Monday, April 22, 2013

Healthy Ways to Manage Bipolar Swings

I have been getting more and more off over the last week, feeling tired, disconnected, angry, and depressed. There have been triggers, but also something (we are not sure what) that is making the triggers worse than usual. So the theme of this week has been: What can we do to interrupt the downward spiral, or at least lessen the magnitude of it?

Cleveland Metroparks. Copyright Jeff Norris.
Last weekend on a particularly depressed day, my husband and son took me for a walk in the Metroparks. I was really resistant to it and it took a good half hour before I started to feel some joy again. They made sure we walked, but also had time to just sit in nature and hear the water rushing down the river.
We also made sure that I exercised at CrossFit three times last week. On Friday I was so angry when I woke up, and normally I would not go out in public, but Jeff got me to go to CrossFit anyway. I did feel better after the workout and it allowed me to manage later triggers in the day better because my anger did not skyrocket thanks to the exercise. Now today I woke up even more angry and also feeling physically sick due to all the junk food I ate yesterday. I finally got to CrossFit, assuming the same thing would happen as last Friday, but even just into the warmup, I could tell all my muscles were like lead and everything was just so hard to do. I got part way through the workout and stopped. I was pretty upset about that, but Jeff reminded me that even part of a CrossFit workout is normally a full work out for most people, and that I actually got there on a day when I usually would have stayed in bed. So, it is progress even if it is not as much as I had wanted it to be.

Right after CrossFit though, I felt pretty bad about ending my workout and was just an angry mess when we got home. So, Jeff talked to me, and got me to let him do the meridian work on my feet. He said the angry energy was literally burning his arms during the energy work. It did calm me down though, after I was done trying to resist it working. Then Jeff got me some food and tea and had also emailed my therapist. So, by the time my therapist called, I was doing much better and we could look at the situation and find out why it might have happened and I am looking forward to my appointment tomorrow.

Today I will still be lounging around a lot. I will make sure I don't go anywhere on my own because I don't want to end up getting fast food and making myself even sicker. I will have Jeff hide all the car keys tonight so I do not try and go to Dunkin Donuts in the middle of the night.

To some people these tactics might sound extreme or weird, but there are so many illnesses where you have to manage the symptoms, where you have to intervene to lessen the effects. What I don't think we talk about enough in mental health is that there are many non-pharmacological things you can do to stop or lessen a downward spiral. We also need to realize that we need understanding and compassionate people to help us because sometimes we can not do it on our own. If Jeff had not sat holding my feet even when I was arguing with him, I would not have been able to calm down. It took about five minutes of me trying to say this was not going to work until it did work. Even my workout this morning, I waited it out to see if it would help. And it did, because it kept me committed to my healthy lifestyle, got me out of the house, got me some exercise, and made it easier for me to calm down later in the day. Now, if I can just get in some family time, and meditation or art practice today, I think things will go even better.

Depending on the severity of your illness, managing it can be a full time job at times. It is not fun. It is tiring for everyone involved. You wish you could be like everyone else, but we rarely realize that everyone else has their issues too, we just don't know about them.

One of the things that has really been helping us add in simple things to help me is Mariel Hemingway and Bobby Williams' book Running with Nature (formerly The WillingWay). I will write a review on it soon, but basically it has many suggestions of how to calm your mind and feed your spirit, such as taking the time to sit and listen to nature, or meditation techniques. The book has made us much more mindful of the options we have for helping all of us be happier and healthier. 

So, just try anything healthy in order to help yourself manage the hard times. Even if you don't want to do it. Tell yourself you will try it for just five minutes and see what happens.


Rev. Katie


  1. Oh, Rev. Katie,

    What a brave telling of your days, and of the difficulties of your illness, and how much work it can be at times to stay in recovery (as best we can), and how it often 'takes a village' to emerge from bipolar symptoms.

    I have a friend who recently helped me out of the pit of fear and worry, and I was able, because of her, to attend a joyful conference - to be with people, to have a forum for self-expression - and to enjoy a beautiful Baltimore Spring Sunday on a gorgeous college campus.

    The trees and the blooms seem to be saying in unison that my decision to get out of the house was a good one. :) :)

    I understand Rev. Katie.
    I understand..................

    1. I am so glad a friend was able to help you. It does take a lot of people at times, but it is great people are willing to help. I hope you have some more great days outside!