Tag 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

Advertisements

What’s it all about Darwin?

Darwin T Platypus - a highly cultural monotreme

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

Into the K-Hole?

alice

So.  Ketamine.

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.

Peace x

Your Brain on Bipolar

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.

Here goes…

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.

BipolarMedicatedStroop

I’m still pretty sure my brain looks like this

My brain.  The Platypus situation needs some explanation.  Another time I promise.

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…

Peace x

Hello Stranger, it’s been a while

know your platypus

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.

Peace x

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