This past year I feel like focus has been harder to come by. This past week I have been putting more thought into my relationship with focus and energy, and how since graduating from college, almost three years ago, I have had ups and downs with both.
I was looking over my self-love posts that I have been writing since 2011, and most of them revolve around balance, focus and energy; I either had it, was grasping for it or lacked it completely. I contribute to Self-Love Warrior somewhat regularly in intervals. It’s a self-love group blog that I created with my mom, a therapist who specializes in helping people recover from eating disorders. You can check it out here: selflovewarrior.com. You can check out my self-love posts here.
The more I thought about my relationship with focus and energy, I could track distinctive low and high energy cycles since post-grad, and I remember vague periods of struggling with focus and energy during college.
In 8th grade, I experienced a really deep depression for the first time, and in 9th grade I experienced some intense anxiety attacks, that were frequent and prolonged. Anxiety was an issue during high school that leveled out somewhat by the time I graduated. In junior high and high school, my anxiety and depression mainly stemmed from being in the closet. I remember thinking about elementary school through high school as really enjoyable and horrible at the same time. I loved school, learning and being social, but sometimes I also had a lot of anxiety, was depressed or felt isolated.
This past week I was diagnosed with bipolar 2, and I’ve been trying to trace back to see when it started. Did it start after I graduated from college? During college? During high school? In 8th grade? I don’t know.
It makes sense the more that I think about it. For the past 3 years since I’ve been out of college I’ve been playing a cat and mouse game with my focus. For a few days, a couple of weeks or a couple of months I would have focus. I’d either have a nice amount of focus where I didn’t have any problems with functioning or I’d have hyperfocus and wouldn’t need any sleep and I’d feel like I was on cloud nine. And then suddenly, I just wouldn’t have it. For a few days, a couple of weeks or a few months, everything just became a lot harder. I’d wonder what went wrong. What was missing. What I wasn’t doing.
I would be working on creating a consistent sleep schedule, exercising consistently, drinking enough water, creating more structure in my life, using a planner, writing self-love posts consistently, etc. and then suddenly I would just stop.
I’d become lethargic and focusing on work became difficult, and sometimes basic things became difficult, like getting out of bed or doing anything at all throughout the day.
Every time I fell into an unfocused and low energy period, I wondered what changed. What had I done differently? What one thing did I stop doing that triggered me to stop doing everything?
This past year my focus/energy cycles changed. For a handful of months, the highs and lows became more prominent, but for the past 9 months I feel like I’ve been having mixed rapid cycle episodes. I haven’t had a really positive high in awhile. Now my hypomanic episodes are characterized by excessive thoughts running through my head, feeling wired, but exhausted, not being able to sleep and getting irritable and rather pessimistic. And my lows haven’t been as extreme, but they’ve been longer-lasting.
At the beginning of this week I was really confused. What is bipolar? Why do I have it? How does one get it? How does it impact me? What caused it to develop in me? About a year ago my mom brought it to my attention. She thought that I might have bipolar and thought that I should bring it up to my ADD doctor. I did bring it up to my doctor. I didn’t really know what it was and I just brushed it off, and I just thought that I had trouble with focusing because I always did.
I’ve been reading this book about bipolar disorder this past week, and within the past two weeks I have taken a lot of steps to add more structure, support and routine to my life. This past week I also stopped taking adderall and I’ve been having a lot less caffeine. My doctor wants me to track my mood, sleep and caffeine intake for a month, and wants me to cut back heavily on caffeine. I’ve been having some major withdrawals this week. 🙂
The caffeine withdrawals made me think about my energy levels and my focus levels, and it made me wonder about “normal.” What does normal feel like? I know what depressed feels like. I know what hypomanic amazing feels like and hypomanic exhausted and wired feels like, but I wasn’t able to remember what normal felt like.
I think maybe tonight I felt normal. My headache from the caffeine withdrawals went away, and I wasn’t revved up on thoughts and I didn’t feel like a pressure was pushing against my brain making me feel lethargic. I didn’t have a lot of focus, but my head felt clear, and my thoughts pretty calm. I think that state of mind is a symptom free state of mind.
I feel like this increased self-awareness of what’s going on with my brain will equip me to embark on a journey of a new phase of my life where I can have a better relationship with focus and energy. I was a little scared at first, thinking that this tug-of-war that I play with focus will persist, and that I may never have consistent balance, or as much balance as one can have with the ups and downs of life. And I was a little scared to think that I don’t have as much control over my emotions as I thought I did, that I can just randomly become depressed, lethargic and unmotivated about life.
Although I’m uncertain about things, I’ve more or less managed my cycles with focus for at least a few years, and I did a pretty good job with that. So now that I have more awareness of what’s going on and now that I’ll have more tools, I should be able to manage my focus, energy and moods better, which is a plus.
I read that bipolar is part genetics and part environment. My understanding of it so far is that developing bipolar disorder is similar to developing an eating disorder. There are a lot of contributing factors, but the major factor is that you have to have a genetic predisposition for it, and then how your environment plays into it varies. I haven’t done a lot of research on it yet, so I don’t know if my assumption is true, but if it is part genetics and part environment, I wonder if my sexual orientation played into my development of bipolar.
I was in the closet for about 14 years, since I was 5. Could that have played into it? When I was younger, my depression and anxiety revolved around my sexual orientation and being closeted, could that have played into it? I don’t know.
I have a whole lot of “I don’t knows,” and a lot of hope. I don’t want my struggle with focus or my mood to hold me back in life, and that desire to not have my potential limited has pushed me forward in the past, and I’m confident that it will push me forward in the future.