Skip to main content

My Mental Illness Survival Kit

(My survival kit for enduring a manic/depressive episode)


I enjoy war movies, stories of rescues or survival documentaries.  At the point of concern, whether it be a prisoner of war taken captive, a lost hiker or a coordinated yet unpredictable survival trip, a plan is crucial.  The preservation and sustainability of life is the focus for persons found in these circumstances...and so much more for the person diagnosed with a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder.  The land mine or craggy cliff we must navigate to survive, is what doctors describe as cycling or rapid cycling through a manic or depressive episode.  I am sure it is common for persons encountering a lost situation to not know how lost they are. This does not preclude the reality for the need to access their survival kit. 

For the person entering the heinous world of a mood episode, the severity may not be as easy to ascertain.  The confusing gauges, like a compass not calibrated for true north, don't always define how manic you are.  In my experience, the depression is much easier to spot and prepare to combat.  Symptoms such as increased speech patterns or racing thoughts, can be unpleasant and your mind can flip flop between them.  For me this usually increases where pacing the floor or becoming extremely quiet and withdrawn occurs.  At this point, my survival manual tells me I am in the middle of a mental illness storm.  My sleep is usually effected by the sped up activity in the mind.  A manic episode is likened to drinking 10 cups of coffee before bed time.  Immobilization or muscle rigidity can set in which makes sleep impossible.  My body takes on a heat much like a woman's hot flash and radiates over my entire body.  Persons who cannot recede from clinical levels of mania are, more often than not, hospitalized.  

When I am in an episodic cycle from mania, depression or both, I often pray.  It is not a magic cure and sometimes I feel a sense of guilt.  If I am depressed at a level five or more, the hopeless feeling already resembles guilt.  So, pray on!  I know all persons in survival mode ask, "will I get off this mountain alive, live through this scorching desert, or find the correct route to safety?"  Survival trainers preach, "don't panic"...it's a death sentence!
In the case of my episodes, anxiety is always a concern and is a close brother or sister to mania.  It is only a matter of how anxious you will become. 

So, I go to my man-cave, where the bed is comfortable and secure. I uncover just as if my body is in a fever.  Especially in the winter time, like January, the cold air shocks my system.  I also engage in deep breathing techniques, taking long sips of air through my nose and slowly exhaling through my mouth.  Survival professionals will tell you of the grueling discipline one needs to surmount the odds.  The same applies to a mental health episode.  It is gut-wrenching to exercise deep breathing when it feels like a bull dozer is sitting on my chest.  I managed to eek out five deep breath in a recent episode where the hopelessness of my soul was crying all around me.  The cold sunken sensation in my body was revolting.  I did notice the depressive contractions grew further apart. 

There are some episodes where I can determine the longevity by the diminishing mania or depression.  I use a journal to chart and a mental gauge to calibrate the severity of my episode.  Just like a survivor, I am always aware of my progress and looking to maximize the process.  After 30+ years, I am pretty accurate with determining how long it will be until the episode completes its cycle.  I am always relieved...that's an understatement...to realize I have survived another one! 

Some but not all reach the point of extraction.  Many a woodsman, hiker, kayaker, mountain climber died trying to LIVE!  Those who do survive, depending on their condition, may need medical attention or hospitalization.  I am left tired, lacking drive and focus and require more rest and sleep.  A therapeutic tool for renewal in my survival kit, is to write about my experiences.  I also keep strict notes in my self published "Moods, Meds & Meanderings", mental health journal.  I am always grateful to God, my family and my survival kit as I exit the death trap of another mental illness episode.



Glen Roseman

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Every Day Heroes

Why talk about mental health? For so long, our culture has misunderstood illnesses of the brain, like bipolar and depression. Unfortunately when someone who suffers, and who has failed to effectively manage their illness...when they do something terrible, (which isn’t the norm), then the negative beliefs about mental illness are further reinforced. 
I want to yell loudly at culture and say those people do not adequately represent such illnesses! They propagate negative stigma and stereotype messages. Meanwhile, you have folks who go about their daily lives, swallowing a pill to keep them sane, using talk therapy, managing their symptoms, exercising and being serious about effectively regulating their diseases. These folks go unnoticed.  It’s sad because they are just like you and me...only their brain doesn’t work quite the same. And it’s harder for them to put a governor in their emotions, anxiety and depression but it can be done. And it should be done!  How else can we show our so…

How Long Will it Last?

How long will what last, you ask?  I've often written about depression and mental health, because it's not uncommon to wonder how long a spell of depression will hang around.  It's a beast.  You can read about how depression feels in another post I wrote. (click here)  But that isn't the purpose of this post.

Instead, I'd like to address a few points of concern from customers.  Every once in a while someone has a concern.  Most of the time the feedback is so amazing that we artists forget that everyone won't always be happy.  While we do our best to please, we know that sometimes everyone won't or can't be satisfied, but we try anyway.  Thankfully the concerns are few and far between.

So, in an effort to address these issues, I thought that perhaps it's necessary to give you some of the details regarding wear-a-bility, materials, etc., in a blog post.  Let's begin with materials discussion.  Throughout the past nine years, we have learned a lot …

Runnin' Down a Dream

Tom Petty inspired us all when he wrote Runnin’ down a dream!  Chasin’ mysteries, while familiar for him, is also a familiar tune for our family. We’ve gone where the wind blew, chased a thousand dreams in hopes of building something great and magical. Often our hopes were dashed and all we built were pipe dreams. Nonetheless, deeply ingrained in our souls, has been the unwavering desire to do the unexpected, to follow the stirrings in our hearts and go where the road less traveled may lead.

Once upon a time, there was a little family of 5, who ran down a dream. We sold everything we owned and traded normal life for one in an RV. Our children watched the dream explode and take on a life of its own. It’s sort of no surprise that those babes of ours are chasing their own dreams.

Two of our daughters are giving their all to find their place in the music world.  And you know this road can be crazy... filled with potholes and setbacks. My oldest daughter is 27, and I know there are days w…