Fifteen Seconds

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My cycling generally follows a predictable pattern. It is seasonal. I cycle towards depression during fall and winter. I cycle towards hypomania/mania during spring and summer. This is not an absolute. There have been entire years where I was predominantly depressed, and others where I was predominantly hypomanic. I also experience mixed states regularly. But on the whole my cycling is associated with the seasons.

I’ve been trending up significantly the last couple of weeks. This is pretty early for me. Normally it would start closer to March or April. But I track sleep and mood daily and it is unquestionably the case that I’m heading up. I’m sleeping considerably less than usual, and my agitation is off the charts. I’m also experiencing racing thoughts and am having difficulty concentrating; my attention span is becoming minuscule.

Another indicator of mood is how I respond to my meds. I take different meds in the morning and evening. In the morning I take meds that do not make me drowsy. My evening meds generally do. Taking these meds at different times accomplishes two things. First, it allows me to be more alert during the day, especially in the morning, which is when I get most of my work done. Second, it helps me regulate sleep. I take my evening meds about an hour prior to my bedtime. In that hour or so the drowsiness kicks in and I am generally able to fall asleep quickly once I lay down to do so.

When I trend upward my evening meds do not cause this drowsiness. In fact, I really don’t notice any effects at all. This is not to say that the meds aren’t “working”. Drowsiness is a convenient side effect. The meds themselves are not prescribed to make me sleep. That is not their primary function. That is just a rather convenient secondary function.

Laying in bed awake for long periods of time makes it more difficult to fall asleep. I know, that’s obvious. Being awake is the opposite of sleeping, duh. What I mean is that continuing to lay in bed, trying to go to sleep, makes going to sleep even more difficult. The harder you try to sleep the less likely you are to fall asleep. The recommendation, then, for going to sleep is to stop trying after about 15 minutes and get up and do something else, and then lay back down and try again. My “something else” is usually reading.

I have mentioned my love for all things Douglas Adams before. Reading more long-form books doesn’t help me go to sleep, as I often get caught up in the content of the book and continue reading instead of laying back down to sleep. So right now I’m reading The Salmon of Doubt, Douglas Adams’ last, unfinished book, that was “completed” after his death. He had not, at the time of his death, written enough for it to ever become a finished novel, so what was written for the novel itself has been supplemented with other, shorter writings of his, often one or two page essays.

One such essay is titled “My Nose”. I read it last night and it really resonated me, about how my bipolar brain is functioning right now. Here is an excerpt from that essay. It begins with him explaining how his gigantic nose is more decorative than functional, blaming the fact that it doesn’t actually draw in air on his growing up in his grandmother’s house, where she regularly cared for sick and injured animals.

Because the air was thick with animal hair and dust, my nose was continually inflamed and runny, and every fifteen seconds I would sneeze. Any thought that I could not explore, develop, and bring to some logical conclusion within fifteen seconds would therefore be forcibly expelled from my head, along with a great deal of mucus.

That’s how I feel right now, minus the mucus bit. That’s how bipolar racing thoughts work. You’re all over the place, but never really anywhere for any length of time. It’s frustrating. Attempts to concentrate are psychologically exhausting. Unfortunately they are not physically exhausting, nor do they exhaust themselves, so they just keep on coming and serve as an alternative to sleep and coherence. They keep you up at night. They impede work during the day. They cause anxiety. They increase stress and irritability. They just fly all around being distracting, elusive, and completely useless.

I don’t have a conclusion to this post. It’s taken a disproportionately long time for me to write it, and I have wrestled with cogent thought the entire time.

Ironically the faster the bipolar brain works the longer it takes to get anything done.