It was a very restless night last night. I woke up several times and know I tossed and turned all night. No particular reason that I know of… No dreams that I remember. I didn’t go to bed too early, or too late. It was a normal evening. I didn’t get up until the alarm went off, which is very unusual. Normally my internal clock wakes me up thirty minutes or so before it goes off. I went through my morning routine anyway, which means I was late getting ready for work. But I skipped shaving, and took as quick a shower as I could, and managed to get to the office on time.
But I’m moving way too fast this morning.
I really got back on schedule because I was rushing through everything. I was practically running from one room to another as I cleaned up, made my bed (which is a MUST) put together a lunch to bring with me and got everything ready for me to leave. I almost forgot to take my morning medications, but did remember as I was walking out the door, and went back to get them.
My brain is in overdrive.
I started working on slowing down on the way to work. I turned off the radio and tried to focus on my surroundings. The feel of the leather on my seat. The warm air blowing from the heater. Slowly sipping my coffee. I kept catching myself driving too fast, and forced myself to slow down and not tailgate the driver in front of me.
Relax. Breathe. Focus.
By the time I got to work (It’s a 45 minute drive) I was a little more under control. I was still moving too fast, but not nearly as bad as it was before I left. So I pulled out the next thing that helps me relax.
I started to write.
I know yesterday I said I was going to focus on the present and not think too much about the past. Today however might be a good day to go back. As I work to get calmed down I think maybe it would be helpful to remember what happens when I get too high.
Relax. Breathe. Focus.
The depressions have always been bad. The only reason to revisit those times is to keep in the back of my thoughts that I need to make sure that as I bring myself down I don’t allow it to go too far. I think what’s really going to be helpful is remembering the manic times.
Relax. Breathe. Focus.
One thing my Therapist said last night was that it was good from time to time to remember the happy times. Because there are always happy times.
So I started to think back. The year I graduated High School was a particularly good time. I was working a couple of jobs and could afford to have my own apartment. It was the disco era, and I was out dancing all the time. I love to dance, and especially during this time I was good at it. So there were a lot of girls wanting to go out, and I did almost every night. I was having a great time!
Wait a minute. I was working three jobs, dating around and going out every night. No wonder I was happy. It was out of control.
After a time I settled down and got married. Honestly, I don’t really remember a lot of good times then. Is it any wonder it only lasted three years? And it ended in a deep depression.
Then it got better. I met someone new (A fellow patient in the mental ward I ended up in) and we quickly settled into a new relationship. And after a couple of years, we got married. And a year later, we had our first child. It was a fantastic time, and I loved my daughter like nothing I’d ever loved before.
I think I’ll hold on to this one.
But things always change, and when she was about a year old the depression returned, and I spent the next 7 years in and out of mental hospitals. It was a really rough time. I just couldn’t shake the depression, and was completely unable to work. But in spite of this, there were still happy times. My second daughter was born, and she brought just as much joy as her sister. And not being able to work, I was home as the primary caretaker of the kids. I became the original Mr. Mom. It was a horrible time, but also one I’ll always cherish. It was a really difficult time for me, but being with my children so much made it all worthwhile.
Fast forward 20 years.
During that time, my marriage again failed after thirteen years of being together. That time was really rough on everyone; especially the kids. Over the next five years a great deal happened; way too much to get into. But looking at some of the happy memories, I had remarried and had hit a real high point in my career. We had money, and spent our time traveling, socializing, and enjoying the benefits of financial success. I felt like I had finally ‘arrived’, and I threw myself into my job and the partying. But we were spending money like it was going out of style. I became a real jerk; pompous and full of myself. I was having the time of my life, but really too good of a time. I began thinking I was too good for my wife, and got involved with someone else. I was happy with her however and we had a great time. And of course I got caught, and it ended my marriage. Looking at that time honestly, I was spending out of control, partying like crazy, working all the time and cheating on my wife. Draw your own conclusions. (As an aside, the lady I had been with and I have stayed in touch, and remain great friends. It was one of the good things that came out of that time).
I could go on and on about the good memories and happy experiences. But being honest with myself, the vast majority of those times I was manic. It seems like I need to be over the top to be able to really enjoy myself. There have been very few times when I wasn’t either depressed or having a manic episode, so it stands to reason that the mania was a major contributor to my happiness.
So what can I take away from all this?
I now know what I need to do. As part of managing my illness, I need to learn how to be happy without depending on the excesses that come from the high mood swings. As I apply the lessons I’ve learned and get to the point that I’m in a stable place, I have to look for and develop my own happiness. I believe I have that focus now. I’m satisfied with my work even though it’s not the high powered executive. I’m developing a new relationship, and so far have kept it healthy and real. I’m learning to spend time alone and be happy with myself.
I’ve got a long way to go, but I feel like I’m making real progress.
And a big part of that progress is being able to manage my cycles and keep things on an even keel as much as I can. I can’t stop the mood swings, but I can recognize them and apply the skills that I’ve learned to limit the extreme highs and lows. One of the best ways I’ve learned to do this is what I’m doing now. I can write.
See? I feel much better now. I’m much more calm and thinking clearly. As usual, taking the time to write out my thoughts and feelings helps put things in perspective and brings me more focus.
I’m ready to get to work. And I’m happy about it.