Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unlikely Sign of Depression

I was depressed last year from June/July 2013 until May 2014. The insomnia was perhaps the worst part. I couldn't fall asleep. When I did fall asleep, I couldn't stay asleep as I woke frequently throughout the night. And on top of that, I woke up early. Like 3am or 4am early. The other big problem was the empty feeling. I didn't feel sad. In fact, I didn't feel anything. I was really worried that I'd feel empty forever. I thought my newfound numbness was my new default emotion.

But beyond the insomnia and the empty feeling, I also noticed a change in my handwriting. I recently found this article, "Are You Depressed?", on a handwriting website. Just as you can tell a person's mood from their behavior (are they smiling? are they moping around? are they irritable?), handwriting also signals a person's mood.

When grading my students' essays last year, I could barely read the feedback I'd written on their papers. At the time, I noticed the change, but I did not attribute it to my depression. I tried to compensate. I started writing slower so I could concentrate more on writing out each word. I don't recall if this actually worked or not. But no student ever came to me to tell me that they couldn't make out my writing.

My depression ended in June 2014. Since then my handwriting has gone back to normal. I thought the above article was an interesting read. I would not have made the connection between my mood and my handwriting. It's interesting how our moods control so much of our thoughts and behaviors.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Manic Shopping Spree 2014

I sometimes think in terms of musical lyrics. When I think about my addiction to shopping, this Kanye West line comes to mind: "Single black female addicted to retail" ("All Falls Down").

There are a number of symptoms that come along with being manic. The following list comes from the WebMD website:
  • Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry, and hostile
  • Restlessness, increased energy, and less need for sleep
  • Rapid talk, talkativeness
  • Distractibility
  • Racing thoughts
  • High sex drive
  • Tendency to make grand and unattainable plans
  • Tendency to show poor judgment, such as impulsively deciding to quit a job
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity -- unrealistic beliefs in one's ability, intelligence, and powers; may be delusional
  • Increased reckless behaviors (such as lavish spending sprees, impulsive sexual indiscretions, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or ill-advised business decisions)
When I'm manic, I experience nearly every symptom. Yes, the mania feels good. And the mania has saved me from depression twice (2007 and 2014). By that, I mean, I was depressed and there was no sign that the depression was going to end. The depression only ended because I swung into a manic episode. This is why I love the mania.

A clinician once told me that mania is worse than depression in terms of life consequences. Manic people quit their jobs, have affairs, use high amounts of drugs and alcohol, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and spend lots of money. All choices that can wreak havoc on your life, finances, and relationships.

My mania manifests in me shopping a lot. In 2007 I charged $10,000 in two or three months. In 2013 I didn't charge anything. But in 2014 I charged $20,000 in three and a half months. That figure is just ridiculous. (I have really high credit card balances; this is not necessarily a good thing for a person suffering from bipolar disorder.) Note: my $20,000 isn't an unreasonable amount of money to have spent during a manic spree. I met a bipolar man who charged $150,000 in a week; he bought three new cars. His number made me feel a whole lot better about my damage!

But the truth remains, I am in such credit card debt.

I am not worried though. I have a plan to pay off the debt. And I bounced back from the 2007 spree. I know I will bounce back from this one too. My credit score was excellent the last time I checked it a few months ago. I know now that that is definitely no longer the case; I checked today. But I won't be making any big purchases (like a house or a car) anytime soon, so I'm not concerned with my credit score.

I know medicine isn't for everyone. But I couldn't imagine me manic and unmedicated. I spent this much money while medicated. I'd be totally out of control without the medicine.

In the future, to protect my finances from my manic self, I'm going to lower my credit card balances once I get the debt paid off. I might even give my credit and debit cards to my mother the next time I feel the mania coming on. Lack of impulse control and credit cards don't mix. I have certainly learned my lesson. Only took two spending sprees.