It has been a very interesting week for me. I was lucky enough to find two summer jobs, one teaching computer literacy 2x a week and the other teaching creative writing 1x a week. Thanks to Covid, I am teaching these courses online, which gives me the great benefit of having my morning commute be only 8 feet which is the distance from my kitchen to my laptop. I find I really love to teach, it’s a funny thing because I don’t have an education degree, I was mostly chosen for these jobs because of my patience in dealing with others and hands-on experience. I really find it to be quite an honour.
I feel so honoured by being given these jobs that I want to do them well. The most important thing for me is how much sleep I get, and that is where my current problems come from. I have been using over the counter sleep aids for some time, though my doctor will give me sleeping pills and they are covered under my health insurance. The problem is I was told that sleeping pills affect your memory. Well, the sad thing is that it seems over the counter sleep aids also do this. My memory, at least my short-term memory has been getting really bad. I hate to count disorders, but so far it seems like I have symptoms of schizophrenia, symptoms of bipolar, anxiety, severe depression, mood swings, poor impulse control and OCD with a tendency towards hoarding. I like to just say I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and leave it at that but I think if I ever go back to seeing a therapist, I will have to be honest about all of my symptoms. I guess one has to think about what affects their day to day life the most. Today I got some bad news about a writing project I had set in motion and depression kind of blindsided me. Then I wrote an email to a friend and they were kind enough to call and talk with me for about 2 whole hours. I wasn’t suicidal, but I was feeling pretty upset. The main problem was the fact that for any number of possible reasons, I think I was in what bipolar disorder experts refer to as a ‘manic’ state. I had them much worse when I was younger, and I was aware of them, I just never knew that if you leave these mood swings untreated for too long, you run a large risk of entering psychosis and acting irrationally. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind that so much, but the truth is that untreated schizophrenia has been known to cause brain damage. It is a pretty harsh thing to look in the mirror and see a person with a mental illness looking back at you.
But what I most wanted to talk about today was sleep, and when you are experiencing mania it can be damn near impossible. The lack of sleep, (at least in my opinion) is perhaps the largest disabler, the biggest reason that many people with bipolar can’t work or hold down a job. When I was younger I had a system going, I would play the radio most of the day instead of watching TV, and when bedtime approached I would put on progressively slower and more relaxing music. It worked pretty good, I used to refer to it as coming in for a smooth and even landing.
The part of this equation that makes people with mental health issues feel bad comes in when (at least in my opinion) they sleep too much. I sleep very jagged, disruptive sleep at night. It could be because of my many years of night shifts working as a security guard, but it also leaves me pretty tired when the sun comes up and I have to take my morning medications. I really have to watch because if I go back to sleep after my medications, I can easily sleep until 2pm. This is something that was very much frowned upon by my dad when I was growing up, even in the summer. Of all the summers I had, the one I enjoyed the most as a kid was the one where my dad would wake us up and get us down for breakfast before he left for work. I had so many fun bike rides and went to matinees, read comic books and watched cartoons. That summer seemed like two summers long, which is why I really kind of hate it when I fall into an oversleeping trap. This isn’t always detrimental I believe because when I have work days in my week I get very energized and don’t sleep until the evening, and if I have allowed myself to go into a manic state that means the cycle can continue. Then comes the pills, the part I really hate.
I have a few different kinds of over the counter sleep aids such as melatonin and gravol (not meant as a sleep aid but seems to work well for me when I can’t sleep–I told my psychiatrist about this and he said as long as I’m not doing it every day it is okay). Sometimes I take a medication to get me to sleep and I don’t sleep. This is when I am best off to get out of bed and read, or do what I am doing now, writing in my blog. If I can’t sleep and I’m not working I will sometimes take on a writing project. It is amazing how the wee hours of the night can melt away while I am ‘creating’. But wheat seems to be happening more and more is that I stay up very late and am totally unproductive, then when I realize I am getting close to the point where I can just grab a few hours, then I will sleep just that short time, wake up and dose up with coffee, got to work, and sadly all to often either stay up and find myself in not just a manic state, but also in a bitchy mood with more than a tiny bit of paranoia, but I also don’t perform well at work and the situation steamrollers whether I have a nap (in which case I don’t sleep again that night) or stay up which requires copious amounts of coffee. It’s all a pretty viscous cycle, but small bits of wisdom often help. Of course, writing a new blog entry helps a lot. So does trying to get a nice long walk in. Going to the pool always helps but our pools are closed now until fall. My favourite thing to do when I can’t sleep is to go and soak in the tub for a half hour or so, make the water really hot and then just towel off a little when I get out and lay in bed without getting dressed. That has gotten me to sleep many times. I have tried so many things in my life from hypnosis to meditation to reading and on and on and on. What it all really comes down to with me is, if I am going to stay up late, how can I make that time worthwhile? I have been looking at trying to write more science fiction lately, and I not only find great videos on YouTube about writing, I also have found a lot of awesome astronomy/space programs to watch. My favourite treatment for when I am extremely tired and want to get to work? Splash after splash of ice cold water on my face. Feels good when you stop.
Best wishes Dear Readers, stay safe!