Do you have predictable swings?

For me,  it’s my birthday and Christmas.   And Thanksgiving.  Living over here I try to take those days off and stay home, claiming it’s my birthright as an American.  (I do hope the humor in that statement comes through in text.)  I’ve never been a big fan of my birthday, somehow it always felt like a sign of failure that I’d managed to survive another year.  The lowest I’ve ever been was on my birthday in my 20s.  These days I just kind of accept that it’s going to happen, even though my feelings about it have changed.   I’ll be 29 (again?!) this year and honestly half the time I can’t remember exactly how old I am.  😛

Christmas… well, I’d love to blame that one on my family, they have an amazing sense of timing for dropping emotional bombs on the holiday, but the most traumatic one for me wasn’t… deserved, but I understand why it happened, and why it has stayed with me over the years.  I was a desperately unhappy bipolar girl, and I wasn’t a very good sister.  I can see that now, and that is what I think about around that time more than the things that have happened or been said.  I try to live life without regrets (only learning experiences) but I wish I could have done more to make her see how much she means to me.

Even though I know that at those two times of the year I’m going to swing down, I am still often surprised by it.  I think some part of me believes that since I know it’s coming, I should be able to ward it off or something.  Like, ‘I know there’s a pothole in this road, so I will plan to swerve around it.’  *crunch*  ‘Wait, what?!’

I do think it helps to be aware of times or triggers, even if it feels like you can’t stop them, at least you can do some preparation.  Honestly, I’m up and down so often in the course of a year that it took a while for me to recognize it was happening at the same time of year, no matter what.  And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  That you feel your mood shifting in ways that don’t match any external stimulus.

Anyway, I still need to think more on the LIFE CHART.  I can see the value it can bring, but I am just not sure how it fits into my BP journey.  I’ve been like this nearly since I can remember, but what I AM finding is that the more I accept it, the more I gain ‘bandwidth’ on how far we can go in either direction and still feel okay about it, the less afraid I am of it, the less bad it seems to get on either end.  I intend to explore this topic a lot more in the coming weeks.  It hit me like an epiphany.

Week 5 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

(I apologize that they’re a little off kilter, I used our office scanner and it came out a little wonky.  I may revisit this after the next week’s handouts and rescan them.  [edit] And now I have.)

week 5 handout page 1

Evolution of bipolar disorder and the future – page 1

week 5 handout page 2

Evolution of bipolar disorder and the future – page 2

week 5 handout page 3

Evolution of bipolar disorder and the future – page 3

Week 5 homework


Depression week.

This week was quite bad for me.  While I got a lot out of the discussion it took me back to places I really didn’t want to think about, and I was already sinking, so it acted as another little push.  I’m still not back to normal, which is why I haven’t posted much.

Anyway, I thought I should share some of the things that helped me this week.

From Portal 2, the Cave Johnson Lemons Rant.

And from far left field, a country music song (give it a chance, you might be surprised).

Week 4 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

depression and mixed episodes page 1

Symptoms of Depression and Mixed Episodes – page 1

Depression and Mixed Episodes page 2

Symptoms of Depression and Mixed Episodes – page 2

week 4 homework



I do that too! #1

One of the best things about this psychoeducation group is the GROUP part.  Ever find yourself awake at 3am, thinking it’s a good idea to get out the vacuum?  Or found that pile of papers you have walked past for 3 months suddenly needs to be organized and thrown out, NOW?

Perhaps other than upsetting your neighbors by mowing the lawn at 5am on Saturday morning, you haven’t really told anyone.   But we’ve all been there.  It can be quite enlightening to know it’s not just you.

I’ll share more of these as we go along.  It’s not just you.

Week 3 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

week 3 handout page 1

Symptoms of Mania and Hypomania page 1

week 3 handouts page 2

Symptoms of Mania and Hypomania page 2





Biopsychosocial vulnerability

(revisited after asking questions in session 3)

Biopsychosocial Vulnerability.  That’s a mouthful.  From what I can gather, we’re talking about three things coming together for the ‘perfect storm’ onset of Bipolar.

contributing factors to bipolar

Biological factors (aka genetics) is really the keystone here.  If you don’t have the genetic component, the other two don’t matter, but if you do, they play their own role in what prompts the first episode.  Those other two factors also matter when it comes to how well you can cope with stress.  While there’s good stress and bad stress in the sense that you can get a promotion at your job or land a big client, as well as the stress of moving house or a bereavement.   You may swing up or down respectively from those stressors.

I’m leaving this here anyway, as I still think that there is something to the theory that you are more vulnerable to triggers because you can’t cope with stress as well as someone else with the same condition.

I’m also including the a full page they referenced as the model for this concept.  You can see this come up in research about schizophrenia and bipolar.

biopsychosocial vulnerability poster

The blue poster

The CBT vicious circle

cognitive behavioral therapy vicious circle diagram

The CBT “vicious circle”

This is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) vicious circle.  The gist of it is that all of these things reinforce each other.  So when you’re down, you start thinking negative reinforcing thoughts, like, “everyone hates me,” and you don’t socialize so you feel more tired and depressed and that causes more thoughts, etc.

This works for mania and hypomania, too.  Instead of thinking negative things, you’re giving yourself the positive affirmation of “I am awesome at everything!” and not sleeping, taking on too many tasks, and all the rest.

What I found interesting is that psychiatry tends to intervene with medication on the physical point, while CBT tries to intervene on both the thinking and behavior sections.  It’s all about breaking the chain.  Being aware of it is the first step.

“Knowing is half the battle!”  – G.I. Joe

We’re in this together

This week we had two visitors, both from the original trial Bipolar Psychoeducation group run in 2009.  While their histories were different, they both spoke about how much the group had changed their lives.

Apparently their group is still meeting up on their own, years later.  They wanted us to start thinking about how things would end and what we might want to do.

I have been surprised by how much it helps to have other people who have the same issues talking about it, as they provide insights and experiences that I would not have found on my own. It definitely helps to not feel so isolated and alone.  And a few of them are seriously funny.

They seem to believe that this information is best presented in a group setting so that you have other people who have similar experiences that you can share with.  While I can see the value in it, I think that sharing the information is important for those who cannot get this kind of help and support.

Week 2 Handouts

Thumbnails will expand in a new window when you click on them.  Feel free to print them out and don’t forget to do your homework!  🙂

bipolar causes and triggers page 1

Causes and Triggers of Bipolar page 1

Causes and Triggers of Bipolar page 2

Causes and Triggers of Bipolar page 2

week 2 homework



homework for week 2

Homework (continued)!