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Bipolar Recovery Update 5

So it’s been since February that I updated the ongoing recovery from last year, having been diagnosed with bipolar, etc.  I imagine everyone has noticed regular updates to the site, I’ve had a number of people comment on my not being an out of control belligerent a-hole online and anybody on my Facebook feed, page or whatever has seen a variety of excerpts from a current mega-project that I’m in the process of trying to finish (TWO MORE WEEKS GUYS!  HA HA!)

Even when I disagree or argue with people, I make an effort (not always successful to be honest) to be constructive rather than just raging at people pointlessly.  Make no mistake, the old habits are still there and I’ve lost it with a few people (usually who were just being utterly ignorant and pushing my buttons) and/or found myself reflexively writing stuff that I shouldn’t but I try to catch it before hitting post or sending the email.   Twenty years of habit doesn’t change quickly but I’m working on it.

But since it’s been a few months, I figured it was about time to go ahead and do another bipolar recovery update, for reasons that I’ll actually elucidate below.    The short version for anybody who doesn’t want to read is that things are going well.  I’m mostly stable although I find stimulants will tend to push me towards aggression ville, sleep is good, I’m halfway into my normal trouble spot and everything seems on track, etc.  So far so good.  Now, some details.

Gym, Eating, Lifestyle

Having described probably the most boring training program in the history of ever, I thought I’d comment on this first.  Over the past few months, my weight training has been moving up gradually.  I’m pretending once again to be an Olympic Lifter, gradually brought back in snatches to my training and have put more focus there and less on the general strength stuff.   I also added a third day of training.

I’m still doing some of it but the first half of my workout is always Ol’ing including the competition lifts, squats, pulls and even the occasional deadlift.  Follow that up with some basic upper body, arm, core work.  Last workout, I’m maybe 5kg off my previous (admittedly sucky) bests from years back so we’ll see.

I’m still not sure I have an actual goal so I’m just trying to keep things more interesting, it feels good to be training and not feel totally piss-weak anymore.  Just mostly piss-weak.  There is also some light cardio on most in-between days since that’s still important for various brain reasons.  It doesn’t get done all the time but often enough.

My eating wasn’t great over Easter, I do love me some bunny basket eggs, but that’s life.  I kept things generally healthy and am back to my previous eating habits now that the half-price or less candy is finally out of  the store.

My sleep patterns are still good and, honestly, that’s one of the big signs that I’m about to go off the rails.  Not only does hypomania tend to mean you need less sleep but too little sleep tends to kick you up to hypomania.  Being out of certain unhealthy environments is helping with this.

Previously I got into trouble trying to burn it at both ends, staying up until all hours with my normal 8:30 am dog wake up call.  Sure, I have the occasional bad night, usually falling asleep but my sleep hygeine is generally good and it’s never more than one night of mediocre sleep.  When it starts becoming 3-4 days of too little sleep, that signals trouble.

Safety Nets

Although I tend to crash into depression almost overnight, I mean going from flying on top of the world to can’t get out of bed from one day to the next, my past experience with hypomania is that it tends to ramp up more gradually.  And once you get too far gone, you are past the point where you will listen to anybody.

The key, for me at least, is to have multiple safety nets in place.  Practically this means interacting with people on different frequencies so that they can get a better picture of changes in my behavior before things get too bad.  I made a deal with them that majority rules: if the majority think I’m going off the rails, my opinion doesn’t matter.

But that is still predicated on catching it before I get to the point that I won’t listen.  Beyond a certain point, you feel awesome and you are convinced that you are NOT hypomanic.  And that’s when it gets ugly.

In any case, the deal with my mom was that I’d check in with her at least weekly.  Another good friend and I talk on the phone at least as often.  I see some friends I’ve had here for over a decade once/month, which means they get a longer term look at my behavior and how it might be changing.  I think you get the idea.

On that note, I want to very genuinely thank people who have taken the time, either via email or Facebook PM to just shoot me a checkup note and ask how I’m doing.  Every little bit helps and for folks who don’t know me beyond my previously very abrasive personality, it does mean a lot that they take that time.  Just don’t want it to go unrecognized.

DBSA Support, Etc.

Even though I’ve felt incredible stable, productive working (it’s nice to feel some sense of purpose again), etc. I made a deal with myself that I would continue going to the DBSA support meetings.  I’ll be honest, I find it a little bit tedious and even depressing and so far I always have the exact same thing to say each week.  “I’m fine, productive, workouts, getting work done, sleeping well, feel fine.”  Not everyone there is as lucky as me which makes me feel both good and bad at the same time.  The group is predicated on confidentiality and I won’t share more than that general statement.

But many have opined that I am “lucky” in that my stuff is just supremely seasonal.  I get depresseder in the fall and manicker in the spring.  April and May have been traditionally my danger periods for going hypomanic; frequently some big aspect of my life changes, I get out of one relationship and into another but it’s hard to discern cause and effect.

Is my increasing mania causing me to get out of the previous situation (allowing me to find the new one) is is finding the new relationship triggering the mania? It’s probably a little bit of both, the mania makes me ditch the old situation and the new one just drives it.

In contrast, a lot of people who have bipolar or various mental issues can flip flop day to day or week to week.  Stories of folks waking up depressed, going on a drinking binge and finding themselves in the psych hospital the next day after a manic episode are not uncommon.

But my stuff is seasonal.  Which is both good and slightly terrifying at the same time.  The good is that I can be a bit more proactive going into my danger periods to try to keep it from happening.  I know that April and May are when I run into problems so I can make sure and be monitored a little bit more closely during those time periods.

At the same time, it’s a little bit scary in that I’m sort of facing down what has, in the past, been when it got out of control.  I’m both looking at a time period when I might have the chance to see if I can get past the danger without a problem or watching my own doom get closer by the day.

For that reason, I actually went two months between follow ups with my nurse practitioner but told her I wanted to go monthly in April, May and probably through June just to make sure.  I also have learned the hard way to always set up the next appointment right when I finish the current one.  It’s way too easy to wait a month, ramp up beyond reason, and then “fail” to set it up.  Another safety net that I learned the hard way.

I also intend to go to the DBSA meeting more frequently during this time period, I’ve only been going every other week for a while but not only is it part of my recovery (it keeps me mentally attuned to the realities of my situation); these folks have more personal experience with the disease than anybody else.  If anyone is going to see the problem earlier rather than later, it’s probably them.  There’s a little more developing there but I won’t talk about it until it finalizes.  But it’s good stuff.


If there is a part of my recovery process that I have been worse about it’s this.  I started off strong but, to be honest, most of the meetups I was going to either bored me to tears or there wasn’t much socialization to be had.  I don’t really enjoy the current slew of tabletop games that people seem to have such a fascination with and it was really just sitting around not talking to other nerds.  It got me out of the house but that was about it.

So I used my writing as an excuse to start skipping those although I’ve tried, within limits, to find other meetups from time to time to at least get it out there.  That most people basically annoy the crap out of me doesn’t help but it has to be done on one level or another.  But this is something I need to put more focus into going forwards and I know it.

And That’s That

And that’s really that.  So far everything is good.  My NP has kept my meds stable with the understanding that I can double the dose of the mood stabilizer if I need (and I can always contact her if problems start, I’m not stuck to my once a month followup).

I’m productive, experiencing (as she puts it) the range of human emotions (I have bad days and happy days but neither are the sole emotion) such as I experience emotions in the first place.  She will actually ask me from time to time “How does that make you feel?” and the robot really doesn’t have an answer to that question.

Mainly I’m neither sitting contemplating my own eventual death or optimistic to the point of unrealistic insanity.  The road has narrowed as my therapist had put it.  If anything I’m towards the higher end at least in terms of my work productivity but that’s fine.

So long as I’m not up until 4am writing like I used to in my 20’s, being productive is good at least until Arkham Knight comes out and I disappear from the face of the earth.  Even there, I write when I’m in writing mood and don’t when it’s not happening (and don’t feel bad about it).  I’m still meticiously detail oriented but the obsession that I had for two plus decades has calmed down a bit.  A bit.

So going into my primary annual trouble spot, I feel cautiously confident.  My hope is that by making it through this year without going off the rails, that will be a good indicator of my ability to control this in the long-term (note the word control, I still know that it’s never cured).

That my meds are at least appropriate for me (sometimes they stop working or change with age), that I’m doing the right things lifestyle wise (I was lucky in that most of the “right” things nutritionally or otherwise have been part of my life forever), etc.  I need to work on the socialization and will do so but that’s really the only place that I’ve slipped since the last update.

Thanks for reading.  See ya’ next time.  Well unless I fly off the rails and am out doing something crazy.

Ha ha?

Read bipolar recovery update 6.

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6 thoughts on “Bipolar Recovery Update 5

  1. Great post Lyle.

    Good to hear things are going well.

    Having been through 3 different phases of long term psychotherapy I have learnt a few major distinctions that make sense in terns of treatment progress.

    My first round of therapy was about damage minimisation. It was about looking at my natural tendencies to respond in certain circumstances and then look to find better ways to manage them. No major internal changes, same feelings and thoughts, just not taking them on face value.

    The second round was about deeper insight, the why behind it all. It was about being more accepting and understanding of myself.

    The third round now is about deep change. It is about confronting the patterns and removing the inbuilt traits and tendencies. It is no longer about coping and managing and accepting but about core change.

    Much of it has felt futile, costly/expensive, just going through the motions etc. Then every now and again a real big piece will pop up.

    Good luck on your journey.


  2. I don’t usually reach out, but I felt compelled because I wanted you to know that I appreciate your writing about bi-polar. I have a close family member that I just know has a form of bi-polar but refuses to get insurance or see a doctor. His father has it and I’ve always known that he was susceptible to it as well but I never realized there was a milder form like yours. This makes sense to me — he is also high functioning with shorter, milder episodes but very creative and knowledgeable about the subjects he is interested in. He can be exhausting, however, and most people can only talk to him for a limited time because he tries to control the conversation and knows it all, (actually does, lol). You have given me hope and I thank you. I can also relate as far as your “social anxiety.” If I’m around other people, I can carry on a conversation and relate, but for the most part, I am introverted and can’t always take the overstimulation or attempt to make small talk because of boredom, which then makes me feel horrible (gsr) 🙂 So please keep on writing — you have a gift (which I’m sure you know). You help others with your insight and experiences. I wish you continued success on your path. Namaste’

  3. My sister was diagnosed bipolar, & while living in a stressful relationship, had the up-down range. Since exercising, eating right, getting away from situation, & gluten/dairy free, she manages. It also affects me to a lesser degree. But since she & I have been taking the training with Life Skills International, where we are replacing our negative self talk with positive affirmations aloud each day, + learning much about brain, etc., we are starting to thrive.

    Most of us come from dysfunctional families, or have had at least one traumatic event in their childhood. I recommend this professional training wholeheartedly! Dr. Hegstrom is a PhD, & is in Colorado. But many major cities have training centers run by trained staff.

  4. Glad you are doing well. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Lyle,

    First off, I have followed your work for years and the perspective that you bring to the fitness industry is beyond refreshing.

    The courage that you’ve exemplified through your diagnosis has been both admirable and helpful to say the least. I have struggled with bi-polar symptoms for the past decade or so, and it took you coming out and speaking about your experiences in treatment to encourage me to do the same.

    Thank you.

  6. Hi Lyle,
    I’m a weightlifting enthusiast and quiet reader of the online fitness community. I want to let you know how much I appreciate you sharing your story – the parallels to my own behavior are remarkably similar. I’m young (<24yo) and have been experiencing pendulum-like fluctuations in mood increasing in amplitude. I describe my hypomanic episodes as a Maslowian 'self-actualization', anything becomes possible. As well as the boundless energy I'm flooded with creative ideas grounded by reason and logic. I am beginning my PhD and I'm acutely aware of the risks of entering a rigorous program with symptoms of a major mood disorder. After reading your story I feel compelled to address my own behaviors by seeking professional medical help.

    If you are interested in the mania (I most certainly am) I can suggest some anecdotes from artists and scientists that I have accumulated on the matter. They are useful introspective pieces that may provide insight into these wonderful occurrences.

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