Monday, August 28, 2006

Mood Watch - 6

People unacquainted with bipolar disorder typically think of the mood swings as being like those of a pendulum: a period of elevated mood, followed by a gradual shift to “normal,” and then eventually on to a period of depression. In fact, for many people with the disorder it isn’t like that, and in my own case I would say that the simile doesn’t apply at all. Instead I tend to drop quite suddenly into depressive spells and recover from them almost as abruptly. When I do, I generally feel a great deal of energy and a certain resistance to going to sleep. That’s how it’s been for the past few days.

The energy is, not, in and of itself, a bad thing. To some extent I think it owes to sheer relief at being part of the human race again. The things I have to look out for are along these lines: flight of ideas, pressured speech, distractibility, reduced impulse control — e.g., making a lot of sudden unplanned purchases — and so on. As long as these symptoms are absent, and especially provided I can focus on the main tasks at hand, things are more or less okay. I say “more or less” because I can never let down my guard. This is an illness that is trying to kill me, one way or another, and if it can’t kill me it wants to derail my life. I never forget that.

As for sleep: I’ve always been a night owl and the sort of person who lies awake for an hour or two before drifting off. At times such as this, when I feel a decreased need for sleep, it’s imperative to intervene with something that can reliably put me out. Historically that proved fairly hard to do. I went through quite a few medications before getting a prescription that worked — in my case Ambien CR. The previous options tended to be too clever by half; e.g., anti-seizure meds that had the side effect of causing drowsiness.

Sometimes — not at the moment, but sometimes — even the Ambien CR won’t put me down. I start feeling like a zombie in a Grade B movie: The Thing That Would Not Sleep. Luckily about a year ago my psychiatrist and I discovered, almost by accident, that Geodon is the equivalent of a headshot to that metaphorical zombie. The only problem is, when I wake up I’m groggy for hours afterward.

One final observation is in order concerning the relationship between the illness and working for long periods at the computer. Without a PC I simply could not get my work done. Even so, a hallmark of the disorder, as I have experienced it, is that working with a computer functions somewhat as catnip to the manic side of the illness. I can’t exactly dispense with it. The best I can do is walk away from it and do something else for a while.

I noticed this yesterday, for instance, while refurbishing . . . a political blog I started briefly in early 2005 before realizing I simply didn’t have time for it. For reasons I’ll get into some other time, it’s a blog I need for the next few months, so I didn’t begrudge the time. And I enjoy tweaking the templates and HTML code, etc. For me it’s like doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. But it can really suck you in. You fiddle with the code, check to see how it works, tweak it until you get it right. . . . The continuous incremental feedback seduces you to stick around for just one more fix.

The odd thing about it is, there are other times when I can scarcely stand to look at a blog, much less post an entry or do any fine-tuning.

Anyway, that’s the status for today.

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