After this weekend’s light box debacle, I learned a few things: 1) light boxes can trigger (hypo)mania in people with bipolar; and 2) follow instructions. I admit that I sometimes toss the instructions to new items because, I now know, I have the hubris to think I can figure out how to use them myself. This is especially true if the print is so tiny that I need my reading glasses (as if wearing them is a tall order). Other times, I pore over instructions the way a veterinary assistant combs through a cat’s fur with a flea comb. I read every detail repeatedly to make sure I do/use whatever it is correctly — “for best results.”
I’ve used light therapy for years, and my particular “happy light” instructions says to start using the box for 30 minutes, and then work your way up to 2 hours. This time, I didn’t want to wait. I went straight to using it for an hour — for only 3 days! — and it triggered hypomania symptoms.
My psychiatrist e-mailed me and instructed me to stop using it for a few days. I followed his instructions and didn’t use it yesterday. If I decide to start over, I’ll use it for 30 minutes for the first 2 weeks. So I also learned that light boxes work, at least for me. I just never felt the effects in the past because I gradually increased my time sitting in front of it.
My symptoms have decreased, and I don’t think I’ll plunge into the polar opposite of hypomania because it wasn’t a full-blown episode. Still, this morning I woke up forlorn; I was miserable enough to consider staying in bed all day. Fortunately, I rallied — got up and even took a shower. I feel exhausted physically, because I didn’t get much sleep this weekend. My therapist answered my text earlier and reminded me that I often have trouble distinguishing exhaustion from depression, so I’ll need to be more discerning about that in the next few days.
Do you follow instructions, or throw them away?
Do you have trouble distinguishing exhaustion from depression?