So, the New Year rolls around, and suddenly everyone’s talking about getting healthy. After living through another year of struggling to keep my moods stable, my side-effects manageable and my weight from spiraling, I have had to ask myself what “healthy” means to me in this context. What do I want to achieve in terms of my mental and physical health? I’m not keen on the word “resolution” – a resolution feels like quite a rigid commitment, and one that will leave me feeling bad if I can’t meet it. So here, then, are my aspirations for 2013.
1) To have a more healthy relationship with food. My weight has been creeping up and up ever since I started taking quetiapine in May 2011, but that’s not the only problem I have with food. Over the past year I noticed I was using food more and more as a means of dealing with emotional difficulties. Towards the end of the year I was cramming down food I didn’t even really enjoy, just for the sensation of eating. Right now I am two weeks into a diet plan and have lost 6lbs. I am trying not to focus too hard on how many more lbs of weight loss I would need to reach a healthy BMI. Instead, I’m concentrating on achieving a sensible amount of weight loss, week by week, and trying to be more mindful about my eating. This means that instead of eating food without thinking, I am considering what’s in the food, what it will do to/for my body and whether I really want to eat it. I’m also trying to slow my eating down, bringing mindfulness to the eating process by chewing everything thoroughly and enjoying the feeling of it in my mouth and stomach. Managing my weight and eating just wasn’t something I could manage during 2012 with my moods still hopping all over the place, but I believe I am just about stable enough now to give it a good shot.
2) Take more exercise. Obviously, this will help the weight loss, but I’m also after general psychological and physical health benefits. This was something else I struggled with throughout 2012. Mood shifts and sedation from meds meant that one week I could be over-exercising because I was high, and the next week I could feel unable to summon up the least bit of motivation because a med increase had left me over sedated. Now that my moods are settling and the medication regimen looks stable for the time being, I have begun to remind myself of the many kinds of exercise I enjoy. I’ve begun with walking to places instead of taking public transport, and doing some yoga and some aerobics DVDs at home (I much prefer the privacy of my living room to a gym). When the weather improves, I hope to get back into running, and maybe swimming. There are so many forms of activity I do enjoy, that there is really no reason to do anything I feel unenthusiastic about.
3) To make more use of self-management strategies to be more self-reliant. 2012 was the year in which I spent a lot of time working on a Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). In some areas there are WRAP facilitators to assist with this, but I couldn’t find any where I live so I worked on mine online at http://www.mentalhealthrecovery.com/wrap/ The hours that I put in were really worthwhile, because they helped me develop a step-wise approach to managing mood changes. I now have a long list of things to do (or, sometimes, not do) to address increases in elation, anxiety or irritability. I implement these calming strategies, that I know will help me, as my first line of defense against relapse. My second level strategy is to make use of the PRN (as and when) medication I have (diazepam, small increments of additional quetiapine). My aim is to be able to use these strategies to intervene early, so that I have less contact with doctors during 2013 and feel more in control of managing my bipolar.
2010, 2011 and 2012 were all very difficult in terms of my bipolar being very active. I’m optimistic that by addressing my eating and exercise and managing my own moods better, 2013 will be the year that I recover from this episode. Wish me luck!