Sleepiness is Stealing My Life

It is all too easy for us to want to snuggle up and hibernate on these long dark, cold nights. The appeal of early nights and late mornings is strong. Getting out of bed ‘full of the joys of spring’ in the deep, mid winter is, for the most, unheard of; falling out of bed and tripping up in the dark is more like it.

For people with a variety of sleep disorders, life all year long can be difficult, but without a doubt, wintertime is the most challenging part of the year because of the effect the reduction of available light and drop in temperature has on how the brain and body functions.
Sleep disorders are not just about what does or doesn’t happen during the night; it’s about the full 24-hour body clock cycle. Extended darkness and colder temperatures play havoc with this for everyone, but it can be unbearable for those with sleep disorders.

Despite engaging in all the therapy of my sleep treatment plan in a morning (which I have written about in previous blogs) I am still exhausted and find it almost impossible to get going, so I have to have a morning nap by 10.30/11am for 30 to 40 minutes. What doesn’t help is two of my four morning tablets for the bipolar disorder cause drowsiness, so I am fighting against this too. As a result, planning morning events or meetings too difficult. If there is something I absolutely must do, excessive adrenalin and anxiety seem to help me push through, but I can’t manage this every day.

Most people feel sleepy after lunch. It is a natural part of our circadian rhythm to do so, but because of jobs and responsibilities, many people have to push through. An afternoon canstockphoto6137940nap is part of my sleep treatment plan, and luckily, I am in a position of not working, so can do it. Depending on how severe the sleep deprivation is, the nap can be between 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

Then there is after dinner; I cannot keep my eyes open and end up drifting off in front of the TV for 30 minutes. Finally, by 9 pm I am so drained and cannot keep my eyes open, I have to give in and go to bed.

If I am lucky, I am blessed with a sleep cycle between 9 pm and midnight, but for the rest of the nighttime, the effect of the sleep disorder results in me not getting sleep cycles and just experiencing light dozing. This is what has caused chronic sleep deprivation for me. Some nights I am lucky and get a reasonable sleep, but these are so few and far between, that it doesn’t reduce the sleep debt or daytime sleepiness.

Every day I am plagued with overwhelming sleepiness but live the best I can. I need to have the naps, though, so every day I am either asleep or overwhelmed with sleepiness, and it is stealing my life. Adrenalin helps me push through where I can and I somehow manage the extra mile to go to meetings and appointments, but I can’t do it two days in a row – I need recovery time.

Bipolar episodes are impacted by this, but as of late, these are becoming less as my body has finally started responding to the medication. I am getting out for a walk or a cycle for 30 minutes a few times a week now, and I am managing to study for about an hour a few days of the week too. It’s as good as it gets, but at least it is something. Sleepiness eats away at the rest of my time and is stealing my life. I don’t stop fighting it, though, and I am determined to never lose the fight!

Dont Give Up The Fight

Related blogs:

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 1: Caffeine

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 2- Light Therapy

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 3 – Aromatherapy

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 4 – Music Therapy

 

Dealing with Being Dumped

Picture of a tree, one side green and leafy and the other side bare branches
(c) Can Stock Photo

Dumped by text. I knew it was coming; I was just waiting for the “you’re dumped,” and I just knew it would selfishly be delivered by text instead of in person or by a phone call. That’s the way she is.

Being in a relationship while having bipolar disorder is not easy at the best of times, but when both parties have bipolar disorder; well, the journey is set to be a rough one. To be successful, having a plan is vital. ‘Know what we are dealing with’ would be a good place to start. To understand each other’s needs is important, but it has to be two-sided; both parties must understand the other person’s needs, not just their own. If this doesn’t happen from the start, the journey is destined to arrive at failure, sooner, rather than later.

Having a daily routine is an important part of managing bipolar disorder. What happens when one person is trying to stick to their routine, but the other one doesn’t have one? There is a potential risk that the person with a daily routine is dragged off course and into the unplanned path of the one without a routine. When this happens, maintenance of mental health becomes increasingly difficult.

Communication is an essential element in the relationship, but general chit-chat is not communication. Real communication is the ability to talk about issues openly in a conversation (verbal, not text) without fear. When one person is fearful of speaking up about a problem, the relationship has no backbone.

Neediness brings challenges to the relationship, too. Sure, we all have needs; emotionally, mentally and physically, and if these are not met, the relationship will spiral downhill quickly. What happens when one person is high maintenance in the needs department, but the other only has two basic needs? The balance is uneven, and one person has a lot of hard work on their hands. Neediness in a relationship is healthy, but it can also be a deal-breaker if it becomes too much.

My needs were simple; in fact, I only had two needs. The first is ‘space.’ I needed space to stick to my documented daily routine (which is actually a treatment plan for a sleep disorder) My second need is ‘alone time’ so that I can have headspace to pursue my creative activities. I also need some downtime to do household chores and gardening! If I don’t get to stick to my routine, I very quickly become unwell and if I don’t get the headspace needed, I end up feeling crowded and miserable.

So what did I do wrong? In general, terms, nothing specific. Regarding routine, though; I gave my power away by letting her drag me off my essential daily routine to her ‘live life as it comes’ approach. Nearly every afternoon, she would text or phone and ask to ‘come for a cuppa.’ That’s ok, but she would then stay for the rest of the afternoon and evening. She had no consideration for what I may be doing at the time or things that I may need to do. My valuable time was not important to her. So, we would sit on the couch, (nearly always) eat take-away and watch TV. I got bored very quickly and yearned for my headspace. But, I was fearful of saying so, as I just knew it would be seen as a rejection, and she would sulk, or worse – throw a tantrum and dump me!

So what did I really do wrong? In my terms, I didn’t communicate as I should have and I didn’t stand up for my own needs. In her terms; despite trying to meet her needs by sacrificing my daily routine and allowing her to take the lead in every decision of what we should do with our time; it wasn’t enough. My afternoon nap is an essential part of my routine and the number of times it had to be sacrificed, because she phoned/texted during it, was too much for me.

In her terms, one of the things I did wrong, was I didn’t give her ‘enough attention.’ She soaked up so much of my time. We saw each other nearly every day. I listened to the things she had to tell me and I tried to be sympathetic where it was needed. But perhaps she didn’t feel she was getting enough because I was privately yearning for at least some headspace. I couldn’t cope with seeing her every day; it was too exhausting.

Another thing I did wrong, was not to be able to cope with her high need for intimacy; every day if she got her way. I did manage to speak up and tell her she was wearing me out, but this seemed to fall on deaf ears. The end result on my part was misery, which led to low libido – so she would be miserable because her physical needs were not being met. Total failure and relationship-killer.

The final thing I did wrong last night was to say no when she asked me to go to her house for dinner. I needed to cut the grass, as it was at the stage of overwhelming me and it had to be done in the evening when it was cooler. I should have sacrificed doing it ‘because’ she had suggested me going to her’s for dinner. Saying ‘no’ was sufficient enough for her to decide her needs were not being met and send me the ‘you’re dumped’ text this morning.

The sad thing is; this is the 4th time she has dumped me by text over 18 months. I was gullible enough to go back to her each time she decided the relationship should be back on again. It has taken me this many times of being dumped by text to learn a lesson that the biggest thing I was getting wrong, was staying in the unhealthy relationship.

Never again!

The word goodbye rubber-stamped on white paper
(c) Can Stock Photo

When Hyposexuality Kicks In

Silhouettes of couple not speaking
Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

Hypersexuality and manic episodes are known to go hand-in-hand, but hyposexuality (low or no sex drive) can also be present as part of the bipolar illness. It is a known side effect of bipolar medication, so identifying whether it is the illness or the medication to blame, is not so easy. However, it is also easy for the psychiatrist or doctor to just blame the medication rather than talk about it and try to help with the problem.

How do you know if it is the medication? Well, if the symptom starts not long after, even a few months after starting new meds, they likely the culprit. If the symptom starts when you have been taking your meds for some time, they are not likely the cause and further investigation will be needed to identify the issue.

Hyposexuality often occurs during depressive episodes and when you think about it; it does make sense. However, hyposexuality can also occur even when those episodes are mild or during a well period. It is rare to experience this during mania, though. When experiencing hyposexuality during a well period, meds are often blamed by the medical professionals, even when you may know it’s not the meds.

Sexuality can be difficult or even embarrassing to talk about, so often people end up suffering in silence, and this can result in relationship problems and low self-esteem.

Hard as it may be, the best place to start is talking it over with your partner if you are in a relationship. The more they understand, the less chance there is of harming your relationship. Talking about how you feel or don’t feel, as the case may be, might be a big weight off your shoulders and might improve yours and their self-esteem. Even if you are not in a relationship at the time, it can still affect your self-esteem and spoil the relationship you have with yourself, or even make you reluctant to start dating.

Bipolar Disorder - Medical Concept.

Another important thing is talking to the doctor who is treating you. They may know if it is a medication side-effect and could negotiate a different type of med for you to try. If they seem reluctant to take it seriously at first, keep pushing the issue, as it is your health, wellbeing and relationship at stake here. Your doctor might suggest counselling as an alternative to changing med, which could be a good course of action. They may also want to explore further to see if it is a medical issue causing the problem.

If you are suffering from hyposexuality, know that it is not you to blame; you are not doing anything wrong. There are some options out there for you and your doctor to consider that may improve the situation. Bipolar disorder sucks, but one consoling fact is the illness, and symptoms are episodic, and this too may pass without any intervention required.

Technology Fatigue

 

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I think I have given myself a dose of it, accidentally; or rather, by over-enthusiasm. I fell in love with blogging almost straight away after writing my first post, and never looked back. From then, I couldn’t contain my excitement as I researched topics to write about and thought of stories to tell. Blogs were flowing from me every day, and I loved it.

I was amazed that I was getting likes and followers; so many, so soon. It was more than I expected in my first month of blogging! So, I decided it was time to create social media profiles for my blog to help spread the word. I guess that was the point I opened the door to technology fatigue. Having created Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr ‘My Bonkers Brain’ profiles, I then became consumed in social media like I never had before. Reading, liking, sharing, searching for those like-minded folks to follow and paving the way for my own followers. Who knew it could be so absorbing and time-consuming? I loved every minute of it, though, don’t get me wrong – it was, and still is exciting, not to mention, fascinating.

Having bipolar disorder, I can very quickly develop an obsession and become solely fixated on that thing, to the exclusion of everything else in a day. That is what happened to me and why I had to drop off the face of the earth for a few weeks. I became obsessed with the blogosphere and social media and just couldn’t walk away and do something else. There were so many blogs lined up in my reader, and I just had to read each one; each new blog took me on an exciting journey through other people’s experiences. There were so many tweets in my Twitter feed, more pins on Pinterest than I could keep up with and Tumblr, well, I just haven’t quite figured that one out yet.

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The obsession took hold straight away but after a few weeks, I was able to spot the warning signs; which for me, is a great achievement – having self-awareness of the symptoms of my illness. Okay, so I knew I was obsessed, but could I do something about it? No. WordPress and My Bonkers Brain social media profiles were in my waking thoughts and never left me throughout the day, and I didn’t mind. I was doing something worthwhile, and it was boosting my confidence no end.

The obsession became a real problem when fatigue set in. But, still, I couldn’t let go of the laptop, I was in danger of becoming ill, and I knew it, but couldn’t quite stop myself. My head was buzzing with ideas for blogs, stories and poems and they each deserved a chance of digital life. My social media profiles needed nurturing, and my topics needed researching, so I didn’t stop for a rest, despite being aware I was becoming too obsessed.

Fatigue jumped out at me and bit my brain – hard. I was suddenly exhausted every moment of the day and had hit a blank wall. I couldn’t think of anything to write. Nothing; not a sentence, not a single word flowed from my fingers. The choice to slow down had been removed from me, and that was not a bad thing. I was pushed into a period of forced rest to recover from the fatigue. I was so tired I couldn’t even watch television for a couple of weeks. When I tried to keep up to speed with my personal Facebook wall, I was overwhelmed and just had to switch off and leave it. So, there I was, unplugged from technology completely to recover from the fatigue and able to overcome the obsession by forced rest.

I have resumed my relationship with technology, but my lesson is learned. The social media profiles are not as important as I had originally thought. My head is not buzzing with blog topics, so there is no pressure to blog every day. My self-imposed pressure for non-stop social media surfing and blogging created the obsession; I know the signnotebook-1071775_640s and danger of it now, so won’t – or, with the best will in the world, will try not to make the same mistake again!  I will blog, but not every day. I will surf social media, but not as if my life depended on it. I will research, but only topics on a controlled list of things to write about. Management is my key to wellness.

I am sure I am not alone and many other people have walked this path before me.  Hopefully, this blog will help others spot the warning signs and take action before the fatigue kicks in!

Treating Sleep Deprivation Part 3 – Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy Oils

As I explained previously in this blog series, living with the daily consequences of a sleep disorder is harsh. The sleep disorder causes chronic sleep deprivation as well as a host of cognitive and physical ailments. I also have a Circadian Rhythm Disorder, which makes things worse.

I use a variety of techniques to treat the daytime effects of sleep deprivation and reset my circadian rhythm. Part 1 of this blog series discussed the use of caffeine; Part 2 discussed Light Therapy and Part 3 is discussing how I stimulate my brain with smell using Aromatherapy.

“Aromatherapy, also referred to as Essential Oil therapy, can be defined as the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.”

Lavender FlowerLavender is probably the most famous of all essential oils and most familiar for helping people get to sleep. There are hundreds of essential oils, though, and they have been used for thousands of years for their healing properties. The oils all have different properties that provide a variety of potential healing abilities.

I know many sceptics still call aromatherapy ‘pseudoscience,’ but ask anyone who has treated burns with lavender and fungal infections with tea tree oil if it works and in many cases, the answer is yes! Science might not be able to explain why, but if it works, do we need to be so critical? After all, antidepressants are used to treat a variety of mental illnesses, but scientists still can’t explain exactly why they work in some cases, but not for others!

The essential oil properties I am most interested in for waking me up, are those with stimulant properties such as peppermint. It is recognised that Peppermint can energise and help us stay alert. It is described as ‘uplifting and invigorating,’ and I certainly have to agree! Peppermint is my favourite, but it is down to personal preference. There are other many stimulant oils such as; Grapefruit, Bergamot, Rosemary, Basil and Ginger available to use.

Peppermint oil is a natural stimulant that is included in hundreds of products for it’s fresh, uplifting scent and taste. The oil can increase your ability to concentrate during times of mental fatigue or stress and boost your energy levels. Perfect for the morning sleep deprivation crisis!

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I use the aroma of the oil to stimulate my brain, by burning it in a specially designed oil burner for about an hour, and it fills the room with its wonderful scent. I also put some on a cotton ball and sniff this periodically. I have found it does cut through the foggy brain sleep deprivation causes and helps me feel more awake each morning. I can concentrate more effectively also. I can feel my eyes beginning to stay open instead of half shut and out of focus!

It is also has a fresh, pleasant sweet smell. I wouldn’t be without peppermint oil in the mornings now!

Please note, essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin as neat essential oil, though; they must be mixed with a carrier oil first. (Lavender and Tea Tree Oils are the exceptions to this rule). Also, the essential oils must never be consumed.

So, far we have discussed how I use my senses each morning to stimulate my brain through taste with the caffeine, sight with the light therapy, and smell with the aromatherapy. Coming up: I will be writing about stimulating my brain through sound using music therapy. These previous blogs are:

Treating Sleep Deprivation – Part 1: Caffeine
Treating Sleep Deprivation – Part 2: Light Therapy
Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

When Depression Starts to Lift

My previous blog ‘Depression Steals My Zest For Life‘ was about the feeling created by a depressive episode moving in and taking over my life. This blog features the feelings that happen when depression starts to lift and life flows back in again.

For me, depression is always an episode rather than a permanent state of being. The episode can last days, weeks or months, but it will lift eventually. That’s the way bipolar disorder works.

When the depression does start lifting, I feel a gentle tingling on the surface of my skin and a tickle in my belly. My once numb skin can feel the touch of clothing, the warmth of water and coolness of the air.

My eyes widen and my mouth starts to smile. The frozen, lifeless feeling starts to melt and life creeps back into every cell in my body. The ugly sisters of darkness and death are banished and my zest for life returns from her visit to Great Auntie Anne.

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One of the beautiful aspects of this recovery is being able to see properly again; to see a flower appearing out of the darkness and appreciate its depth of colour, pumps the zest through my arteries. I can see the beauty of nature living in my garden; the robins and squirrels, the swaying trees, flowering shrubs and the richness of the grass. I close my eyes and imagine the feel of the cool grass beneath my bare feet. I experience a sense of comfort, reassurance, and a sensation of wholeness.

Life has, at last, returned to the once empty shell that was weighed down by the lead suit. Nature, in all its glory, has restored my zest for life and is feeding my creative mind. Flowers; their delicate, vibrant petals and pleasing aroma, tickle my senses. I feel it in my belly. I can see, hear, smell and feel nature in my soul and it feels wonderful. I am alive.

Zest for LifeI am back to my usual cheerful, creative and curious self and I can continue living again. I know it won’t last, though. That is the way it is with bipolar disorder. I don’t know how or when, but I know there will be another depressive episode. Until then, may the zest live long and prosper!

Our Relationship With Gadgets

As part of Mental Health Awareness week in the UK, I have blogged about the relationship we have with ourselves, with our partner and with our pets. Today I want to talk about the relationship we have with our Gadgets.

Gadgets can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, our gadgets, gear and social media can bring us much closer together and make the world a smaller place. Our family and friend relationships benefit from this, which can have a positive effect on our mental health.

On the other hand, we can become so obsessed with the gadgets in our hand, that we can forget our friends and family are in the same room as us! This oversight might not be good for the relationship we have with them.

When It’s good to tech-talk

There is no doubt, today’s technology is an incredible communication tool. Not only does it help us keep in closer contact with family and friends who are not in our local area, but it can also help us build upon these relationships through sharing stories, photos and messaging. I adore seeing pictures of my great-niece making achievements, from taking her first steps to starting school. I would have missed out on all of this if it were not for today’s technology and our gadgets.

Being stuck at home all the time, I would feel isolated and cut off from the larger world, if it were not for my gadgets. When my mental health is suffering, I get much solace from engaging with social media and messaging. Without it, I fear I would decline even further into a deeper depression. My iPad is my means of speaking during these times.

When it’s not good to tech-talk

I am amazed by the number of times I have been in a restaurant and seen people sitting round a table together having lunch, but all of them are busy looking at their gadgets. Nobody is actually talking to the people they are sitting with! Or, groups of young adults out together, but burried in their phones. I do wonder if fulfilling relationships can be maintained when such time is spent consuming technology, rather than chatting with each other. Who knows, maybe they are talking to each other on Facebook rather than in the room!

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When our gadgets can kill us

Our gadgets have become so embroiled into every aspect of our lives, to the point they could be risking our lives when we use them without thinking. Augsburg in Germany has recently introduced traffic light crossings with lights embedded in the pavement, to protect people who are so engrossed in their gadgets, they might walk into the road without looking.

It is tragic that so many thousands of deaths in traffic collisions around the world have happened while people have been using their gadgets at the same time they are driving a vehicle. Gadgets make it easy these days to glance quickly at a status update and this action risks causing a collision – this is definitely not a moment to be having a relationship with a gadget.

Do no harm

Gadgets – they bring us closer together, facilitate joy and laughter, fill our heads with data, and make the world a smaller place. But, the way we use them can not only harm our human relationships – they also can harm us. Perhaps we can get more from the relationship with our gadgets by doing more of what is good which will boost our mental health, and resist doing the harmful things that can damage not just our mental health, but our human existence!

 

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo