Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting Through a Bad Day

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 . . .

. . . is what I do on a good day.  You are looking at the large mirror that covers one small wall in my bathroom.  You see the toilet reflected in it - see what I mean?  Those colorful stick-on Glitterpuff flowers are something I picked up on sale a while back (I sometimes get high, shopping) and sort of hid from Tom, as they looked garish when I got them home.  But then you find yourself in just the right mood one day.  (And if he's noticed them, he hasn't said anything yet.)  I must say, good day or bad, they make me smile.  Color therapy.  I'm serious about that.


  1. It would be interesting to a search of words in our “good” days and “bad” days and then try to reverse it by using the same words that typically appear in the old posts. This is not to belittle your suffering, of course.

    1. I'm not sure I understand your suggestion. Maybe you're thinking along the same lines I was last night when I posted this on my Facebook Page:

      Talking to Tom just now about these up/down days, I said, Every term I use to describe the up days is positive - good, creative, energetic. And to describe the down days I say low, low-energy, depressed, stupid, and in my mind shadowy words like worthless and dim statements like I hate this. How could I describe those days that wasn't negative?

      He thought for a minute and said, "resting." Resting days. Well. I'm going to work with that.

  2. Yes, Krishnamurti speaks a lot of this fear and anxiety people have is a result of thought, and that we are basically tapping into our loneliness, confusion and sorrow. It is not unique only to you, and the thinking mind likes to grab on to extremes.