A great explanatory graphic of bipolar disorder

Forget all the various charts and tables this is a fantastic visual representation of the different incarnations of bipolar disorder. It’s taken from Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney. Amazon describes the work as:

Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suffering from (but enjoying) extreme mania, and terrified that medication would cause her to lose creativity, she began a long struggle over many years to find mental stability while retaining her creativity. Searching to make sense of the popular idea of the ‘crazy artist’, she finds inspiration from the lives and work of other artists and writers who suffered from mood disorders, including Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Styron, and Sylvia Plath. She also researches the clinical aspects of bipolar disorder, including the strengths and limitations of various treatments and medications, and what studies tell us about the conundrum of attempting to “cure” an otherwise brilliant mind.Darkly funny and intensely personal, Forney’s memoir provides a humorous but authentic glimpse into the effects of a mood disorder on an artist’s work, as she shares her own story through black-and-white graphic images and prose.

I’ve ordered a copy. So I’ll have to post again soon with one of those review things…

(Forney has pointed out that she’s Bipolar I, whereas yours truly is Bipolar II).

What is a mood disorder anyway?

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Reassuring familiarity helps a mind in turmoil

Quite often when a depressive mood descends upon me I’ll take myself to safe places and do familiar actions. This means that I can pretty much function on automatic and don’t have to devote excessive little grey cell power at a time when I feel completely fucked in the brain department. 

Sherlock Holmes - The Scarlet ClawOne of my major coping techniques at such a time is to withdraw to my bedroom and bury myself under my tartan blanket (a literal security blanket) after putting a Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes DVD on, with the TV on sleep timer. For the uninitiated Rathbone and Bruce, starring as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson respectively, made 14 of these films between 1939 and 1946. The quality of the films varies, and whilst Rathbone is the definitive Holmes, Bruce’s Watson is a bit of a dullard. Having said that the two men have a fantastic chemistry that overcomes any deficiency of character.

Anyhow this is not the place to do a critique of the series (that’s for my other blog), the point is that these 14 films form a comfort blanket for my mind. I first encountered them during my school days when they were broadcast, in the winter months I think, around 6pm on BBC2. I fell in love with them and ever since their simplicity and enjoyment are reassuring to me.

And because these films are heavily dialogue based it’s almost like listening to a radio play. I can close my eyes and listen to Holmes and Watson and their adventures whilst the images I’ve seen so many times over the decades form a visual narrative in my mind.

When my brain is in turmoil I need the enjoyable, comforting and safe to accompany the uproar in my psyche. Wrapping myself in these black and white entertainments of seven decades prior helps me to cope in a way that a talking therapy would never be able to.

Meet the Wolfpack – new campaign encouraging men to talk about mental health

Time To Change have just launched Meet the Wolfpack, a new campaign designed to encourage men to talk about their mental health issues. The promo film is a bit Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and the related information is a bit “laddish” by invoking ball sports as a manly link (many many of us men don’t give a toss about football), but the intent is spot on. And the doggies in the film are funny.

More information on Meet the Wolfpack and downloadable resources can be found here.

Wolfpack - Chester

“The Looker”
He might take his time in the bathroom, but when Chester’s out there’s never a dull evening. He’s the one who creates the memorable nights. Though you will never find that late-night Karaoke bar again.

Wolfpack - Dave

“Mr Sport”
Whether it’s football, rugby, cricket or tennis, Dave is on your team. He’ll meet you down the pub. He can sort tickets for the game. Or the invitation’s always there to watch on his giant flat screen with a cracking BBQ.

Wolfpack - Phil

“The Steady Guy”
Phil is the practical guy, the man who can – the one you turn to for advice when things that need doing. Who better to help with the to-DIY list? You’re moving house? Call Phil.

Wolfpack - Vinnie

“The Romantic”
Being a hit with the ladies doesn’t come easy. Vinnie knows the tips that will keep you in shape, feeling good and looking sharp. You’ll hit the ground running with Vinnie at your side.

 

Time to walk rather than run

Well-intentioned plans to employ jogging as a therapy for my bipolar have gone awry thanks to a pre-existing physical condition that’s plagued me for as long as my mental health issues.

LiveWell WalkingAs a child I have extreme difficulty in digesting and retaining food. As a adolescent I would frequently vomit up a leathery-like ball comprised of recently digested milk due to these digestive issues. As I aged through childhood I’d often survive on a diet of Scotch broth soup and Rice Krispies as that’s what stayed down.

Thankfully the problems eased as I approached my teenage years and my skeletal development was fairly normal. Except for the knees and tibia.

Those lucky(?!) enough to have seen me in shorts may have noticed an odd lump just below each kneecap. This is the result of a condition called Osgood–Schlatter disease. You can read all the blurb about it here but suffice to say it caused knee problems and insufficient development of strength in each of my tibias. Even after all these years I can get random knee pains without warning. And if the lumps are struck it’s beyond agony.

Each and every time I’ve done running in the last few weeks I’ve been left with agonising shin splints. It’s become blindingly and painfully obvious that I can’t do running because the tibias are too weak to cope with my body weight slamming down upon them. This is a pain in numerous ways.

Perhaps running will become much easier for all humans in generations to come as our bodies evolve to properly cope with being apes with delusions of grandeur in attempting to walk upright.

As I can’t wait that long I’ll have to forgo the running and switch to another form of exercise that will benefit my mental and physical health without crippling my body. So it’s over to regular walks. Going to aim for 60 minutes three times a week. Plenty of countryside around me. And I’ll be able to listen to all my Doctor Who stories from Big Finish on the iPod as I go.

Hello to my old friend Mr Hypomania

In the last few hours a tsunami of hypomania has swept in upon me. Good 8 on the mood scale, if not a 9.

Brain buzzingHave I had a 9 before? No idea. I suppose I could look back through my MoodPanda ratings and my spreadsheet of moods. But that’d take time. i don’t want to take time. I want time to move faster to keep up with me.

My fingers are flying over the keyboard at present. Far more typos being corrected than normal as my fingers can’t keep up with the thoughts. The universe is too slow for my liking.

Kettle’s taking an age to boil. Water from the shower is too slow even on the high setting. Body twitching with nervous energy that makes me want to vomit at it’s intensity. Swear that I can hear energy crackling between my atoms. Astonished the brain isn’t lit up like one of those plasma balls contraptions.

Want to fuck. No girl(s) here. All too frequent story lately. Have to keep my mouth shut about sexual issues around the people I know or I’d likely land myself in shit above and beyond my nose.

Want to get pissed. No alcohol around. Perhaps wisely I’ve gotten into the habit of not keeping much booze around the house just in case.

Want to get high on pot. Last time was so long ago…Though I’m sure there are some long-ago purchased cigars in the desk drawer.

Want to watch a dozen films and read several books simultaneously. And type lots.

There’s a fucking alarm going off somewhere across the way…Every little noise is a colossus of a sound wave in my ears.

World is overwhelming bright and angular.

Phantasmagorical wonderland buzzing throughout my five senses. Feeling mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Starting jogging

A couple of weeks ago, after an absence of forever and a decade, I decided to start jogging again. It was successful and problematic simultaneously.

Performance-Running

As is well known physical activity can reduce anxiety, depression and boost self-confidence. To assist in this I downloaded the podcasts for Couch To 5K (aka, C25K) from the NHS Choices website.

C25K is a nine week, three-times-a-week, running plan for beginners and “designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks”. There’s a series of podcasts to download to accompany your running. A lovely-voiced lady named Laura talks you through warm-up and cool-down walks, together with cueing you up for running and walking across a 30 minute period. Granted the music’s a bit cheesy but at least there doesn’t have to be any watch watching to work out when to run, walk, run again, walk again, etc.

But, major tip here, always use proper running shoes and not a pair of ordinary trainers that you’ve had for ages. I wore old trainers for the first two running sessions and as a result gave myself shin splints through impacting too hard on the ground. Got myself proper running shoes for the third session but the damage was done. Need to take a week off from bashing my shins and start again.

Even though the shins were hurting like fuck during the running the rest of my body was enjoying the running. I even did one run in the rain.

Highly unlikely that I’ll be competing in any half or full marathons but I’m determined to complete the nine week C25K programme. It helps to alleviate some of the darkness within my mind for a period.

 

3 years since an episode of complete suicidal darkness

Circa 3am Sunday 3 April 2011. Driving back from Cornwall. Just over two months since my nervous breakdown. A huge dark mood settled upon me. Depression washed over me bringing incredible levels of pain. The only way out from the despair was to end everything…

triggerwarning

I’d been to the most western English county to see my then in-laws to try and make sense of the events that had precipitated my nervous breakdown. It was a complete and utter failure. Fuck knows what they thought as they never opened up. A multi-hour drive was meant to lead to a night of sleep before the return journey. I couldn’t stay in the house. Memories were too painful to be in that environment. So I had to depart. Knackered and emotionally drained. It was a stupid journey to undertake. Continue reading