Manic phases - need help... please!
I really need help from anyone who suffers from depression with manic phases, and has found a way to prevent / soften the lows. Sorry, this may be a little long, but I figure the details are important.
I am a yoyo. Or maybe a ferris wheel! Either metaphor works, because I go up and down, round and round with alarming speed and regularity. My cycle will vary a lot depending on what's going on in my life. If I have a project that I love (I'm a creative) I will be "up" for as long as it lasts, then once it's over I'll crash for quite a while. After any happy event I'll basically have a low that lasts as long as the high.
When my life is just ticking along regularly, I will yo-yo within much shorter time frames. The cycle could be a fortnight, or a month. At the moment it's only eight days or so, but the balance is on the negative side. I'll have maybe three days where I'm incredibly high. I'll have loads of epiphanies about life, be super creative, extremely productive, socialise actively and generally feel very good about myself. During this my appetite is balanced and I exercise regularly, but I don't sleep too much. I'll sleep fitfully, and wake up super early (like 5am) and start working.
Then I'll have a day where things start to fall apart. The first clue is that I'll have a particularly bad sleep - I'll wake up at 2am, and feel a desperate compulsion to eat something (even though I've had a proper dinner a few hours before). I'll eat a fair bit, and then go back to sleep for a few hours. I'll still have lots of energy that day though, be in a good mood, and keep the eating balanced.
Then the next day I'll wake up again after just a few hours sleep with the same compulsion to eat, and I'll binge. I'll be okay for a few hours, and then I'll crash. Low energy, low mood, food cravings, rapidly escalating to desperation for certain foods, massive binging, feelings of worthlessness, self hatred, paralysis. If I binge on junk food this part of the cycle can go on for a long time, and the longer it goes on, the lower my mood gets until I start to feel suicidal. (Sorry for the heaviness!) During these phases I'm not exercising and generally avoiding friends. It's a struggle for me to get through a day, and everything is focused around binging and sleeping (after a binge is the only time I ever sleep deeply )
I've identified that the foods I eat during the binging phase really impact on the length and severity of the depression, and if I binge reasonably "clean" (on nuts / dairy / dark chocolate) I can bounce back more quickly. I've also learned that accepting my low moods (ie. not feeling guilty / berating myself for not being happy or "living my life") keeps me from spiralling into suicidal thoughts. So, I'm identifying things that can halt the cycle slightly, or shorten it. But can I stop it?
I know the binging, sleep and depression are all linked, and I somehow feel that if I could get the sleep under control the rest would follow. But maybe that's naive. I clearly have a chemical imbalance, with certain hormones pumping through me on the "up" phases ((adrenaline?) and then being depleted and others (ghrelin?) kicking in during the down phases, inducing the binging etc. My understanding of it is pretty rudimentary.
For ages I didn't see the whole thing as part of a cycle. I just looked at the insomnia component and I tried to heal it through diet. I researched, realised it sounded like I had hypogleamic insomnia, checked my blood sguar levels and found they were very low at reguarl intervals, so went VLC to try and sort that out. Disaster. Anyway, I tried it for quite a few months. Now I'm eating a bit of everything and I'm feeling heaps better (the "up" phases are lasting longer) but... the cycle is still happening.
As I said, I'm trying not to beat myself up over this anymore, and it is helping me not spiral down as low, but it's still so frustrating. It's really hard to plan my life when I don't know if I'm going to have the energy or mood from one day to the next. I am constantly cancelling plans on people (pretending I'm sick) cos' I'm too tired / depressed to meet them. I'm freelance, so thank god I have flexibility in that, because I would die within the confines of a nine to five job. But all this really worrires me because what happens if I have kids? I don't want to be one of those mums whose kids see that she can't get up some days, and when they come in to her she has to say "sorry honey - mummy's sad today"
I realise that what I'm describing sounds very like type 2 bi-polar disorder, but I've never been diagnosed with anything because until about a year ago I never told anyone I suffered from depression. When I'm up I'm really friendly and laugh a lot, so when I'm low I can shoot someone a smile and then retreat and they wont notice. Basically I am ashamed and so I'm pretty good at hiding it. It's made me extremely fearful of romantic relationships and apart from one very long term relationship I generally break up with people pretty fast because I think once they see who I really am they won't be able to handle it.
Anyway... sorry for the very long message! I would really appreciate any insights you guys might have. Up on an note, the weird thing about depression is that when you suffer from it you can't see yourself clearly, and you don't realise that there is a pattern. I'm taking it as a sign of great progress that it has suddenly clicked with me that there is a pattern to the way my mood goes.
“I'm glad mushrooms are against the law, because I took them one time, and you know what happened to me? I laid in a field of green grass for four hours going, "My God! I love everything." Yeah, now if that isn't a hazard to our country..."
― Bill Hicks
"Sometimes eating the wrong food with the right attitude is a better choice than eating the right food with the wrong attitude... That’s how powerful the mind and the heart can be in the healing process."
- Chris Kresser