How Do You Deal With Unpredictability?

The one thing I dislike most about my mood disorder is the fact it is so darn unpredictable.

If being crazy is described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome,  I am not sure if I am crazy.  Experience tells me my mood is a balancing act and doing the same thing definitely does not give the same outcome!

I can miss a night and nothing changes or miss a night and all sorts of mood shifts happen.  Other times I miss a night to get myself out of depression – and it works,  but it’s not a given. Even though I know it is not the best way to deal with mood shifts,  I think we all at one time or other deal ‘unconventionally’ with it.  Yes?

Sometimes I can drink alcohol and all is fine with the world the next day.  Other times however,  I wake up in a funk that can last a while.  I discovered some months ago that when I have a full belly,  I can tolerate alcohol without any seeming side effects.  Since I love me some dry red wine,  I was ecstatic!  But because I haven’t been drinking it for years,  my memory has made it more delicious than the reality proofs to be.  Such a shame :-(

As I am dealing with a lot of tiredness,  from work,  allergies and diabetes,  I sometimes don’t know if I am plain overtired or depressed.  In both cases I end up doing nothing and not interested in doing things I previously enjoyed doing.  I force myself in going to the gym every Wednesday morning.  It helps it is right around the corner at my physiotherapists office in a small group  (up to 6 people) under the guidance of a physiotherapist.  I really enjoy it.  However,  I don’t enjoy getting up  -  which takes me about an hour.  And after fitness,  most of the time I need a nap to recover!

Of course the biggest unpredictable aspect of a mood disorder is when your mind plays its tricks on you.  When you wake up in a funk or hyper for no reason whatsoever.  Also,  you never are sure about the triggers of a mood swing.  I usually know if my mood is triggered and by what or if it is chemical, my brain ‘misfires’.  It does help to be able to distinguish between the two.

When a trigger is the cause,  I deal with the trigger as best I can, which influences the mood I am in.  Or at least,  it should :-).  If the trigger is a high stake emotional response that I can’t deal with on my own,  I know that (usually) within a week I’ll speak with my counselor and we’ll deal with it together.  Since about a half a year,  through knowledge and experience,  I am able to keep going even when the path is rough.

When the reason is a misfiring of the brain – the only thing I do is accept it and ride it out as best as I can.  The survival technique I turn to is mindfulness – staying in the moment and not allowing my mind to wander off too much.

Acceptance is the key word in both instances.  To accept the fact you are triggered and the trigger itself or to accept the fact that this is the way your brain works at times.  This I find not easy,  at times it is a real struggle.  But when I am able to accept either one,  it helps me enormously in continuing my normal life. Whatever normal means,  of course!

What is most important to me is to be able to function whichever is the cause.  I do not allow my mood disorder to define me – so I want to be the one in charge and not the mood disorder.

What are your ways to deal with the unpredictability?  Please share in the comments and link up to your own posts how you deal with this.  I won’t be the only one who is interested in broadening the tool box!

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Five Minute Friday: Brave…

Around here we write for five minutes flat on Fridays. At least,  that is the case when you link up wuth the Gypsy Mama!

We finger paint with words. We try to remember what it was like to just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Where your words are welcome, just as they are! 

  1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
  2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
  3. Meet & encourage someone who linked up before you.

OK, are you ready? Give us your best five minutes on:

Brave…

Even thoughn the sictionary says being fearless is synonym for brave, I actually beg to differ. I think being really courageous includes having fear, but despite it moving forward.  It is looking your fear in the face, laughing at it, knowing it won’t win, because youa re bold enough to not let it rule you. Oh yeah, it’s there, but that’s okay. 

I have made a few courageous decisions – and not without fear of doing the wrong thing. But at the same time, I thought: what is the worst that could happen? That I am wrong? SO WHAT?! The earth will not give way, my life will not end, what actually is the worst that could happen? Well, that it wasn’t the right decision.

For me the freedom is in being free to decide what I want. And I don;t mean it in a selfless way at all. It is realising God is sooooo big, He can deal with whatever I throw at Him, whatever I decide. He will not leave me or forsake me just because I did it wrong or didn;t do it right. There can be a difference in these two, you know.

It is in knowing that I can never walk away from His love and acceptance. No matter what I do. Because He was brave enough to carry the consequences of all wrong desicions of mankind. And because of Him, I am free to be and free to live. Free to be brave in whatever I decide to do. Because of Him I can face fear, and not let it rule my life. Because of Him I can not only dream, but pursue fulfilling my dreams.

And if that is considered brave, I can only consider it a privilege to live in the freedom that He has provided me. It would be a shame to let myself be cocooned in when He has set me free to be who Iam.

STOP

Now it is your turn!

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Achieving Freedom…

Sometimes you have to revisit the choices you have made to see if they were really right decisions.  Maybe at the time they seemed what was best,  but circumstances change,  or you yourself change,  and you find that earlier choices are actually restraining you from being who you are.  When you find you are restrained and hold back, particularly in being who you are,  you need to be bold in reconsidering and perhaps changing your ways.

This is what I have been doing in some areas in my life in the past months.

There are two choices that I reconsidered that stand out.

One is to leave the church I have been part of for over 20 years.  My choice is wholly my own and is not influenced so much by the church as it is by my development and growth.  It’s not based on certain negative aspects of the church,  as you can find fault anywhere where people are involved.  No.  It is my desire to be free,  which I can liken to a butterfly coming out of its cocoon.  Does it resent the place it is coming from?  No, thanks to that process inside the cocoon,  the butterfly has become who he is.  Does he therefore stay there?  No,  it takes off in the air to enjoy his life as he is meant to do.  He is free to go and fly wherever his wings will bring him.

Butterflies... always remind me of freedom - the freedom to dance, fly, somersault, sniff the flowers and enjoy life!

The second decision I made is certainly bringing freedom.  Nearly two years ago I bought a two-year online college degree stress-counseling.  The main reason for doing so was to get closer to my goal of studying for a master’s degree in USA.  Since I had only three college years which means no Bachelor’s degree, this course was to remedy that.  Once finished I should be able to apply and not get stuck in the process as before.

BUT.  Once I received the course material I wasn’t too thrilled about it.  In fact,  the way it was set up didn’t appeal to me.at.all.  On top of that the assignments were going against my grain.  I tried to get going.  And tried again.  But I could not move past it.  It just was not happening.  But I needed that course!  So I kept beating myself up,  trying to force myself to not only start but also to continue.  Then I thought:  “Oh well,  I need the time pressure in order to get and keep going.” But it just did not happen.

Some time ago while talking with someone I realised that even IF I got going it wouldn’t bring me any satisfaction,  it would be an eternal struggle instead.  The question arose: “Is it worth it?” And we concluded: “Heck, no!”  It took me some time to be bold enough to take the step to end all discussions in my head,  but later that night I went out to the underground waste bin around the corner,  reverently put my course material inside,  kept a minute silence….. and dumped it!

I did not feel instant freedom.  It was more like:  “My goodness, WHAT have I DONE?!”  But at the same time I noticed a slow release deep down inside.  I realised how much room this darn course had taken up in my head.  Whatever I was doing,  there was the eternal push – you actually should be doing course work right now – inside.  Slowly it dawns on me that I am free of that push,  free to do whatever I like,  free to not think about it.  Free to fly whichever way I want!

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945)Speech, September 22, 1936


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8-ogo Marta!

I was introduced to Women’s Day or the 8th of March, when living in Ukraine.  At first I thought it was something that was celebrated only in the former Soviet Union since I was not familiar with it being Dutch.

Later I saw the error of my ways and therefore:

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Ode to Friendship

Last weekend, I had a friends-night-out at an Indian restaurant.  Two of my favorite things: food and friendship!

In one other way it was a special evening as we remembered when and how we met including the huge obstacles our friendship had survived. It is truly a miracle that we remained friends…  So I cherished their presence that night, drinking in their friendship, their loyalty and acceptance, even though that same evening I shared a decision I had made that I knew was hard for them to understand.

But one thing I knew: I am safe with them, as no matter if they understand me or not, we will still be friends.

And you know: one friend in particular has seen the ugly side of my bipolar and has been on the receiving end of my struggles once I left my parents’ home, since we shared an attic apartment for one and a half years.

There are a handful of people in my life that stayed true to me, despite the hard times, when I was stubborn, headstrong, inflexible, wanting things my way because I was convinced it was much better.

Looking back, I understand how my bipolar showed itself through it all. At the time, none of us knew anything, other than that I suffered from horrible, deep and long depressions.  Those precious people accepted me the way I was: intense, driven, headstrong, immovable at times, sticking to my opinion, even when proved wrong (yeah – talk about stubborn…) and the total opposite when depression hit: not being able to get up, incommunicable, unsociable, withdrawn, isolated.

In fact, a couple of times my friends took care of me when I was immobilized because of my illness. Like: cleaning my home, doing the week-long gathered dishes (I kid you not!), bring grocery shopping and, so important, doing so in love and understanding. Another friend took me in for three weeks and I became part of her family, so I didn’t have to take care of myself but could focus on getting myself back on my feet.

Precious, people, so unbelievable, amazingly, awesomely precious!

It blows me away that there are people who care enough about me that they visited me from the Netherlands when I lived in the States and took me on holiday. My bipolar was flaring up, but it bothered me more than it bothered them. I can’t wrap my head around it, peeps, I just plain and simply can’t.

I know this also reveals an awful lot about me and how I feel about myself… But listen up, you can’t earn friendship or make it happen. It’s not something that let’s itself be forced. A friendship needs nurturing, love, acceptance, endurance, patience and a whole host of other things.

I am grateful for those handful of people who walked into my life and decided to stay and hang out with me for all those years (in between 18 – 26).

Also, I love to make new friendships, something that just happens while living my life.

The only prerequisite? Be open, loving and accepting of people, be yourself as you let others be and soon enough you’ll find the one’s it really clicks with!

Thank you, all my dear and precious friends, thank you! You’ll never really know how much you mean to me – there is just no way to express it… no matter how hard I try!

So, to all my friends, however long I know you:

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Five Minute Friday: Awake…

Once again I am joining The Gypsy Mama:

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

For fun, for love of the sound of words, for play, for delight, for joy and celebration at the art of communication.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

  1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
  2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
  3. Most important: comment and encourage the person who linked up before you.

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Awake…

I didn;t feel particially awake this week…

I felt overwhelmed by a host of emotions that actually knocked me off my feet, in a quite literal sense. I haven;t been able to do much of anything. I am proud that I was awake enough to go to work and continue my one hour session of fitness mid-week. Other than that, I felt oblivion to the rest of the world, cocooned in my own world where my thoughts are swirling around, making my head hurt and my heart ache.

I encountered and was confronted with a part of me related to my bipolar and my upbringing that failed to correct my behaviour and help deal with this particular trait. It hurts like hell and makes me hate my bipolar with a passion.

If I thought I had accepted my bipolar, this was a confrontation that made it clear that to some degree I havent.

As long as it only inconveniences and influences me, I am quite allright with it. As soon as it starts to mess with (precious) relationships, I am off kilter and get knocked out sometimes pretty severely.

I hadn;t seen it coming. I couldn’t to be fair.

To awaken to some parts of yourself that you rather wouldn;t have is a painful business.

Of course the good side of it is that I have the opportunity to work on it and change it. It’s never too late for change, thank God!

All the same, the shut down functions pretty good in my circumstances and to awaken to my painful feelings concerning thsi issue isn;t easy.

Accepting oneself with the odds and particularities one has, isn;t an easy mission. Yest it is one I am determined to fulfil.

Why?

Because I want to learn to cherish myself as much as I cherish my friends…

STOP

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FIve Minute Friday: Roar…

OK.  I am linking up with The Gypsy Mama again for 5 Minute Friday!

Here goes:

The first Friday of the new year.

Let’s do it. Let’s just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Let your mind and your words and your heart fly free; wild – no editing, no over thinking.

Won’t you join me?

  1. Write for 5 minutes flat – don’t edit; don’t second-guess.
  2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
  3. Must: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Roar…

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The first association I have is: Aslan…

The beautiful Lion, who roars in the movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, about Narnia.

THe Lion who is good, but not necessarily ‘safe’.

The cry of: ‘it is all over! The battle is won! I am victorious!”

As my word for this year is Freedom, I feel that roaring is part of it. I am going to bellow it out: I.Am.Free!!!

Emerging from years of desert, I feel like the Lion, Who overcame the battle for  me.

I don’t know why it has been dark and dry for so long. I don’t know why I had to cry in my heart for relief for so long.  I don’t know the ins and outs of it.

But I do know that He is carrying me out.  I do know that I have survived. More, much more, than survived. I.Am.Alive!!!

I do know that it is going to be a good year, not necessarily safe, but good. And I’ll take that!

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Guest Post II by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

Introduction:

JLLopez1006 is the creator, writer, and designer of the online blog My Life as a Zombie, a blog for those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)– those who understand. Likewise, the blog is also for those that are lucky enough not to suffer from S.A.D.– those who do not understand, but seek to.  Her blog was started to increase awareness and understanding of S.A.D., as well as to be part of a support system available to those who suffer.

JLLopez1006 is self-employed as a Freelance Writer and Blogger.  After being self-diagnosed, she was professionally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in Spring 2008, and counts it as a blessing every time that she survives another northern United States winter.

This is the second installment of  Fighting the Good Fight  jllopez Guest Post giving you tips on how to deal with S.A.D.  I trust the previous post was helpful for you as it was for me! I am very honored to have her as my guest here on my lil blog,  thank you so much jllopez! So, here goes! 


  • Supplement for lack of natural light– Even if you get natural light, you may still need to supplement with artificial light. Choose a light that simulates sunlight and is designed to treat S.A.D. A regular light will not do the trick. Use it in the morning to start your day off right, or in the late afternoon or evening to keep yourself awake and going. If you have insurance and have been professionally diagnosed with S.A.D., check with your insurance provider to see if they will cover the cost of a light box in lieu of prescription antidepressants or regular light therapy visits. I was able to do this—I just had to have my therapist write a prescription for the light, and my insurance covered the cost in full.
  • Keep shades to a minimumI am speaking about two types of shades here. First, when you get out and it is sunny, remember that you need the light to reach your eyes. Wearing shades may block the light. I choose to forgo sunglasses for the sake of treatment during the winter. Though I cannot speak on the long-term effects of doing so in regards to cataracts or damage to the eye, I do know that when you use a light box, the light must go into your eyes, so I apply the same concept with natural light. Second, when in your home or office, keep window shades, blinds, or curtains to a minimum by opening them during the day. You will get some added natural light, plus you will save money by heating up your space naturally and not having to turn on so many lights.
  • Take a vacation from S.A.D.—If you are able, it is recommended to take a vacation to somewhere that receives more natural sunlight (think south) to help break up the long winters. I have done so at the end of March for a couple of years, and it helps me to get through the time when my collective sun deficit is at its worst. One word of caution, though: Coming back to where you live may cause a dramatic “let-down.” I heard one story told of a woman who did the same thing, came back to her home in Europe, was unable to deal with her situation after a dramatic “letdown,” and she ended up committing suicide. Though this is an extreme example, I have experienced a similar effect, so please be prepared for the possibility, and do not let it take you by surprise.  If the reaction is strong, make sure to get help.
  • Get a little helpI used to just deal with the overwhelming fatigue on my own. More recently, I have learned to take supplements and use caffeine in order to help myself through this time. Bananas are supposed to be helpful in treating S.A.D., in addition to Vitamin D. You may be able to find vitamins that specialize in providing added energy. As long as they are not harmful, don’t feel shy to use things that can help you get through winter.
  • Keep yourself busyThough I know some people choose to reduce their workload during winter, I have found that getting involved with activities that I like helps to keep my mind off of the long winter days.  In particular, working from home in a creative field has allowed me to stay productive in a therapeutic way.  Try to find activities, whether work-related or leisure, that help to pass the time.  The key is to stay busy, but do not overload yourself or force yourself to do things that will only exacerbate your S.A.D.  Stress can be a contributing factor to causing a breakdown due to S.A.D., so you should avoid it as much as possible.  In addition, staying busy with activities that you enjoy can help to keep your brain sharp as you fight the mental fog that S.A.D. often brings.

The mentioned methods are just some of the ones that I personally use to survive winter as someone who is fairly severely affected by S.A.D.

Please note that I am not a medical professional, and it is always recommended that you consult a doctor or therapist prior to attempting any form of self-treatment.

Likewise, what works for me may differ from what works for you, so it is a good idea to figure out what helps you to make it through the day.

Learning what works for me has helped me to get back to being a fairly normal and functional person in spite of the winter season.  Before I was diagnosed, I was a mess, barely able to get by in life. Now that I know what I am dealing with, I am able to handle it more effectively.  When it comes to surviving Seasonal Affective Disorder, knowledge is truly power.

Don’t forget to visit  My Life as a Zombie  and give some comment-luv to my special guest!! Thank you!

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Guest Post I by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

Introduction:

JLLopez1006 is the creator, writer, and designer of the online blog My Life as a Zombie, a blog for those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)– those who understand. Likewise, the blog is also for those that are lucky enough not to suffer from S.A.D.– those who do not understand, but seek to.  Her blog was started to increase awareness and understanding of S.A.D., as well as to be part of a support system available to those who suffer.

JLLopez1006 is self-employed as a Freelance Writer and Blogger.  After being self-diagnosed, she was professionally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in Spring 2008, and counts it as a blessing every time that she survives another northern United States winter.

Today and in a second guest post next week you are getting advise from a “pro”!  Thank you so much jllopez1006 for your contribution on this topic!! I am sure it provides you with useful tips on how to deal with the S.A.D. elements in your life or,  at the least,  understand someone else who does.

Fighting the Good Fight

Seasonal Affective Disorder is one of those things in life that you can simply do without. Until you have it, you don’t get it; and once you have it, you sure wish that you didn’t.

S.A.D. affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically, temporarily numbing who you are as a person, dumbing down your senses, and turning you into a shadow of your former self. That is why I named my new S.A.D. blog “My Life as a Zombie,” because very often, in my opinion, “being affected is more like being infected.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder can disenfranchise you from others during this difficult time of year, can cause your brain to work at a reduced level, and make even normal physical functionality tough to handle. You may find yourself retreating away from others and activity; and likewise, others may feel the need to distance themselves from you, because they think you are a “downer,” that you are negative or pessimistic, or that you just like to be depressed.

This time of year demands that you learn your own personal rules of survival in the fight against Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here are some of mine:

  • Step into the light — Though days are short and natural light is minimal, try to take advantage of sunlight when it is available.  For me, that means getting out during the day and enjoying the sunlight as I do my errands. I also started working from home to allow myself the freedom to get out during the day rather than be stuck in an office with minimal light.
  • Get ample rest — It may seem simple, but it is vital to get enough sleep during this time. You know that you will still feel sleepy throughout the day, but sleepiness is different from sheer exhaustion because you have been succumbing to late nights and early mornings. Make sleep a priority, even if you have to take naps to get it all in.
  • Eat, drink, and be merry — Though you do not want to overdo it, make sure to get enough to eat and drink. Hunger or dehydration can cause you to experience fatigue, and considering how prone to feeling tired that you are already, you don’t want to make it any worse.
  • Do what cheers you up — As you struggle through the long winter, allow yourself to experience comfort and joy in ways that you can. For me, I like to read, eat out, go online, and watch movies. Despite what others may think or doctors would recommend, I do not choose “feel good” movies or books. Rather, many of them are actually very emotional and possibly depressing. But since I feel less during the winter, it actually helps me to feel again, so for me, it is a positive thing. Since I abhor cold weather and snow, I avoid being outside as much as possible, which, in turn, shelters my psyche.  Do what makes you personally feel more alive.
  • Be social on your own terms — For those suffering with S.A.D., it can be hard to keep up with the social requirements that may be expected of you. Rather than cut yourself off from the world for a few months, learn to relate to others in ways that you are comfortable with. I find social networking to be even more vital during the winter, as it is a great way to stay involved with others in spite of my own personal funk.  Same goes with email—since I like to write anyways, I am more likely to converse with people if I do not have to speak to them in person or on the phone. This is also helpful because I can do it when I want and when I have time—if I get overwhelmed, it is easy to leave it for later.

Look for the second installment here next week!  In the mean time don’t forget to visit My Life as a Zombie and leave some comment-luv for my special guest! Thank you!

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Five Minute Friday: Connected

Rather late,  but nevertheless joining in with:

  1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
  2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
  3. Most important: visit, comment, encourage the person before you.

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on

CONNECTED

As sad as it is, it immediately reminds me of the opposite: disconnect…

Why?

Because that it one of the first things that happen when I drop or glide into depression.  Which happened several weeks ago.

THe first thing is a disconnect with my body – which result in excess sleeping and messing up my sleep-wake cycle;  eating habits go down the drain,  I either eat everything I can find or I don;t know what to eat and therefore hardly eat anything at all;  I don;t see the purpose of personal hygiene.

The last one is something I am ashamed of… and I do have to add that if I go out to meet with people, I will take a shower and brush my teeth.  It takes a huge amount of effort but it is fuelled by shame.

Also,  I isolate myself.  Don;t feel like connecting to anyone.  There are only a few that I will be in touch with and I am grateful for these people (you know who you are!) because somehow I feel safe enough to show myself even when I am a mess.  If it gets worse,  though,  I do a disappearing act…

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Connectedness – regardless of depression it is something I have to work hard on. And I am proud to say that I am doing so much better that even a year ago.

I like to be connected.  The ‘me’ that is caught inside when depressed,  loves to be with people.  Being an introvert, I definitely need my down time, but I have discovered that I like talking to strangers.  Just a little compliment,  remark or comment.

The interesting thing is that I have come to know that my father liked to do his round in the village he lived in the last years of his life.  He was doing his daily round talking to all those he passed on his way.

It is makes me feel connected with him that, when I am doing well, I am like him and enjoy the connection with the random and neighbouring people around me!

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