Mental Mapping

I wrote in an earlier post about how mental illness affects the notion of making choices.

The woman who is not getting out of bed because the black dog has come in to the house with muddy feet is not making a choice – her fucked up head is not giving her the faculties to even choose.

Right now I am experiencing a very well known and familiar ‘episode’. When I start to feel tired and I know my thyroid levels are fine (I have no thyroid) I have to acknowledge the presence of my mental mapping.

Yes that’s one of my own terms. I call it that because I know my cycles so intimately after so many years.

I liken my mental mapping to a hiking trail where the track seems to go along smoothly for a while and then we hit the hills where lots of effort is required. Those hills require some resilience but before you know it the hill has been conquered and then…

Well this is where things get tricky. The bloody track goes off in all directions and you have to choose which way to go. For me, it’s been a very rare occurrence when I have felt that I truly am able to choose. More often than not, the choice actually isn’t a choice at all – my bipolar brain reigns supreme and it is with a sigh of resignation that I think to myself “well fuck – let’s hope it’s short lived.” My bipolar brain will do what the fuck it wants, when it wants.

Being a full time carer also does not help this mental mapping, in fact it’s used to the utmost advantage by my bipolar brain. I spend most of my time at home as a carer. There are hours and hours of sitting with bouts of busyness cooking, cleaning (using that term loosely by the way), personal care assistance, coffee making and other small chores. The sitting along with my tiredness and depression do not play well together, I do what so many others do. I eat.

It is for this reason that weight loss is always such a slow moving sloth. I tend to lose weight when I am manic but that same weight can and normally is regained when I come crashing down. I have been running several times a week for months and I think I would be lucky to have lost 5 kilograms in that time.

Thankfully I am older and a bit wiser when it comes to how much value I place on looks but I do place quite a high value on ease of movement, freedom of choice in comfortable clothing, heart health and a number of other things. So for these reasons alone I have changed some habits with a good degree of success. I still have days of overeating but those days are becoming less.

I think the running has lots to do with it along with doing away with beating myself up about things that seem to be beyond my control. The mental mapping does make things hard but over time I have gotten to know the tracks well and also known when to persist with pushing my resilience levels and knowing when to cut myself some slack. I mean after all, far better for me to be a fat-arse and alive than skinny and dead. You see what happened there? Straight from one end of the spectrum to the other. I am fully aware of it – but I am only really aware of it when I am ‘well’. So I have been learning to cut myself some slack which helps prevent a spiral of depression and gives me a little bit more resilience when I am well.

It’s the periods of being well where my new habits are formed. Where once upon a time I would go down into the pit and eat my way out, all along with that bipolar brain screaming at me “MORE! MORE! MORE!” – there is now another voice, let’s call her Determined Donna. She doesn’t try to drown out the bipolar brain, she just hangs on for the ride knowing that as soon as I come out of that pit it will be time for a run. Determined Donna knows that the run is enforcing a new healthier habit and leads to other healthier habits that hopefully one day will outweigh (pun intended) the eating pit of despair.