Sunday, March 28, 2010

Living with Bipolar Disorder: 3 Tips for Easier Meal Planning

Do you try to plan meals? I do.  Before going grocery shopping, I think about what meals I'd like to have, what ingredients I already have, and which I need to buy.

However, because of my bipolar disorder, I can't usually stick to a weekly meal plan.  I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder and often my moods last just 1-4 days.  This often means that for part of the week my mood isn't feeling normal.  If I'm depressed, it's hard for me to get the motivation to cook a meal.

Here are my 3 tips:

1. Buy Heat and Eat meals to keep in your freezer. Even if you feel motivated to cook 7 meals a week, keep a couple of them in your freezer, just incase.

2. Use a recipe box to keep track of the meals you've cooked.  Write notes to yourself about the recipe. This will make it easier for you to tackle it when you aren't feeling as well.

3. Try using a crock pot. Also called a slow cooker, this lets you prepare the meal in the morning or the night before. You can prepare the meal when you feel well; not when you are hungry!

Heat and Eat Meals
No matter how motivated, happy, and energetic I feel while I'm grocery shopping, I try to buy some meals that are all ready to go.  The one predictable thing about bipolar disorder is that it's not predictable.  Heat and Eat meals are ones that I just put in the oven or microwave and then they are all done.  The downside is that these are not usually as healthful as the ones I make myself.  Often they have more salt or fat in them than I'd like.  There are a lot of things you can get of the heat and eat kind.  For example, frozen lasagna, frozen breaded fish and fries, corn dogs, frozen chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, etc.  I realize that I could also make my own home made meals ahead of time and freeze them, but I haven't gotten around to doing that.

A lot of the time it feels like when my mood feels normal, I use that time to do everything that I didn't get around to doing when I didn't have the energy, and well, cooking for many nights in advance is just not one of the things I end up doing.

Using a Recipe Box to Keep Track of Easy Meals
I also try to plan out a lot of easy meals.  These are ones that I actually make myself, but I don't find them hard to do.  I keep a recipe box and makes notes about recipes I've made so that making them a second or third time is even easier.  After making the recipe several times, it becomes MY recipe, and I know exactly what to do.  It makes it less intimidating and I might even attempt it on a less than perfect mood day.

Crockpot Meals
I have a crockpot that I like to use, and the minimal preparation required for making a pot roast in my crockpot is something that I can get done in the morning, and then it will be all ready to eat in the evening. This also holds true for many other crockpot meals.

My best time of day is usually in the morning.  I usually have the most energy and positive mood then.  My worst time is late afternoon/early evening.  Therefore, if I wait until my worst time of day, I am less likely to be up to making a complete meal.  So, the crockpot helps in the time shifting :)

Strangely enough, it seems like I'm always hungry for dinner right around 7pm.  I've tried moving around dinner time and having it earlier so that I could prepare it during a better time of the day for me, but so far, that doesn't seem to work well... I still get hungry later.

Dirty Dishes?
I read somewhere that one of the most common reasons for eating out was that all of the dishes were dirty. This makes some sense, as if you have to clean the dishes and cook food, that's a double big chore.  I try to avoid this problem by at least doing some of the dishes in the evening or morning so that they are ready for dinner time.  I also have accepted the fact that I can cook dinner even if the dishes are dirty. I just clean what I need.

All this said, sometimes we eat out.  Last night we had take-out chinese food, and it was just the perfect way to enjoy the evening.  No work needed, and lots of great food.

P.S. The Angus Burgers pictured at the right are sold at Costco and they are super yummy. They take 2 minutes to heat up in the microwave and come out just perfect (not rubbery at all!).  I don't know how they do it, but it is the perfectly addictive heat 'n eat meal.

Do you have any tips for meal planning?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Work Hard at Play

I recently watched Daniel Kahneman talk about memory and the difference between the experiencing self and the remembering self.

It's made me want to take seriously what I enjoy, and get the most possible enjoyment out of life.

I also read about half of The Happiness Project book which got me thinking about having fun too. One point that book makes is that what is fun for one person is not fun for another. So I've been thinking about what I consider to be fun, and accepting that it may not be the same as what other people find fun.

Then there is Meg's comment that "Keep in mind that the input you give your mind greatly effects the output of your feelings..." She always has good insight.

So on that note, I've been focusing on making sure I have enough fun in my life.

I really love taking pictures, so I got a photo album to put my pictures in.  This way I can spend time enjoying all of the pictures I have taken (and remembering all of those happy moments!).  I don't tend to keep my pictures organized on the computer, and there is something I prefer about having printed photos.

I really enjoy music, but sometimes I hesitate to try new music. Well you can't find new music without trying!  There is no way to know beforehand if you're going to love it. So I'm going to try to start my day out with listening to music more often, and also I'm going to make a serious effort to find new albums, new artists, and new types of music to enjoy.

Serious fun!

Pictures I took at an airshow....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Got to Love Those Pecans

While watching an episode of House last night, this line caught my attention: "Nuts are high in copper."

I just wrote a post about zinc and had read that if you take zinc then you should be taking copper. There is something important about the zinc/copper ratio.

I've been eating pecans for a snack.  Often my low point for mood is in the late afternoon, and I think this may be linked to blood sugar levels (although it might also be changes in daylight), and so I've found that if I eat nuts for a snack, I feel better. I thought this was because they are high in protein and fiber, but now I'm wondering if it could be...

The copper?  Or maybe even the Choline?  Or some other good ingredient that they have....

Here's some info about what's in 1 cup of pecans....

Copper 1.3 mg
Magnesium 132mg
Choline 44 mg
Manganese 4.9 mg
Omega 3 Fatty Acids 1075 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 22487 mg

More nutritional info here.

I guess I will have to keep researching.  And eating those pecans. I actually ran out of pecans last week and made a special trip to the store for them.  It was driving me nuts.  They are kind of expensive, but Costco seems to have the best price.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Zinc for Bipolar Disorder Depression?

When I was in college and having a lot of trouble with Bipolar disorder, I saw several different psychiatrists.

One of the stranger psychiatrists that I saw believed in a holistic approach, and in addition to medications, recommended that I take a zinc supplement.  I believe it also had copper in it, but my memory is a bit hazy.

I took the supplement for awhile, but didn't really believe in it, and my symptoms were pretty strong at the time, so my focus was on taking some pretty strong medication. Whether the zinc did anything for me then, I couldn't tell.

Well, fast forward to today.  I've been taking zinc for the last week because I have a cold.  Without a doubt, zinc helps sore throats, and since I've been having a little bit of a sore throat and eustachian tube soreness, I've been trying to take zinc to help fight it off. I am also taking garlic and vitamin A.  This regimen comes from past experience and is relatively cheap.

So my cold is staying on the mild side, and I'm hoping that it doesn't progress into a big infection.  At the same time, while I've been taking this zinc, my mood has been staying really smooth.  Is there a connection?  I don't know, but maybe I'll keep taking it even after the cold passes.  Maybe my strange psychiatrist knew what he was prescribing :)

One thing to be aware of, is that taking too much zinc can be bad for you.  Here's some basic information on what you need to know about taking zinc.  I see that website says that the upper dose for zinc should only be 40mg for people my age. Oddly, that contradicts the guidelines on my bottle of Zinc Lozenges (it says no more than 138mg in 24 hours). Other places I've read no more than 100mg or 125mg, or that it depends on your body weight.  It seems that taking the lowest amount that works would be a good idea.  I've noticed that 25mg and 50mg are the doses that are commonly sold as supplements.

There is actually quite a bit of information on the connection between zinc deficiency and depression and other mood problems.

Here are a few links:
The role of zinc in neurodegenerative inflammatory pathways in depression
Zinc Enhances Antidepressant Therapy
An animal study showing zinc works as an antidepressant

That's just a sampling. If you search Google for Zinc Antidepressant, you will find a wealth of information.  However, "zinc" and "mania" and "zinc" and "mood stabilizer" don't bring up any useful results, so perhaps zinc only helps the down side of bipolar symptoms.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Relative Stability, and Car Buying

I've been doing well for the last week or so.  Not perfect, but well.  I did fight off a depression at least one day this week.  Not that depression can always be fought off, but this one did stay away.  I told my husband about how I was beginning to feel, and while I was taking a walk, he drew me two large notes.. One of them said “I love you!  My beautiful wife!!!” and it had a big heart on it.  He taped it to my monitor and now (since I had to use my monitor) it is taped to my light pole right near me.  I think that really is helpful!  Every time I look at it, it makes me smile.  The other one he taped to the bathroom mirror.  He asked me, “Have you been to the bathroom since you got back from walking?”  and I said, “No, is something wrong...?” and then I went in there and found the note!!  It was a great surprise!

Now, if I was going to be really depressed, love notes alone probably couldn't keep me from being depressed, but they sure do help!

We bought a new car.  A much needed new(er) car.  When your car doesn't go into reverse right away and doesn't always shift up to a higher gear on the highway, it just isn't such a good thing.  Buying a new car was an experience that had me in nervous tears sometimes, and also had me quite happy other times.  In the end, it made me quite happy.

Having a newer car means that we can go on road trips, which is something I've been wanting to do for  months!!  I love taking pictures and haven't been doing it much lately.  I'm not sure if not doing it was making me depressed or if I didn't do it because I was depressed, but I will have to try to do things I like to do... who knows, maybe it will keep the depression away longer!

Why did the car buying process have me in tears at one point? Well, I don't know, except that it seems that any stressful situation can have me crying when my mood is off.  I never bought a car before.  I never even went on to a car lot before.  My parents bought me my last car.  So this was a first.  My husband, who is much older than me and has much more life expereience, says that life gets easier with experience.  What great news!

What did I learn about car buying? Be sure to check out the VIN numbers!  Before we had a service to check them out (we later signed up to we checked out some really bad cars.  Some car salespeople really will lie to you about the cars!  Checking out the VIN number told us that the cars had been in accidents and/or not passed the state emissions testing.

We also checked out the MSN car reliability and safety ratings, and the consumer reports ratings. My parents seemed to always buy cars that need repair, but I want to buy a car that doesn't need much repair.  So it's too early to tell if looking at reliability ratings is going to insure that we got a car that won't need fixing, but it sure seems like a good idea.  My husband says that he's had cars that he didn't have to do work on, so it's not true that all cars need repair work.  You can get a car that just runs, and runs... and runs...

Also, you just can never know until you look at a car in real life, and test drive it!  We looked at cars that seemed like great deals online, but there were problems. One dealership didn't have the car, but just used it as a way to get us to come to the lot to look at another car (bait and switch).  You can advertise a car you don't have at a really low price, but if you don't have it, it doesn't mean anything.  Another car had a broken off door handle.  Really low miles, though. Also when we found the car we bought, in addition to everything checking out right with the VIN number and such, we just had a really good feeling about the car.  They say to pay attention to your gut instinct.

I also learned that car buying isn't something to really stress out about.  When I took action about it, I felt better.  I started participating in the process (rather than just letting my husband do all of the research and work), and not only did it help make me feel better, we actually ended up finding a car because I decided to do a search!  A car that we had looked at before, but had just been reduced by $1000!

But all of this success came about because my mood stayed relatively stable, and I felt confident about making a big life decision like buying a car!  When I felt depressed, anxious, sad, nervous, it was hard to make a decision... And that's OK.  I won't always feel well, but when I do feel well and have successes, I think those times help me feel better and more successful in the future.

This picture is of a robin I saw one morning this week.  It was the first thing I saw when I looked outside in the morning. What a nice surprise!