It's very curious to me how little professional information there is on living with bipolar disorder. That may be because chemical treatment was embraced so enthusiastically last century. Also because psychiatrists are first M.D.s, and Western medicine is simply not holistic. It embraces a very limited "science" which is constantly proven wrong (e.g. mice are not much like people, see today's NY Times). But I digress.
As that digression suggests, I'm writing on a good day. Perhaps because of going off the Seroquel, and perhaps because it's February, I am back into that peculiar schedule of good day/bad day. Having exhausted the resources of Google, I've come up with a plan for tomorrow, which may well be a bad day made worse by this cold (4th day) and even worse by Tom going out of town all day. If I don't leave the house I might not see another human face all day.
The only useful idea I was reminded of as I researched managing bipolar was the idea of putting a certain scheduling and regularity in the day. I knew this experientially, and am pleased that it's now recognized as a form of therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). Here is a quote from an article in Psych Central:
Social rhythm focuses on developing and maintaining regular routines. Research has shown that “disturbances in circadian biology are associated with bipolar disorder,” but “there are social cues that can help entrain one’s underlying biological rhythms,” Dr. [Holly] Swartz said. Such social cues include keeping a consistent schedule of sleeping, eating and other daily activities.
Add to that getting dressed with shoes on and coming out of that dark room, which are things they make you do in psych wards. So I have scheduled my day tomorrow. Unless the weather is awful, I'll even leave the house to go to the library, a nice low-stress place where I might get to smile at someone.
The single most important thing on my schedule, though is . . . I know, you guessed: my practice. I have learned that unless I'm physically very ill and fatigued, I can do my morning spiritual practice. Interestingly, that is the least depressed half-hour of a bad day. I suppose that's because I'm focused on what I'm doing and not indulging in the dark thoughts or clinging to the pains and other unpleasant sensations.
My practice has two parts, bodywork and sitting meditation, and I've spent many years learning how to do both of these in a way that works best for me. I'll discuss what I do in future posts. Here I'll say, my habit is to do it after my morning coffee but before breakfast. It is very easy to form bad habits, and hard to form good ones, but a good habit has a lot of encouragement power. It's like, I don't feel like it, but this is what I do.
And this . . .