31 days of bipolar|day 6: while you live, shine…

…have no grief at all; life exists only for a short while and time demands its toll.

 

This is the text of the Seikilos Epitaph… the oldest surviving complete piece of music, including notation. It was engraved on a tombstone in modern-day Turkey. The composer only lists himself as Seikilos, son of Euterpe (the Muse of Music). Also engraved on the tombstone is the ominous “I am a tombstone – an image (icon). Seikilos put me here as a long-lasting (timeless) sign of deathless (eternal/undying) remembrance.” (translated, probably pretty poorly, from ancient Greek…. I am obviously a modern-Greek speaker.)

It was found engraved on a tombstone in modern-day Turkey, and is said to have been composed in the 1st or 2nd Century, CE. The composer only lists himself as Seikilos, son of Euterpe (the Muse of Music). Also engraved on the tombstone is the ominous “I am a tombstone – an image. Seikilos put me here as a long-lasting (timeless) sign of deathless (eternal/undying) remembrance.” (translated, probably pretty poorly, from ancient Greek…. I am obviously a modern-Greek speaker.) Music is literally in my blood as a Greek-American musician.

Music is literally in my blood as a Greek-American musician…. passed down for centuries in my ethnicity and culture.

I’m a bit behind on this… primarily because I hit this nasty string of instability again. I don’t even know how long I slept, but I stayed in bed for the better part of a week. My illness does that to me sometimes, where I pretty much just disappear.

 

What do you wish you’d known when you were diagnosed?

There’s a lot I wish I’d known. Namely, pretty much everything I will likely never completely know.

My path towards managing my illness (because there’s really no such thing as “curing) has involved medication, psych hospitals, and out-patient, among many, many attempts at lifestyle changes. I’ve learned much about myself, and have been learning how to identify my triggers — things that usually send me straight into a longer period of being unwell. I haven’t really had any periods of “healthy” in a few years, so I don’t know what the hell that is.

What usually leads to depression (my “most often” state) —

Early triggers and red flags (I may complain a little about several of these, if I notice them):

  • Sleep issues… I will start sleeping longer, and start having progressive trouble getting up.
  • Anxiety. This one is big… if I start having several panic attacks in a few days, I start having more and more, which make me absolutely exhausted and lead back to sleep issues.
  • Food. I’ve learned to realize that something is shifting when I just stop remembering to eat.
  • Energy level. Increasingly diminishes… and often pretty quickly; within a day or two.

Later on/full-on crash:

  • Sleep gets worse. I pretty much will sleep for two days straight, at first… and then I just won’t have the desire to get up, sometimes for several weeks. By this point, I usually have no idea what the hell is going on.
  • English becomes a challenge. English is not my first language… and I will revert to Greek almost exclusively after crashing. I don’t really recognize this — it’s just what I’ve been told by others.
  • ADLS — toothbrushing, showering, combing my hair — basic life things and hygiene become such monumental challenges that I usually won’t even bother for a few weeks with any of them.
  • Feelings of wanting to disappear… not necessarily “suicidal”, just wanting to kind of hibernate and go away for a while until the torment passes.
  • When I do get out of bed, I’m often so irritable and will act completely out of character. Again, I’m oblivious to this.
  • Losing touch with reality, and having no energy or desire to try.
  • Energy level is pretty much non-existant. Forcing myself to get to work during these crashes has historically been pretty much impossible.
  • Food. During my last major crash, I lost nearly 30lbs. This was by not only forgetting to eat… but having no desire to eat. And lots of sleeping.

What usually leads to mania —

Early triggers and red flags:

  • Sleep issues… opposite from depression. I miss a night of sleep, and don’t really notice it.
  • Energy level. Keeps increasing, out of nowhere.
  • I start cursing more (this, I wasn’t aware of until my therapist had pointed it out.)
  • Losing touch with reality.

Later on/full-on mania:

  • After about 3 days of less than 6 hours of sleep, I feel like I don’t “need” sleep. And I just don’t.
  • Completely blacking out. By day 3 or 4 of not sleeping, I’m essentially blacked-out. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, but it ends up being a lot.
  • Racing thoughts. My head just starts going soooo fast. I think that’s what makes me black out. Everything is fast.
  • Energy level is so high, that I just don’t know what to do with myself.
  • English gets a lot of Greek thrown in it. I don’t even realize I’m doing this — my head is just going too fast to process anything. I also start speaking really fast, and feel like everything is just fast. Life is like Sonic the Hedgehog, on acid.
  • Eating… I’ll forget to eat. If I do, it’ll be a meal of pretty much fast food and a chocolate bar.
  • Sooo many ideas! I start feeling invincible. I start committing myself to alllll the things.
  • Recklessness. I start taking more risks, sometimes dangerous and stupid ones.

I really wish I would’ve known some of these earlier warning signs of things about to shift in my chemical brain farts. While I still cannot control episodes from happening, I can work at lessening their impact. I also wish I would’ve known what it meant to be “302ed” — involuntarily committed into a psych hospital. While it was necessary, because I was black-out manic for 2+ weeks at that point, I wish I would’ve known my rights.

 

There’s a lot more I’d wish I’d known when I was diagnosed, but triggers and management are things I still don’t quite know or understand and wish that I did.

Right now, my brain says it needs a nap. I’ve been sleeping during the day because light sensitivity has been so bad. But on Sundays, I end up in South Philly for an atheist/agnostic recovery group, and it’s very important for me to be there. It’s well past my bedtime, and I need a nap before heading back out later. It’s absolutely beautiful outside, but I have no desire to get out. My mind is just screaming at me to stop everything. I’ve been forcing myself to stay present, in hopes of swatting full-on depression away just a little longer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *