This week in MAPS we began our two week focus on depression and prevention of depressive episodes. We focused on early warning signs of depressive episodes and how to manage them.
We spent some time trialling a different kind of mindfulness exercise. We used music as the subject of the exercise. Our task was to listen to the music as if we had never heard it before, being curious and non-judgemental about the content of the music. We tried to using different types of music and were tasked to pay attention to our bodies and how the different types of music were impacting the energy in our bodies. I really enjoyed this activity as it made a lot of sense with how I like to experience music. I’m not the sort of person who plays music in the background of my daily activities. I like to be fully present when I listen to music. So using music for mindfulness is kind of a natural extension upon what I already enjoy doing. What I found really interesting was the idea of using different types of music and the impact they have on our body energy for the same exercise during different mood states. So if I was feeling depressed I could do a mindfulness exercise using fast, upbeat music to alter my energy. Or if I was feeling manic or elevated in some way I could use slow, relaxing music to shift my mood to a more level place. I’m really excited to put this strategy into place and see what role it can play in controlling my moods.
The theme of learning something new continued as we explored a term I had never heard of: residual symptoms. Residual symptoms are something unique to Bipolar. Residual symptoms are symptoms of mood episodes that remain when a person is stable but are not apart of their personality or temperament. This put a lot of my own behaviour into context. For instance, I am a very fidgety person who struggles to sit still. When my mood becomes elevated this worsens and peaks when I am in a manic episode. But this is always a part of my daily life even when I am stable. I also have negative self-talk quite regularly in my life that worsens when my mood goes downhill and gets out of control when I am depressed. So I found learning about the idea of residual symptoms quite useful as it put some of my own traits into context. It also helps me to further define what is ‘normal’ for me which is invaluable when it comes to tracking mood episodes.
We also spent some time looking at our own early warning signs of depression. This is an area that is quite familiar for me and something I am quite comfortable with. But it was really interesting to hear from the group and how all of our experiences were so diverse. I know for me some of my early warning signs of depression creep up quite subtly. It will gradually become harder to get up in the morning and start taking me longer to do everything. I’ll become lax with my self-care; I might go a day or two without washing my face or brushing my teeth or I wont wash or change my clothes. As these sorts of things start to get out of wack I get a sense that I am getting depressed before any feelings of sadness and hopelessness even start kicking in. In the past my early warning signs were accompanied with a feeling of helplessness; a sense that I have no control over what is about to happen. But now with the MAPS program I feel a lot more optimistic and confident in my ability to recognise these early warning signs and interject before they spiral out of control.
Next week we continue our focus on depression which will be followed by two weeks on mania. As much as I am enjoying the program I am definitely looking forward to getting my saturdays back!