Techniques for Managing Mania and Depression
Stand-up comedian Paul Jones on techniques he uses to manage and control manic and depressive episodes from bipolar disorder.
Personal Stories on Living with Bipolar Disorder
You've described your feelings when you are experiencing mania and also when you are experiencing depression. What "techniques" or "tools" do you use to try to bring yourself "down" from a manic phase and what "techniques" or "tools" do you utilize to try to lift yourself out of a depression? What can your family/friends do that you find helpful to you?
Well, I guess I have to say this: up until two years ago, I really did not know that I was going through a manic episode. Hell, I thought that I was just the greatest thing since sliced bread. I can remember times when I would work 2, 3, and even 4 days without sleeping more than an hour, if that, during those times. I thought that I was the most gifted person on the face of the planet. So, like I said, I really had no idea what the hell was wrong or that even anything was wrong. All the people that were in my life during these times just treated me like I was a machine. I would get together with other songwriters and write music till all hours of the day and night. This is something for the books. I can remember getting up at 4 in the morning to drive from Cincinnati to Nashville so that I would be there by 8 in the morning to write and meet with my manager. I would spend 2 or 3 hours down there, get in my car, drive home, write a song or two, jump back in the car to take the song to them, and then get back in my car, drive home, and be back in bed by 2 a.m, then get up at 4 or 5 a.m. and do it all again. I had done that many times without thinking anything of it.
As for bringing me down from manic episodes now, I must say that I do not believe that since getting on my mood stabilizer (Zyprexa (Olanzapine)), that I have really had a full-blown episode. I have, in the past few months, felt as though I was having slight manic times, but it has not been anything like those that I used to have. My biggest concern now is when I feel a little manic is that I do not put myself in a position to cause any harm to myself as far as spending money or making life decisions such as getting involved in things that I may not really want to. By this, I mean, one of the things that I do when I am manic is come up with new ideas as far as things like, how to make money, or I will spend money on things that I think may help me make money. Now, when I feel manic at all, I stay away from these thoughts. Instead of acting out on them, I will do things such as write down the reasons that I need a piece of equipment, or I will ask myself, "Do I really want to spend this money right now?" I have told myself to take 3 to 4 days to decide on what to do. It has worked out well for me. Slowing down my reaction time is what it is about. I also have begun talking to people a little more when I feel as though I need help. I will pick up the phone and talk to a friend or my wife and tell them what I am thinking and use them as a sounding board. You really have to train yourself to listen to people and try and put pieces together from there.
Lifting myself out of a depression is still a little harder than the other side. I am still experiencing times of great depression. I have said before that changing my job has helped, but I still have times when I am in a funk. As a matter of fact, today I am in somewhat of a funk as I have some personal things that I am dealing with.
What I have been trying to do is to just get through the day without thinking so much on the negative things and to try to tell myself that I will get through it. You have to keep yourself busy, whether it is work or possibly a hobby. For me, in the past, my hobby had always been writing music. Now that I am not on the road or in that business, I do a little less of that.
The other night I was in my studio at my house and was playing the guitar a little bit. I have not done that in a very long time, and it felt pretty good. My wife came into the room and said that it was nice to hear. I really need to try and play a little more, but see, I know that if I play too much, I will begin to miss that part of my life. I need to have tried to keep myself busy with business-related items. I have tried to be creative at this level and it seems to help.
Everyone will deal with depression and trying to get out of a funk in different ways. The key thing to do is to try and find a way to relieve some of the depression. You have to train yourself to think on the positive side or find something that makes you smile when you are feeling down. One of the key things for me is my children. I love to watch them play sports or play together. I have 3 very talented and gifted children. Whether it is watching my son play soccer, or listen to my daughter Mackenzie play the piano, to listening to my little Olivia playing games with her mother, I can usually get and find some relief from the feelings of depression. I must add that sometimes, no matter what I do, it does not work and that is when I tell myself to go to bed. I, for one, like to sleep when I cannot get out of a funk. It may not sound like the best way, but as a last resort, it helps to keep me from thinking the negative thoughts. I also like to go to the gym with my wife and work out. It makes me feel good to get on a machine with my headset on and just think about that.
So, you see, both are very different things and need to be handled in different ways. The key thing is not to stop trying. I have to tell myself that every second of every day.
What can you family and friends do that you find helpful to you? You know, my wife, mother, and children ask me this all the time: "What can I do to help you?" I have searched time and time again to try and think of something that they can do, and it comes back the same. The only thing that anyone can do for me in manic or depressive moods is to be there for me. I am pretty much of a pig head. I hate for people to tell me what to do. I do, however, like to talk. I think that is my favorite thing to do. But, you know, don't ask me to talk, just be there for me, and I will do the rest.
If I am in the mood to talk, I will. If I do not want to talk, I won't. I think that also it is nice for people to ask me how I am feeling. Now, if you ask me that, you better be ready for an earful if I am in the mood to talk about it. Also, it is important that people realize that I do, in fact, have an illness. They need to know that, at times, I may not be on top of my game. Don't look at me and say something like, "You're being an asshole today." That may very well be, but by saying that, you may send me into a tailspin. This is a very touchy question because everyone is going to have totally different needs and wants from those around them. I, for one, do seem to hide to myself. I like it like that. Others may not want to hide - they may need people around them. You are also asking me this question when I am in somewhat of a funk, so my answer may differ in a few days. .
All in all, the most important thing is for my people to know is that I do love them and that I am trying my best every day to stay healthy and keep a good mental attitude. It is very hard to live with someone that has this illness because you never know who is going to show up at the dance.
I would also say that the people that are close to us need to read as much as they can about the illness. Don't talk to me about this illness if you have not done your homework and know somewhat about it. I know that someone that does not have this illness will not know how I feel, just as you need to know the same. No matter how much I tell someone how I feel, they will never know how it feels to have my brain. It is the same with someone that has diabetes. I do not know what it's like to live with that, so it is best that I don't act like I do.
Read more about Paul Jones below.
Paul Jones, a nationally touring stand up comedian, singer/songwriter, and businessman, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in August 2000, just a short 3 years ago, although he can trace the illness back to the young age of 11 years old. Coming to grips with his diagnosis has taken many "twists and turns" not only for him, but also for his family and friends.
One of Paul's main focuses now is to educate others as to the effects this illness can have not only on those who suffer from bipolar disorder, but also the effects it has on those around them - the family and friends who love and support them. Stopping the stigma associated with any mental illness is paramount if proper treatment is to be sought by those that may be affected by it.
Paul has spoken at many high schools, universities, and mental health organizations as to what it's like to, "Work, Play, and Live with Bipolar Disorder."
Paul invites you to Walk the Path of Bipolar Disorder with him in his series of articles on Psychjourney. You are also cordially invited to visit his website at www.BipolarBoy.com.
Purchase his book, Dear World: A Suicide Letter
Book Description: In the United States alone, bipolar disorder impacts over 2 million citizens. Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety Disorders and other mentally-related illnesses affect 12 to 16 million Americans. Mental illness is the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality in the United States. The average length of time between the onset of bipolar symptoms and a correct diagnosis is ten years. There is real danger involved in leaving bipolar disorder undiagnosed, untreated or undertreated- people with bipolar disorder who do not receive proper help have a suicide rate as high as 20 percent.
Stigma and fear of the unknown compound the already complex and difficult problems faced by those who suffer from bipolar disorder and stems from misinformation and simple lack of understanding of this disease.
In a courageous attempt to understand the illness, and in opening his soul in an attempt to educate others, Paul Jones wrote Dear World: A Suicide Letter. Dear World is Paul's "final words to the world"- his own personal "suicide letter"- but it ended up being a tool of hope and healing for all who suffer from "invisible disabilities" such as bipolar disorder. It is a must read for those suffering from this illness, for those who love them and for those professionals who have dedicated their lives to try to help those who suffer from mental illness.
Staff, H. (2008, December 24). Techniques for Managing Mania and Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/articles/techniques-for-managing-mania-and-depression