Early Warning System

28 Sep 2021

Is it a battle?

Do you see coping with depression or bipolar as a fight against the enemy, or as something to be endured, or as some monster taking you hostage from time to time and against which you are powerless?

I think I have been in the latter two camps, but it has never really been a fight. My bipolar disorder is as much a part of me as having blue eyes. I accept it and see it as something I must live with, and which must be managed as well as possible.

If we are to take responsibility for our illness or condition or whatever you choose to call the depression/bipolar disorder we live with, then we need good information.

While general information is invaluable – the internet is great here, so long as you choose reputable websites, the most helpful source of information is self-awareness.

I have noticed several physical indicators that allow me to at least prepare for what is to come. Some of these can be noticed by others who know me well; some of them are internal.

Although my medication controls the worst of the symptoms, the ups and downs are still there. I have periods of ebullient high energy and times of extreme fatigue, where the world retreats in muffled and faded tones to the far horizon.

I have noticed that, about two weeks before I drop out of a “high” into depression, my energy starts to have an element of jitteriness. I start to feel nauseous (a symptom of anxiety, although I am not conscious of feeling anxious) and it sometimes feels as if there are spiders dancing under my skin. When I notice this, or my husband points out that I am not eating, then I know it is time to review the diary for the coming month at least and cancel everything not absolutely essential.

The depression part of the cycle is one of endurance and rest. It is not as bad as it used to be. Thanks to the medication, I no longer merely sit on the sofa, shaking, in an unresponsive and catatonic state but it’s still a bad time. Approaching the end of this period I experience about a week or so of bad headaches. I’ve learned now to welcome them, as they signal a return to “normality”.

One of the indications of fatigue, that I have done too much and exhausted myself, is that my speech centres start to malfunction, and I stutter. It’s something my friends and family now watch out for, and they ensure I rest.

I call all these physical symptoms my Early Warning System. There is, yet no cure for bipolar disorder and, while medication can alleviate our condition, we must still be responsible and manage ourselves.

Have you noticed any physical indications that give you advance warning of depression or manic periods? If so, how do you respond?


A Moodscope member,

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