Posts tagged ‘stress’

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

Being active — but not too much

I’ve discovered something new about my bipolar and what can trigger episodes. In the past I was able to function at a higher level — I could withstand the last-minute frenzy of deadlines, intense classes and studying, caring for small children all day by myself, jet lag and other hazards of travel, and similar stressors. In a word, I could be more active. I did have episodes back then, but they were much less severe and didn’t seriously impair my daily life. And it took a more intense, sustained period of stress to trigger them.

I did not know I had bipolar disorder until I was 33. Like many others, I have stopped and started my medications along the way. I also did not take seriously the suggestions from my psychiatrist on how to adapt my lifestyle. As a result, my condition has worsened.

In the last 6 years, since the serious episode of ’01-’02, my activity level declined (partly due to medication) to such a degree that sometimes I slept several hours a day. I didn’t have a job or any social contacts where I live, I only had my family and some friends I visited in Dallas. I tried working several times but was not able to maintain it. Each time, I became very stressed and compulsive in my work, developed physical complaints such as pain over my entire body, then rapidly deteriorated emotionally, sometimes requiring hospitalization.

Even my home-based job as a freelance writer led me down that path. Earlier this year I began writing web content, and for awhile everything seemed peachy-keen. What I didn’t realize was that I was already entering a manic phase, which leads inevitably to mixed mania/depression and then deep depression. Once triggered, the cycle usually plays itself out, although some effects can be mitigated with medication and lifestyle. I am just now, in August, finishing the cycle which began in the latter part of January.

Now I know I must walk a very fine line. Too little activity, with its concomitant isolation, is bad for me and will cause depression. Too much activity, with its concomitant stress, is bad for me and will induce mania.

This is when I am very, very glad that God cares about me and will help me along this path. I firmly believe that the spiritual nature of human beings must not be neglected in emotional disorders (or any disorders). I encourage anyone with bipolar disorder to turn to the God of their understanding for assistance. Also, examine your life closely, not to condemn yourself, but to see cause and effect. In this way you will determine your own triggers and, hopefully, ways to avoid them.

August 23, 2008 at 6:08 am Leave a comment

Stress: Did you know?

Here’s something interesting I learned while at Timberlawn Hospital: Did you know that when you feel stressed, your digestive, reproductive, and immune systems shut down? The pre-frontal cortex in your brain — the part designed for rational thinking — shuts down too!

Here’s why: Most of us have heard of the “Fight or Flight” (sometimes “fight, flight, or freeze”) response. This is what happens to us when we feel that our survival is threatened — if we experience an attack by human or animal, a fire, a tornado, or a similar potentially fatal situation. Stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are released and trigger reactions throughout the organs and tissues. The body prepares to fight or run away by shutting down systems it considers to be not essential to the current crisis, and boosting systems that are essential.

This is terrific when there is actual threat to survival of ourselves or others. A mother may have ‘superhuman’ strength to lift a car pinning her child. A middle-aged man runs a long distance quickly although he is normally winded by a flight of stairs. A nurse or doctor works 40 hours straight to save earthquake victims.

But what if, due to some malfunction in the danger alert system, the hormones are being released too often, when there is no actual threat? The digestive, reproductive, and immune systems, along with the pre-frontal cortex, switch on and off frequently and chaotically. The malfunction that causes this is usually a distorted perspective on danger, possibly resulting from past trauma or disruptions of brain chemicals such as bipolar disorder or depression.

…to be continued

July 12, 2008 at 11:48 am 1 comment

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