Understanding and Awareness Part II

When I google for the meaning of awareness, I notice common terms like knowledge, perceptions, understanding, consciousness. Its online definition is “knowledge gained through one’s own perceptions or by means of outside information.” By that, it means I know I would need to see my Doctor if my daily functionality was severely compromised by depression. This knowledge came from my perception of past experiences. So I am aware . But awareness did not come to me easily.

Awareness and Me

Awareness The Knowing

Awareness is essential and to keep an open mind for the element Awareness is much needed. As awareness is elusive and spontaneous, I never see it coming and it arrives unannounced. Perhaps another term to describe the moment and feeling is ‘Ah Ha! So that it is!’ the case. Awareness is elusive, either I have it or not. Most of the times being aware is about learning more about myself. Not all awareness is well-received. There are times when being aware is a brutal awakening and an end of being in denial. It took me donkey years to be aware and convinced that I had been ill mentally. I seemingly know that I am sick but I could not understand the-how, as I have been physically all right.

The knowing that I had been anxious and worried on the eve of a major exam, skipping schools for days to weeks, speaking rapidly with racing thoughts, first attempt of suicide at a young age 12 years old — these behaviors blatantly glaring at me, I know and yet the least aware that I have been sick when I was a child. The knowing is present but the level of awareness is almost none. Perhaps awareness and denial are both ends of a continuum on each end. I know but I am in denial or I know, and I am awakened, conscious of its full impact on my life. I can say too, with understanding, awareness becomes more ready to befriend me. So what is the role of awareness on managing my Bipolar journey?

Managing Bipolar With Awareness

Being aware means knowing beforehand and knowing what steps to take for the next course of action. On a bipolar-depressed day, negative thoughts were unrelenting and I would show contempt and behave unreasonably. Often it comes with an abrupt emotional outbursts, loud shouting and screaming on top of my voice, directed at my siblings. At this point in time, it is obviously late to say I was aware as damage had been done, relationship had been scarred. However with awareness it can alert me when I have negative thoughts, I will be able to ask “is this a valid thought supported with evidence?” Should I get a Yes-answer, I can ask again, “do I want and/or need to act on it?”

Similarly on a bipolar-hypomanic day, I would encounter thoughts like “Am I spending too much for this grocery shopping trip? Buying too many biscuits, stocking up too many cooking oil?” Other thoughts like getting a party dress and a pair of new shoe to go with it, buy a new smartphone, a new labtop and a labtop bag, a luggage. Thank goodness no car nor a house loiter into my thoughts. Knowing beforehand, I’m aware of the symptom of hypomania has surfaced, I can act accordingly by asking “I seem to be experiencing hypomanic symptoms, I better not buy this item now? How about take a wait-and-see approach?”

My Ally AwarenessBest Ally

 

Awareness is a powerful tool to aid my thought processing and search for the underlying emotions. With awareness I have more autonomy to make responsible choices on my behavior. It certainly ease the pain of regrets should I not be aware of my thoughts and emotions on day-to-day happenings. On a wider scope, awareness allows me to be pragmatic on frustrating life issues like “Why am I unable to hold on to a job like any other normal being?” The emotions of envy and sadness can be overwhelming. What I perceived has limited my confidence and ability, I have drawn a circle that I walked into it, believing I am unable to deliver and perform. I become aware that I have subconsciously blame my inabilities on my Bipolar illness, using it as an excuse to hide behind my fear of failure or rejection.

In the nutshell, it is fun to ally with Awareness as at any instant one may have an ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment. My two best friends Awareness and Understanding (Part I) will be my lifelong companion. They help me to recover, manage my illness, and grow into a better person I desire to be.

Habits Its Relevance With Well-being

By Mahatma Gandhi, “Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.” Habits, what is its relevance with wellness?

I was advised to draw out a schedule and follow through it faithfully. And practicing Gandhi’s saying, I make sure my behaviors are positive, first to ward off Bipolar-depression, next to keep to my schedule. In my case, cultivating positive behaviors with a schedule in place is challengingly difficult especially when I was in the midst of depression.

TimeAs said schedules would lessened the likelihood of a Bipolar relapse. Time, which everyone has, is a fixed component of a schedule. It is like we have three meals a day breakfast in the morning, lunch at noon, and dinner in the late evening. Human beings plan their behaviors along the time-line to get things done. So I go to work from 9am to 5pm on a daily basis, I do my grocery shopping on a weekly basis and I visit my dentist once every year, are plans I made. Ideally, with schedules, positive behaviors becoming good habits, should be able to counter my depression.

More often than usual, I observed I could not follow through the schedule. The list of tasks planned to be done in certain blocks of time would be interrupted, at worst disrupted. Unable to complete whatever that was scheduled, could turn on the tap of my anxiety, or discourage further my already depressed mode to a state of inertia. Schedules seem not to sit well on me, yet I need them as it is a helpful tool to fully optimize it. Time efficiently used is a form of well-being.

I was delighted to enjoy a shift in perspective from drawing up a schedule to cultivating habits. They work hand-in-hand for my sanity and effectiveness. More often than not, schedules do go awry and habits do not, however they are different concepts in cultivating wellness.

My job scope includes taking care of the plants and keeping the garden neat (at least no falling leaves). Should I schedule it before breakfast, I would find myself skipping it to breakfast directly. How about after food, the likelihood of getting it done seems higher but not foolproof. I always find the garden strewn with falling leaves at the end of a day. That upsets me as I have not followed my plan nor honored my promise to be a good worker. Schedule is apparently not working to my advantage.

Should I change my approach and schedule a time allotment of 30-45 minutes, I am to do the garden tasks on a daily basis. There’sPotted Garden no fixed time to do it. I can choose when to do, as long as I complete it before I knock off for the day. Here I have a daily schedule that develops a habit, not bound by time but aided with flexibility. What I find it attractive is I have begun to enjoy the work – taking care of the garden. My motivation to water plants is not out of sympathy (Oh these plants, poor souls, they’re unable to move to reach out for water). I am more proactive in caring for them, removing fallen leaves in the pot (that block off sunlight and hinder the soil from breathing), removing weeds or creepers to prevent them from encroaching the plants.

This change in perspective smooths out the rough edges of Bipolar disorder. It has empowered me, given me opportunities to enjoy being, as a living person with an illness, meeting my goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. As time unfolds, I get to focus on the task, not about having to do this by 12 noon nor get the report out in an hours time. Schedules are there to give us a framework of how time need to be spent while cultivating habits gives me confidence, freedom, a sense of well-being.

Bipolar Medication and Weight Gain

Part and parcel of taking Bipolar disorder medication is coming to terms with its side effects. Though I am relieved to have a diagnosis for my illness, happy that medication treatment is available, I am not ready and have not given much thought of its side effect weight gain.

The Alarm Rumble LoudlyAlarming

When I find out I was two to three kilograms heavier in the span of two months, unlike the gradual increase from my bouts of emotional-eating, my thought was “I am going to have an obesity problem.” The ‘freak-out’ alarm rumbled loudly. The fear I had was greater than receiving the diagnosis of Bipolar disorder. I catastrophized that I would be plagued by obesity complications like heart diseases, Type II diabetes, and stroke. No amount of exercise would reduce my weight. There was no way out.

Keeping on My Toes

With a disturbed mind, I began to watch my diet, and control my bouts of emotional-eating. I would drink water whenever I crave for snacks. Alternatively, I would bargain for a ‘small dose’ of snack after completing some unfavorable tasks that need to be done. More often than I like, I succumb to emotional-eating. To restrain my cravings, I google for the food and fruit to avoid, so that I can snack healthily. It is no easy feat, and I persist with an exercise schedule, jogging two to three times a week, planking and/or situps on a daily basis.

Weight Loss?

I wonder with these efforts in place, will my method be effective? Will I lose my belly fat? Am I focusing on the wrong thing?

Instead of weight gain, to be fit and healthy seems to make more sense. With this thought, I feel less stress and my mealtimes become more enjoyable. I keep up with my exercises and a balance diet in smaller portions (less carbohydrate, more proteins, and take my greens). I have my water bottle with me as a constant reminder to stay hydrated and take less caffeine and sugar beverages.

More importantly, I resolve to keep fit and healthy with a positive mindset.

When Medicine ‘Fails’

I think an effective treatment approach for Bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. However there are still times when my mood will go down and I felt the vitality in life drawn out completely.

Being depressed

The lost in liveliness usually begins with an increase in sleeping hours. I am relieved to get into bed earlier than usual and wake up at a later time. I will fall back onto the bed to catch one to two hours of nap before the next meal. The pattern repeats after lunch.

Personal upkeep is not on my to-do list. Actually the list is not in motion. When sleep is evasive, I will tune into online drama and games. Procrastination effectuate for daily tasks. I will keep the must-do tasks to the last hour. Lethargy prevails and often the energy level remains at zero or neutral. Short-term goals not in sight and have little or no motivating reverberations.

Waking up is an uphill route

With these tell-tale signals, I seem to know that I am depressed. Yet the mind is oblivion to these indicative you-are-depressed alarm and the feeble attempts to get out from the down cycle. Counter thoughts like ‘let’s focus on the next hour’, ‘you need to break the pattern’, ‘don’t feel, just do it’, or shorten the snooze interval with a few more wake-up alarms, are ignored. I am simply unable to shift the gear from neutral to one to bring back the vitality in living.

It is true that what one focus on expands. My depressive cycle encourages inactivity. The state of being inert begets discouraging lifestyle and robs the will to love myself. I condescend to overeating and agrees to missing out a day or two of medication, exercise is no longer mandatory. Should alcohol be easily available, I would have drank to my heart’s content. These meaningless behaviors are a reflections of the mind.

My mind seems like any physical substance with no feelings and no thinking abilities. I have shorter attention span and my memory is a blob of glue. My brain system has gone for hibernation. The danger of my mood spiraling downwards is lurking closer.

My way

Sensing danger, spikes of survival instincts comes into action. I urge myself to sleep less, Uplifting Moodjust sleep two to three hours for one night. When I wake up, my mood seem to be uplifted. Perhaps it is the adrenaline rush to counter tiredness, more energy is ignited. The neutral gear has move up one level. I ride on the momentum of the upward cycle, actively completing the to-do list for the day and drawing out the list for next day. I make sure I do not sleep in the day, so that I get a good night sleep.

Somehow I can kick-start the day with a lack of sleep. I may feel irritated during the day, but at least I become more energetic. The yearning to be alive with more energy is desirable. The positivity let me resume my medication faithfully.

And I continue to work on my goals …