Category Archives: Bipolar

Neuroplasticity

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.

Peace x

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June Challenge: A bit of this…a bit of that

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.

Peace x

June Challenge: Workhouse Fears…

So it’s good day/bad day here, but the good days are starting to win out.  Phew.  I’m still doing the meditation thing, which has calmed me down a bit, and tuning out my brain with what I suppose is a kind of white noise.  Since I never know if I’m going to spend my hours crackling with energy or kind of burned out, exercising has been an erratic endeavour…so mostly I run (shuffle-jog-wheeze)  to the supermarket 🙂  I must look to be a very hungry individual indeed.

To occupy the rest of my time I’ve been doodling again, finally getting some sleep (huzzah)  and, to prevent a hysterical spiral of ‘oh what have I done’ horrors,  turning my mind to possible ways of making a living once I’m well again.

Working for yourself seems to be a smart road to travel if you are of a mentally- interesting disposition, since it means you can, within reason, dictate your own hours and terms and potentially work from home (as long as you’ve got some support in case of the occasional brain-burp- could get messy otherwise).

Here are ’10 ways to ditch your job and work for yourself’ courtesy of Entrepreneur.com

The wisest place to start is by playing to your strengths, if your strengths happen to involve mathematical wizardry and a love of spreadsheets you could probably become a freelance book-keeeper; I am rubbish at maths so this won’t feature in any of my plans, but you get the gist.

If you happen to have a passion for the things you’re good at, well, all the better, although if you make it your career it’s still ‘work’ as Forbes’ Chrissy Scivicque explains    and this could well chip away at your passion after a while…

Good at arts-and-crafts-y stuff?   Champion knitter? Then you already have money-making potential.  Etsy is the obvious place to market your goods.  You can check out their seller guidance here.  For what not-to-do  (and a tiny mean chuckle) you might want to also check out Regretsy…the baker’s equivalent is Cake Wrecks which has the power to make me cry laughing-tears.

Having said all that, I’m not sure how much of the above is going to apply to me… although I’m definitely a qualified cake-wrecker & a potential regrets-er.  I’ll keep thinking.  And occasionally twitching.

Peace x

Sorry May, it’s been emotional but it’s time to move on…

Jobhunting is a blast

Jobhunting is a blast

Woah, things got a bit intense back there.   I gave myself a proper fright, however I live to fight (shuffle, complain, mess about, whatever) another day.  Which is nice.

It’s not all been doom and gloom though – My partner, family and friends have been amazing.  I could get quite emotional talking about it, so I won’t, but we have some nice stuff  lined up for the next few weeks to keep me chipper.  I have also faced down a few facts and I have finally resigned from my job since I know it’s really bad for my neurons (stupid neurons) and I want to break the cycle of mood swings I seem to have fallen into.   Seven years of toughing it out is enough.

On this basis, June is going to be all about the kind of employment out there that might not mangle the bipolar mind…since I shall be seeking it myself.  I’ve a couple of months before I actually leave work so I have some time to get steady again and work out properly what to do next.

I’ll be posting a little summary of May’s lessons, although I mostly learned that getting addicted to sleeping pills would be preferable to going crackers from lack of sleep (thanks Doc).

Peace x

May’s Up Close and Personal – you know it’s bad when…

Your doctor gives you a hug.  Then calls the crisis team.

Let’s say it hasn’t been a good week.

charlieB

Lack of sleep  is probably the main cause of this nasty little turn, plus my usual medication messing with other medication.  Add a few run of the mill frets and bad times are afoot.

Still, I’m feeling more ‘normal’ now and didn’t end up under a bus or at the bottom of a bottle (ha, I wouldn’t get more than a third of the way down anyway) although I did smoke half a cigarette then put it out because it was horrible.  This depressed me too – I gave up smoking over a year ago but thought I could always go back to it if I ran out of vices.  Damn.

Anyway, after I had finished bouncing off the walls  with a mad sort of anxiety (Mixed state? You can keep it.) I had some interesting conversations and it does seem to be the consensus that I have become very ‘flat’ in the months since I started on Lamictal. Never mind the miserable side effects that seem to multiply over time. Luckily I have an appointment with the psychiatrist the first week of June (been waiting since November – ouch) and will see what other options there are.  Carbamazepine was horribly lethargy-inducing …but it didn’t give me half the trouble Lamictal has.

To be honest I had more fun without the meds, which now seem to have a limited effect anyway.  My mood-swings are shorter and not quite so extreme (mostly) but the price for that seems to be a flat- kind- of -half-life.  *tiny string quartet*

However, it’s kicking out time at the pity-party now.  Enough.  Normal service will be resumed shortly.

In the meantime, and on the subject we can’t talk about *TW* I found reading this in the NY Times  quite interesting, although the corresponding image is a bit…well take a look… And this  *TW* which has an equally confusing cover- image but was quite comforting.

To better days…

Peace x

May Challenge – Up close and personal (within the bounds of decency of course).

227399_1884885655951_2652658_n

May hasn’t been good so far, that’s why I’ve been rather quiet.  I tend to go off radar when I’m feeling grim – they say you should avoid talking politics and religion at dinner;  despair and a pervading sense of pointlessness are similarly party-wrecking topics …

“Anyone care to join me in a slice of existential dread?” 

“Er, I think I’ll stick with the stuffed peppers thanks”

“Sure?  Can I interest you perhaps in a breadstick of doom?  No?  An olive of despair maybe?  I can fully recommend the…I see, leaving already?  You haven’t finished your…Oh”  *sighs*

Of course none of the above applies if you are dining with  Kafka et al, or  Ingmar Bergman or indeed any of the Romantic poets.  The problem in such circumstances would be getting a word in about your own miserablist issues.  Fun times, eh?

Anyway, I believe this current little shiver of dread began as a result of feeling ill and (since feeling under the weather seems to mimic some of the symptoms of depression) has grown from there.  I also suspect that feeling so unwell is linked to my medication – I’m steadily accruing a list of pills for things like insomnia, dizziness, nausea, headaches… basically I feel sort of vertiginous all the time.  Whine, complain, moan.   Either that or I have a particularly determined strain of flu that makes you sick if you watch anything spin/dart/dip.

But, moving along, this ( finally) leads me on to May’s challenge.  It’s time to stop for a moment and do a bit of a review – how do the side effects of my meds balance against their benefits?  How often does my mood change currently?  What impact has therapy had overall?  Have the life-changes I have made really been the right ones?  And, you know, other stuff like that.  I’m not suggesting that ditching medication and opting for acupuncture (which I would actually recommend, but not strictly for dealing with bipolar) is the way forward, but it might be smart at this juncture to work out…well, what’s working.

I started by using a little tool I found at https://www.beatingbipolar.org/   Now it’s hideously cheesy (with some appalling acting, just awful) and partnered with a number of companies which might suggest a certain interest in promoting a pharmaceutical diet  (GSK etc.) but there are a few useful things to be accessed if you can deal with all that, including a life-map to help you work out any events which might have triggered episodes and look at any potential patterns.

To offset any bias you might encounter you could also read BadPharma which is an enlightening, and frankly scary, look at the pharmaceutical world.  The title gives it away I guess.

So then…May means a bit of a BPAD review.  This means I’m probably going to whine a bit, I’ll try to keep that on the low down though and share anything that might be useful.

First however, I’d like to briefly moan about insomnia – It’s wrecking me.  But that’s all I have to say on the matter.

Peace x

Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain  ~ Carl Jung

IMAG0517

Jung was interested in images of dreams and fantasies.  So here’s a fantasy. My other fantasy is that my scanner is not broken, but that was even more boring to draw (though not as boring as photographing pictures and uploading them).

Clearly my fantasies are not so fantastical, here I am looking at the sea, getting a bit of peace… except that it’s where I live – not in the sea, just near it – that’s the fantasy part.

Anyway, after reading about Jung (who, coincidentally, seems to be referenced in a lot of the fiction I have been reading recently) and being a bit stuck for inspiration, I decided to doodle some dream images.  Talking about your dreams is a bit like discussing your aches and pains eg.  more interesting to you than anyone else – I’ll try to bear this in mind.

Jung’s analysis involved working closely with patients to investigate and understand the meaning in the dream-images they created; I take this to mean that he didn’t get too Freudian about everything (‘You dreamed about snakes!? Mwahahaha…’) but rather discussed archetypes and possible connotations based on the patients own thoughts and experiences.   The devil, as it were, is in the detail.

So, here’s a dreamscape in which I was telling off the owners of a tiger and a panther for walking the aforementioned big cats in my local park.  I refused to be placated when they showed me their we’re-allowed-to-walk-big-cats-in-the-park licences.

The panther didn't have a monkey-face in my dream, I just can't draw very well.

The panther didn’t have a monkey-face in my dream, I just can’t draw very well.

There are shades of the Jungian archetype The Shadow in those big cats… The dark self on a leash?  Crumbs.  That’s worrying.  However, Jung might have been more interested in the colour of the leash, or the breed of cat or even the ‘licence’ aspect of the dream, depending on the information I gave him.  Since he’s not around to ask I’m going to conclude that my sub-conscious has deep-held concerns about wild carnivorous creatures hanging around in public places.  Which are very sensible concerns to have.

I always sleep in the bath

I always sleep in the bath

And now for something completely different…and yet the same.  In this dream I woke up fully dressed in a bathtub as an old friend brought me a cup of tea. There’s a rather nice little plant on the windowsill there too.  Frankly I can’t make head nor tail of that one –  not a clue.  All I know is that I was really disappointed to wake up in actual real life without that cuppa.

I could go on with the dream illustrations and thrilling synopses but I’m going to leave that whole topic there for now.  It seems wise.  But I reckon there’s something cathartic about dream-doodling so I may not quit entirely…

For now though, I’ll leave you with a snarky doodle of PM David Cameron.

dave's plans

…and a finished version of another doodle.

Jpeg

Peace x

Challenge 4: Where has my cup gone? And other stuff.

pilgrims

Finally the cups took matters into their own hands and made their own way to the dishwasher.

I had to start (again) somewhere so here are this week’s eclectic (messy) offerings so far.  Behold my theory about where all the cups at work have disappeared to.  Really, they just keep vanishing.  We need, like, Scooby-Doo, man.

Also behold my attempt at a *haiku, inspired by some of this week’s less tasteful mental-health related headlines.

HAIKU

* my daughter pointed out to me that I have the haiku wrong, that it’s 5,7,5 and refused to accept my ‘inverse haiku’ argument.  Considering it’s my job to remember this stuff it’s a bit embarrassing – plus I hate it when she’s right.

So here’s a ‘haiku’ haiku

Keep to the attic 

Dark words ignite bright torches

Flames and pitchforks come

Tadaa! (Hopefully the poetry will improve.  Or stop)

Oh, and a visual representation of how I’ve felt most of this week.

NOSEFIRST

meh

Despite a total lack of motivation to do anything but eat cake and slump, I’ve forced myself to go to the gym twice.  Thanks February challenge *raspberries*.  And since I’ve been over-tired and struggling to sleep, I’ve been listening to these to help me relax –  I may have posted them before, sorry about that if so.  If you can get past the slightly creepy voice this one’s pretty good for getting calm to-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBlWOJgiyGg

And this one’s just cute…if you like rivers and lanterns.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpotwRmX654

Personally I prefer Zopiclone for solving sleeping difficulties, but my GP rarely lets me have them *more raspberries* because people become addicted to them – I can’t think why…

Peace x

A Successful Failure (or How To Be An Oxymoron)

So April begins.  I think a fair indication of how tumultuously busy recent times have been here is the fact that my partner-in-crime and I have only this weekend been able to take our tiny Valentine’s Day break,…and so I am going to continue my challenge into April.  The Easter holiday will give me a head start – or at least allow me to catch up with myself.

March has been an interesting month though, as well as a busy one.  I didn’t get the job I went for, I was just having a quick power-nap between work and folk clubbing (I’ll get on to that) when they called me – a rude awakening indeed.  However, bizarrely enough, although I was obviously disappointed that my overall genius didn’t make up for the experience I lacked, I found the whole interview process to be a positive one.  At no point did I think I can’t do this because I have B.A.D and being rejected had nothing to do with my having B.A.D.  It’s been the-thing-holding-me-back for so long that it was sort of refreshing to be held back by a different thing, and to be able to look at that particular thing and know that doing x + y would be a solution.

But on reflection I don’t think I want to do x or y.  Not right now.  I am, as they say, considering my options…

Anyway, in spite of March being far less artsy and creative than I’d hoped, I did manage to go retro (or even vintage *gulp*) for a folksy night out in celebration of my grandad’s 80th birthday – I sang and played the guitar badly at least once…in fact it ended up being a funny little family ensemble with my dad playing the guitar and my daughter singing too.  The old crooner himself also got a song in.  Before you start thinking we’re some kind of weird intergenerational version of The Corrs, this is not a thing we ever do as a family.  Never.  So it was new.  We might even do it again.  Once I’ve learned to play F.  Man I hate F.

So stay with me, I haven’t put my guitar away yet.  Nor my crayons.  In fact I’m covering an Art class on Wednesday.  Crumbs.

Welcome to April.

Peace x

“I Aten’t Dead” – Granny Weatherwax (legendary creation of the legendary Terry Pratchett)

i aten't dead

So…I haven’t disappeared, it’s just that this challenge has taken some interesting turns.  I haven’t morphed into Picasso or Banksy, nor have I stormed into the download charts with another reworking of Hallelujah.  More’s the pity.  However, all the thinking about creativity brought me to a few conclusions about where I am at (deep philosophical times, man) and where I am heading (even deeper philosophical times) and so I applied for a new job which was scary, and went for a new-job interview which was scarier.  And I survived.  That’s all I know about the outcome, the whole thing’s a blur and I couldn’t tell you whether or not I might get a job offer…but whatever happens I am a tiny bit proud of myself for not bottling out.

What’s also been pretty wonderful is how helpful and supportive people have been- the people that know me know that I haven’t been at my most confident and sparkly recently and have encouraged my efforts to get my mojo back in all sorts of ways. The resident yoof even brought me coffee this morning – this is one of my favourite ways of being encouraged and supported.

Anyway none of this strictly covers my artsy plans for this month so I am making up for lost time by heading to a folk club tomorrow night for a bit of a sing-around and come  Friday I might even have some time to make progress at the drawing board.  One step at a time though eh.

Peace x