This is the twenty-third in a series of episodes, detailing my dawning realization, that I have some mental issues, that I must address, or risk losing those around me, who mean so much to me. I do not know how many installments this will entail, because I do not have an outline, for this particular avenue, that my Life has chosen to pursue. Because I have always found writing to be therapeutic, I am going to share my journey with anyone, who cares to read along. Believe me, I am not having that much fun.
Forewarned is Forearmed
Dr. Ronald Fieve, MD, is a psychiatrist who has been studying mood spectrum disorder since 1971, and he has some interesting theories. He believes that besides the more recognizable bipolar one patient, there is another level of mood spectrum disorder, in which people who are affected show some of the manic characteristics as bipolar one patients, only not as intense, and not for such prolonged periods of time. He points out that many of the movers and shakers in the business world are these bipolar 2 patients. They can get by on minimal sleep, they are driven, and they show creative prowess, surpassing that of the general population. Besides business leaders and CEO’s these people are also teachers, tax attorneys, athletes, writers and pretty much anyone.
However, they also get the depressive side of the disorder, where they get irritable, angry, sad, or depressed; they seek substances to help them manage their mood swings, and they have these extreme lows where they feel tired and listless for prolonged periods of time. There are thousands of these people who live productive lives, by managing to balance the highs and lows of their mood swings, so that they can predict, with a certain degree of accuracy, how a given approaching event will impact them.
People who live these dynamic lives frequently come from families where there are shared characteristics, often represented in different forms by siblings. Again, these are highly talented, highly creative people, who have mood swings which account for much of their success. During the manic phases they accomplish tremendous things, and during the depressive times, they hang on for dear life.
But they also have families who are watching them travel the mood spectrum right in front of their eyes. If Dad is not sleeping, and is drinking coffee, 24/7, and seems a little disheveled, everyone is on edge. By the same token, when he’s taken to the sofa, with a blanket and a pillow over his head, and he doesn’t get up for two days, and the rest of the family is tip-toeing around, then maybe it’s time to get out the mood chart, and begin to keep track of a number of logistical details.
Dr. Jim Phelps, MD, is a psychiatrist who believes that these mood spectrum disorder patients, who fall into this second tier of patients, can have far more success in managing their mood disorder, by keeping a chart, and chronicling the daily mood swings they experience. Though medication is the conventional way that these patients are treated, it is often possible to stabilize many of the symptoms, and in some cases, to eliminate the use of medication completely.
Dr. Phelps believes that exercise is a key to maintaining a steady emotional frame of mind. People who find some way of getting up and about, are people who are not glued to their sofas, or beds. People who exercise are also likely to drink liquids, which could include juice, instead of sugared drinks. Dr. Phelps believes that substances such as caffeine should be eliminated or minimized, because they are likely to affect sleep.
Sleep, like exercise, is a key cornerstone of stabilizing mood spectrum disorder. Sleeping well encourages the exercise regimen, just as getting regular exercise, promotes a healthy diet. All of these components interact to help guarantee, that the mood disorder can be kept in the center of the spectrum, and not to either extreme.
So in determining what to include on the mood chart, the patient might consider also listing factors which apply to his or her own mood, on a given day, such as a pending trip to town, or an appointment at the psychiatrist’s office. If something is on the horizon, which is likely to cause stress, then all parties concerned, can consider all factors in attempting to minimize the effects of the upcoming event. It’s the classic case of forewarned is forearmed.
If lethargy is an issue, then record the “state of the legs” each morning, using an arbitrary benchmark at first, and expanding as the different levels, both good and bad, are determined by the patient. Soon connections can be made by increasing and decreasing levels of this tangible element of mood spectrum disorder. The patient may wish to chart multiple vitamins or fish oil capsules, and certainly would list the amount of sleep garnered, either overnight, or in any/every 24-hour block of time.
If the patient performs some rigorous physical task, or is expecting a visit from someone who is going to raise the level of stress, then these should also be noted. Therefore, over a period of time, a pattern begins to emerge, of what factors must be in place, in order to be assure that mood swings can be minimized. If it seems pedantic and cumbersome, then consider the alternative: frantic up and down movement within the spectrum of your life.