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.
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
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).
Posted in Bipolar, Jobs, June Challenge, May Challenge
Tagged anxiety, bipolar, brain burp, breakdown, Depression, doodles, hypomania, insomnia, June Challenge, May Challenge, mixed state, platypus
Your doctor gives you a hug. Then calls the crisis team.
Let’s say it hasn’t been a good week.
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…
Posted in Bipolar, Challenge 4, May Challenge
Tagged anxiety, bipolar, brain burp, Depression, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, May Challenge, meds, mixed episodes, thethingswecan'tsay, wah
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.
Posted in Arts, Bipolar, Challenge 3, Creativity, March Challenge
Tagged anxiety, art versus life, Arts March, bipolar, challenge 3, Creativity cowardice, Depression, Pratchett
It’s brilliant! Isn’t it? Hmm. No, it’s terrible. Or is it?
I’ve been holding off writing anything for a few days. Life got in the way of art last week so I’ve nothing to offer…yet. To be honest I’m not at my best, not depressed as such, just a bit downhearted and sort-of- twitchy n’ anxious. Yes, pity me.
On a positive note, the fact that I haven’t been able to spend any time doing some of the good stuff has given me the final nudge I need to make some changes, or at least begin the process of making some changes.
Being creative isn’t just about ‘creating’ – there’s a contradiction, but stay with me – it’s to do with how we think, how we see and approach things. I used to put an awful lot of creative thought into my job, it’s the thing I loved best about it; finding new ways to do things, to make a-not-so-exciting thing interesting or fun… I felt that being able to do that maybe went some way to making up for the things I’m not so good at. Like doing exactly as I’m told all the time. *hangs head in shame*
It’s not that I don’t still put creative effort in to what I do, it’s more that the value of creativity has diminished and it makes me feel, well, sad. Trying to adapt has left me in a bit of a no-man’s land and I have all but lost my mojo. Whatever a mojo is.
This is not necessarily news to me, I’ve just been hand-wringing about what to do for the best.
What- to- do- for- the- best is likely to be a thing involving a bit of courage. Erk. Having spent a good deal of my life tidying up the mess of impulse-driven choices, I don’t always trust my own judgement. I have trouble with big decisions (and little ones…Carrot cake or chocolate cake? Coffee or tea? Argh! I don’t know! Why is the universe making me decide such a thing – what if I choose wrong?!). Now is probably the time to stop procrastinating. *Wibble* Perhaps I shall express my anxieties about the whole thing through the medium of interpretive dance as my creative effort this week.
Posted in Anxiety, Arts, Creativity, March Challenge
Tagged anxiety, Art, art versus life, bipolar, Cowardice, Creativity, decisions, March Challenge, Mojo