Thank G-d Ballet Class Resumes Tomorrow

Today I am feeling restless, grumpy, and depressed.

A week without dancing will do that to you.

…Or, well, not entirely without. I practiced turns in the kitchen and did a bunch of random ballet stuff all over the house (I’m suddenly really into développés, balancés, and sauts de Basque, though the last of these I can only do very cautiously in our living room). What I didn’t do — though I should have – was give myself a progressive class of at least an hour’s duration at least twice. Or, like, I might have at least done one of those ballet-centric workout videos.

Ah, well.

Today I plan to do laundry, loaf in bed, indulge my depression (and my cat, who is only too happy to have a People hanging out in bed), and write.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the studio with me, and about demned time. I am quickly becoming intolerable (though I think it’s cool that I am beginning to have insight into this process, instead of merely feeling as if it comes out of nowhere).

I sometimes sort of apologize for this, when I explain that I use ballet as a kind of medication. I imagine that people will think, “Well, you’re not all right all the time, so clearly it doesn’t work.”

I forget that psychopharmaceuticals mostly must be taken every single day,and that if someone concluded that psychopharmaceuticals don’t work because the effects wear off if you stop taking them, I would patiently explain that they do not cure, but only treat, bipolar disorder, which is a chronic condition.

I do best when I can take class as close as possible to every single day, just as I would do best on a drug therapy* if I took it every day.

It’s not that dancing doesn’t work: it’s that, like drugs, it’s not a cure. Like drugs, it rather holds a relentless disease process at bay; maybe even drives it back a ways — but neither dance nor drugs effect a cure. Neither can eradicate the disease process entirely. Cease treatment, and the machinery of the disease will shudder to life again, and sooner or later symptoms will arise.

When I take a “drug holiday,” as it were, from dancing, the disease process is able to advance just as it would if I were taking lithium** and stopped that. Likewise, just as there are other drugs that can approximate, to a greater or lesser extent, the effects of lithium, a break from dancing may be mitigated by the substitution of suitable physical activities: a great deal of walking and/or swimming, for example, can keep me on a reasonably even keel — but those must be taken in doses of hours per day if they’re to work, just as different medications may have different dose effects. Running and cycling also work — better (and thusly at somewhat smaller doses) than walking and casual swimming, but still not as well as the intense rigors of ballet class.

So there you go.

I am grateful that there are such things as blogs. In moments like this one, I withdraw from reciprocal socializing — but it is helpful to know that I can write, “I am having a bad day” and that there is a public record of it, even if I can’t always lay that burden at the feet of my loved ones.

I am intensely introverted when depressed, and the outlay of energy required to initiate and sustain a social exchange seems dauntingly high. Blogging seems to offer some of the benefit of doing so, but at a greatly reduced cost.

* The analogy that follows doesn’t extend well to Adderall for ADHD — Adderall has a very short half-life and doesn’t necessarily produce any changes that outlast its therapeutic window, while both dancing and lithium arguably do. Adderall doesn’t arrest the disease process of ADHD (if, indeed, we even use “disease process” as a model — where ADHD is concerned, it’s not a very good one). It simply mutes the symptoms to a greater or lesser extent until enough has been excreted that the therapeutic threshold is no longer met. As such, I’m disregarding my very effective working relationship with Adderall, here.

** This is, in fact, a poor analogy in my case: lithium is an immensely valuable tool for many, but for some of us, the side-effects are disabling; I was far more disabled on lithium than I am off of it.  Worse, I was unable to dance or to do creative work, without either of which I can’t feel whole. It’s still something that is, for me, a medication of last resort, to be used only temporarily and in extremis.

I eschew routine treatment with lithium not by choice, but by necessity.

About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Neuro-atypical. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2015/11/29, in balllet, bipolar, health, life, life management, meds and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. yeah, i don’t do lithium either

    • I think there are probably more of us than anyone realizes. For many, it’s a really great drug, but for those of us who can’t take it, it’s terrible — and yet psychiatrists tend to dismiss us (through lack of information, I suspect) merely as stubborn, recalcitrant patients who are unwilling, rather than unable, to accept the standard therapeutic practice.

      Worse, our refusal on what are pretty valid grounds tends to be conflated with medication noncompliance that sometimes occurs as a function of the disease process, so rather than being studied and addressed as a valid sub-population within the population of bipolar folks at large, we’re more or less invisible to research. Even those docs who recognize is for what we are probably regard us as rare exceptions that can only be dealt with individually. It’s frustrating, because we represent a lacuna in their training — one that, like the lacuna where the optic nerve exits the human retina, creates a blind spot.

      • it’s also probably a money issue too…other therapies cost more and require more effort from the doctor (often paid for through SSI or medicare)…if we refuse we may lose benefits…thankfully i can function though i do have rage issues

      • Yeah, this is very true. Likewise, right now, medical treatments are the ones that insurance companies and Medicare tend to fund because we at least have some empirical understanding of how they work (when they do, anyway).

      • Oh, one more thing: the rage part is interesting to me.

        I have that, too, and I’ve learned to use it as an index to determine how I’m doing, bipolar-wise (it’s always worst around the solstices, which is consistent with the findings of neurological researchers about differences between bipolar and non-bipolar brains).

        That said, it seems to be the most difficult thing to manage, and the one that responds last reliably to exercise, for me. It’s weird.

      • my rage is almost always scary to everybody around me…AND they often like to to push my buttons and bitch about my response…

      • It sucks that the people around you do that. I hope you’ll be able, eventually, to get to a point at which you don’t have to be around people who mess with your emotions that way.

      • yep…early retirement in 9yr…i hate working for the man…

  2. *recognize us, that is

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