Separating the Well and Unwell You
An important facet of pursuing wellness is understanding who you naturally are, and who you are when unwell. Do not make the mistake of falling into the mentality that normal for you is normal for all. It very likely is not. I did not understand this point myself until after I was diagnosed and really began learning about the Disorder. I realized there were metaphorically three personalities all clumped in my head. The Depressive and the Manic personalities were much more powerful than my Normal. Their presence overwhelmed it for much of my life.
Now that I know what I know, I am able to separate these illness stained personalities much easier. I have come to identify trademarks of each that I do not have when affected by a different one. This is the primary way I monitor my own moods. The following text will be a combination of questionnaire and answers. It is my hope the questions will be able to serve as a guide to figuring out who you actually are. I will provide the answers from my perspective, so that you can see how they relate to the Disorder. As a reminder, I am a Type 2 Bipolar. I do not cycle as high into mania as a Type 1. My answers will reflect that.
Be honest with yourself or you won’t make progress.
How do I separate my well and unwell thinking?
A Bipolar will normally have three base types of mentality; depressive, manic, and balanced. Each of these mentalities will have their own markers that identify they are present. Once you identify what these markers are, that information can serve as an indicator that you are moving into a different area of your mentality.
When I’m Hypomanic:
- Arrogant, Condescending, Disjointed and racing thoughts, Rage, Grandiose Thinking, Whatever I’m thinking usually comes straight out of my mouth, Cruel, Sadistic, No impulse control, Sexuality twists to lust for the misery or pain of another. Have no sympathy, regard, or kindness for another.
When I’m Depressive:
- Void, Unable to feel or care about anything including eating, showering, socializing, showing up to where I need to be. Extremely slow thought processes that make it hard to do basic math in my head, Recurring thoughts of death and suicide. In the past, I would self-harm to see if I was able to feel anything and the physical pain was easier to deal with than the void.
When I’m Balanced:
- Mentally clear, Few thoughts of death, Mental processes mostly normal, Compassionate for people that deserve it, Sociable and more outgoing.
Using This Information:
First, I realize the Balanced section is a bit weak. That is still a new area for me because since I started cycling as a teenager, I have mostly been depressed. The points I listed are indicative of when I am having a normal period.
The problem with the Disorder is that it twists your mentality in ways that is abnormal for you. The things I listed in the hypomanic category are all things I experience when I am hypomanic, no other time.
I use pressured thoughts as a starting point for determining if I am swinging hypomanic. My mind races from thought to thought, often without finishing the last one. Typically, I will end up getting frustrated with myself while trying to do something which causes me to ask the question; “Wait, what’s going on?” If I’m depressed I have slow thoughts. If I’m balanced then my thinking is fairly stereotypical.
Identifying depression by my symptoms is not too hard to do. My biggest indicator is the numbness of the void, there is nothing else that mimics that feeling. I know that if the black hole is starting to creep back forward then it is not going to be sunshiny times ahead.
The person that spends a significant portion of their life with no treatment may find there is another facet of yourself waiting to come out. I once had a Doctor ask me when the last time I felt happy was. After about ten minutes of thinking, I concluded that I have not felt happiness since I was a child. There eventually came a time when I was working on my medication that I did have a brief glimpse of happiness and sadness.
When my ex-Fiancee told me she had found someone, I felt sad. Here’s the thing; it wasn’t numbness, it wasn’t misery, there was no suicidal thoughts, there was no self-destructive impulses. It confused me, until I realized what was going on. After that, I felt genuine happiness for just a few minutes because I was actually sad. My mind wasn’t racing, my more hostile side was not coming forward; I was just happy without all the baggage that hypomania brings with it. It was glorious, on both accounts.
Identify your indicators. Quite a few of them I have figured out as I was sweeping up the ashes of whatever I just destroyed. Contemplating to yourself after the fact, “Why would I do that?!” is definitely a sign to look out for. At that point, start analyzing and reflecting on the way you have been behaving or thinking recently. You will quite likely find some of your own indicators.
An example: At one point, my mother was picking at me and badgering me about something. At the time, she was adopted and had not found her birth mother yet. My hypomanic response to her was, “At least my parents loved me enough to keep me instead of giving me away.” I did not understand why I said it, it went straight from my brain to my mouth. That is not the kind of comment I would normally make to anyone in seriousness, let alone my own mother. I understand now that it is a typical occurrence to try and wound when I am hypomanic. Thus, I minimize my interpersonal contact and attempt to keep my mouth shut.
Am I self-medicating and making things harder?
Self-medication is a problem that far too many of us have to go through. Unfortunately, these kinds of activities can significantly blur the areas between your shifts and make them harder to interpret. Not only that, but they only serve as a distraction with no actual solution tied to it.
Before I talk about this, let me be perfectly clear. I abused drugs, pills, and drank when I was younger to cope with what was going on in my head. It was a way to make it all shut off for awhile. I understand that, I’ve done it. Now, I do no drugs and I haven’t abused pills in a long time. However, I do still drink periodically because I enjoy it and I can do it in moderation.
As I talk about these things, it’s not as someone looking down his nose at you for your choices. It is not my place to judge you. After all, there was two different times in my life after exceptionally bad nights that I passed out in on the curb and woke up in my soiled boxers because a crack-head had stolen my clothes. I have no room to throw stones, and try not to.
How Alcohol Impairs Your Wellness
A person that is drinking constantly while trying to find wellness is completely derailing their journey. Let’s brush aside the obvious things about it being a depressant and making you unstable and so forth. I’m willing to bet you’ve heard it a thousand times; I barely even drink anymore and I’m tired of hearing it myself.
Instead, I want to focus on a point that you may not have considered yourself. Taking psychiatric medication is done to help get the brain back in tune through the chemical composition. It affects the base composition to try and alter it to a different area that will be better for you. Drinking alcohol causes your brain’s base chemical composition to change as you imbibe. Do you see the problem here?
If you are drinking while taking a psychiatric medication, you are making it impossible for that medication to work how it should be. Whatever response it is giving is off of the alcohol altered chemical base. So what happens if you find wellness on medication and decide to stop drinking? What happens if your medication was never able to perform correctly because of the alcohol?
It is a very basic principle that many people overlook. Your mind is unique to you. Your doctor has absolutely no way to know how your brain would respond chemically to a psych med and alcohol mix. However, she can at least have a ballpark idea of the medication’s effect.
Other Forms of Self-Medication
There are other ways to self-medicate. I address alcohol specifically because it has a much larger impact than it is given credit for. It is important to eliminate other self-medication type activities. Perhaps you jump on the highway and do 100 when you’re feeling depressed to get adrenaline moving. Perhaps you walk up the street and just scream at people, trying to pick a fight. Perhaps you do like I did, lose yourself in video games for 12+ hours a day so you did not have to think about your problems.
Whatever method is your poison; it is time to find a better way to cope. And I won’t lie to you, it will be difficult and shitty. Utilize a support group for assistance if you need to. Being around other people that have gone through the same thing can make a lot of difference.