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But the Days Grow Short ...

I'm Bipolar Journal - October 21, 2006

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Updated May 15, 2012

I had a great summer in spite of my mother's time in the hospital. Mom sailed through her surgeries. When she came home, I took charge with verve and confidence. If you've read Three Moods in One and A Good Day, you know that not only was I able to run the household, but I also made progress on some projects that have literally been hanging over my head for years.

But this month my mood has darkened as the days have shortened, so Seasonal Affective Disorder is probably creeping into the mood equation. Six weeks ago I would sit down eagerly to make a Saturday or Sunday to-do list; now it's always "I'll do that later." My computer calendar is popping up all kinds of reminders to call various doctors - the vascular surgeon to make an appointment for Mom in January, our family doctor about flu shots, the vet because both cats need their shots and Lucy is still throwing up too often (though not as much since I raised her bowl). Some of these reminders have now been snoozed for three weeks.

The kitchen is no longer tidy and efficient. I haven't touched my filing project in at least two weeks. A month ago I got an invitation to a class reunion that took place last night. When the invitation arrived, I was eager to attend. A week ago I knew I would not. I have no interest in going anywhere. I even ran out of blood pressure medicine because I was too lazy to go and pick up the new prescription. I'm also not as patient with Mom's terrible memory.

What do I do? I sit at the computer and play games. For hours on end.

There are some other contributing factors as well:

1. I went on a diet
Of all the attempts I've made to lose weight, the only one that gave me any success was counting calories, so I decided to try it again. Recording everything I eat gets boring pretty quickly, but I felt that given my state of mind, I could keep it up so long as it worked.

It didn't work. I made a big reduction in how much I ate each day, but while I stopped gaining weight, I didn't lose a single pound. It's depressing. And dieting is depressing anyway.

2. I started drinking a lot more coffee
Coffee is the one thing I can use to keep me from snacking. A cup of half caffeine, half decaf coffee with 20 calories of non-dairy creamer and no-calorie sweetener is as good as a piece of a Hershey bar - and lasts a lot longer. In the same time it takes me to get to the bottom of a cup of coffee, I could probably have eaten a quarter box of Cheez-Its. But is the extra caffeine affecting me negatively?

3. Christmas is coming
It's not even Halloween yet and Christmas catalogues are already flooding the mail. I always find the run-up to Christmas depressing. There's only one thing I can do about this, and I'm doing it: I ordered Christmas cards three weeks ago, and I've already ordered gifts for two people. The sooner I get all my shopping done, the sooner that particular pressure will be off.

4. I'm not completely "in charge" anymore
Mom has improved physically to the point where she no longer needs her walker and can drive. She makes her own breakfast and lunch and sometimes cooks dinner. I'm glad she is so much better! Yet in my usual "all or nothing" mentality, I've started to let things slide around the house because it's not all up to me any more.

Obviously this isn't a black, dangerous depression and maybe it sounds like I just need to exercise some self-discipline. But those of you who have been in this gray, dreary place know that IT is in control more than I am.

I am reluctant to increase my dosage of Seroquel (quetiapine) because I've already gained 30 pounds on it (yes, I now weigh two-hundred pounds. (Recently I found some pictures of myself taken when I was in my mid-20s, weighing 125 pounds, and they just about broke my heart.) Cymbalta (duloxetine), my antidepressant, has not been found to be any more effective at dosages higher than I'm taking now. I'm thinking about asking to try Geodon (ziprasidone), a medication in the same class as Seroquel that has been found to be more weight-neutral.

I can still laugh easily. Mom was just now looking for parsley flakes, and when I found them for her, she muttered, "Flarsely pakes," and I cracked up. When she comments, "We have a good life," I agree with her - honestly. But I need to stop this slide into depression before it gets any worse, or it will be yet another miserable winter.

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