This week, I was inspired to write about checking in with yourself after reading Ivy’s blog about checking in with others.
Her blog post resonated with me so much this week. On the day it came out, my partner talked to me about a lot of things he’d been wanting to share but didn’t know how or didn’t feel like it was the right time yet. I learned so much about the way he’s been feeling, and how he thought I was feeling. I also realized I hadn’t checked in with him in a while, and I’m so glad that we had that moment to speak candidly about our thoughts and feelings.
That conversation also made me realize I hadn’t checked in with myself in a while, either.
I’ve written about living with Manic Depressive—or Bipolar II—Disorder in the past, but I’ve never talked about the ways I try to check in with myself when I’m falling into either a manic or a depressive episode. With Bipolar II, I often just feel “normal.” I don’t swing from one episode straight to another, and the shift is typically gradual. When I’m experiencing a manic—or rather a hypomanic—episode, it lasts between 1-3 weeks, and it’s usually imperceptible to most people aside from my closest loved ones. During this time, I’m usually just more productive than normal, I sleep less, and I’m way more social. Sometimes, I’ll make impulsive decisions, but since learning about my diagnosis and working on treating it, I’ve been able to better manage my decision-making. I can recognize when I’m experiencing a hypomanic episode, and I can usually intervene before I do something too impulsive.
Whenever I feel myself starting to experience hypomanic episodes, I start checking in with myself to make sure I’m managing it appropriately. I’ll make budgets and pay any upcoming bills I have so I can avoid overspending. I’ll also make lists of things I want to get done so I can focus my energy on productive projects. I also use my calendar way more during these episodes so I don’t wind up over-booking myself and signing up for more than I can handle. Finally, I try to regulate my sleep schedule so that I don’t have to worry about fixing my circadian rhythm later.
It’s harder to tell when I start slipping into a depressive episode. They come on much more gradually than hypomanic episodes, and they usually just start with me feeling extremely tired out of nowhere. I’ll find myself sleeping way more than normal, often for several days in a row. Even after getting a full night’s sleep, I’ll wake up and feel exhausted and unmotivated. I also typically talk less during these episodes because I just don’t have the energy to make small talk or “play happy.” When I get deeper into the episode, I start noticing my anxiety rising and a few other side effects. Having been diagnosed with bipolar II for a little over two years, I can typically recognize I’m in a depressive episode before I get to some of the other side effects that come up. For example, this week, I’ve noticed I’ve been sleeping a lot more than usual and feeling tired every day.
Right now, I’m working on checking in with myself to recognize where I am and how to move forward safely. This week, I took some time to open up and talk to my partner about where I am, too, after he opened up to me. I expressed how I was feeling overwhelmed by a lot of the things going on around me, and I made a plan to be more forthright in my emotions. I also let myself be vulnerable to one of my closest friends and told him about what I’ve been experiencing. Beyond just talking about how I’m feeling, I’m also working on making to-do lists so I don’t fall behind on work, household chores, and whatever else I need to get done. I try to take some time every day to accomplish a task, but I also recognize when I need to just sit down and do nothing for a little while. Another one of the most important ways I check in with myself during depressive episodes is by practicing mindfulness. I try to take some time to clear my head and recognize what thoughts are rational and what thoughts are intrusive.
I’m still learning how to manage my illness, and every day brings a new opportunity to check in with myself and live the healthiest life I can.
Whatever you’re experiencing right now, take a moment to check in with yourself and see what you need.
As always, stay safe + stay healthy.