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I’m sorry that I’ve neglected this blog. Things have been very hectic in my life, though luckily not because of my bipolar disorder. School has been kicking my ass and my family has been having drama.

Every fall and winter I end up “breaking through” my meds. Like many people with bipolar disorder, I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is commonly known as the winter blues. When the days start to get shorter and darker my moods go haywire. I get extremely depressed and unmotivated. My (very unscientific) theory is that the chemical imbalances in my brain are increased by the changing of the season, which means that my meds can’t control all of my disorder.

I have a lightbox that simulates natural sunlight. All you have to do is turn on the lightbox and sit in front of it for 15-30 minutes, and it helps with the lack of sunlight that causes the mood swings from SAD. This year, however, I’ve been doing much better. I haven’t had to use my lightbox so far, which makes me very happy. Koios and my new place has a ton of windows so I think I’m getting more of the little natural light that remains than I did at our last apartment. I would recommend a lightbox to anyone, even those without SAD. Koios has mentioned that he feels better on the days that I turn it on.

That’s all that’s happening with me. Feel free to comment with other SAD treatments that have worked for you!
-Ashes

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I read about Moodscope in the most recent issue of Newsweek and loved the idea immediately. It’s an online service that asks you to rate your mood based on twenty feelings each day and issues a score to rate your overall happiness that day. It lets you chart your daily mood fluctuations and add notes on the scores to explain what happened in your life that could have caused your mood to increase or decrease that day. You’re supposed to take the test as a part of your morning routine, before your day really begins, so that you can see your mood baseline before your life alters it that day. It helps to weed out results caused by acute situational changes, making the data more useful for the user.

It also lets you choose a “buddy”, a trusted person in your life that gets an email each day of your scores. If your score drops your buddy can contact you to see what’s going on or offer to talk. The site founder discovered that the simple knowledge that someone was informed about your moods led to an increase in mood. The Hawthorne Effect, a phenomenon where people who know that they are being studied change their behavior or the outcome of an experiment, is actually encouraged on the Moodscope site. It also can save someone’s life. Everyone has heard the story of how a man planning to commit suicide one day changed his mind after a stranger showed an interest in his life; Moodscope can do the same thing. If you’re feeling really low and your daily score reflects that, a simple email from a friend can help pull you out of your funk because you know that someone cares about what happens to you.

I’ve been using Moodscope for less than a week, but I can already see a benefit for me. The numeric score takes my confusing feelings and lets me see them logically. It’s easier to think objectively about how I’m feeling when I have a number to focus on. It also makes me aware of where I’m at emotionally before my mood boils over into my life. This morning I received my lowest score yet, a 34% out of 100. Because I knew that my mood wasn’t very good, I did as many errands as I could on my way home from school rather than wait. If I do errands later in the day I become really irritable and grumpy, so I finished what I could early to make my life easier today.

Check it out if you think it could be useful for you! I’m really excited about the possibilities that Moodscope has and look forward to utilizing it to the fullest.

-Ashes

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When I first started the long and irritating journey of medication I didn’t think that they would be able to help me. I thought that nothing would be able to balance out my moods. Part of me felt that how I saw that world and myself was just a part of me, not the symptoms of bipolar. I didn’t want to live with the highs and lows anymore, but I didn’t believe that these magic pills would make me okay.

Once I was prescribed a medication cocktail that alleviated some of my worst symptoms, the pendulum of my opinion on bipolar disorder changed. I was under the impression that it was only a matter of time before I found the right mix of meds to make the remnant symptoms go away.

I now know that there will never be a magic fix for bipolar disorder. Even though I’m on a great mix of medications that let me be myself without the feeling over-medicated, some of my actions and responses to outside stimuli are still (and probably will be for a long time) irrational reactions based in my bipolar brain. Doing errands is enough to make me fume and stew for some reason that I haven’t deduced. If my fiance is a bit short with me, my reactions can be enough to turn it into a full-on argument if he doesn’t help me calm down. Driving to nowhere with my music turned up makes me almost manic and much more reckless with my decision-making processes. I know that these aren’t normal reactions and they make it painfully obvious that I’m not living a “normal” life with reasonable reactions.

This is where the Spoon Theory comes in. For those who don’t know (or don’t have the time to click the link), the Spoon Theory is a great view of how people with chronic health conditions have to function in their daily lives. People who are sick have a certain number of “spoons” each day, and every action that you make takes away “spoons”. Those with chronic illnesses always have to remember that they are sick because of the limitations of the illness. Even though I have a chronic mental illness, I see a lot of truth in the Spoon Theory in my life.

If I stay up too late and throw off my sleep schedule, I have less spoons to do chores and errands because it saps my motivation and follow-through. If work is crazy and I have a lot of intense or demanding customers, I’m not up to interact with my fiance or friends as I normally would. If I wake up early and take some time for myself in the morning, I’m better able to juggle the interpersonal demands of my life. The list could go on and on, but you get the gist.  Even though bipolar doesn’t limit me physically, no matter how stable my life and medications are there are still things that I have to worry about and plan around.  I always have to plan things out according to where I am in my ability to just live my life, lest I open myself up for a mental snap which derails my whole week.

Anyway, I wish someone had told me these things when I was first diagnosed. But then again, I probably wouldn’t have listened. I’ve always had to figure things out on my own.

-Ashes

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