Archive for September, 2008

Rapid cycling

Lately I’ve been having mood swings that are larger than usual. They are quicker as well. I have a personal mood scale from -3 to +3, with “normal” range (for me) being between -1 and +1. Even within that normal range, I don’t typically move from the top to the bottom or vice versa without spending a fair amount of time in the middle (I’m speaking of hours here).

The past week or so the range has been wider. I have been hypomanic, up to about a +2, and depressed down to -2 within a 24 hour period. This doesn’t happen every day (thank you Lord!). Also, I think the depression is largely situational (death of my cat), because before that I was fairly solid hypomanic for a few days.

I was researching bipolar disorder on eMedicine and found out that rapid cycling increases with age — just peachy, eh? I think after awhile one tends toward mixed episodes rather than discrete mania or depression.

On the other hand, perhaps I am simply more sensitive to the symptoms, due to increased insight into the hidden workings of my mind.

All "Mixed" Up

This is your brain on a mixed episode.

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September 30, 2008 at 7:31 am 1 comment

Remembering Midnight

I didn’t know about it until mid-morning yesterday, but late Thursday night my kitty, Midnight, was hit by a car and killed. She was the quirkiest and most neurotic cat I have ever known, but I loved her anyway! She was my “baby” and my friend, especially after I began living alone. She was the one who stayed in the house the most and kept me company. I spoiled her shamelessly!

I made this video as a memorial.

September 27, 2008 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Part dream, part nightmare

Lately I have been bothered by disturbing dreams almost every time I sleep, whether night or daytime nap. They are related to the relationship I ended almost 2 months ago. It seems that ever since it started I had occasional nightmares, often related to trust issues. I was unable to fully trust. But the nature of the dreams has changed in the last two months. There is a jealousy element still, but I generally accept the circumstances, knowing that this is the way things have to be. I accept and yet I feel very sad. I suppose this is my mind’s way of starting the grieving process — sneak up on it using dreams, instead of jumping into it head first. Whatever works, I guess!

September 22, 2008 at 12:10 pm Leave a comment

Bipolar and Anxiety Disorders

A study conducted in Ontario, Canada indicated that the co-occurence (technical term “comorbidity,” which sounds worse than it really is) of multiple anxiety disorders with bipolar disorder may be more common than expected. Of the 138 individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder, over half had at least one anxiety disorder, and almost a third had two or more.

Using the DSM-IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), researchers assessed participants for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (see bottom of post for more info). The participants were re-evaluated over the course of three years to determine their clinical progress.

You might expect that having multiple anxiety disorders would result in worse outcomes, but the study showed that the type of disorder was more important. Generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia had the most negative impact (given the importance of social support in bipolar, the latter doesn’t surprise me). However, when participants with at least one anxiety disorder were compared to those without, any type of anxiety disorder resulted in a poorer outcome.  For example, anxious participants spent more of each year ill and their symptoms were more severe.

Those of us who are bipolar need to be proactive to ensure that we are assessed and treated for other disorders we may have. Although it is intensely annoying to have a string of diagnoses (and a bag of pills to go with it), failure to adequately treat one problem may hold back progress in another area.

Similarly, many physical disorders occur with or even cause psychological problems. If financially possible, get regular physicals and blood work to check for problems such as anemia, hypo/hyperthyroidism, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and others that will complicate a mood disorder.

Anxiety Disorders in a Nutshell

Panic disorder — Attacks of terror, accompanied by frightening physical symptoms (pounding heart, shortness of breath, faintness, dizziness, nausea) and an overwhelming sense of impending doom, occur with no apparent provocation.  The most crippling aspect of panic disorder is the fear of another attack, especially while driving, in public, or in another difficult situation.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder — If you watch the TV show Monk, you are familiar with this one. Persons with OCD have disturbing thoughts that will not go away unless they perform some sort of ritual. However, doing the rituals is like doing crack; over time more and more is required until the person spends most of the day doing rituals.

Post-traumatic stress disorder — First identified in war veterans, this disorder was soon recognized in the context of many other terrifying experiences that involved death or the threat of death. Natural disasters, terror attacks, rape, child abuse, car accidents and many other events can cause the symptoms. These include flashbacks (reliving the event), nightmares, watchfulness, inability to trust, and startling easily.

Social phobia — If you become overwhelmingly anxious and self-conscious in social situations, you may have social phobia. Persons with this disorder may be bothered by certain types of social situations or by any contact with people.  When they are in the frightening situation, they may experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness similar to a panic attack. They feel that everyone around is looking at them and judging them negatively. When forced to attend a social event that they usually avoid, they may dread it for weeks and begin feeling panic long before reaching the actual situation.

Generalized anxiety disorder — GAD rarely occurs alone; instead it is usually comorbid with another anxiety disorder, a mood disorder, or substance abuse. It is diagnosed when an individual spends most of the day worrying about everyday concerns. They can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Sleep disturbances and physical problems are also common symptoms.

September 16, 2008 at 6:26 pm Leave a comment

Music Therapy II

In a previous post (July 21), I wrote about my interest in self-prescribed music therapy, specifically entrainment CD’s. Entrainment is just a fancy way to say that the CD presents a sequence of music designed to train the emotions. The ones I have been making bring me gradually from depression to happiness. I think my latest one, #3, is the best so far.

1. Crush — Dave Matthews Band

A romantic song that is associated with a depressed time of my life.

2. Losing My Religion — R.E.M.

This song isn’t about religion, as you might think, but about frustration and depression. According to lead singer Michael Stipe, “losing my religion” is Southern slang for “fed up” or “at the end of my rope.”

3. Ordinary World — Duran Duran

Popular during a drastic change in my life, in which I was desparately seeking that “ordinary world.”

4. My Immortal — Evanescence

Almost any song by emo band Evanescence would do, but this is one of the most depressing songs I’ve ever heard. It is, therefore, the peak of the “depressed” portion of the CD.

5. One Headlight — Wallflowers

Although “One Headlight” talks about a suicide, it is one step up from #4. Believe me.

6. I Let the Music Speak — ABBA

Rich in a variety of emotions, the words and music in this somewhat dark song are a nice transition.

7. Eyes Without a Face — Billy Idol  &  8. Baker Street — Gerry Rafferty

Both are melancholy, but the sadness is not depression because there is still hope.

9. Turn! Turn! Turn! — the Byrds

Self-explanatory I think! If you are not familiar with the song, here are some of the words (adapted from the Bible book of Ecclesiastes):

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

10. I Made It Through the Rain — Barry Manilow

We’re now in positive territory, but this is not just a happy-go-lucky fun song. It’s a tribute to victory over grief, depression, pain, and struggles of all types.

11. Waterloo — ABBA, 12. When Smokey Sings — ABC, 13. Walk of Life — Dire Straits, 14. You Get What You Give — New Radicals.

These are the fun songs! Listening to them always makes me smile, but they work much better when preceded by the rest of the CD. The first few songs acknowledge my feelings and maybe even help me express them (sometimes I cry). Gradually I’m led into hope and empowerment, and the final four are the icing on the cake!

I highly recommend this technique to anyone who has a mood disorder.

September 15, 2008 at 4:19 pm 3 comments

Hurricane Ike Effects

By the time it reached us it was actually a tropical storm, but nonetheless Ike left his mark on Marshall. My power was out for almost 24 hours. Some areas of town flooded and many trees were blown over, some onto houses.

Soon after my electricity was restored, I realized just how stressed out I had been the last few days. The exhaustion set in quickly, and my body began to ache all over. I felt mentally numb. The relief I felt just as the lights came on gave way to malaise and restlessness.

I have a theory about this. I mentioned in a previous post that stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, create a chain reaction that shuts down the reproductive, immune, and digestive systems (plus areas of the frontal cortex). My period is two days late — it was supposed to start on Friday. I have been having bouts of IBS for three days as well. That’s two systems clearly affected.

Now that the perceived crisis is over, the stress hormones ceased production and my reproductive system is functional again. It is probably gearing up for my period, and I always get terribly exhausted right before it. Plus, the absence of the adrenaline in particular has left my body without fuel. My muscles ache because they were tense under stress, readying me for the “fight, flight or freeze” instinct if needed.

I knew that I was nervous and anxious, but I didn’t realize just how anxious I was! I did not expect to feel like this when everything went back to “normal” — I expected to feel normal. LOL

September 14, 2008 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment


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