Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mania & Depression

It was just over a year ago that I was (again) diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I say "again" because the first diagnosis came in 1991, but I was in a severe depression and the diagnosis of bipolar was based on what I had told the doctors, and not anything they'd observed. They gave me lithium and I promptly suffered a painful allergic reaction. They gave me something else (I can't remember what it was), and it didn't work, either.

Antidepressants have been somewhat helpful, but they've had their shortcomings, too. I'm not on anything now because I'd rather be depressed and not have side effects than (1) to be emotionless and blah and (2) to have to deal with side effects.

Last year, after a few particularly bad episodes (which I'm sure were related to my unhappiness at my job), I went to a shrink and he put me on yet another medication, this one an anti-seizure med that they sometimes prescribe to bipolars who haven't responded to the more common medications. I suffered a severe allergic reaction to that medication, and once again swore off all psych meds.

I haven't taken any pills for anything (other than daily vitamins) in over a year now. I would love to say that I haven't needed anything. I don't intend to be on medication again, ever, even though I still have the ups and downs. I just try to live with it.

It's stressful, and it's even worse with my life situation is stressful. Some things have come up at work lately that have caused a great deal of stress, not just for me, but for everyone. So on top of that stress, I'm doing the yo-yo thing with my moods--one morning I'll be brimming with energy and joy, and three hours later I'll be fantasizing about crashing my car. Sometimes, when the low moods hit at school when I have an "audience," it is nearly impossible to hold it together. I've only had one day when I've actually had to leave school as a result of a crash. Overall, having an "audience" has been good for me, I think, because it forces me to deal with the crashes and work through them.

I find that exercise is the best "treatment" for the mood swings. When I'm "high," I just get on the elliptical machine or the Stairmaster and just go for an hour or more. Then I do weights. All of the physical exertion helps to temper the adrenalin (or whatever) overflow. If I'm "down," I'll get on the treadmill and just walk at a slow pace. After a while, I start feeling better. I may not feel good enough to do a real workout afterward, but at least it beats sitting at home thinking morbid thoughts.

So it's been a "crash" weekend. I spent about 30 minutes at the gym yesterday, walking, but didn't have the energy to do anymore. I pretty much spent the whole of yesterday in the Inner Sanctum, drilling measures of my B-minor sinfonia. When I'm depressed, I find it very therapeutic to drill my piano pieces.

I went to church this morning and practiced with the praise band. My playing was awful. I was on the verge of tears and couldn't focus. All I could think about was wanting to go off and die somewhere. My throat kept closing up and I couldn't breathe, which is a sign that I'm headed for a panic attack. I left church and came home. I'm going to take a walk in a little while and see if that helps me to feel better.

Energy is a problem. I could go to sleep right now and stay asleep all day. The thought of all the work I have to do today (grading papers, planning classes, writing a test) is just overwhelming. I don't know how (or if) I will get it done. All I really want to do is sit in the Inner Sanctum and drill my arpeggios.

I feel so tired and worn out today.

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