have a good ear for detail as well as the eye, and are a superspeedy-accurate typist, you could also look into working from home transcribing audio.
Those with a teaching qualifications/experience could can register their tutoring/instructor credentials online through organisations such as Tutorhunt to find students or run a franchise (sounds like hard work, but y’know) for a company such as Kumon.
There are even opportunities to teach courses online, here’s a Telegraph article about online learning with some handy links for would-be webeducators.
If you’ve something more creative in mind you might be able to get ideas and support from Creative Skillset. I’m not sure they’ll support my idea for a cat-cafe in my living room though…apparently one cat does not a cat-cafe make, so I’ll have to continue my quest in order to figure out what to do when I grow up.
Posted in Bipolar, Jobs, June Challenge
Tagged A bit of this and that, anxiety, bipolar, careers, Depression, JOBS, June Challenge, make a change, Mental Health, work for the mentally interesting