Bipolar Thoughts

Here is something that has come up in conversations with three different people in the last two weeks. It also continues to be part of the puzzle in therapy. I believe I have touched on this before, if not written a complete blog about it. But it is important so here we go:

Sometimes, it feels good to feel bad.

I don’t think this is unique to bipolars, or even people with mental illness. I think this is most likely true with almost everyone. But it tends to be more severe and debilitating for people like me.

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Bipolar Thoughts

I recently fielded a question about depression that I thought I could turn into a very helpful blog post.

The question was this: I sometimes get sad for maybe a week or more, like really sad. Am I depressed? Is my depression the same as yours?

The easy answer is, yeah you probably are depressed or experiencing depression as an emotional state. And yes, your depression probably feels like some of the depression I have felt in my life as well. People with mental illness don’t experience a different set of emotions than you, they just experience them differently.

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I used to travel a lot for a job I used to have, like all over the country.

I was mostly doing work evaluating code and ADA compliance for CVS stores. It was boring work, and long days, but I got to travel to a ton of great cities and eat great food and drink great beer all on the company dime.

I worked mostly in Texas and Florida, but I hit almost every southern state and a lot of the plains states and even Wisconsin once. And one thing was true when I talked to people in every single one of those states. They said some version of “don’t like the weather, wait around 15 minutes”, something we often say in Michigan. The first time I heard someone mention it to me was in Pensacola, Florida. I thought to myself that well, Florida can be like that sometimes. It was just funny that the phrasing was so similar to a phrase so often said in Michigan that it feels like part of your DNA.

Bipolar Thoughts

I really enjoy movies.

Comedies are my favorite, but I will watch pretty much anything. I certainly don’t mind a “chick flick”, and I’m not above a fart joke, in fact, I find them hilarious. I try not to watch anything previously nominated for “worst movie of the year”, but that is pretty much my only line. However, since having a child, my time has become more valuable, and I try to do some research before I watch a movie.

I used to love movies because I could escape into them. I would love the theater, the all-encompassing experience of sitting in the dark with a massive screen. I would just not be Steve for a couple hours, I could transform into this casual observer of another existence.

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Bipolar Thoughts

Red, Black and Purple have been my favorite colors for most of my life.

When I was a kid, I primarily wore black clothes, much to the chagrin of my stepmother who was constantly asking me to wear more colors. I finally came around to wearing red in late middle school. And due to some serious peer-pressure I switched to a much more colorful wardrobe by senior year. But if I had my druthers, even today, I would happily wear all black all the time.

When I was a kid, the only music I listened to was heavy metal and hard rock. Metallica, Pantera, Guns and Roses, Megadeath, Motely Crue, Black Sabbath, Kiss, ACDC, Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, Tool, Dreamtheater, Rush, Soundgarden, just to name a few of my favorites. I even hated the ballads that those bands put on their albums. If it wasn’t all blistering electric guitar, fast paced drums, and balls to the wall vocals, I didn’t listen to it. Once I got into a band in high school my tastes opened up to include my favorite genres of today, R&B and Jazz.

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Bipolar Thoughts

I hear a lot of people talking about living life off of the established plan. Or I hear them complain about their life being set into an expected path, and they don’t know how to get out of it. A lot of time and energy is spent trying to figure out how to get outside of the box.

To be perfectly honest, this was a huge concern of my own when I was younger. In high school I really wanted to be a musician, live out of a van on tour, and make it huge someday. My backup plan was going to be a well-respected career, like architecture, or academia. Both options, I mistakenly thought, would pay me enough and have a malleable schedule enough where I could be incredibly independent.

I also wanted to be a writer too, or an art or movie critic. I really just wanted to do whatever didn’t slot me into a 9-5 job with good benefits, married with two kids and looking forward to a trip to Disneyworld.

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Bipolar Thoughts

After my parents got divorced, my mother became increasingly mentally unstable.

I don’t remember much about the divorce, or our lives immediately after, and there are several stories to tell about this so I will do my best to stick to just one, but I can clearly recall watching her sort of drift off into a person I longer cared for, or even loved.

My mother initially had custody but my dad contested and won, at which point my sister and I moved in with my dad and my grandmother. This move happened in the winter before I turned six, I think. And I can remember, even from that early age, my mother telling me horrible things.

She would always drag me into whatever extreme emotion she was experiencing, as if my commiseration with her had to be part of her total experience. She would tell me how sad and depressed she was. She would tell me how lonely she was. She would tell me how unfair it was. She would tell me how my father stole things from her, how he lied to her, and hurt her.

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Bipolar Thoughts

I am going camping this weekend so I wont be posting on Saturday. So, enjoy this extra post tonight and I will talk to you all on Monday!

 

Well, I stumbled across an interesting form of therapy that I had never heard much about when a friend was talking about a movie on Facebook.

The therapy is called ACT, which stands for acceptance and commitment therapy. It is somewhat related to a type of therapy I am currently working on called DBT or dialectical behavior therapy. I have a workbook on DBT specifically for bipolars with suicidal ideation.

I don’t know much about therapy techniques. This is a new area of study for me lately. But what I do know is that CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, is basically what I have been given my whole life. In CBT you are often asked to expose yourself. Once you a vulnerable they often try to dig at something making you uncomfortable to make you confront it. I believe they call that exposure therapy. And it is the hardest part. Therapists don’t often give advice or insight, although sometimes they relate stories. Once you have exposed a way you think or feel, then they ask you to change that aspect of yourself, or at least modify it so it fits into your life better. Sometimes there are lifeskill training sessions where they go over how you should deal with a situation. And then they ask you to track your changes and report back often. A lot of therapy of this kind is going over things you already thought you resolved, because you haven’t. And they know you haven’t based on how you are tracking.