Friday, September 29, 2006

Mood Watch - 20

The publication of “An Inappropriate Illness” generated a great deal of constructive online discussion. In addition to a number of attaboys from my colleagues in the history department, I also received about ten private emails from people around the country who knew of, or were themselves struggling with, a serious mood disorder.

The rough consensus in both the public comments and private emails was that disclosing the existence of a mood disorder or anything like it remained, even in academe, a risky thing to do. Thus I had people tell me how brave I was. I don’t know about that. I do know that some of the emails were so affecting that they moved me to tears. I felt honored to have been able to strike a blow, however modest, against the stigma that still imprisons too many people with mental illnesses behind walls of silence.

I have also been engaged over the past couple of days with a totally unrelated matter that has reinforced a sense that I can and am making a constructive difference. Thus, on the whole I’ve been feeling about as good as a man can feel. And the very best news is that I continue to sleep around six hours a night.

The only symptom I notice right now is a certain sense of feeling “scattered” — trying to keep track of two many things at once — and that seems less attributable to biochemistry than to how hectic the start of a new school year tends to be.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mood Watch - 19

Staying up all yesterday worked — I got a good night’s sleep without having to take an Ambien CR or anything, and feel fine today.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mood Watch - 18

A week ago I felt physically fine. Then within 24 hours I got walloped by the fiercest head cold I can recall ever having. “Three days coming, three days with you, three days leaving” is the conventional wisdom about head colds, and it usually holds true with me. This one compressed the first three days into an afternoon. By Tuesday evening I could breathe only through my mouth, and then with so much difficulty I sometimes literally felt as if I were on the verge of suffocation.

It wasn’t quite so bad on Wednesday and Thursday, but it was midday Friday before I felt even slightly like doing any work. Still, as the cold began to subside, my mood and energy level rapidly picked up, and from Saturday until now I’ve been in perfectly good spirits, able to focus on my work (even the stuff that requires creative thought), and very productive.

Needless to say, I slept a lot during the worst of the cold, and as late as Saturday night I slept a good eight hours, and so deeply that I didn’t wake up until after 9 a.m. But that has ended my eleven-day run of hypersomnia. I didn’t feel even slightly tired last night, so I just plowed through a back log of work, and as is my usual practice I’ll try to stay awake today so as to get back on a normal sleep schedule tonight.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mood Watch - 17

I continue to sleep more than usual and more easily than usual, though the hypersomnia isn’t quite as pronounced (or maybe I’m just getting used to it). I feel okay when I’m around people but when alone I often feel a sort of free-floating anxiety; and either way my sense of self-worth isn’t much. I try not to think of reasons to justify the lack of self-worth, which is the way one’s thoughts tend to drift. Instead as far as possible I consider it simply an artifact of the illness.

I wrote that column for Inside Higher Ed. The editor had some minor suggested revisions. I made them and sent back a final copy. The piece will most likely run next week.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mood Watch - 16

Still sleeping a lot. At such times it’s surprisingly difficult to stay awake, and when I am awake my energy level is perceptibly lower than it has been. I’m starting to feel sort of anxious as well — nothing major as yet, just a vague sense of important things undone, rather the way it feels to leave the house and think you’ve left the stove on. I’m still able to forge ahead with my work, though, and that’s a positive sign.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mood Watch - 15

Fell asleep around 11:30 last night; woke up at 2 a.m. By mid-morning I was very drowsy and slept from noon until about 6 p.m. I was awake only an hour before the z-monster got me again and I slept a further three hours.

This sounds pretty ho-hum, I imagine, but sleep is the single biggest indicator of an impending hypomanic or depressive episode, and the rules of the game with bipolar disorder say that “good sleep hygiene,” as it’s called, is imperative. That’s why I pay so much attention to it.

At the moment I still feel fine otherwise, but maybe a shade or two less buoyant. It’s hard to tell what will happen next until it does.

UPDATE, September 13, 4:27 a.m. - Slept an additional four hours, from midnight to 4 a.m. In and of itself that’s a good thing, as it has set me back on what is more or less a “normal” schedule. But the ease with which I did it, having slept so much during the day, is noteworthy, and not necessarily in a good way.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mood Watch - 14

Took a 90-minute nap yesterday afternoon and slept from about 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., albeit with frequent awakenings. At such times you feel kinda like a zombie that death itself cannot keep down. Nevertheless, even including interruptions I must’ve gotten seven hours of sleep in the last twenty-four. That’s a good sign.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Mood Watch - 13

I’m still getting less sleep than usual — only about four hours last night — but otherwise seem okay. That is to say, I detect no grandiose thoughts, flight of ideas, pressured speech, distractibility, or “excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).” I did rent a 10×10 space at a self-storage place a mile or so away and I just now dropped $300 on two four-drawer filing cabinets, the idea in both cases to help myself get better organized. If that sounds nuts, so be it.

While I’ve been sleeping less, I sure don’t feel refreshed after only a few hours’ sleep, which is the hallmark of that particular symptom. On the contrary, sometimes I get drowsy and doze off, albeit only for a couple of minutes at a time.

Ordinarily I take only Depakote (a prophylactic against hypomania) and Lamictal (an anti-depressant), plus, if necessary, Ambien CR (a sleeping medication) at night. But by a standing arrangement with my psychiatrist, at times like this I add Clonazepam (aka Klonopin, a mood stabilizer) to the mix, just to be on the safe side.

Actually, aside from being a little tired, I feel as “normal” as I can recall having felt in quite a while. I’m trying to appreciate it while it lasts, because it won’t. What’ll happen eventually is that all of a sudden my sense of being an ordinary person like everyone else will vanish, my reasons for thinking so will seem illusory, and it will seem crystal clear to me that my life is a waste, that I will never recover my old productivity, and that the attempt on this blog, for instance, to chronicle what it is like to have bipolar disorder will seem not constructive and maybe even courageous, but pointless and even inappropriate. And then I’ll just have to suck it up until things improve again.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Mood Watch - 12

Wednesday night (September 6/7) I got about four hours of sleep, but was so bleary that by mid-morning I took a 90-minute nap. Thursday evening (September 7/8) I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. and awoke — once again feeling it must nearly be dawn — a little after 2 a.m. Which makes 3.5 hours of sleep, or about nine hours in the last twenty-four. I feel OK otherwise, but until my sleep pattern improves, there’s still some danger of, to invoke the jargon, decompensation. Well, I’ve been here too often to get alarmed. I’ll just have to keep an eye on things.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Mood Watch - 11

Last night I went to sleep at about 10:30 p.m. This morning I awoke around dawn; I figured 6 a.m. or so. It took me fifteen full minutes to realize it was barely 2 a.m. Except for a bit of clumsiness in my typing, I don’t feel tired at all.

Luckily, I don’t feel like doing anything generative or creative or audacious or whatever. I’m just making a cup of coffee and starting to get on with my day.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Mood Watch - 10

Slept an unbroken seven hours last night — always a reassuring thing in the context of an overall pleasant mood. Had a good, productive day yesterday and look forward to another today. I sure hope it’s productive; I’ve got a lot to do.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Mood Watch - 9

I’m wrapping up my trip to Washington and flying home this afternoon. I’ve had a very good time — was interviewed by a film crew making a documentary about Sherman’s March and got to visit with a couple of friends, one of them a fellow Civil War historian, also flown in to be interviewed, whom I hadn’t seen in two years.

As often occurs when I travel, I have been sleeping less than normal. Thursday night it was more or less my own fault: I stayed up late and got up early in order to be as well prepared for the interview as possible. But last night I went to bed around 2 a.m., having spent the evening chatting with my Civil War friend over several pints of Guinness, and awoke around 5 a.m. I was and remain a little bleary but no way was I going to get back to sleep. It just wasn’t in the cards.

It’s always impossible to know for sure what influences my moods — how much is biochemical, how much is existential. Often I have the feeling that, because I am depressed so much of the time, the experience of just feeling normal gets amplified into exhilaration. Thus, paradoxically, feeling normal can feel a bit like the first stirrings of hypomania. And maybe it is the first stirrings of hypomania. To repeat, it’s impossible to be sure, so one just has to be ceaselessly vigilant. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to take a klonopin tablet (an anticonvulsant that, in the Alice in Wonderland world of bipolar biochemistry, is effective as a mild mood stabilizer).

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