I wrote this on February 9th. I was up and out of this mood by the 11th.
I have been crawling out of a bad head episode for five days. For me, “bad head” is when my illness takes over to the point that suicide thoughts enter the picture. I use the term with my husband to let him know when it’s bad. If my mood is simply depressed or down, but no or only minor dark thoughts, we call it a funk. (By the way, it doesn’t escape me that bad head has a sexual connotation. But oh well, it’s the name we’ve chosen.)
It’s kind of funny that I consider minor dark thoughts to be just a funk, as I’m pretty sure “normal” people would think thoughts of suicide and hurting animals and people is very bad. But that’s what my illness has become. I consider dark thoughts to be minor when they pop into my head suddenly and go away just as quickly. When I’m able to get on top of them and work them right out of my awareness. On the other hand, bad head thoughts are sticky. They hang around or keep repeating themselves until they start to sound reasonable and suck me into believing them. It may take me 30 minutes to talk myself into realizing they don’t make sense. They often come back within the hour and I find myself fighting the thoughts for days or weeks.
It started several weeks ago with “funk” thoughts. My mood was pretty good, things in my life were going well. I don’t have to be depressed at all to have funk thoughts. They just show up unannounced. There’s no telling when the funk thoughts will grow into bad head thoughts. Sometimes the funk just grows away, and other times it doesn’t.
There were some clues that the funk was growing. A week before bad head, I was irrationally irritable. (I swear, I’m usually laid back. J) I also started having nightmares, which are a typical signal for me. The day the funk turned bad, I started having the “dropsies” when I drop things a lot. It’s like my fingers stop working and I can’t grasp anything. Acne also erupted on my face. Two days in, the hallucinations began where I see people standing in my peripheral vision, which makes me jumpy. Then there was the ocular migraine, which isn’t painful but screws up my vision.
But the real problem with bad head is the head. During this latest episode, I was petting my cat and had the thought that I could murder them all. I felt so calm thinking it and that scares me. I’m known as a cat lady and I love my cats with all my heart. But when bad head sets in, I lose the ability to feel emotion. That’s probably the part I hate the most. Then there are the suicide thoughts. My mind tells me I don’t matter, I can’t live with the pain, I have nothing to live for, no one would miss me for long – all the lies. As I write this, my rational mind can clearly see this is total horseshit. But when bad head dampens my feelings, I lose that filter and crazy things seem reasonable.
So what did I do? The day bad head started, I got into my aggressive recovery mode.
- Made sure I wasn’t alone. So I cut out my work-from-home days and went into the office.
- Hugged my husband and cats every day.
- Used my SAD light box every day.
- Meditated for 10 minutes every day although it was hard.
- Used my mindfulness techniques such as driving in silence and documenting things I’m grateful for.
- Talked back to Zinger, a lot! (Zinger is the name I’ve given to my thoughts. He has a face, as if he’s a demon or something. He was an assignment from a former therapist who specializes in OCD. I will be sharing more about Zinger i the weeks ahead, so watch for that.)
- Frequently reminded myself that my mind can talk all it wants, but I can decide to not act on them.
- Went to the gym every day for at least one hour of cardio.
- Went to hot yoga every other day.
- Took my vitamins every day.
- Went out with friends even though I wanted to isolate.
- Reminded myself every day that this is a phase and I will climb out. (Particularly important in the first few days because it takes a while for aggressive recovery mode to do anything.)