Run up the Flags…

Apparently men with depression present with irritability. I’ve been thinking about this, and in my case it is certainly true. My diagnosis includes mood swings in both directions, depressive dips and manic moments. It strikes me that both directions of travel must therefore have a signal flag. In my case, irritability travels hand-in-hand with my depressive cycles. On the opposite end – being manic, I am argumentative. I can use both of these states; they will be my signal flags.

Recognize that being irritable, and being argumentative are two completely different and recognizable frames of mind in my world. Each can be equated to a direction of travel: up into mania or down into depression. The trick lies in being aware, and in the moment to recognize the path you are on, when either of these two flags are/have been flapping in your prevailing wind.

  • Depression: I’ll notice that I start grumbling under my breathe towards people I love, particularly my wife. She’ll make a suggestion of some sort or ask me to do something and my immediate reaction is very negative and usually internalized. I am smart enough not to say everything out loud! Usually the first few trending reactions will slip under my radar, but I will eventually recognize this early onset behavior and I can then label the direction of my travel toward a depression. I then go to my resilience and recovery model to select strategies that will bend the latest depressive curve into an upward climb. Typically, I go to strategies like exercise, hobbies, social supports and sleeping habits to accomplish this intervention.
  • Mania: I argue while manic because I’ve thought about my latest idea’s a whole lot more than you have. I’ve run the ideas through my mind repetitively 24/7 and have been so excited by my latest branches of discovery that my mind refuses to slow down or squeeze in a healthy sleep …anyone else would be left exhausted. You are asking me to slow down and explain the many facets of my thinking to you. I can tell you that my super energetic powers will lend themselves to some delusional beliefs that you are probably not going to buy into, at least not without a healthy dose of convincing. There’s an argument brewing in this somewhere I’m sure!! When I recognize the urge to argue, the direction of travel for me is going to be manic. I turn again to my resilience and recovery model to select strategies that will bend this ascending curve back toward comfortable middle ground. I like to explore strategies of relaxation at this point to slow my mind down.

My argumentative look is different from my snarly, irritable appearance. Learning to recognize both of these mood flags has been an enormous help in being better able to manage my own mental illness.