I was struck this morning with a peculiar weariness that took a moment to identify its source. I’ve been doing a lot of work in recent months on managing my bipolar disorder. The frontline defense against it is medication, but the main combat forces behind it that do the real work are a host of behavioral changes that take time and are a real bitch to implement if you’ve been stuck in unhealthy ruts to date. I feel like I’ve been trying to drive a Jeep out of a muddy ditch.
If I really want to be healthy, I have to get enough sleep and on a regular schedule; exercise regularly and with vigor; eat well and regularly; take particular supplements known to be beneficial to brains like mine; meditate regularly; and a few other things. Sure, those things are good for everyone, but if I don’t do them, I just sort of scrape through life and my meds aren’t very effective at all. And that’s no bueno for anyone. Least of all me. Everyone around me can get away from me if they really want to, but I can never get away from myself. Wherever I go, there I am. If I’m all messed up upstairs, I get stuck in a nasty negative feedback loop that ends up in bad places.
So it’s in my best interest to maintain things as best I can. Which is where the weariness comes in. It’s a constant vigil, maintaining a chronic illness properly. I can give myself a little leeway, but for the most part, I really can’t allow myself to fall out of my patterns. That means getting up at the same time every day and meditating after I make my tea. Remembering to take my meds in the morning, which means heeding the alarm when it goes off or I’ll probably forget, since when bipolar meds are working properly, you feel fine, so you don’t think to take medicine. Eating something, which is a constant problem because I’m rarely hungry in the morning. Not ignoring that hunger when it pops up later in the day. Getting some sort of exercise in the evening on most days (at least I seem to have finally settled on a time of day to get my exercise in). Taking the evening meds. Going to bed at a reasonable hour.
I’m still slack in areas, mostly nutrition, as noted. I still tend to stay up too late, as I’ve been a perennial night owl most of my life. On days off, I have to make myself go meditate instead of immediately sitting down at the computer. I have a bad habit of not immediately heeding my med alarms and then forgetting to take them until a couple of hours later. Which is better than not taking them at all (which I do sometimes), but it’s the sort of thing that’s the most effective if you take them at the same time every day.
And there are still things I should work on if I want to be healthier, like acceptance, which is a big part of Buddhism and a growing part of psychology. There are things in my life and my world that make me anxious, but that I can’t change, either immediately or sometimes at all. Worrying about them does me no good and in fact does me harm, since a buildup of anxiety typically leads to a mood imbalance eventually. I have to learn to stop dwelling on these things if I want to be a happier person, and one that doesn’t wake up with constricted breathing in the middle of the night.
I also have to make sure I’m not inadvertently keeping sources of anxiety in my life that I don’t need, but have gotten used to. Like things I feel I have to be responsible for, but really don’t anymore, if I ever did. It’s an unfortunate side effect of being forced to take on responsibilities that you shouldn’t have to when you’re younger that you begin to take on responsibilities that you don’t have to when you’re older. It took a long time for me to learn that I didn’t have to say “yes” to everything and everyone.
It all adds up to a lot of work that I sometimes (often) wish I didn’t have to do. It’s a pain in the ass and requires a good deal of discipline that doesn’t come naturally to me and is damned difficult if not impossible to muster in the depths of depression or a fit of mania, which is exactly when it’s needed the most. I wish I could just let things slide sometimes without everything going to hell. Of course, when I do let it all slide, I have to give myself a measure of self-forgiveness for failing to meet the criteria I’ve set for myself, or that one of my support team has set for me. Because perfection is impossible.
Still, no rest for the weary. No slack for the brain matter. Because that’s what’s necessary.