Over the last week, I’ve devoured two of Amazon’s most highly rated books on bipolar disorder, and although I keep hoping that I’m making this up, I have to face the facts. So many of the behaviors and symptoms described in those books are familiar. Much too familiar to just deny.
I realized a lot of the things my prior pdoc asked about were driving at bipolar behaviors that I didn’t really know about. My answers make it pretty obvious that I’m bipolar – and since I didn’t know that these particular behaviors were associated with the disorder in advance, how could I be making it all up?
On the “bright side” at least it seems like I have pretty mild, fairly manageable symptoms. Maybe I can even avoid the crazy drugs that are known for their nasty side effects. Of course, in order to avoid the drugs, I have to make a bunch of lifestyle changes. And those aren’t compatible with my career plans. My supervisor even said point-blank that it sounded incompatible with the academic lifestyle. My prior pdoc also suggested – more than once – that I should consider other career options, or maybe a less ambitious position. To which I replied, I haven’t been in grad school for 7 years to give up on that dream without trying.
But I am attempting to make some changes, hoping that it will alleviate the worst symptoms – though if that works, of course, I’ll doubt the dx even more! And if it doesn’t work, I’ll still have to make those changes, plus try the drugs, so I really don’t have a choice about it.
First off, I’m (still) trying to get the drinking under control. I’m not ready to give up on that entirely either, and I’m hoping that I’ll still be able to have one or two drinks with a meal – I just really have to stop the hypomanic binge drinking. I can drink A LOT in that state. Like a liter of wine in an evening.
Second, I have to work on my sleep hygiene. If anything has become clear to me, it’s that lack of sleep precipitates a hypomanic episode. But it seems nigh unto impossible to go to bed by 10:30 PM every night and get up at 6:00 AM every day without fail. I don’t think I’m quite that sensitive to sleep loss because I don’t see the manicky symptoms kicking in until I have under 5 hours of sleep, and it only gets bad if I do it 2 nights running. (Tonight is night 2, by the way…)
Finally, I know I’ll do better overall if I make my mealtimes more stable. I’m hypoglycemic, after all, and it definitely affects my moods. But doing that is a lot more work than it appears, especially the goal of sticking to established times.
In general, the whole idea of a super-stable daily routine is laughable for an academic. It just doesn’t work that way. And that’s the crux of the problem. Every treatment plan for this disorder involves a rigid daily routine, and I kind of doubt that I can do that. Or more accurately, it’s an intimidating and overwhelming goal at this point.
So I’m starting by cutting back even further on alcohol and trying to get my sleep schedule more regular. I’ll work on the rest later.