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Tonight I heard something I’ve never heard before. It was the most unusual sound, and when I figured out what had made that sound, it surprised me even more, mostly because I had just been thinking how strange it was that it was so quiet.

I remember that feeling of surprise the last time I heard something I never heard before. It was such good news, but I hadn’t expected it. In fact, I had just spent the previous week being completely depressed that I would never hear it at all.

When I was actively thinking that my surroundings shouldn’t be that quiet, even at 3 a.m., it was almost as if I was asking for something to break the silence. The rustling leaves were a familiar sound, but the squeak and the spray weren’t. It was the funniest sound. A squirrel had been sleeping in the tree when suddenly he squeaked, which made him sneeze, which blew the leaves around him like the wind. The silence changed – that quickly – and suddenly everything seemed as if it were back to normal.

I’m going to think about that squirrel next time I start thinking that something else needs to change. If I listen hard enough, I might just hear something else I never thought I’d ever hear. I could learn to like surprises if they start turning out to be good ones.

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There’s this big puzzle I’ve been trying to figure out for years, and it’s my brain. I have to catch up with what’s going on in the mental health world, or I feel like that puzzle is never going to get solved. And the more my mood swings grumble at me, the more I go into hypomanic detective mode.

So I ran across this article in NIMH’s Science News section. I love this part of their website. I remember when I was a kid – and this was before we even had a color TV – I learned that doctors did research, and I always wondered what they were discovering. Always did like watching PBS more than the Perils of Penelope Pitstop. After I got older, I forgot all about that show…until I got cable TV and found a whole channel devoted to old TV cartoons. Rooby-Roo!!

Okay…focus…

Results of the Study

The researchers found that nearly 40 percent of those identified as having major depression also had symptoms of subthreshold hypomania (mania that lasts less than four days at a time). Compared to those with major depression alone, those with depression plus subthreshold hypomania tended to be younger at age of onset and to have had more coexisting health problems, more episodes of depression and more suicide attempts.

I could have told them that. No, really.

I think the reason I was so interested in what the doctors were discovering is because I knew I was a little off and I wished I knew why. I spent many of my pre-teen and teenage years trying to compensate in various ways for feeling so blue, and usually overdoing it. Then I would go back to withdrawing from the world because in the process of overcompensating, I had usually done something to embarrass myself. The cycle got a little more amplified over time until my late teens, by which time the ups and downs and my inability to deal with them had become painfully obvious.

The more I think about it, the more I remember being sick, too. Looking back, I think it was partly from flipping between being sedentary and being agitated. There were headaches and allergies and upset stomachs – and I remember feeling a lot better when I discovered that four Tylenol were better than two. The MDs didn’t help much. I got diagnosed with nonspecific this or that all the time in my late teens and early 20s. That was before I saw a psychiatrist and life started to make so much more sense.

Of course you’re going to get sick when your body is being unstable. We’ve always heard that it’s so important for us to take care of ourselves and be firm about giving ourselves and our kids healthy foods and a stable environment. I think we’re just now discovering the full effect of WHY we should do that. I guess the researchers can’t just take people’s word for it, though.

Can we get away from the old “because I said so” script from childhood and start being honest about the fact that mental health and physical health are intertwined in real life?

I’m talking to the people who have trouble with everyday struggles, not to the people in strait jackets. It takes practice to watch the ups and downs and to notice when the coping skills are crumbling. It takes a lot of discipline to put your foot down with yourself or your kids when you notice the subthreshold hypomania is trading jabs with the depression and something’s got to give. Find a good doctor and stay on top of your health before you end up in a corner staring at cartoons and hating life.

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