Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another written off day

Add it to the extensive lifelong list - 22/08/09 was a day that didn't exactly go as I'd planned.

I normally prefer to blog about abstract ideas than my day-to-day life - draft philosophy essays rather than journal entries. Its more comfortable territory for me.

But a sizable portion of the known readership of this blog will know I took the day off work today, and it seems some explanation is in order.

I've been "elevated", which is a nice euphamism for hypomanic, for the best part of a month and a half now - those who know me well can usually pick up on the signs of this and figure it out without being told.

For a long time, it was pretty much "all positive" from my point of view - yes I was more irritable, more "intense", less patient, never able to shut up, etc etc etc. But I had tremendous amounts of energy and felt like I was getting a hell of a lot of good stuff done in my life, professionally, socially, and personally, especially in contrast to the shitty mixed depressive
symptoms I had immediately after my return from New York City. And I was managing to still get enough sleep, get out of bed reasonably early, eat well, exercise a lot, and so on. Some negativity remained of course but I was doing my best to use it for its evolution-given purpose: as an ongoing catalyst for healthy, positive change.

Over the last week, though, I became more mixed - I could speculate a lot over the exact triggers but suffice to say behavioural red flags started creeping in. I missed a critical "lets start planning for how we move forward from here" kinda appointment with my psychiatrist on Monday, having gotten wasted the night before. I was late to my exercise session with my mental health nurse on Thursday. The apartment became rapidly and noticably messier. I missed some of my planned morning walks. I was staying up til stupidly late hours reading pointless flame wars on the internet. Etc, Etc, Etc.

These day my insight is usually pretty good for someone with my condition, and I could see the regression long before anyone else had a chance to notice the extent of the subtle shift, but I wasn't really sure how to take action. So I took the standard plan of attack - doing absolutely nothing, but just willing myself to go back to how I'd been the week before.

Then last night I stayed up late, again, having had less than 5 hours sleep the night before. I knew I had to go to bed - I needed a really solid night's rest before going to work in the morning. I resisted, fucked around, didn't go to bed. A friend of mine IM'd me at 4:30 in the morning to ask what the hell I was still doing up. A very good question.
I was now caught in that tired old trap - even if I could get a couple of hours sleep and get up, I'd be far worse than useless at work, and make all my colleagues life actively harder. But if I didn't go to work, I would sleep til some stupid time, my whole circadian rhythm would be devastated for days to come, and over the medium term things might deteriorate even further.

In the end, I didn't sleep at all. This is a risky "strategy" because the (hypo)manic symptoms can get worse the longer you go without sleep. But if you can go the entire next day without sleeping, then go to bed as soon as you start to feel tired in the evening - before you get a "second wind" - you can get back on track for an early rise the day after and thus resestablish a proper sleep cycle.

I called in sick - hopefully not causing too much disruption. It took 3 attempts to do so - I would pick up the phone, and then literally get distracted and not make the call.

Then I thought, right, I need to get out of the house, get some fresh air, exercise, stay awake, without getting more elevated. So I'll call a trusted friend, meet up, go for a walk around a park or something. Chat, but try to lay off the more heavy duty flight of ideas babbling. This was a genuinely good plan. Here's how I carried it out:

Where's my phone? In my pocket? Oh the other pocket.

Oh, the charge is about to die. I should go back and charge it. OK, walk towards the apartment.

No wait, if I go back home, I'll got to bed and fall asleep. Bad idea.

I'll go for a walk down to the oval.

No, wait, I shouldn't go wandering off on my own without a means of contacting someone. And its stupid to go walking before getting breakfast. I'll go get some noodles for breakfast, the shopping centre is open now.

No, before I should do that, I should call someone - keep an outside party in the loop.

No, wait, its too early in the morning, I'll be waking people up. And making them panic unnecessarily.

No, I should call them. Its important.

Wait, my phone isn't charged. That's right. If I go back and charge it, I can spend some time on my computer, which will keep me awake.

No, the interent will just stimulate me more. Maybe just 1o minutes of lying down would be good.

No...... etc.

This kind of Executive Dysfunction is actually in a sense a mild symptom. It makes you utterly unable to get anything done - and I mean get anything done, I've spent hours trying to start to do something as simple as the dishes while in this state - but its not actually really dangerous at all in its own right, except to the extent it make you oblivious to your own surroundings.

After a good solid couple of hours of this crap, I managed to get a breakfast of a springroll and a Vietnamese pork roll (which I barely remember eating), and eventually succumbed to the temptation to "briefly rest". I wokeup about an hour and a half ago, which was 8:00 pm, local time.

Hopefully the drugs will knock me out tonight and I'll be able to get to work and have an ok day, and turn around this briefly bad patch.

Anyway, that's my "a day in the life of someone with Bipolar Disorder" post. I don't really want to make a habit of them - I prefer to read about people's ideas than their lives, and so this blog implicitly assumes the same about you, Non-Existent Reader. Also, Bipolar Disorder is genuniely quite boring a lot of the time.

However one of my recurrent "Big Important Ideas" that's been at the forefront of my mind lately is using my own experiences and insights to try and help contribute to a world where mental health problems are less debilitating, not just for me but for everyone. Spreading awareness is a big part of that. (Mental Health First Aid Certificates, anyone? I'm going to keep pushing and pushing that one with friends, family and colleagues until long after I've been asked to shut up.)

The 500 ideas for other blog posts I've had recently are bearing some fruit - hopefully a couple of the more polished ones will see the light of day soon. The first installment in my latest series of political rants is starting to get dated, and I've actually drafted a pretty big portion of it, so that's my next current top priority. But I make no guarantees. You might get 50 blog posts over the next month, or zero. That's just how it is, I'm afraid.

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