I’m currently writing from an Internet café down on the main street of Montañitas, Ecuador. I came here on vacation to surf, mostly, but also the food and relaxation. Not that I was stressed or anything since I got laid off (by mutual agreement) at the end of April. I figured out, that after almost 3 years, I had to take advantage that my boss wanted to relocate me inside the company… so I told him no and agreed to get 80% of the severance pay. Now I can re-take my real carreer, which is working in IT sales or IT marketing. I just can’t beleive I held on for so long in my previous job. Talk about the definition of comfort zone (you can read more about my previous job in the last blog post).

So now I’m on vacation; but it’s not like I quit my job and went on vacation… this was planned in March, while I was still working. I figured I needed a break from my boring life and that it wouldn’t be wise to waste the flight ticket.

I’ve been thinking a lot while here, mainly because I brought my Kindle with some fresh loaded books and also my own Diary of a Bipolar in it. I gave a shot to Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea but it ended up boring me. Halfway through it the only thing that had happened is that (spoiler alert) he was fishing and he is fighting to death to catch a (probably) huge fish that took the bait. Yes, like 50 pages of that. So the thing is that I started to read my own book after that. It was emotional to me and kind of shoking, together with a strange mix of feelings upon realizing more clearly where I stand now.

Diary of a Bipolar covers my life and my experiences as a patient from 2001 until 2009. The main thoughts and realizations while reading it were that shockingly for me I’ve somehow lost my sparkling personality. It’s not that now I’m more mature (which I think I am)… but rather I’ve become kind or boring and more of a recluse in my own head. I’ve grown bitter and unhappy. The bright side is that I no longer have the severe episodes I experienced while writing the diary, which were extreme, to say the least. I really loved and missed the old me when I was OK. I would go out and talk to the most beautiful girls without knowing them and such things. I laughed and I smiled (something I don’t do anymore and when I do it’s fake).

Also, the female companionship, or the lack thereof. I guess because I’ve become more like an introvert and I’m less fun to be around, because physically I’m kind of equivalent as before, meaning that I might not be as fit as I was before but I’m still better that 99% of guys my age (I’m 42 now). My face looks the same, pretty much. Everyone tells me that. So yes, I feel really lonely and alone, especially on the partner issue. It amazed me how while reading my own book I realized that before, even with the strong depression episodes, I would be going out with girls and be pretty much dating permanently. Now I can say that my last relationship was a little over a year ago.

Well, enough of my complaints. I just wanted to be clear because saince you’re reading it it’s most probable that you read Diary of a Bipolar and somehow you’re interested in what happened after it. So on the bright side, which is hard for me to see, I no longer have extreme episodes of depression, but I still do get some milder ones. Also, I finally quit the job that was killing me. Somehow being unemployed feels good now. With the severance money I can look for a good job for some 9 months until the money runs out. I’m moderately confident that I will. Also I’m on vacation enjoying good weather in a tropical beach, although I can’t say the same for the waves, which were good only for a day. But they were very good!

One of the worlds heaviest waves breaks in Tahiti

Well, that’s all for now. I just want to share with you what’s going on with my life.

Feel free to drop some comments!

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It’s been quite a long time since I haven’t written here; or, better yet, haven’t written much of anything. After my last posts back in 2008 I had a lot of ups and downs and have come to accept my bipolar condition and chronic (by definition) status.

In 2014 I pretty much had no severe episodes the whole year, which raised a different set of problems: doing the thing they call “living”. Suddenly I got hit by a lot of things I didn’t care about while all those symptomatic years, like my ever lonely relationship status, a mismanaged career at age 42, a fat body and an all-time low self esteem. Combine all these with the occasional mild depressions and the complete lack of my mild hypomanias, which I used to love and gave a little flavor to my life. If I try to look at things in a half full glass-style, I have to say that somehow I’ve managed to keep a new job for over 2.5 years, been able to pay my mortgage and still have a family and all its members alive since my grandparents died years ago.

I am now under weekly talk therapy with a psychologist, but she seems to be overly focused on the issue that I have no steady partner in my life. I tell her that It’s incredibly difficult for me (this deserves another post) but she insists that I just settle with an average woman and love and sex drive will naturally come. I don’t agree since I tried this with a way better than average girl and it didn’t work, even though I tried my best. So, for this reason, I’m thinking about changing therapists; this is specially tricky since my life insurance only cover a small group of them. I believe I will go for a man this time and hope for the best.

My career, or lack thereof, is something completely different. In the end I got fired from the job that pretty much has defined me as a worker since I started. I got laid off after 5 years. After that I tried an entrepreneurship and failed miserably, which left me depressed and with a low self esteem. So a friend offered me a job in a small company, something new for me (we’re talking about a workforce of 4), but proposed a good salary, all things considered. I took it. Thing is, it was a career shift because on my previous job I was a sales engineer, and this job offer was a computer systems administrator (something most of my colleagues work on). It’s your typical geek job, totally opposed to what I did before. Most of the day alone at the office in front of a computer screen managing databases, systems and connections. I thought I’d go for this job for 6 months or so, while I looked for another one, but 2 years and 9 months I’m still sitting here alone in the office with the 65 year old assistant. She’s a sweet lady, but  we don’t have much in common. It’s not like I haven’t tried to get another job, in fact I looked for one most of 2014, where I participated in about 6 selection processes, but I just landed one at a large corporation, doing pretty much the same I did at the previous corporation, but in the end got offered a lousy salary (about 50% less of what I did 8 years ago in the other company, which is a direct competitor). The money just wasn’t enough.

I used to workout at the gym a lot until 2012, but later that year I got a back hernia, which crippled me from training; something I had done for 20 years and had kept me in good shape and boosted me with a very decent self esteem. In 2014 the pain was much less or nonexistent, so I went back to the gym but had a series of injuries on both shoulder joints and so I could never reach a decent body and I kept on accumulating fat. Fast forward to 2015 and I’m hitting the gym again, but using much lower weights and scared of getting injured again. I still have a shoulder injury inside the joint (labrum) which is only 100% recoverable if surgery is done. I’ve chosen not to have the operation and do some kinetic treatment which so far has been decent and I have made it to be able to train with low weights, as I said. The result is pretty much no body improvement. Add to this that I’m 42 now and as a result muscle growth is very hard and the same goes for fat loss.

In general, I have a permanent unhappiness; I guess mostly because I’m not 100% free from depression. My psychiatrist is against adding an antidepressant in the mix (currently I only take Lamotrigine, a mood stabilizer) since it could make me unstable again. He’s just doing his work: making sure a bipolar patient doesn’t kill himself. Some days I feel better, if only for a couple of hours, and think that I’m coming out of this crappy state, but in the end it only lasts a short while.

What can I learn from all of this? Sadly, not much; mostly because I’m not in control of my emotions or willpower, that’s the honest truth. I can only hope for those moments that I’m more productive to actually get some stuff done, but I always end up celebrating instead of doing things. I go out with friends, party and drink. The usual routine. Some days there are exceptions, but most of the decisions or things I have to do scare me to death, especially when they involve financial or emotional risk. Proof of this is that it has taken me almost 7 years to write anything here. This pretty much happened after I finished my book (Diary of a Bipolar). Let’s hope it sticks.

Best wishes to you all and feel free to comment.


Crisis

09Sep08

I’ve been away for a while… in hell. I had a severe episode of depression that lasted about 4 days (the deep phase) and it was as strong as they come. A dark cloud of depression just started getting into me for no apparent or special reason.

My family and doctor tried to get me to a hospital – and I refused persistently – and they got together and started calling me and visiting me everyday and stuff (I live on my own). I guess this one really scared them, just like it did with me.

I am not sure if I came out of it already (it started August 29) but today I can write and feel that typing actually means something.

I had been off meds for 3 months but this past Monday my psychiatrist and I agreed that I should take my pills again. You might imagine how it felt because I struggled for 6 years to come to a point where I felt I no longer needed them (and it did work for the last 3 months) and now I’m back in the psychological hole that is felt when you are ‘on something’. Well I don’t discard taking the same path again in my fight to beat this thing… even if it’s a dream I’m following. What sucks mostly is that even while on drugs (all those years) I was never stable, so stopping taking them was actually an experiment my psychiatrist agreed upon. Feeling that one is ‘clean’ is motivating by itself.

So I don’t know what lies ahead because another of the reasons for stopping taking meds was that we pretty much tried every other mood stabilizer but Lithium and the fact of the matter is that I’m even against trying it. Call me stubborn or whatever but I’m not going with it. I want the fantasy that I have a normal life at least… a lot is involved when committing to that particular drug.

I’ve also felt that I didn’t take enough security measures to assure the stability I had for 3 months. After all I was just taking a mix of Bach Flowers and that was pretty much it. I know I should have induced myself relaxations on a daily basis plus gym (at 6am) and some Yoga and maybe a proper diet with Omega-3 pills but thing is I didn’t.

These past days have been terrible at work, happily we have independent bathrooms so I just locked myself in sometimes and put on my earphones and played my 10-minute deep-relaxation mp3. It was a life saver lowering the situation from unbearable to acceptable.

That’s it for now; I will try not to write too much about me in the future but I felt like sharing this.

Comments?


In many ways depression can be seen as an inability to control one’s own mind. A mind in depression goes around wandering and thinking of despair, loneliness and death as if it were powered by itself and out of any control (at least from us). So it’s my own mind that’s the enemy… but I’m not in control of it. If we were to examine this problem from the outside as mere observers then common sense would tell us something very simple: Learn to control it. After all this time I’ve come to think that it all comes down to that (easy to say, not easy to do) so at one point or another we better get started trying.

So how does one learn to control one’s own mind? It’s a very simple question but we will have a very hard time if we try to answer it from the knowledge we have gathered as a western civilization. Somehow and for no apparent reason the great minds of our culture have not dedicated much to this topic leaving it behind time after time. As many of you know we are not totally out of luck since eastern cultures have done much of the job already by developing several religions and disciplines (from Yoga to martial arts) all in which mind control (better said controlling one’s own mind) has a major role. Generally speaking the proper term would be ‘meditation’ and you can read more about it here. In short:

“Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and/or psychophysical practices which may emphasize different goals — from achievement of a higher state of consciousness, to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.”

I sometimes get mixed up when explaining to people what does deep-relaxation have to do with meditation and the relationship is that once you are truly meditating you are truly and deeply relaxed but not the other way around. So we could use this to our advantage by just focusing on taking ourselves to a state of deep relaxation without the need of any knowledge on meditation specifics or engaging in any religions. We will, however, borrow several of the techniques one would use to meditate… like focusing on things like one’s own breath, pulse, body, some mental imagery, special methods of breathing and combinations of them. Our goal is to achieve focus of our mind in something specific or maybe in nothing at all for extended periods of time.

I’m sure experiences are very diverse but for me normal deep-relaxation sessions are usually assisted by an audio track from a psychologist or a psychiatrist that normally last like 30 minutes. I’ve come to gather like 10 different mp3’s from many sources.

I’m not a big fan of Brian Weiss as I think his books are a bit too commercial and just say what everyone would like to read but that’s my opinion. Nevertherless I can say I had an excellent experience assisted by the CD that comes with his book “Mirrors of Time”. If you get the book then make sure it comes with the CD inside. Try searching for it in your language using this link.

I haven’t mentioned it yet but I keep a journal since my depression started and I’m going to share with you here some of the content that relates to this subject:

April 20, 2003

…”I remember now that during a critical day in March my mother took me to a psychologist girl right after I started seeing the first psychiatrist. She made me lay back and somehow induced me into a kind of trance. After a few of her kind words I completely gave in and found myself crying and then crying some more. They told me later that this went on for 45 minutes. I remember enjoying every single tear because it felt like I was alive. Strong but relaxed energy was flowing in my body like never before. That was a pivotal day in my life. After that life became a little more bearable and I don’t think I would be alive writing these words here if I hadn’t gone that day to her.”

November 6, 2003

…”Yesterday I felt unusually better and I drove to visit a friend. After some chat he said that we should practice some guided meditation. I told him I had just made it to a deep relaxation state with the psychologist and he mentioned it was sort of like that. After all what did I have to lose? He put a CD in the player and I quickly fell. About 20 minutes later I entered a state of pleasure (I guess this is what they call the pleasure of the nothingness) that was so great. It was like a step further than what I did with the psychologist. Lacking better words to describe it I started having sort of a mental orgasm. After 30 minutes the voice on the CD started giving instructions for us to wake up slowly. After we came back I remained in a comforting state of peace for a couple of hours. I actually felt happy and united with myself. It was like a drug and I started asking myself all kinds of things. I had heard before that deep relaxation and meditation are in fact one of God’s greatest gifts to us but we don’t use it. After yesterday I became a believer in it, call it whatever you want: Induced trance, self hypnosis, deep relaxation or guided meditation. I have been doing it a couple of times more since yesterday and I don´t have plans to quit.”

November 30, 2003

…”I have been inducing deep relaxations to myself on a daily basis. I do this on my lunch break, which is strictly 1 hour. I do this crazy thing everyday… I run to my car, drive to my father’s which is 15 kilometers away from my office, eat in 5 minutes and then induce me relaxation for 35 minutes and then drive all the way back. I can fall into deep trance in as little as 5 minutes. Since I have to drive at very fast speeds on the street and under the influence of Alprazolam, I could say that this is turning into a very needed but dangerous practice. Depression has been tough on me these days and I feel that this activity has been helping me to stand it somehow. I have come to the boiling point several times just before lunch time and this is the only way that I see that I could’ve gone on working.”

I believe mastering one’s mind is the one method I would recommend hands-down because of its immediate soothing effects that can (in my case) last to as much as 4 hours. For me it depends of the depth I achieve in the session.

So what are you waiting for? Go and try for yourself. If you’ve never done it then you will be surprised of how hard can something so simple as, say, counting from 1 to 10 with your eyes closed breathing in and out slowly can be. I recommend sitting or laying on your back comfortably breathing in deeply for 4 pulses of your heart (count them), hold your breath for 4 pulses more and then release in 4 more pulses. Do this from 1 to 10 and imagine that you inhale positive energy and that you exhale everything negative. if you ever lose count or find your mind wandering about anything but your pulse, breathing or the number you’re on then start all over from 1. Make sure all phones are diconnected or in silence and make sure noone interrupts you. Good luck! 🙂

I will be putting up more posts on self-relaxation constantly.

Comments?


I’m sure this is unusual. At least I’ve never seen anyone do or have read about something relating videogames to depression in a good way.

For starters let me say that many therapies work under the premise that you simply can’t have your brain thinking on really more than one thing at the same time so if you are really concentrated on something you simply won’t be able to lock into onther less desirable thoughts like the ones that ocurr in depression, for example. Even though I’ve tried many of these “brain switching” techniques I have my own thoughts about them. At least in my experience I can say that they do work at different intensities but sometimes depression is so strong and you feel so dead inside that even if you manage to hold continuously to an activity there is still something behind… like if it were working on the background and it sort of throws the whole “brain switching” thing to a wishful-thinking category at least in some degree. It’s like if depression were just waiting for you to finish what you are doing. Actually if you come to think about it it could make sense if we just assume the brain works in more than one dimension (in a non linear way, this is like parallel processing). The other hypotesis would be that maybe depression is not only an affliction of the mind, but also one that encompasses also body, spirit and/or soul which would also make sense. I guess this deserves another post by itself but maybe later.

Now back to the games. This one day, a couple of years ago, I was very depressed and I was moving some boxes around and I found this really good computer game that I never played. It was actually a game released in 2001 that I sort of skipped and I had it wrapped in the original box because I had bought it on some sale for 2 bucks. The weekend was boring and I was feeling so dead and rotten outside and had nothing to do so I just kind of forced myself and opened up the box and installed the game CDs in my computer. I was not motivated at all… but I was doing it anyway. Then I started playing.

By then I was unemployed and I remember I played and played for like a week pretty much non-stop until I finished the game. The whole week I would be motivated just for the game, but hey! at least something motivated me. I was really bad. Still, the brainswitching premise didn’t work for me as I said… once I paused or stopped playing for the day I would get back on depression but if you ask me I can say that yes, it really helped me put my mind off depression at least for the extended periods I played which could be seen as a major SOS technique. When in need of emergency relief I know it works on me.

Since then I have been getting my hands on more computer games and a couple of months ago I also bought an XBOX360. I think this kind of therapy does not produce lasting results as I said, but it is a life saver. I’ve been playing computer and video games all my life so I have a few recommendations for all of you out there no matter gender or age… some games are somehow better at keeping your head completely busy and that’s the goal. Try to get these not-so-old games (you should be able to buy them for just a few bucks by now and they will pretty much work on any modern PC easily), install them and play them in your computer until you are finished with them.

-Starcraft: probably the best for this, but be careful of the addiction that the multiplayer mode can do to you. Believe it or not I have a friend (and heard of plenty) who was literally addicted to this to the point he needed to seek treatment… this is the least we need.

-Diablo and Diablo II: great RPG games.

-Quake I and II: great first person shooters.

-Doom I and II: same as above… just great.

Others like Quake III, Doom III, the Medal of Honor series, the Call of Duty series and Halo are also great but require higher spec PCs and probably won’t cost as cheap.

All the games I mentioned are very fast-paced and demand almost a complete commitment from your mind and I think that is exactly the point because we need to minimize the times in-between in order to keep our heads busy as much as possible. If you are feeling very, deeply depressed then I really recommend playing some games. As I said it doesn’t seem to be a permanent fix, but it can be literally a life saver in situations when you feel you can barely function and going out seems impossible and in severe depression. In fact many sources will blame videogames for unhealthy mental consequences (yes, even depression) but I think everything and anything taken to irrational levels will harm you.

Feel like checking out more about videogames? I recommend ign and gamespot.

Comments?


Around two years after depression started for me (back in 2004) I got a call from the first psychiatrist I went to (who by that time I had ditched) because he told me he had learned a new method of “taps”, he said. I was reluctant to go to visit him at first, since I had mixed feelings about him and his professional capacity. This specific psychiatrist never really measured how depressed I was and just thought (by that time) I suffered from dysthimia or cyclothimia which are mood disorders much milder than mine.

By that time my condition was still critical so I accepted and went to visit him, not for free of course. By then I had been diagnosed as bipolar II by another physician and I told him so… he mentioned that he wasn’t really updated back when he first saw me so he underestimated my condition (I thought “OK… can I have my money and my life back now that things got out of hand?”. I guess that’s a “sorry I messed up” for a doctor).

After I sat down and chatted for a while he would make me bring memories to my conscience and as I did I was supposed to tap certain areas of my head and body in specific sequences and rhythm.

The therapy was supposedly miraculous but by the 4th session I began to accept and realize that nothing in me had changed. For me it was definitely a no-no. I guess I should mention I went to it with an open mind and really hoping it (or anything) would work. Later that day I called him up and asked him the name of the therapy and he mentioned TFT: Thought Field Therapy. I went online and did some research.

In short: “Thought Field Therapy, or TFT, is an alternative treatment developed by an American psychologist, Roger Callahan, Ph.D. Its proponents say that it can heal of a variety of mental and physical ailments through specialized “tapping” with the fingers at meridian points on the upper body and hands.”

For more info visit Wikipedia here.


Me

19Aug08

So who am I? My name is George, a 35 year-old single male. I work as an engineer in a major corporation in my native country in South America. You may wonder how I got a steady job of this type and, well, so do I. But most importantly is how I’ve managed to keep it for 3 years now. Feeling one thing on the inside and expressing something else on the outside is one thing that I have come to manage but only to a certain point, there are just some days when keeping up this charade becomes impossible. My carreer story definitely deserves a series of posts apart from this.

I am one of those persons who suffers from severe depression (I have different diagnosis depending on different psychiatrists… dystimia, cyclothimia, unipolar, bipolar, you name the flavor) and tries to hide it and cope with it within a large city. So far I have managed but the road has been extremely difficult to say the least… I haven’t really been stable for more than one month and nowadays stability doesn’t exist for more than a single afternoon. I have become used to deal with the concept of death dancing around my mind. It is hard to put these things on words.

I have seen several psychologists and psychiatrists since all this started 6 years ago (I had absolutely nothing until age 29… or so I think) and have gotten no clear results… ever. I’ve tried many combinations of drugs and psychological therapies. I would say that over these years I must have seen at least 10 psychologists and 10 other psychiatrists and been on at least 10 different types of med combinations. I have seen the impotence imprinted on my doctors’ and relative’s faces but I am absolutely sure that it cannot measure up to what I feel deep inside myself .

I’ve been close to death several times. Sometimes something random – like straight from heaven – would come up and prevent me from doing the worse and some other times I have managed to calm my soul and mind by inducing self relaxation.

I have tried just about everyhting reasonable for a western guy… and then some. I have seeked help in Christian religion, regular physical excercise, Yoga, Tantra, meditation, self-relaxation, past-life regressions, TFT (thought field therapy), ayurvedic medicine, chinese medicine, strange diets, many variations of Tarot, Bach Flowers, Homeopathy, aboriginal herbs and a fair share of spiritual masters who have all claimed to know what’s going on with me (and they all have different theories)… you name it: I’ve probably done it. As I sometimes say when I have some sense of humor “the only things I haven’t done are things like leaving everyone and everything behind and just heading up to the Himalayas” and who knows… maybe someday I will.

* Feel free to comment