Friday, January 6, 2012

Year of the Sparkle Dragon: Be a better bipolar

I'm bipolar. We've established this. I say it a lot on here. Y'all are probably sick of hearing me say it. (Sorry!)

Last year was a weird year. I spent the latter half of 2012 mildly depressed, i.e., not actually sad, but miles from happy and with no particular drive to do anything. I'm still trying to work my way out of that funk. The problem with being mildly depressed is that you don't have energy for anything above bare minimum. I go to work, do as little as possible, come home, eat, blog (sometimes) and hop in my bed. Extra-curricular stuff like writing, and studying doesn't happen. Too much effort.

This year, I want to start moving forward again. That means I need to get out of the depression and try for smooth sailing.

HEAD-SHRINKER

No offence to anyone in the psychiatric profession. I just really love this term. I want to shrink heads too! Erm, right. Step 1 of the plan was to go back to the doctor. For about 8 years, I've been off meds and off shrinks, dealing with my bipolar on my own. There are two reasons for that. I have this weird thing about being dependent - which in a weird twist is why I've never done any drugs (outside alcohol and one cigarette). Secondly, the doctors never got my meds right. I was always more manic, and I was beginning to feel like the meds were going to get me killed.

Going back to the doctor is easier said then done. I'm in Japan. Native language: Japanese. I could either go to a "nearby" psychiatrist, and have my sessions in Japanese, but who wants to try and think in their 5th language when they're supposed to be relaxing? Or, I could go to Sendai, 300 km away and either $100 US on the bullet train, or a 4-hour ride on the local (one way). I chose Sendai and made a vacation of it.

Being the most indecisive person in the world, I went to both English-speaking shrinks I could find. Now I have to cut one off, and I feel strangely like I'm dating two guys. The shrink visit(s) went well. And I now have meds again. And have to go back to Sendai, every 2 weeks (for now, because there's no way I can sustain that long term).

It's too early to tell if the meds are doing their job, but I think I'm finally on the right track.

DIET

I was reading up on ADD the other day - yes, I read psych books for fun - and the author talked about a case where a guy wanted to join the military, but they wouldn't let him while he was on the meds. So the doctor taught him how to try and manage his ADD with a combination of diet, exercise and therapy. That started me researching. Could there be a bipolar diet too?

Turns out there are foods that seem to be better for keeping bipolars level.

Omega 3 fats - supplements, mackarel, salmon, anchovy, herring, tuna (not more than 3 times a month for tuna because of high mercury). This is perfect for right now, in the land where they'll eat anything out of the sea. Seriously, I expect to hear that it's coral for school lunch, any give day.

Spikes - Avoid caffeine, sugars, refined carbs, and alcohol. Basically anything that's going to be absorbed into your system fast and burned off even faster. These instabilities can spike your moods too. I'm most worried in this category. I can not escape rice in this country. I'll just have to try and make it up by avoiding rice when I'm at home, and eating more of the fish stuff. Also, I'm torn about the alcohol bit. I'm not a big fan of drinking and I've already told you guys I don't get drunk, but I hate feeling like everybody's doing something and I'm not allowed to. Anyhow, I haven't had a drop for the year. (We're what, 6 days in?) I'm also a little worried about green tea which is free at school, and which I normally drink all day to keep warm. It's a mild stimulant, so hopefully that will be okay. I'll try to stick to fruit and veggie juice mixes when I'm home. We have these amazing mixes out here, 16 veggies and 5 fruits- they taste awesome and are super-healthy. Wish the rest of the world would get on that.

Magnesium - Dark green leafy veggies, salmon (again - yay!), legumes, whole grains (difficult to find here) and supplements.

EXERCISE

Exercise is a natural anti-depressant. As much as you may hate going to exercise, after you're finished you feel happy and somehow refreshed. (Even when you're soggy and stinky!)

Exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol, helps establish good sleeping and eating patterns, raises energy levels, releases endorphins, raises serotonin levels, increases brain cells in the hippocampus AND improves self esteem. How can you go wrong?

I just got a 3 month membership at the municipal gym. (50 bucks, Baby! Perks of living in the middle of nowhere.) My mission this year is to try and get in 3 workouts a week.



SLEEP

One way to combat bipolar disease is to try to keep things level and even. We saw that with the sugars, and now with daily routine. It's best for bipolar if you get 7 or 8 hours a night. I'm a terminal insomniac, but my new meds make me sleepy as hell, and since I've been taking them I get 10 hours, whether I like it or not.

BE OPEN

Like I said, y'all have heard a million times that I'm bipolar. But as open as I am here, I'm really secretive about it in my real life. Power of the "anonymity" of the internet. I'm really uncomfortable talking about my bipolar live and in living colour. And most of my close friends don't get it anyway.

BUT it's a part of my life. There is no cure. This is me forever. If they're going to be here, they have to deal with it. And if I'm going to survive it, I have to deal with it.

I find it ironic, as I look over these, that being a good biploar is mostly being a healthy human being. Eat well - avoid alcohol and caffeine and refined sugar. Exercise regularly. Sleep well. That's how I'm trynna be a better bipolar in 2012. Hopefully I can keep it up all this year and beyond. Thank you guys for being so supportive all this time.

(PS, I have conjunctivitis. Sometimes I feel like the world's sickest healthy person.)

4 comments:

Sophia Richardson said...

I like your point about how being a healthy bipolar is pretty similar to just being a healthy person. Shame to hear about the physical illness at the end of a post about seeking mental wellness. I hope in the rest of 2012 you feel better both physically and mentally.

Jolene Perry said...

My son is ADHD, and yeah, we're starting vision therapy (totally look into this, it's awesome) and the diet thing.
he's 5 and hyperactive, so the workout thing is . . . well. Not necessary right now.

I'm always amazed at what our bodies can deal with when we're nice to them :D

Pk Hrezo said...

Hi Claire! I know bipolar is tough. Known peeps with it. Personally, I think healthy food and diet are cure for anything.... it just feels good. The more coffee or alcohol I drink,, sugar I eat--the worse I feel. But at the same time I feel like I need those things.
You know, we all have our own issues, whether it be depression or diet or whatever the case may be... and as long as we do the best we can to take care of ourselves, that's all anyone can expect. Sounds like you're doing just that. And the more we open up about our own issues, the more we bond with others and garner support that is very much needed. No one should have to go thru this life alone... it's too scary. But it can be beautiful too. And I know I'm rambling, but it's early and I've just had a cup of coffee.... lol.
Peace and love for the new year!!! :) And get back to that writing. You can do it!!!

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