I’m stuck in a bipolar depression and yet, I’m trying to exercise. I’ve never been successful at this – ever. Now and then I have been on exercise programs, but I’ve hated every one and none of them have stuck. Not to mention the fact that getting my depressed butt out of the house to do anything is almost impossible. I have no energy and everything hurts all the time. Bipolar depression makes exercising almost impossible – but I’m hoping the truth is that it’s just “almost” impossible.
Mindfulness doesn’t help my bipolar disorder. I’m sorry; I know advocates aren’t supposed to say that kind of thing. I know we’re all supposed to get behind the new, fashionable therapies and tell everyone to do them (but heaven forbid we do the same with psychiatry) but this is one that I think has some major holes in it, particularly for people with serious mental illness. Please understand, mindfulness as a therapy might work for you but here’s why mindfulness doesn’t help my bipolar disorder at all.
In multiple studies, exercise has been shown to improve unipolar depression, but can exercise really help bipolar depression? Some doctors think so but this is mostly because they are generalizing the data from that on unipolar depression. Evidence for the usefulness of exercise in bipolar depression is scant.
About a month ago the news was awash with headlines like: This Blood Test Can Predict Suicide Risk, Scientists Say (thank you, Time.com) suggesting that, well, there was now a blood test to find out if you’re at risk for suicide. When I heard this I thought it was so outrageous that I dismissed it out of hand. But the major news organizations reported headlines like this and people, amazingly, bought into it. Now, I’m not saying there wasn’t a kernel of truth there, there was, but suggesting there’s a blood test for suicide is like saying there’s a blood test for people who can’t parallel park.
I have had years of therapy in my life to deal with bipolar disorder (and other assorted issues). I would say, at least 15. It makes my head spin thinking of all the therapists I have talked to in my time. But I admit, I’m not in therapy now. I know, as a role model I probably should stand up and say that everyone needs therapy all of the time but I don’t think that. I think that you can outgrow therapy for bipolar disorder.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, in general. That’s because people think far too big on January 1st and come up with things they have no hope of sticking to by February 1st. They have no plan. They have no short-term goals that lead up to the long-term goal. Their resolutions read more like wishes than anything else. That being said, I think there are some New Year’s resolutions worth having for people with bipolar disorder. These New Year’s resolutions deal with the problems I see every day concerning bipolar disorder and are designed to address these issues.
I recently finished an 8-week mindfulness meditation course. I went into it not knowing why I was there, other than the fact that my doctor had recommended it. I went in not knowing what the outcome was supposed to be. When we were asked to write goals for the course, mine were blank. I had none. I really just wanted to see if there was any benefit to all this mindfulness meditation stuff. Turns out, I believe that there is benefit in mindfulness meditation. And here’s some of what you might find in a course.
Recently I have been taking a mindfulness meditation course. This is pretty amazing seeing as I’ve always felt my brain was not still enough to meditate – not to mention, I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in all this new age stuff (although, technically, meditation is very, very old age stuff). But I went anyway because mindfulness meditation has been shown to be beneficial for all sorts of mental illnesses (not surprisingly, particularly anxiety) and I try to be open to anything that may help-plus, bonus, no side effects. And one of the things I had heard is that when you meditate you need to not think. Your mind is supposed to go blank. You become absent of thought. But this turns out to be false.
Through my years of being a person with bipolar disorder I have come up with a variety of coping techniques. Many of these techniques have fancy names and are detailed in therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Of course, I used them long before I ever knew they had names. And one of my current skills is thought-boxing. Or, at least, so I call it. To the best of my knowledge, this particular skill doesn’t have a name. This is a Natasha Skill. Something I developed over years of trying really hard not to let the crazy kill me. It’s a way of controlling thoughts. It’s a way of keeping the horrendous, bipolar thoughts out of my consciousness, as much as possible. It’s a way of sidestepping all the thoughts that are, indeed, trying to kill me.
OK, maybe it seems like I’m being a bit hard on commenters. I swear I’m not. I like people who comment and express their opinion, but sometimes their opinion spurs one of my own. This is one such comment: I’m bipolar, and I think we ALL should have to take a Dialectal Behavior Therapy course. The DBT course helps with coping skills, year class, and helps . . . these skills work if you want them too. Here’s someone singing the praises of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). She would certainly not be alone as many people find DBT to be helpful. The problem I have with this comment is the last bit, “these skills work if you want them too [sic].” So, this means that if the skills learned in DBT don’t work for someone it’s because they didn’t want them to? I don’t think so.