With enough practice, the power of introspection can completely solve a disaster before it happens in the first place.
I must admit, I was planning a gradual series on introspection and how to develop it, but I had an experience a couple days ago that highlights perfectly the power that this skill can give it’s user. I recently started a new medication. It was a stimulant for ADHD. Now these meds are often quite helpful to those of us with ADHD, but for those of us who also have Bipolar Disorder, they present a potential problem. It’s possible that the stimulant will lead to a manic episode and all the troubles that come with that.
Symptoms of mania
When I get manic, I sometimes develop a bit of paranoia. It’s a milder paranoia; I don’t fear that the government or the mafia is out to kill me and my family or anything. What I feel is that people look down on me. Maybe they give me dirty looks. Their tone of voice is rude and condescending, or maybe angry. Because the paranoia is mild like this, it took me a few years to pick up on it in that form. Now I have a lot of skills for handling that and overcoming it, but that is for another post.
A new medication
When I started the ADHD medication, I initially did quite well on it. It made me feel happy and energetic. I was also extremely focused. It was it’s therapeutic effect to great degree, but I was concerned about the happy and energetic part. This doesn’t always mean mania, but I marked it as something to watch.
Now I also noticed that when I started the medication, I would inhale and exhale to patterns, or songs in my head. This is a bit hard to describe in more detail, but it is definitely a compulsive action typical of my OCD and might be brought on by anxiety from the additional energy.
The last straw for me was when I got frustrated at work. My boss was indeed a bit frustrated. He’d had a hard day, but I felt that I overreacted to it. I stopped him in his tracks and said “Look, if you want to keep talking down to me, I can just leave and come back when you’re in a better mood!”. Now was this completely out of line? Not really, but it is more extreme than I like to be.
“I don’t like your tone!”
What stuck out to me was my obsession with his ‘tone’. That is often a sticking point for me when I’m unwell. I get paranoid about people’s tone of voice. I feel that it proves their hostility. That was key for me. When I saw that I was getting obsessed with ‘tone’ I knew I had to do something before I began having more serious problems. This is not everyone’s trigger. That’s why I need introspection to know this. This is a warning sign specifically for me. Not that I’m the only one, but I use this sign to know that I’m in trouble.
I immediately called my doctor and asked for advice. They said that in my particular case, I could stop this particular medication because it was not dangerous to do so. I always recommend talking with a doctor before making medication decisions. I have a lot of things I might want to do with my meds, but I am not qualified to make that decision by myself.
Now, I’ve been off the med for a few days. I’m slightly depressed, but it’s not too bad. I’d definitely less focused, but fortunately, I see my doctor in a few days and I can talk to her about some other solutions. She’ll guide me through this and we can figure it out together. But I’m safe.
Had my mania gone unchecked and developed, I might have gotten angry enough to harm people or at least yell at them and verbally abuse them. I might have thrown and damaged my things. These are problems I had in the past. But not today. Today, my introspection spared me all of that. Today I am well, and continuing to learn.