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The Dreads Arrival

Dyane Harwood

DogToday, despite it being summer and my not having to rush my two girls to school, I woke up in a big 'ol funk.  At 5:00 a.m. our precocious Lucy, now a thirteen-week-old bundle of energy, acted as a canine alarm clock and woke me up.  She was raring to go on a puppy ultra-marathon.  My husband rose early to let her outside, and he made enough noise in leaving our room that I couldn't get back to sleep.  

While burying my head in my pillow, a heavy-duty case of what I unaffectionately call The Dreads fell upon me.  The Dreads are a first-cousin of depression and, like the “black dog”, they consist of physical fatigue, plus a looming dread of the day to come.  As I sat there this morning, I felt too wiped out to start the day.  It took me almost two hours to finally drag myself out of bed and stop ruminating on negative things.  

Ironically, when I've been hit with The Dreads, once I've gotten out of bed and had my first cup of coffee, they slowly but surely vanish like a vampire caught in daylight.  That's the difference between clinical depression and The Dreads – almost a couple hours.  Those tedious hours could be much better spent with a positive state of mind, and I’m on a quest to figure out a solution.

When I finally crawled out of bed, I remembered I had cut down one of my medications the night before by 50 mg.   As I hadn't had The Dreads hit me this intensely for a while, I wondered if there could be any connection between the medication drop and my distressing mental state.   

Of course it could just be a coincidence or my paranoia about how this dosage reduction affected me, or it could be both things!  But just in case it really is the medication reduction, I'm going to resume my usual dose tonight.  I see my psychiatrist tomorrow for our regular monthly check-in appointment.  I’ll use our session to discuss The Dreads in depth, and I’m sure he’ll have some helpful insights I can share with you.

On a separate note, I've already discovered that ever since my kids got out of school, our days have become too unstructured for my mental health.  I know I need a more consistent daily routine in order for me to feel confident about changing my medication dosage.  

Speaking of routine…my friend and fellow International Bipolar Foundation blogger Becca Moore recently wrote a great post on routine in her Psych Central Bipolar Parenting column.  Here's the link:  

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-parenting/2014/06/routines-and-str...

When the girls' school closed for summer break, I also stopped using my therapeutic bright light every morning, which I had been using for a minimum of a half hour.  I didn't think my light was making a significant difference in terms of keeping the nasty Dreads away, but maybe it has helped me much more than I thought.  I'm going to make a point of using my light on a daily basis once again.  It's really easy to use as I can write, surf the net or read in front of it.  And, of course, eat while using it.  (Hopefully not too much chocolate!)

On the brighter side, it helps me to notice that I've improved on my "all or nothing thinking" that I've done for so long.  In the past, I would have felt that I failed my one-day-long medication taper.  I would have thought horrible things such as "You’re a  loser!" and "You'll never be able to lower your medication!"  Now, I think differently, as my self-flagellation is thankfully gone.  I'm able to think about all of this more rationally, and I'll look to the fall as a better time to try again.  That's pretty cool!

I can't expect every day to be sunshine and rainbows.  (Can I?)  Well, I know a couple people who actually do feel strongly that way, and I admire them for their attitude, but I'm not there yet.  

In the meantime, I'm going to carry on with my self-care routine the rest of this afternoon. That consists of working out, paying attention to my kids and husband, and trying my best not to eat too much ice cream.  (It's sooo good this time of year, though.)

I'll take Lucy for a stroll and get some natural daylight.  I'm so relieved that The Dreads disappeared today because after suffering with bipolar depression for many years, any glimpse of those awful types of feelings frightens me.  

So here’s wishing you sunshine, rainbows, gelato (if you like it) and most importantly, not a whisper of The Dreads EVER! :))

Be well, Dyane

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Dyane Leshin-Harwood holds a B.A. degree in English Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz.  Dyane was diagnosed with type I bipolar disorder in 2007 at age thirty-seven, six weeks postpartum after the birth of her second daughter. As a result, Dyane has developed a commitment to postpartum mood disorder education, and she's currently working on her book “Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder”. Dyane founded the Santa Cruz, California chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).  She is a member of the International Bipolar Foundation’s Consumer Advisory Council. Dyane blogs for the cutting-edge website Stigmama.com and she's a member of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders. To read Dyane's personal blog visit www.proudlybipolar.wordpress.com

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