People with bipolar disorder often have a lot of extra time, and I am no exception. The time I have on my hands will be less in the not-too-distant future, because I will begin working as a Certified Peer Specialist Intern in a mental health clinic. The internship is only part-time and will last for just three months. Still, when one has not worked for a good many years, even a job of fifteen hours each week will probably drain me. That’s not to mention that the medication I take causes drowsiness already.
When we don’t have extra time due to not working, we have it since we aren’t sleeping. As unpleasant as it sounds, insomnia plagues persons with bipolar disorder especially during manic episodes. In any event, there is time to fill.
One of my favorite activities when I’m hyperactive yet unproductive is washing the dishes. I have a whole meditation exercise built around this seemingly mundane chore. I love the sound the water makes when I turn it on and the sight of the growing bubbles in the basin. My technique is to actually talk to myself while washing, and it calms me. I wrote about it in more detail here and here. I have heard from others it helps them feel calm, too.
I like reading, but it’s difficult when I’m in a manic mood. Walking soothes me just as dish washing does, and I have tried reading while pacing. Now, one needs skill not to bump into the furniture or even walls. Also, I can’t read dense prose while moving around. What was my answer? I found reading children’s books suitable. It distracts and entertains me. It doesn’t have to be a book full of pictures. A chapter book for young readers works perfectly.
Walking around my neighborhood is also a good idea. Weather permitting, I can stroll, enjoy the gardens, and assume I’m getting a bit of exercise. When I walk, I consciously spy on the most minute details. I notice the cracks in the pavement. I make a game of counting the colors of houses. I concentrate on my breath. What are the sights and sounds least readily apparent but present?
My town sits by the water, so I can walk there, taking in the smells and even talking to the fishermen. They are a garrulous bunch when I ask the right questions about weather conditions, fish, and bait.
Libraries hold treasures of reading material and people. They are an excellent place to volunteer, even if the only thing one contributes is dusting the books and shelves. All help is appreciated.
I write this blog and read dozens. It’s a small thing really. I’m not famous, nor will I ever be. I write as meditation. Crafting sentences pleases me. Thinking of words makes my mind click. It’s fun plain and simple.
There are so many ways to keep occupied:
- Cooking new recipes
- Listening to music
- Learning a musical instrument
- Cleaning something
- Writing poetry
- Studying a foreign language
- Drawing a picture
- Reading jokes
- Searching the Internet for interesting pictures
- Learning a new word
I am grateful to live during the dawn of the Internet. Information pours out of this machine at a rate incomprehensible even a few decades ago.
The world is literally my oyster.
I realize many items I’ve listed here are impossible for those suffering bouts of severe, chronic depression. I hope those people will not feel forgotten or excluded. I chatted with a good friend today who lives with major depression. My suggestion to him never changes: do one nice thing for yourself each day. When I was at my lowest, brushing my teeth was often the only nice thing I could accomplish.
We are all worthwhile. We can all do just a bit to help us. We can start loving us and reach out to those around us to share it.