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Forewarned is Forearmed. Wednesday February 5, 2014

It's 2014 and I'm scared.

Not enough to score a three on the scared card, so maybe apprehensive would be a better word.

You see, I'm bipolar with a two and a half year cycle and my ticket's booked to get on that rollercoaster about April this year.

In some ways it was easier when I didn't have the diagnosis. Because I didn't know what was happening, it was always a surprise. The hypomania (the most common form of bipolar features this milder form than the full blown mania) was wonderful and I would ride it with joyful abandon. The subsequent exhaustion (physical and mental) would ambush me without warning and I would spend the next few months wondering what was wrong with me, getting tested for everything and mourning the loss of my vivacious and bubbly "normal" self. Not being able to work and subsequent financial anxieties added to this.

The bipolar diagnosis made sense of it all.

Now, of course, I know that a major part in minimising the "down" is to control the "up", so from about now I will be watching that Moodscope score like a hawk. Tight discipline seems to be the key: lots of sleep, even if I think I don't need it, healthy food, the minimum of alcohol, enough but not too much exercise; making sure I follow the therapy routines (EFT and TAT*), which seem to work better for me than drugs.

All that is easier said than done, and this is where my lovely (but frequently irritating) Moodscope buddies come in. They know me and my scores. They email or phone when I'm up or down. They email me when they don't see a score for a few days. They are always on my case. I love them and I'm grateful to them, even when my heart sinks as I see yet another email, subject line "Moodscope Score: are you alright?"

Yes, forewarned is forearmed. I have my mental weapons, I have an army of friends (well, three – but believe me, these girls are an army in themselves), I have a wonderful GP who understands and I have the drugs on standby.

So I'm prepared, but still apprehensive. Last time was manageable; unpleasant, but the mildest episode to date. Maybe this one will be milder yet. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

I'll keep you posted.

A Moodscope user.

*EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique or "tapping". TAT – Tappas Acupressure Technique

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Anonymous Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 8:56am

I have bipolar, with very rapid cyling and within a week can go from despair to eurphoria.....I too am a bit nervous/scared because as this very point in time last year I ended up in a psychiatric hospital until June.....It was a long stint, they keep telling me how very ill I was but it has never really sunk in. My diagnosis of bipolar also helped me understand and make sense of "me" since I was about 12. I am right up there at the moment and trying my hardest to come down but its nice up here.....but reading your blog brought it back home to me. When I see blogs from people with biopolar I don't feel so alone and I feel someone else out there understands what I am going through. Thank you for writing this morning and thank you because you made me stop and take check today, acknowlege that I am still high and that I need to look after myself right now and in particular but a block on my credit cards!!!

Peter Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 9:32am

Thank you for sharing this. My wife and daughter both have bipolar (wife bipolar 1, daughter bipolar 2) but I only have depression - much less exotic. We have all ended up in the same nut house at different times.
My daughter's cycle is about 13-15 months. Last year she was in hospital for a while and attending acute day services for about 4 months. My daughter gets stressed about getting ill again and stress is a pretty good trigger.
Last December, right on time she started to become unwell again. All the early warning signs (she recognises these now) were there and we braced ourselves for the unimaginable chaos that goes with her mania. Together we got her medication reviewed, she was referred back to Acute Day Services ... and then something amazing happened.
She got really angry with her illness and with herself and started to really fight it. She said to herself, "I am not going there again", got stuck into her university work (we are in year five of a three year degree) and amazingly she is really quite well currently (I feel like I might be tempting fate by writing this.)
So episode 6 hasn't happened - I still can't quite believe it.
Obviously her experience is different to yours but I think the message of hope I am trying to get across (probably not very well) is that maybe the regular cycle does not have to be a self fulfilling prophesy. Maybe worrying about it can bring it on. Maybe you can change your beliefs about your illness. Maybe not?
I have done a lot of therapy with my illness and am very slowly getting there. Maybe I can change my self loathing beliefs which originated in being abused in infancy... Maybe not. But for me, when I can, fighting it works better than giving in to it.

Susan Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 12:01pm

Learning to say to ourselves " No! " when in middle of mania or hypomania can seem like we are deliberately stopping ourselves from enjoying some 'well deserved' fun therapy following the bleakness of depression. Only after over 20 years of bipolar 2 can I accept that this tough love or self denial and removal of stimuli really is the best way to remain balanced in the long term. Our families can't do it for us...WE have to want to stay within the manageable range of moods and avoid the extreems at both ends. Whatever life throws at us, we can learn to see these either as triggers to leap on that rollercoaster... or as opportunities to take ownership of our mental health, to use the emotion creatively, to fight it if we must, whilst trying to be gentle calm and forgiving.

Anonymous Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 1:43pm

Good Luck Mary. Fear of the unknown is bad enough, but sometimes knowing what to expect can be worse. Your friends are your anchors - we all need our friends. I don't (think) I'm bipolar, but any moodswings are potentially damaging and friends help to minimise that damage.

Thoughts are with you

Anonymous Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 2:31pm

Mary you are a true inspiration. Every day I read moodscope wondering if the message is from you or not. And I usually guess right when it is from you. You have a unique voice. And I love it.

I believe you are in for a milder version. Acceptance of self and of circumstances paired with using strategies that you have tested to work for you. To me it does sound as if you are on to a good thing. 2014 a year to look forward to.

Best wishes,

Anonymous Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 4:46pm

I totally agree with this last post by Karin. Looking through all of the posts proves to me two things. Mary truly is an inspiration, because all of the posts are sincere, thoughtful and though-provoking. An upward spiral of self-knowledge. Secondly, my sister is my buddy. After a high score, she text me, and foolishly I went out "celebrating". Now I am starting to realize, just like Susan's blog explains, that I have to remove stimuli such as alcohol if I want to totally understand myself. Thankyou Mary, Peter, Susan and the three anonymous people for wonderful and heartfelt blogs. Peace and Love, Richard.

Mary Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 7:12pm

Thank you Peter. Yes - I really do believe there is hope for those of us with bipolar (as with "ordinary" depression too - hey - I wouldn't swap with you, believe me). My therapist would so, so agree with you, and no-one will be more relieved than I (well, maybe my husband) if I make it through 2014 clean. You are so right to say that fighting it works (or at least refusing to accept the diagnosis as a life sentence without parole). Five years ago I refused to accept the medication the Mental Health dept recommended and instead took a huge risk (financial and health-wise) in working with my therapist.... But it has been so worth-while. I hope that your family will also be able to work your way to health and well-being. Bless you for being so positive and sharing your experience with us here.

Mary Wed, Feb 5th 2014 @ 7:17pm

Karin and Richard - thank you so much for your good wishes. It means so much when people in the Moodscope community say "yes, this helps." We are all here for each other. I appreciate your support more than I can say. Thank you again.

Fionna O Thu, Feb 6th 2014 @ 8:14am

Yes, Karin. I have a sense of extra connection with Mary's warm, wise, kind and generous posts. I too play the guessing game about who wrote the blog. For what it is worth I used to dread the coming of Nov that I. Associated with the start of particularly bleak mood misery. I began to see that I was thinking myself into it by the anticipatory fear and started taking steps to look forward to winter. Now I do. I enjoy it. Not surprisingly my winter downs seem to have disappated

Anonymous Sun, Feb 9th 2014 @ 2:38am

Hello Mary - I'm a bit wary of unproven alternative therapies but if they work for you ...

But you're absolutely right about being wary of the 'excited' card - I have also only been recently diagnosed ... atm I just can't sleep ..... feeling too 'hyper' ... and waaaaiiiiiitiiiing for appointment with pdoc .... with sleeping pills not working so well and waking up in the night ... you know the score .... and now I do too!

Thanks again - best wishes - Moodie x

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