grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
Sleep is one of the most important things a mentally ill person can have. It's critical to keeping healthy and feeling better. But there are strict rules -- it is ideal to sleep eight or nine hours a day. No more, no less.

The problem is, for mentally ill people sleeping can often be a struggle. Especially if you're bipolar, both mania and depression can trigger insomnia. (Mania creates excitement and energy that makes it hard to get to sleep, depression can make it hard to sleep just because you're so damned miserable all the time.) Then, especially if you're depressed and lack energy, or if you've stayed up all night, you can have trouble waking up again.

With that said, here are some tips I've found for getting to sleep and waking up:

- Meditation. This is one of the most vital tips. I meditate every night before bed. I switch what I listen to from night to night. Sometimes I listen to ASMR videos, other times I listen to guided meditation podcasts, self hypnosis sessions, or visual relaxation audios (which describe a beautiful place to you in a soothing voice and ask you to imagine yourself there). Basically, I just need something to listen to in order to wind down and help me get to sleep.

- Music. Some people check their Facebook or Twitter right before bed. I try not to do this, because it will only keep me awake. Instead, I listen to the radio. Music is much more relaxing and requires much less thought than an article on Facebook or Twitter. I also have a sound maker that does something similar, playing soothing sounds of waves crashing and seagulls calling to help me sleep. Use sound to your advantage -- it's one of the most powerful psychological forces we have.

- Warm drink. Sometimes I warm up a mug of milk, other times I make myself some non caffeinated herbal tea. This is a little something to look forward to each night before I go to bed, that helps me power down.

- Bath. I always take baths and showers at night, instead of during the day. It helps me wind down, feel nice and clean again, and get into "sleep mode."

- I take medications at night that make me sleepy. This is vital. I used to have major problems with insomnia, so I talked to my psychiatrist about them. Now I take a nightly medication that suppresses delusions and hallucinations, but also helps me relax and feel sleepy. And if you do have a medication like this, and you're taking it during the morning instead, why are you making this so hard on yourself? Just take it every twenty-four hours at night instead. Use the sleepiness to your advantage.

- I know when I feel tired, and I don't try to push myself. The average person feels tired at about ten or eleven o'clock at night, even if they don't realize it. Take the time to listen to your body. Don't start reading a bunch of articles or embark on some major project. Listen to some music, watch some TV (that is not the news), and then go to bed.

- When you want to wake up the next morning, set your alarm for a time before you actually want to get up. This will give you some time to wake up and force your way out of bed. And when you finally do, voila! It'll be at the time you wanted to wake up anyway.

- Have something to wake up for. This is important, too. Especially if you're depressed, schedule something to wake up and look forward to each morning. For me, it's having a cup of coffee and going for my morning walk. If you have nothing to do, you'll probably just stay in bed all day.

These are just some sleep hygiene tips I've found. I'll let you know if I come upon any more. Stay healthy!

On Guilt

Jul. 25th, 2015 05:16 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I'm here to talk today about bipolar disorder and guilt.

Guilt is a common feature of bipolar disorder. We're hard to live with and our actions are often completely out of our own control, and that can lead to bad decisions, which can lead to guilt in the aftermath of the bad decisions. We hate, in the rational part of our minds, that we make things harder on other people. But we can do little about it at the time it's all happening.

Some things I've been guilty about: Bothering the people I'm living with by staying up too late with insomnia. Getting reckless and manic and doing things like bustling around and singing loudly when other people are trying to go to sleep. Doing stupid things like hanging up and storming out on people during moments of mixed episodes. Basically anything that makes me come across in public as "crazy" or "mentally unhinged", I also feel guilty about. Making social faux pas during manic episodes, I definitely feel guilty and ashamed about.

Some people have it a lot worse, though. Drinking, drugs, violence, ruinous spending sprees, angry shouted words, ruined relationships. You name it. All can happen in people with bipolar disorder.

So how do we deal with this guilt? Here are some things I've found.

The first thing I do is try to stop and analyze the bad thoughts. I acknowledge the feeling I'm having and then put my brain to it. Is this thought reasonable? (In other words, does it use unreasonable words like "never" or "always" or "hopeless"?) Why am I feeling upset? Is it over something I can change? Can I keep myself from going through that behavior again?

If the answer is yes, then I change my life for the better. No need to feel guilty anymore. If the answer is no, there's nothing I can change, I try to stop feeling guilty over it. (Sometimes healing meditation can help with that -- sitting with the feeling without doing anything about it.)

Because sometimes, that's the answer. There's nothing I can do about it now. It was all in the past, over, done with. Also, I was out of my own control. Which moves me to advice #2.

I try to tell myself I was out of my own control. I was going through an episode. I can't do anything about the fact that I'm bipolar and sometimes my brain gets sick and makes me do stupid things. Just that reminder can make me feel a lot better.

Once I've gone through options one and two (acknowledge and analyze the thoughts and possibly meditate with them, remind myself I was out of my own control) I move on to step three. I distract my mind from guilt by doing or concentrating on something else -- preferably something enjoyable.

This can be something as simple as taking a walk, running yourself a bath, or curling up with a cup of tea and a good book. You could watch a movie or a standup comedy routine. Just something healing and healthy that makes you feel better and distracts yourself from what's troubling you. I find that if you ignore thoughts long enough, they at least temporarily go away.

One additional step is very important to me. I engage in positive self talk. This means that when I do something good, I pretend there are people encouraging me, acknowledging how well I've done. I imagine what they would say. In this way, I remember to dwell on all the positive things I've done as well as the negative ones.

This may take some repeats. The negative thoughts may keep coming back and you may have to engage these techniques against them over and over again. But I've found that with a little time and perseverance, the thoughts start to sting less than they used to. Time, I think, can heal almost anything.

We just have to open ourselves up to the possibility of healing and of life getting better.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I thought I'd share this photo series:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/06/christian-hopkins-depression-photography_n_7714426.html

It's one woman's effort to show through art what depression is like. She's a photographer and she uses these photographs as a form of catharsis and a way of communicating her feelings. The article points out that many people have no idea what clinical depression is like, so this could be good even for people who aren't depressed.

I was inspired by her to talk a little bit about depression myself.

Depression is not sadness, sadness is not depression, they are not the same thing. Depression is a kind of numbness. It's a creeping feeling of overwhelmed exhaustion, even when things are going well. Depressed people don't like doing things, don't like talking to or meeting people, and frankly don't really particularly like anything. They feel guilty, often for no reason, and worthless, almost always for no reason. They feel like their life is going horribly and will never get better. Good events are diminished in their mind and bad events are magnified -- it's like living in a surrealist painting. (The same thing happens with delusions -- things that support the delusion are magnified and things that go against it are diminished.)

Depression can be triggered by stressful events, but -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- it can also happen in a perfectly happy person's life.

I would also add that depression is a chemical illness. The person has no control over how they feel, what they think, or even really how they act. Thus, depressed people are not "selfish." Depression is a not a personality trait. It's a disease, like diabetes or the flu, only it happens in the brain. Often, the only reason depressed people stave off suicide for as long as they do is because they don't want to hurt the people around them. For others, depression creates the thought that their loved ones would be better off without them.

I could go on and on, but who wants to hear something morbid like that? Instead, I choose to talk about what I do when I feel down to make myself feel up again. Here's a list of some things to try:

- Take a warm bath.

- Meditate. Mindfulness meditation is particularly useful.

- Have a cup of relaxing chamomile tea.

- Go for a walk, or try some yoga. Do something that gets you out exercising without being overly stressful. Exercise releases relaxing endorphins through the brain.

- Do something very small, like answer an email or make a phone call, that makes you feel productive and like you've achieved something.

- Try going out and having fun with others, even if you don't want to. I usually go to the movies or go swing dancing. You'll feel better after you've forced yourself to get out there and try it.

- Take a break from your usual stressors and watch something you like on Netflix.

- Cry. This may seem counterproductive, but crying as a way of recognizing and releasing our emotions can actually make us feel better. Acknowledge the pain.

- Find a way to express your depression -- write, paint, or music out your feelings. They may become clearer to you afterward.

If the down feeling doesn't go away after these steps:

- Go see your therapist.

- Make an appointment with your psychiatrist.

Things NOT to do when you're depressed:

- Don't change your medications without checking with your psychiatrist.

- Don't drink.

- Don't do drugs.

- Don't try to eat your problems away.

- Don't try to sex your problems away.

- Don't sleep all day -- too much sleep can create depression/make it worse. Mentally ill people are also more prone, in my experience, to experiencing night terrors (hallucinations, sleep paralysis, nightmares) than mentally healthy people.

ABOVE ALL:

- Give yourself a break. You're doing just fine. Sometimes we all need that little reminder.

ASMR

Jul. 7th, 2015 01:42 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I listen to guided meditation and self hypnosis sessions. This is a bit like that. It's very relaxing and helps me fall asleep.

The whole point of this YouTube channel is to help the person listening achieve ASMR. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is a state in which a person receives soothing sensory stimuli, and then feels tingling in their head, scalp, or back in response. ASMR is definitely a thing some people experience, but there's not really any science behind it -- no one knows how or why it happens.

I've been experiencing ASMR all my life. Story time was my favorite when I was a little kid, because listening to people tell stories made my head feel all tingly. Years later, I was on Twitter and I saw someone talking about ASMR. I was like, "What the hell is this?" So I looked it up... and discovered a treasure trove of tingly goodness. I had no idea this was a thing! I had no idea I could get this feeling whenever I wanted it!

I get ASMR from listening to guided meditations, from listening to self hypnosis sessions... and also from listening to videos like this. When people say they put you in a "trance", what they mean is that they're helping you experience ASMR. Not everyone can achieve ASMR -- any good hypnotist will tell you that. But even if you can't achieve ASMR, listening to soft soothing voices take you to an inner world can still be very beneficial for lowering blood pressure and inducing sleepiness.

This may all sound like a bunch of bull, but I encourage you to try it. I find that sessions like these are great for relaxation -- even if you can't explain why, they just feel good.



PS: If you're looking for guided meditation and self hypnosis podcasts, some people to try are Nigel Hetherington, Tracks to Relax, and Lita Stone.

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Hopeless Dreamer

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