Friday, October 27, 2006

Mood Watch - 26

It’s been over two weeks since my last post, and my situation continues to be much as I reported it then: sleeping more than usual and having trouble waking up. To that I would add that my energy level and what might be called my mental coordination are much less than usual. The phrase “mental coordination” is something I picked up several years ago from a psychiatrist after hearing me describe the way in which bipolar disorder generally affects me. It seemed to him that I often had mild depressive episodes whose main impact was to reduce my ability to think as quickly and creatively as I can when I’m feeling more myself.

That’s pretty much how it’s been for the past three weeks. I can’t seem to get much done. When called upon to give a lecture, manage a meeting, etc., I function okay — in fact I would say few people can tell any difference. But whereas usually such experiences are energizing, I walk away from them feeling anything but.

The principal good news is twofold. First, aside from the symptoms I’ve described I don’t feel actively miserable. Second, I had a physical exam recently in which I checked out surprisingly well. I say “surprisingly” because I am within a few weeks of my mother’s age at the time of her death, and seven years older than my father at the time of his first heart attack (by the time he was my age he’d had a quadruple bypass).

I’ll be curious to see if I’ve rounded the corner just yet. Several times now I have felt as if my energy level were returning to normal, only to find myself mistaken. I think I’m starting to improve again, but have no way of knowing until it happens.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mood Watch - 25

Still feeling OK except that a couple of days ago I began sleeping more than usual: I got drowsy easier and had trouble really waking up. Other than that, not much to tell.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Mood Watch - 24

I slept normally last night: In bed around 1 a.m., up at 7:30 a.m. to walk the dogs. This morning I feel normally refreshed — which is to say I’m reasonably awake but still occasionally yawning — and normally energized. Not much to say except that it’s surprising how good normal can feel.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Mood Watch - 23

Rats. Despite taking an Ambien CR at 11 p.m. in addition to the usual meds, I still woke up at 2:30 a.m.: just 3.5 hours of sleep. The bad news is, I can’t get back to sleep. The good news is, I feel far from fully rested. I imagine that after a few hours I’ll get back to sleep again. Luckily I have no appointments until mid-afternoon.

It’s odd. I feel almost the same irrational shame when I get too little sleep as I do when I’m depressed and sleep as much as possible. In both cases, I have to bear in mind that these are manifestations of the illness, and that beyond taking my meds and keeping a careful watch on myself, there’s not much more I can do. The best thing, I’ve found in my current situation, is to remain quiet and relaxed. Some activity is okay — it seems to keep my mind from over-revving — but it’s not a time for something like, say, cleaning the house from top to bottom. (I once knew a woman with bipolar disorder who would actually do that in the middle of the night, but until she happened to mention it by accident, and I happened to say it sounded like clear evidence of hypomania, it had never occurred to her to connect these bursts of nocturnal energy with the illness. And this was a highly educated woman, too.)

UPDATE, October 5, 1:20 p.m. - Presently I did dose off, while sitting in my office chair. Unfortunately I had a glass of Fresca in my hand and thus baptized a good portion of my lap, which woke me up again. But just temporarily: I slept until 5:30 a.m., got up, fed and walked the dogs, then crashed again until around 11 a.m.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Mod Watch - 22

Still feeling OK, but my sleep schedule has gotten knocked out of whack. I’ve been falling asleep early in the evening and by midnight am awake again. This is actually a pattern that comes naturally to me. In my early twenties, I worked a full-time office job from 4:30 p.m. until midnight, then turned to my free lance writing and continued to labor until dawn. Similarly, I composed most of my doctoral dissertation between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

I like the peace and quiet and the lack of distraction. As a rule, I find that I focus better and get more accomplished. Nevertheless, any change in my sleep schedule always gives me pause. And although I am not running much of a sleep deficit just yet, I’m down to around six hours of sleep in every twenty-four.

Emails continue to appear in my mailbox thanking me for the Inside Higher Ed article last week. Most are a pure pleasure to read, but one was a bit disconcerting. It came from an individual with bipolar disorder who was inspired by my story but at the same time determined not to take medication, work with a psychiatrist, etc. I didn’t want to give the person advice, since often people will not accept unsolicited advice. Even so, I couldn’t let it pass without at least underscoring my own convictions on the subject:

I hope you won’t mind my saying that, for my own part, I regard taking medication, seeing a therapist and psychiatrist, etc., as being of fundamental importance to managing the illness. I’m a military historian, and after a lifetime of studying war I find that using combat as a metaphor comes very naturally to me. As I said in one of my comments under the IHE piece, I regard myself as being permanently at war with an enemy that will never cease in its efforts to kill me, either through a psychotic manic high or a depression so deep I commit suicide. Carl von Clausewitz, perhaps the best known of military theorists, acutely observed that, “In war, the best strategy is always to be very strong.” In the context of managing the illness, I interpret that to mean that I should avail myself of every resource I can possibly bring to bear.

Frankly, I doubt it will do any good. People generally have to learn such things in their own time and in their own way. It took me eleven years to really face up to the reality of my situation, so I certainly have no right to find fault. That said, in retrospect I can clearly see that I was immensely lucky not to have suffered disaster during those eleven years.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Mood Watch - 21

I’m still in good spirits. Indeed, very good spirits since “An Inappropriate Illness” was published. The response it generated, both the online discussion and private emails, has really given me a sense that my life means something, that I have found a way to be of service, and that’s a feeling of extraordinary power. (To cap things off, a bipolar disorder support association in Perth, Australia, has asked permission to reprint the article in its quarterly newsletter.)

I’ve been sleeping adequately, but my schedule has been thrown off a bit by dint of getting up rather early most days this weeks and being so drowsy at times today I literally could not keep my eyes open. Thus it’s 12:30 a.m. as I write this, but I’ve just awakened after a nap of several hours.

My concentration has been good. I’ve gotten a lot of work done lately, and it’s work I’m supposed to be doing, not new projects dreamt up and pursued on a whim. My impulse control is OK. True, I did go out this evening and spend over a thousand bucks, but that was on a) a new hot water heater whose purchase I’ve delayed until the failing old water heater forced me to take action; and b) the best vacuum cleaner I can afford, because with three dogs my Significant Other and I live in a perpetual desert of dog hair. Lesser measures simply haven’t gotten the job done.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.