Bipolar Thoughts

I’m writing this during a panic attack.

It isn’t exactly low grade, but I am functional during it. Normally I can’t breathe and I curl up in my bed and shake violently.

But right now I can focus and I can write.

To describe what I am feeling, I would say that my chest is tight, I am breathing heavy liked I just got done squatting a very heavy set. But my breathing often switches to short quick breaths that are similar to hyper-ventilating, but not quite to that level.

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Bipolar Thoughts

A question recently posed by my psychiatrist: what is the evolutionary advantage to feelings, specifically bad feelings like depression or anxiety?

I should first note that my doctor strictly adheres to the methodology of cognitive behavioral therapy. He believes that all emotions have triggers, and finding those triggers are the key to good health. He also believes that the difference between myself with my mental illness, and another person who does not have a mental illness might simply be varying degrees of ‘born-with’ talents and abilities. Maybe my anxiety eats me alive not because I suffer from higher anxiety levels, but because I cannot deal with normal levels like most people.

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Bipolar Thoughts

On Monday I started seeing a new therapist for the first time since I was in high school.

I have been with the same person, a LPC, for a long time, and I really enjoy seeing her but I felt like maybe I had been with her for too long and it was time to move on. So I found a Ph.D near my house and I am now seeing him on Mondays.

The first session was alright, mostly background stuff. I had to recite my sob-story, which I surprisingly hate to do. But we did get into a few conversations and it was a good time. I think it will be a good partnership with him and I am excited to continue moving forward.

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Bipolar Thoughts

I’ve mentioned multiple times before the bipolar is treated with CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy (although I do have a posting about the use of other types of therapy including ACT, but this is very new and virtually unproven). And what my therapy consists of is basically CBT.

There is a little model that you can use to imagine how CBT works, and this model is based on the notion that all feelings are associated with thoughts and vice-versa. For example, the feeling of needing to urinate is followed by the thought of having to find a bathroom. Likewise, the thought that you might fall off the edge of a building brings with it the feeling of anxiety or fear. They are joined at the hip, according to CBT.

I am not a doctor, so I am not really here to talk about the validity of that theory (I kinda think it is crap), but I am here to tell you about the method. This method seems easy to do, but I have been trying to master it for at least four years now, to practically no avail.

So here is the model:

Thoughts – Feelings = Behavior – Consequence

So basically, thoughts and feelings are associated with each other and either can lead to the either. And behavior and consequences are obviously tied together, either begetting the other. And the red arrows in between the two pairings symbolizes a choice.

The process of CBT is to identify the behaviors/ consequences, and analyze the choice. Or to identify the feeling/ thought and analyze the choice. The goal is not to eradicate the feelings/ thoughts, but to make better choices that lead to desirable behaviors and consequences.

The famous way to do this is with feel/ because statements. “I feel _______ because ________”. So when you feel depressed you say to yourself: I feel depressed because… and identify the trigger. This part is not always easy, for a number of reasons. Sometimes it isn’t easy just because a lot is going on. More often it is difficult because you lie to yourself. This is especially true when you know you are being irrational, so you put up a wall of logic around the truth of your emotion. Driving over the Zilwaukee bridge scares the shit out of me. I know I won’t blow off, or it won’t crumble. And those rationalizations disguise the truth that is I am scared my car will blow off.

A lot of the essays I write for this website happen right after therapy, and in a lot of way you get to peer into what we talked about that night. As you might have realized, I have worked out a lot of my depression becauses. I know about my body issues, my strange definitions of success, my inability to let go of the past, and my big ego.

But my anxiety stuff is mostly a mystery to me. It is an area to continue work on. And of course, just because I have recognized some causes of my depression, I haven’t worked out how to make them go away.

Today in therapy we talked about FLASH. These are the five emotions I need to focus on for my feel/ because statements. FLASH stands for Fear, Love, Anger, Sadness, Hurt (she told me to sub in anxiety, happiness, frustration, depression, an disrespect, she also told me to widen those words however I saw fit, but just remember FLASH and what it means).

Apparently these are the core five emotions to work out in CBT. Unlike the core emotions in ACT, which you can see in the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out.

I’m not too good at doing this type of thing, so we will see how it goes and what I can gain from it. Hopefully I can flashforward to a happier tomorrow!

Hahahahhaha, that was terrible!

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Bipolar Thoughts

I have had a sudden rush of symptoms pop back into my life suddenly.

My restless leg syndrome has become unbearable. And I have had sleep paralysis a half dozen times in the last couple of weeks.

But most importantly my anxiety is way up, even as my depression is starting to decrease. I’m having several panic attacks a week. I have missed a couple of family events because I was curled up in bed trembling. I can feel a heightened urgency around me, like my adrenaline is up, or something.

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Bipolar Thoughts

I feel like I am moving out of my latest depression, it has stuck around for more than a month. I am happy to report that I was more functional during this level of depression than I ever have been before. I only missed one day of work. I only hid inside my bedroom after work a couple of times. I was attentive to my family and played with my daughter, things I am embarrassed to say are not always true.

But I am more than a little hesitant. You see, I generally hit a major depression towards the end of March and through April. This is when two of my suicide attempts have been, including last year. And I spent yet another spring season doing the day program at St John Outpatient mental health services a few years ago.

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Bipolar Thoughts

Today I want to talk about therapy.

It is one of the most common joke topics in sitcoms and movies (especially from the 90’s). There are tons of depictions of it, from Office Space, The Departed, Good Will Hunting, 50/50, the list goes on and on. If I were to say one thing that is extremely common about the depictions of psychotherapy is that most of the therapy methods are extremely outdated Freudian or Jungian methods that no one uses anymore. And more strikingly, all of these therapists have boundary issues. I have been going to my therapist since I was 17, I have hugged her exactly once, we certainly don’t go grab a beer together, and she would never have my back in a parking lot brawl during an Eagle’s game.

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Imagine that your life is like the light coming out of a projector.

Sometimes the bulbs are bright or dim, some seem to last forever while other’s lives seem to be cut short early. Some just hum away practically unnoticed, while others are in constant need of attention. The light shines forward, much like our progression through time. And while the light can illuminate many objects, it isn’t really all that interesting to look at.

But, of course, we don’t buy projectors for their ambient light.

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Bipolar ThoughtsBlog

‘It will always been right in the end’

It is something we hear all the time; something we say without thinking. It is meant to be supportive, but is actually terrifying.

It obviously holds little merit. The only definition of the phrase that could offer it meaning would be to say that God makes sure it always ends the way it is supposed to. But even if you were a strict adherent to fate and eschewed all of the tenants of free will, you could ask yourself if it ended well for murder victims, just as an example.

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