high to low and back again

I started writing this post yesterday afternoon, and it was originally called, stable .. for now, but nothing I wrote felt right, and by the evening I had abandoned it altogether. Some highlights–

I’ve been fairly stable since the wedding. That is, not depressed. I’m caught up with schoolwork again, and I’m starting to enjoy activities again, like reading, writing, running, and cooking. (I even went to a yoga class on Friday!) I’m looking forward to seeing my student on Wednesday and tutoring in general (I volunteer at an adult literacy center), as well as Thanksgiving. (I’m not delighted about being around fourteen people, but I do want to see if my mood holds up and how, or if, that will affect the outcome of the social situation. Plus, I want to test out some of my new cognitive techniques. So, it’s not so much about the social situation itself; it’s more about seeing whether I can get through it without being flooded with anxiety [an experiment, really]. And I’m actually feeling more confident that I will be able to do just that, and if I don’t–NO BIG DEAL!)

I’ve been doing lots of CBT lately. I still don’t know whether it’s working or not–whether it’s affecting deeper change–but I do know that it’s changing the way I think. I’m more positive and upbeat. I haven’t been engaging in my normal destructive behaviors of finding faults in the past and using those to ruin the present, etc. It’s a strange feeling, really. I’m not comfortable with feeling good–or, more precisely: not feeling bad. I guess I’ve just been feeling neutral lately. I look to the future and I don’t get the hopelessness that I got a week ago; it’s more like a staleness.

Finally, I’m also excited about trying a new drug. I’m not comfortable with taking Klonopin daily, so I’m going to talk to the pdoc on Tuesday about trying an MAOI–Nardil. A friend of mine who also has social anxiety is on it and I have noticed a huge difference in her behavior. Yes, MAOIs have some pretty bad side effects and you have to be on a strict diet to avoid hypertension, but maybe the ends will justify the means (for once)? I just have to talk my pdoc into it, because he had a patient die while on Nardil because s/he ate the wrong kind of cheese (aged) and didn’t seek medical attention.

Anyway, somewhere between writing and watching a football game and reading and taking a bath, my mood changed. By the end of the night, I was pretty low. Actually, I could feel my mood turning pretty much throughout the evening. My energy level dropped, and I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. I’ve been pretty hyper (or hypomanic) this past week. I’ve bounced from activity to activity to activity. I haven’t given myself much leisure time or given myself time to think about things, which is good and bad. Sure, I didn’t think about the bad things, but I also didn’t get to process and own my negative feelings. I pretty much suppressed everything throughout the week, and maybe some of the those feelings were coming up while I was writing.

It’s a strange feeling knowing that your mood is going to turn. I started to panic a little, actually. I wanted to do everything I could to stop it from happening. I stopped writing altogether, and I tried to just sink into the feelings a little with the hopes of crying. I always feel better after I cry. I think it allows some of the feelings to release. It’s healthy. But it’s very hard for me, especially now that I’m on medication. I need to find more triggers. Last week I found a good song that brought me into tears almost immediately but I played it like ten times over the week, so when I listened to it last night, nothing happened. I need to find more triggers. What works for you?

I’m also very stressed about school and the holidays in general. I have three papers and two presentations to do in less than a month. The papers are no big deal. Sure, they’ll be a lot of work, but I’m more worried about the presentations. For those who don’t know, I’m in an online graduate program studying Library and Information Science. I’m becoming a librarian. Anyway, the presentations are done over a conference call, and even though they aren’t in person, I’m still a little upset about them. CBT is helping, though–I may have had lots of anxiety in the past, but I’m doing better. And it may not go exactly how I want it too, but I will get through it–and it will be okay. Again, I don’t know how much of that’s suppressing my feelings and how much of that is subtly dealing with the feelings but not letting them take control. I don’t know.

The holidays are another big thing. Thanksgiving is coming up. As I said before, I’m going over to my girlfriend’s brothers, where fourteen people from her family will be there. I am still hopeful that I’ll be able to get through it without getting flooded–with the help of Ativan and Propranolol, of course. I’m counting on there being a little anxiety there, just not the debilitating kind like I had at the wedding. I want to be able to converse with people and smile and not have to worry about sweating through three sets of shirts and looking like a complete idiot all the time.

I’ll address Christmas at a later date.

So, with my mood rapidly changing, and without being able to release some of the pent-up emotions through crying, I went to bed feeling like I’d wake up feeling even worse. But here I am. I feel a little down, a little stressed and depressed, but a little happy and hopeful too. Maybe I avoided a depression? I don’t know, only time will tell. But for now I am going to continue with what I’m doing: schoolwork, running, keeping myself busy.

Oh and I probably won’t be updating much until the end of the semester (12/9). I hope you are all doing well, by the way.

Finally, I’m curious how you deal with things when you know your mood is getting ready to turn. Do you just accept it, knowing you can’t change it, and try to do your best to weather the storm? Or are you more proactive about it–are there ways for you to avoid the depression altogether, or at least lesson the severity of it?

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you. πŸ™‚


22 responses to “high to low and back again

  1. Hey Mike,

    I actually experience what you wrote on this post often – Feeling neither good nor bad, but just “plain” or “flat.” I had a free counseling session with a therapist yesterday. I was feeling neutral or flat for a while probably because I was allowed to express so many feelings for an hour. I was going to write about it as soon as I got home, but for some reason I just couldn’t because I had to deal with this sudden depressive feeling that stopped me from doing anything. It was raining yesterday night so that might be part of the reason. I don’t know why, but rain always does this to me. It’s around 9 a.m. here, and I’m feeling somewhat better. Since I started to live with my depression, I’ve made it a ritual to watch weather reports on television carefully so I can predict when I’m likely to feel low and decide if I should stay home.

    These days, I apply two techniques when I feel depressed – Doing either something or nothing altogether. When I have something I think I can manage to do like writing a blog post after an event that is worthy of writing, I turn on my aroma oil heater, fix myself a hot cup of herbal tea and force myself to start writing. On the other hand, when there seems to be nothing particularly I want to or have to do, I just lie on my couch or bed and wait for my depression to pass. I’ve learned that I can do practically nothing so effective to change my mood. At night it is easier because I can take my medications (both the antidepressant and the sleeping pill) and wait for them to knock me down. I usually feel better next morning.

    When I feel like I want to cause some shift in my low mood, I usually rely on music. Some of my favorites include songs such as “Miss Misery” by Elliott Smith and “Simple and Clean” by Utada Hikaru. I recently reread a book called “Mostly Bob” by Tom Corwin, where the author talks about the entire time he spent his beloved dog, and I cried a little at the ending. If you like dogs, this might be a good read for you.

    Sounds like you have a lot of projects to work on – Good luck with all that. When I was a college student in the United States, I always spent most of my time in the college library because I had so many assignments from my classes. I’m going to write a post about the counseling session I had yesterday in the evening. Please come check it out if you can. I hope this comment helps and that you’re doing and feeling well! πŸ™‚

    • Hi Takashi. Sometimes it’s best to wait a few days before writing about your therapy sessions, as it gives you time to process what happens and to gain perspective. I take notes after, but I don’t start addressing my feelings about it for at least a day. Thanks for the song recommendations, by the way. Any Elliot Smith song does it for me. I’ll check your blog a little later. Take care!

  2. First off I want to say I’ve become an avid reader and have subscribed to your blogsite. I found your writings via SAS, which lead me to your personal blogsite. I enjoy your writing and I find it fascinating when Writing is used as a form of therapy. A way to analyze, realize, recognize and rationalize our “undoings”.

    How do I handle mood changes knowing they’re about to turn for the worst? It really depends and I’ve been bad at managing it. Sometimes I’ll be on top of it and I’ll be good at writing and vlogging them out. Sometimes writing is just frustrating and only adds to my mood and that’s when I allow useless distractions to take over, which leads up to more pent up frustration. I usually workout (running, resistance training) as a means to alleviate the situation, but there are times where I’m really not motivated and that tends to pile onto my frustration as well. It goes in cycles for me and right now I’m on a “reading and writing” fix.

    • Thanks for the praise and the feedback. Distractions can really help. I’ve found that if I just sit around and feel sorry for myself and brood on the negatives, it just makes it worse. Getting up and getting active really helps – but it’s hard to do when I’m feeling so down.

      I just subscribed to your blog, by the way, and am looking forward to reading it. πŸ™‚

  3. My moods can change so quickly, but always as a result of outside forces. It seems I have no inner control over them, which is frustrating to me. It sounds like you have a lot of stress, at least I found school to be very stressful. I got an undergraduate degree and kept putting off going back to get a masters because I just hated school so much. I did, for a while, think of becoming a media specialist (isn’t that what they call librarians nowadays?) But I never went back.

    How long have you been working with CBT? I used that method of therapy when I was getting over my fear of flying, and I guess it worked because I fly now. I’m not sure it can help me with my negative thoughts about myself though. Maybe I’m too tough of a nut to crack?

    • Hey Harriet. Yeah, I’m under considerable stress right now, as there’s two weeks left in the semester. Papers, speeches, etc. Librarians are called all kinds of things these days- media specialist, information scientist, information professional. It’s funny looking a the different job titles, as they all mean the same thing–librarian.

      I’ve been working on with CBT for about three months now. I’m finding it helpful; it can really break up the negative thought cycles I get into. I, too, find my beliefs too rigid to penetrate sometimes. It’s hard, but I’m going to stick with it and see where it takes me. Aside for talk-therapy, I really don’t know how else to alter those irrational beliefs aside for CBT.

      I’m glad it worked for you with flying. Flying is a tough one for me, but I’ve found a little Ativan is all I need. πŸ™‚

  4. I haven’t really found anything that would interrupt those feelings of being down. Meditation (being able to detach) did help somewhat but when the intensity was really high, I just had to go through it. I started using reminders (post-it notes) when I was expecting them (e.g. the next day after an anxiety provoking situation). Those reminders (usually) helped me that those feelings would pass.

    • Yes, I agree- just being conscious of the fact that those moods are temporary really helps me get through them. I have notes and reminders all over my apartment. πŸ™‚

  5. Mike,
    I’m really glad you commented on my blog because I read your post and felt that I have similar feelings with you. I am going to keep coming back here from now. School can be tough. Take it easy and hang in there! When I catch myself going into depression, one of the things I do is to try to do things that I would do in a way that I would do when I am not depressed. So I would walk faster, wash dishes faster, go out and talk to people and try to trick my brain that I am feeling okay. Its really really hard to do though. because when you are depressed, as you know, things can get a million times harder to do. But it does work sometimes for me. Or have my wife booby slap me.. that stuff works.. (not always but it will kill most of the slight depression instantly)

    • Hey there. Yeah, I enjoy reading your blog too, and I’m subscribed to it. Along the lines of booby slapping, my girlfriend can also sense when my mood is about to change and she commands me to get up, out of bed, and just dance or shake my body. Little things like that can make a world of difference. There’s humor in everything .. even in anxiety and depression .. you just have to find it! πŸ™‚

  6. When you feel your mood changing….talk to the feeling. Talk to the feelings. they are feelings. They come, they stay for a bit, they go. They can’t not pass so fighting against them is basically fighting yourself so that’s not really gonna help too much. But, as the being, you hold much more power. You are more than your feelings and the presence of you as more than your feelings talking to your feelings puts you back in the driving seat.

    • Hey Marty. Great points! Fighting the feelings, only fuels them. Addressing them but not attaching is the way to go. Also, just reminding myself that I am not my anxiety or depression can really help. All lofty goals, though. But I think I’m getting closer to being able to do those things. Thanks!

  7. My mood changes very rapidly. It can be a minor trigger and within minutes I have the lump in my throat or the foggy, heavy feeling weighing me down hopelessly.
    If I can muster the will to get up and do, I find cleaning while listening to fun music helps bring me out of an impending slump. And if it doesn’t work, at least you have a clean toilet in the end.
    My husband can also tell and tries to intercept my moods by grabbing me and squeezing and tickling me. It helps sometimes and when it doesn’t it does seem to lighten things a bit. He tries to get my mind off of things by engaging me in a playful way.
    Last summer and earlier in the fall I did a lot of fast walking. Sometimes that helps slow down the thoughts.
    I find that it’s usually something physical that alleviates my moods. Concentration can be difficult and too much introspection sometimes sends me in circles…though writing/blogging helps sometimes…hmm…
    I hope you’re well.

    • Yes, I agree, introspection only makes it worse. Stopping the cycle by stopping the thoughts is the best thing. But I have to find some activity to replace the thoughts which is hard when I have little energy. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Hi Mike,
    Sometimes I forget how the end of the semester busyness can really be overwhelming to people and then the stress of the holidays just adds onto it! Your post is inspiring me!
    Hang in there — Jennifer

  9. By the way, good luck with the end of semester craziness. I’ll bet that you do just fine on your presentations. Don’t stress too much.

  10. Pingback: happy thanksgiving | Unhappy Happiness

  11. I think I tend to not try to face my emotions on a regular basis. It floods me when my body and mind is ready. Sometimes it floods without warning, other times I can control it.

    I cry when needed and just let it happen. I panic with my parents and in front of them and it helps for them to tell me that I am over reacting and to just let it go. However, when I am alone I just tend to write out my emotions and just try to give it to the Great Divine and be done. I am also hoping to try some breathing techniques in addition to my Ativan. Ha ha.

    • Hey there. It sounds like you have a good balance going. You avoid when necessary, and let them out when necessary. I wish I could panic around my parents; they’d probably get pissed off. Ha!

  12. I agree with the post above and I will find more information from google.

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