Am I bipolar?

In the last couple of years, I’ve reached out and reacquainted with a couple of others from secondary (high) school. Though I wasn’t really close with them at the time (with the exception of Dan, who was a best friend from day one – literally, we actually met on the very first day), we’ve found commonality as time has gone on.

I have also realised who I am, and the people I get along with. One of these, Harry, who also happens to be a brown guy (Sri Lankan), has a similar story to mine. He is the eldest son in a family of four, also with a younger brother, has had an interesting relationship with his father, was similarly ‘intelligent’ at school, and dropped out of university. He’s also dealt with his own demons, and mental health issues.

I actually shared my blog with him recently and he sent me this message:

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 17.36.46

After months of radio silence, he got in touch – and I should be seeing him soon. He confessed that he’d had a scare, but was back on the up, and we’re going to catch up when he’s feeling a bit better. When we last met, I remember him saying, “Sometimes I wonder if I’m bipolar, man. I have these ridiculous mood swings”.

We were both comparing how sociable we were around people we were (though reigning myself in at time of writing), yet were introverts and could shut away and turn into hermits for a while. How we experienced real ups and downs. How we seemed to be a couple of weirdos in a world were folks just seemed to be happy in jobs that they really couldn’t give a sh*t about.

As I’ve been paying more attention to my mood and mood swings (e.g. how I tend to feel better in the evening after I’ve ‘warmed up’ during the day – getting out of the house helps), I’ve begun to question whether I am on the bipolar spectrum. I mean, I guess we are all somewhere on the spectrum, but I mean significantly on the spectrum, or at least significantly enough. Aaaaaagh. #overthinking.

It was actually something my psychiatrist suspected and mentioned at one stage, though was reluctant to give me the diagnosis – and then he later backtracked, saying “I don’t think you are”.

Update: I actually saw my psychiatrist last week, and talked to him about this as I’ve been reading others’ experiences online and connecting some dots. He told me that I may be ‘slightly’ bipolar, but that it could also be seasonal affective disorder, or SAD (I feel better in the summer, and get low in the winter) or just this thing beginning with ‘c’ where I just have cycles in mood. Either way, I don’t want any medication as such for the bipolar, I think it’s more just because I like to categorise and make it feel like I have ‘something’ that others have and am not just a weirdo!

The last thing I want to do is incorrectly diagnose myself. But I was thinking about this yesterday. I googled it, and clicked on the first link to take a short test. There were about 10 questions, and I selected a mix of ‘sometimes’ and ‘often’ options for each one. The result was that I possess a ‘moderate risk’ of having bipolar – though continues to say that this was just a test and – of course – could not replace the opinion of a medical professional.

Whilst I’m sure everyone can relate to changes in mood, my swings can be pretty monumental. I can also get hyper when I’m around people, and music. This is also linked to my high-sensitivity (HSP). One of the questions on the test particularly stood out, asking about whether I swing between low-confidence and over-confidence. I thought about this time last year, when I was travelling and watching various sporting events (ah, dreamy), and I became convinced that I was going to become this big-time sports coach and that I had ‘the gift’ – yup, there’s those ridiculously high expectations again. I was in Europe and the US watching tennis and boxing. Acting the part and lapping up the mystique and attention I got from being this guy there on his own. I put on this swagger and this front, tryna act like someone special.

I like it too much. I became a person I’m not used to being. I went ape-sh*t when I thought someone had stolen my wallet at one of the tournaments, and then again at the train station when I missed my train and they couldn’t do something as simple as giving me another ticket at the kid – instead, asking me to go online and booking my ticket from there. It was ridiculous thinking about it, but I really got angry at them, made a scene in the whole place, and it was out of character. I usually avoid conflict or any form of tension at all costs.

I felt like I was an actor playing this part. It felt like O was important, and respected, even though I wasn’t being myself and was actually distancing myself from those around me (kinda like I do now at my gym – a post coming up on this soon). It felt good. Before it all got too much + then it came crashing down.

by Jas

✏ Written: Tuesday, 13th March 2018 @ 9.20am

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you find that you have moodswings? Are there any patterns that you have picked up on? Whether you’re bipolar or not, I’d love to hear your experiences – or anything that you feel like sharing 💙

Why I don’t feel like an adult

run race.jpg
credit: Tama66

When I was at primary school, the boys who were a couple of years ahead of me seemed way bigger, taller and older. I thought, that’s what I’ll be like in a couple of years. I wasn’t.

I got to secondary school and thought, by the time I’ll done here I’ll feel like a proper, responsible, mature adult ready to go off to university. I didn’t.

Throughout these childhood and teen years, I thought, by the time I’m in my 20s, BOY will I be well on my way to being a fully-functioning adult. Settled in a job that I really like (just like dad), earning good money (just like dad), living in my own place with a lovely wife and thinking about having kids – maybe even having had one already. That’s hasn’t happened.

I haven’t done any of those things, and I’m 28, just about to come out of a career break (hopefully), and I’m sat in bed writing this. I worry that, in living at home, – though I know it’s not so uncommon these days (thank you, ridiculous property/rental prices and low salaries) – I’m getting too comfortable and not going through the adulting and independence that I otherwise would. I mean, it didn’t happen to me at university (that was a difficult time, another story there).

To this day, I can get very wrapped up in my thoughts and/or absorbed in what I am doing. Sometimes, I even forget to eat. If I spend too much time on my own, I can get low. My family also know this, and my already-anxious mother is constantly thinking about this in the back of her mind. My dad and my brother, too, though they don’t show it as obviously. I can cook basic meals, I’m lazy when it comes to household stuff. I suppose weekly vacuuming can be therapeutic, depending on my mood – though certainly not a task I look forward too (whacking music or a podcast on can help). Shamefully, it is only recently that I have been conscious of the money I am spending, rather than spending what I want and when I want.

Part of all of this is a comparison thing. My parents got married in their early-mid 20s, soon had a mortgage, and I think my dad was 27 (mum 24?) when I was born. My mum is a trojan and seems to be able to juggle a million things all at once. I’m not like that.

Most of the people of my kinda age seem to be living in a flat with other housemates or other-halves. Most, though not all – and it’s still more common for Asian (at least, Indian) families to live together for longer. I think the parent-child to adult-adult transition can be a lot trickier, especially when you have lived at home almost your whole life – and have a dominant mother!

A lot of this comes down to societal and cultural expectations, and the pressure we put on ourselves based on what we see in the world around us. Whether it’s ‘in real life’ or online. And, of course, the online world means we see all sorts of amazing, shiny lives aka apparently fully-grown adults who seem to have it all. The ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ effect is, in the digital age, more profound than ever.

I try not to dwell too much on this feeling of inadequacy and, instead, am trying to focus on myself and acknowledge even the smallest of steps. Slow growth in my own time. I think it’s been easy for me to be complacent whilst living at home and, if I want to be the man I want to be, there’s more development to come. I suppose that’ll always be the case, though.

“Run your own race” a friend once told me. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Run my own race.

PS. After a busy end-of-working-week, and a course all-day Saturday and Sunday, I missed Friday’s post last week. I still try to post on Tuesday and Friday each week, with a poem on Sunday.

✏ Written: Tuesday, 6th March 2018 @ 9.17am

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you feel like an adult? Are there parts of you which need to grow more to ‘become’ (more of) an adult? I’d love to hear how you feel 💙

Are weekend lie-ins a good thing?

I woke up this morning around 10.30am. Or rather, I spelt in until then, having woken up a couple of times before that, and then drifted in and out of sleep.

Whilst I’m without the structure of a regular job, I’m trying to be sensible during the week. The beginning of the week can be tricky, with my own version of the ‘Monday blues’ even though I’m not currently working; this comes from my desire to be getting out and going to work, like most folks are doing.

When I was working in recruitment, weekend lie-ins were to make up for the sleep debt that I’d accumulated during the working week; I’d be working 8.30am-6.00pm as a minimum, with 75-90mins of travel each way on top of that. When I got home, I inevitably wanted to stay up and unwind a little before going to bed. Thinking back, I was constantly exhausted and never really had quality time to myself, unless I mustered up the energy to go to the gym.

Right now, I don’t have much of an excuse to have a ‘sleep debt’. I’m someone who needs my sleep to function well, ideally a solid 8-9 hours. (they say that more than 9 hours can be – believe it or not – detrimental to our health; this may explain why lie-ins can leave you feeling tired/groggy after you wake up and/or during the day).

weekend lieins
credit: w4media

Whilst I seem to be more of a natural ‘night owl’, finding my flow and becoming more productive as the day progresses; if I wake up a little late and have a slow morning, I have to be careful as there’s a risk the day will turn into one of low productivity. Especially whilst it’s totally up to you to make each day count – i.e. with a boss/employer there putting pressure on you.

I used to think I was a late night worker/writer, as I enjoy the quiet that comes as night, and am able to work without noise or distractions. I was once fortunate enough to Skype with one of my favourite introvert bloggers and experts, Michaela Chung of Introvert Spring. She had a beautiful phrase to describe when she felt she was most focused with respect to getting her writing done – “on the edges of the day”. Or, in other words, early in the morning or at night.

For myself, and backed up by the sleep research out there, I’ve realised that the more I can stick to a firm schedule – weekday or weekend – the healthier this seems to be. Fluctuating sleep and wake times keep my body guessing and I already know that I don’t function well when I’ve had insufficient sleep. Yes, you can sleep in at the weekend, and hey – sometimes that’s OK to be a little loose and enjoy some precious more minutes in bed, however that can then throw your schedule when Monday morning comes around again. At least, it does for me.

In an ideal world, this is what my sleep schedule would look like:

– Go to bed between 10 and 11pm (i.e. head hitting pillow, any reading/writing in bed done beforehand)

– Getting into bed at 10pm or soon after, so I can read or write to unwind

– Waking up 7-7.30am; allowing me to be up and ready to go for 9am, whether at home or at work

– No phone or laptop after 8pm; I really notice that screen-time affects the quality of my sleep/grogginess; TV is also not ideal, but sometimes I like to watch something before I get into bed; If I need to stream something, I can use Chromecast to play it on my TV (rather than on the mobile screen)

– No phone/laptop in first 1-2 hours after waking up; after turning phone on, not looking at it (unless I get a call; notifications are muted) – so that I start the day consciously, in a proactive/creative mode, rather than a reactive mode, which is what happens when checking/responding to emails, social media or WordPress.

Note 1: I also have a Lumie Bodyclock, which helps me both sleep and wake up naturally, using it’s light (I feel myself nodding off as I read and the light gradually gets less and less bright, words on the page become increasingly illegible).

Note 2: I’ve also noticed that if I sleep at 11pm vs, say 1am, even if I get 9 hours of sleep in both instances, I feel better and more refreshed in the former scenario. i.e. I feel more tired the later I sleep, no matter how long I have slept.

In short, for me, a big weekend lie-in is not ideal. Perhaps I can afford an extra hour max (i.e. 9am latest) as a treat. Or in the rare instance that I have a late one (it happens!), of course it’s acceptable – I’m only human.

However, my aspiration is to stick to a routine, with the flexibility in timings that I’ve described, so that my mind and body are looked after, I am more productive and focused, and – most important of all – I feel better.

✏ Written: Friday, 2nd March 2018 @ 9.48pm

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What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you have a sleep schedule for the week? Is it different during the week vs the weekend? It’d be cool to hear what you’re routine is (or isn’t) like! 💙