The bubble on my bipolar level seems to be plumb once again.  But, I’m noticing that some symptoms leave watermarks or stringy residue behind.  My sleep pattern is still erratic.  All my joints, especially my neck, hips and hands, are stiff and sore (The barometric pressure has been low here for days, though, so the stormy weather may be mostly responsible).  I feel emotionally tentative, not quite trusting of the good humor and the ease with which I interacted with my family and friends this weekend.  It’s a feeling of looking a gift horse in the mouth—is this another slide into mania or can I stay here for a while?

Since I’ve decided to chart the states and qualities of my illness, I want to pay attention to these trailers.  I know that even in my best moments, there are aspects of the disorder that still manifest.  It’s so weird that I can’t remember what they are.  It seems that I have to experience them, be in that particular state, to remember, to be able to say, “Oh, yeah, this is normal for me.”  If this is true for other people with BP, no wonder we get so scared.  Each time one of these trailers pops up, it spooks us until we can recognize it and remember how we dealt with it.  Then, we have to figure out if that strategy worked or if we need a new plan.  We’re constantly starting over from square one.

I read on the Bipolar Blog yesterday some terrific tools for management.  One was very similar to what I’m trying to do with mapping, but they called it keeping a journal or diary.  I know some folks have regular rhythms to their episodes, or that specific events can trigger them.  How wonderful to have that information, to be able to plan ahead, prepare, and talk yourself into staying calm while the illness runs its course.  I’ve tried this, and while my episodes seem to have no rhyme or reason, I did notice how my “normal” mood changes throughout the day.  In my case, I get anxious in the evening.  I can deal with minimal anxiety by watching TV or working on art, but if it’s more pronounced, I go to my friends’ to watch TV with them.  I think of it as my own form of Sundown Syndrome.  This is a trailer I need to pay more attention to.

In the meantime, it’s time to get back into Bipolar Bad-Ass Training.  This really helped me pull focus after the last siege, and made going into the next one much less painful.  My training checklist includes  Clean Eating, Building Stamina, Setting Priorities, Eliminating Distraction, Laying in Supplies, Securing Downtime, Securing Back-up, and Plugging any Emotional Leaks.

Do folks out there have other elements of their lives they focus on during the “good days?”  Other parts of their lives that they clean-up, straighten out or strengthen?  Things they do to get ready for the next episode or to recover from the last one?  Please share with us.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kitty
    May 30, 2011 @ 10:50:27

    I was struck by your use of the word “normal.” I have worked this word for about a hundred years and have come up with a few standard thoughts for myself:
    When I first became aware of my need to understand and be “normal” I asked my therapist, in various ways, “What is normal and am I it?” It was so important for me to be NORMAL. Years later I figured out that “normal” is defined as whatever most of the people do… let’s say 51% of the people… that’s normal. It struck me then that “normal” isn’t necessarily happy or healthy. A lot of us are running around not happy and not healthy and considering that to be “normal.” So then I decided that I didn’t want to work toward normal… I wanted happy and healthy. It was simply a shift in perception, but it kept me from obsessing about not being “normal.” I’m not normal. And on my good days I can feel extraordinary, which is definitely not “normal” by a lot of people’s standards. So I guess I flipped it and it helps me set healthier expectations for myself.

    These days, I know more about what is “normal” for me. I feel my best when I’m just a little bit on the manic end of the spectrum. I call this “passionate” and I like to live there. This is when I feel like “me.” Some would say that I need to just stay away from that end of the spectrum, but when I get too intent on staying away, I either become full-on-manic or I fall into depression. For me, to just maintain a tad bit manic works. The danger, of course, is that I can move into mania and not notice until I’m WAY over the line. This is when the people who love me have to step in front of the fast moving train (me) and say, “Honey, see that line back there? You crossed over it so loooong ago that you don’t even realize you missed it.” In the past 5 years I have gotten to the place where I can hear their words and know they are right and begin to dismantle the myriad things I did that helped me fly off spinning. I can see that I created it and start to un-create it. This takes time and patience… qualities I have had to work hard to know how to give myself.

    The other thing I do in this regard is what I call “taking the sharp point off the top.” I know that I cannot do much productive work when I’m at the bottom (depression), so I look at “the swing” and when it starts to get too high… before I move from “passionate” to “There ain’t no brake-man on this train,” I become mindful of the sharp point at the top of the swing. I just focus on taking off the sharp point at the top. Nothing else. Oftentimes it actually works and I’m able to ease back, instead of crashing head-on into a brick wall. It’s a tricky dance I do with myself. The idea is that, by taking the sharp point off the top, it should help take the sharp point off the bottom. In other words, if I don’t get too high, I often don’t have to fall too low and wake up in the dark abyss of depression. I don’t know, this has been working for me for about 2 years now, so I’m gonna keep at it.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 30, 2011 @ 20:24:47

      We’ve talked about this before, and I’d still like you to be more specific and detailed, which might take time and some more watching (if you’re willing to go there with me). I’m asking a lot, I know, so just put this in your brain’s hip pocket and let it warm up there. Think of this as a part of my research. 🙂

      Here are the questions I’d like you to think about:
      1. What are the specific characteristics of “passionate”? Is there a particular way your thinking works? What are you feeling/emoting? Are there any physical signs that tell you you’re Passionate as opposed to manic or depressed? What behaviors belong to Passionate? (If it’s too hard to define what Passionate is, can you tell me what it’s not).
      2. What are the specific behaviors your loved ones note when you’ve crossed the line into mania?
      3. What are the things you dismantle when they tell you you’ve crossed the line? How do you uncreate the mania or spin? Is it an intellectual process? Spiritual? Physical?
      4. How do you take the sharp point off the top? I think you told me once that it involved awareness and intention. Can you give me details (as if you were writing an instruction manual)?


    • Kitty
      Jun 03, 2011 @ 08:39:28

      Hey Subby! Thanks for the assignment! I’m so glad I took the time to comb back through the comments section today and found this. I will gladly go there and do all in my power to find the words to take you with me.

      I’ve never done a Post to a Post so… The “Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail” doesn’t notify me of anything, so on this post I’m clicking “Notify me of new posts via e-mail.” We’ll see if that gives me what I want. Post to let me know you got this and we’ll see if it notifies me. Thanks, oh diver of deepest waters.


      • Sandy Sue
        Jun 03, 2011 @ 16:23:18

        I am officially responding. I sure hope this fixes the problem. I hate to think of you digging through all my old yammerings. Ick!

  2. Kathryn McCullough
    May 30, 2011 @ 11:56:54

    This is an amazing post, Sandy–so helpful–such important reminders! Isn’t it strange how it always feels like starting over at ground zero–shifts in mood so strangely familiar and strikingly new.

    Don’t know that I have anything else to offer, but this in itself is hugely helpful to me. Thank you!



  3. Josh
    May 30, 2011 @ 13:03:32

    I think it’s an excellent idea to “map” your changes. I also have a lot of pain and erratic sleep when I come out of a down episode, not sure why. Thanks for linking to the article (Self-Help Strategies for Bipolar Disorder), it’s very interesting.

    Be well,
    Josh… 🙂


  4. ManicMuses
    May 30, 2011 @ 20:19:07

    The bubble on my bipolar level…love it!


  5. strugglingwithbipolar
    May 31, 2011 @ 15:18:00

    Sandy, I don’t have many extended periods of stability now. I use this term instead of normalcy simply because I don’t believe that there are true norms for people. I understand that there are things that aren’t normal, but I people vary so much that I don’t know what is normal and what isn’t.

    I was keeping a mood diary. I have been slacking in this area. There’s a great website for this. You can provide your therapist or psychiatrist a link to the page and they can see your mood chart. The site is You can track your sleep, weight, medication, take notes, as well as ups and downs. There is also space for anxiety and irritability ratings.


    • Sandy Sue
      May 31, 2011 @ 21:33:11

      I agree about the word “normal.” I think we come to understand what is “normal” for us individually (ie. my normal won’t be your normal). And the way I use normal doesn’t necessarily mean asymptomatic. I like “periods of stability.”


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