29 January 2010

Third Post I've Written This Week But The First Time I've Published Instead of Deleting

It is almost undoubtedly a wanton display of hubris to say this but I think I am getting better at having bipolar disorder. And what do I mean by that? I'm not quite sure.

I think a large part of what I mean is that I don't experience so much conflict about it anymore. Instead of forcing other people or my own actions or external circumstances into awkward positions in order to have an explanation for feeling a certain way. Instead, I'm now able to say to myself that while it is true that I don't like X (and Y and Z), X (even combined with Y and Z) is probably not sufficient cause to make me feel this bad for this long; that it's probably a mood that has descended. It doesn't mean that X or Y or Z isn't actually bothering me - it's a recognition that X and Y and Z are not sufficient.* If I can tell the difference (and I seem to be getting better at it) then I save a lot of energy and a lot of time and a lot of discouragement.

It drives me absolutely up the wall when I feel miserable and the poor people who are kind enough to undertake to talk to me about it shower me with platitudes about tomorrow being another day and that everything will be okay and that this too shall pass and that I'll feel better soon. For a little while this became a bad problem when I would talk to my mother. She wants me to feel better and she says these things in order to be soothing and in order to make me feel better and she needs to be able to say something encouraging. I understand all this but (and again I'm going to blame philosophy) because neither she nor anyone else on earth has any strong or valid knowledge that I (or anyone else) will be all right in the future or feel better at any point (whatever 'better' is supposed to mean in that context), it only makes me more upset when people say these things to me because they aren't grounded in any kind of logic and if I feel that bad, any optimism I might have had has disappeared anyway. My reaction to such statements had, though, gotten to the point of being unfair to my mother, whose intent was certainly never to upset me, so I sat down and tried to think of something to be substituted that would allow her to express her wish to comfort me and would not offend my (overly honed for ordinary conversation) sense of logic. In the end, I came up with 'it won't always feel exactly like this'.

This alternative platitude has worked out well, largely because I can believe it. I might not feel better next week or next month (and I might not feel worse) but I know and can believe that I will not feel exactly the same. The intensity of whatever I'm feeling will alter, its emphasis will shift, my intrusive thoughts will develop variations. I will experience these changes as being better or worse and it is extraordinarily unlikely that I will not experience variation. Internalising this has actually helped. On the nights when it's 3.00am and I haven't been able to sleep and I'm lying in bed feeling horrendously guilty all out of proportion to anything I might have done or failed to do and everything seems completely hopeless and on the verge of falling apart I can tell myself that I'm not going to feel exactly as horribly suffocated by all the wrongness in myself and in the world forever. That perspective is not the new reality of life.

Hopefully that all makes some sort of sense. It's the way I have found out of the totalising meta-narrative that a depressed mood (or a manic mood) imposes. It's a way out that doesn't invalidate the emotional content of my moods - instead of saying that I don't really feel that way, it's a disease, I can say I do really feel that way, it's just not the way I am always going to feel nor is the totality of what I feel.

Anyhow, it has gotten me through the past six weeks, much of which I have spent fairly depressed, relatively unscathed. It helped stop me freaking out and flailing in all directions. It stopped me taking things out unfairly on others and stopped me chucking away things that I value in the long term but temporarily didn't know what to do with. I woke up this morning feel better with my life still intact and I'm happy about that and now I've written a post that I'm not going to immediately delete and I'm reasonably confident that I'll be asleep before three - hurray.

*I apologise: I go to a university where they make us read analytic philosophy all the time and then I talk to my fellow students who also read analytic philosophy all the time and at this point, we seem all to have started talking as though we were dictating analytic philosophy. My mind attempts metaphor but all that comes out are more variables.

This is what analytic philosophy looks like:

My writing style isn't quite as bad as all that yet but I imagine it's only a matter of time.

10 January 2010

January Haze

I've been spending quite a bit of time on facebook because I am "writing an essay and working on a presentation" which, these days, translates into five minutes of looking at something that is not academic work alternating with five minutes of looking at the academic work. The non-academic things are usually facebook and other people's blogs and my e-mail.

The start of this year has been marked by lassitude on my part and I was rather worried about it until I realised that this has been true of every early January I can think of going as far back as 1997. I think that at this point it would make sense for me to start expecting mental haziness in the New Year. The same goes for being disorganised. The same for New Year's resolutions.

Last year I resolved to lose all of the weight I'd gained while taking Seroquel, to graduate from college and to apply to grad school. I managed to keep each one of them, losing more than fifty pounds to be a healthy 140lbs (I'm 5'6"), graduated with honours and not only applied to grad school but gone to grad school. But I didn't get off to a good start with any of that during January - instead, I sat around spiritually if not physically, in my pajamas and read novels. I have been doing exactly the same thing this year. Now I just need to drag myself away from the duvet and hot water bottles and get back into real life. It will be a relief.

I have two resolutions for this year - one, to find a job that will let me stay here, which means it has to be a proper job (I've never had a proper job before - always art things that have a grand total of two or three women working for them except for the one time I worked retail at a local kitchen store with a grand total of twelve, including two men) and two, to make my life have more of the things I like in it. That is ill-expressed but I'm not quite sure how to put it.

For years now I have been concentrating on very immediate and necessary things, i.e. not killing myself, which moved on to making sure I slept and ate, then making sure that I got dressed every day, then making sure that I had enough social interaction, and then trying to help myself feel better than horrible, then trying to get to a point where I could say that I felt well instead of just 'not miserable'....and so on. That has been my focus since late February of 2007, which is when I started to lose my mind the most recent and most horrible time. By now, I have felt well without extraordinary interruption since September of 2008, I have my BA, I'll soon enough have an MSc and I feel like myself and likely to stay well for a significant period of time (for me, that means two or more years in the future.) The upshot of this is that I have started thinking more about what I want my life to be like because it seems worth trying to make myself happy rather than just trying to make sure I'm not miserable.

I am not a philosopher with an analytic bias for nothing, so I have been scratching out this train of thought in my journal and come to the conclusion that what I want out of life, what would make me happy to have in my life are more books, being around art (of any discipline) and people who make it (and also occasionally getting to help with it or make my own), public speaking (I don't know why I like it so much, it's a strange thing for a person as shy as I am, but I do), and love, in its many forms. Not all of these things can be forced, least of all the last on the list, but when I have to make a decision, I can try always to make the decision that most favours the possibility of these outcomes (and again, it's statements like these that make me realise that philosophy is always with me).

Oh bother. I meant this to be a shorter post because that essay and presentation I'm "working" on do actually have to be finished tonight. Anyhow, I was going to gracefully drag this back around to how I realised that I'm entirely out of it every New Year. I realised it while playing on facebook, of all things. I don't know how many of you that read this are on facebook but if you are then you are bound to have seen the application that will make a picture out of your status updates for the last year. Looking back at what I had up there (see pseudonymous but otherwise authentic version below), and looking back at the beginning of this blog* reminded me that I felt every bit as confused this time last year.

*This blog is now a year and seven days old! There will be a 'first year in review' at some point.

06 January 2010

Disorganised New Year

It's always a disorganised new year here at my house, I've realised. I enjoy putting off things that I don't want to do and the endless bank holidaying when nothing is open for days on end is an ideal time to do so. It never fails to catch up with me and send me into a tizzy but I have this year officially declared said tizzy to be a holiday tradition, which means it is now my duty to be display as appalling a lack of organisation as I can in the first full week of postal delivery in the new year. I am, so far, doing a bang up job of keeping the tradition.

I'm in a terrible mood at the moment but for once I'm fairly sure that it's not due to mental health conditions that are beyond my control. Yes, similar symptoms but in its totality it feels different. This is absolutely not a scientific distinction. It is an instinct that may be wrong. However, I can see actual reasons and circumstances that I know are making me unhappy and may of which I can actually do something about. I don't have enough energy to do anything just at the moment but happily some of these circumstances will come to a natural end with the start of term. I don't have to do anything to bring about the start of term, just get myself through the next few days. I can do that.

So this is my new year's first project: to try to sift out how and whether I can successfully distinguish between a bad mood due to circumstances and a depressed mood due to bipolar disorder and wherein the difference lies. I'm going to get back to Foucault, too, I promise.

Happy New Year!