It wasn't until recently that some real light was shed on my sleep and depression issues. To be honest, for so long I gave up on doctors and got tired of researching it myself. I was so frustrated, and I just figured that I would deal with it the best I could. Over the past few years, I've done a much better job of this.

After the meet where I opened with 1200 and just quit, things started to improve. I competed in the Highland Games for a season and backed off my lifting a little. I was still doing too much, but I was controlling my sleep and depression better. It was still a daily struggle, but it improved and I didn't have any severe insomnia spells or depressive episodes. I also ended up working a ton to get my crazy debt under control, and I had a very bad run of injuries that slowed my lifting down. In a way, this was probably a good thing because it forced me to back off some. In turn, this allowed me to see the effect that intense training, and specifically central nervous system overtraining, had on my issues. Over the last few months, some events happened that had me researching again and finally getting some much needed answers about my sleep and depression.

The first ray of light was when I stumbled across a documentary about Adam Ant on the computer. For you younger readers, he was a singer from the 80s and 90s. It turns out that he suffered from bipolar disorder and this was the main focus of the documentary. As I watched, my jaw pretty much dropped to the floor because what he was saying was so close to what I had felt. At points, it was actually word for word as to how I might describe it. I couldn't stop watching. I stayed up and watched all six parts of it. I just sat there afterward, and I can't really even describe the feeling. It fit so well, except that I had never really lost it. That was the part that actually worried me because losing it and ending up in a mental institution doesn't sit well with a control freak.

I began really researching bipolar disorder and learning everything that I could about it. Everything kept making sense, except the full-on mania, which I've never had. Then I came across type II bipolar disorder, which fit me perfectly. There is the severe depression, but instead of full mania episodes, there are hypomania episodes. The biggest difference is that in mania, there is psychosis and even hallucinations. In a hypomania state, the person has tons of energy and won't want to sleep. He will have great focus and get tons of work done. Everything is beyond positive, and he can even get a bit of a God-like complex. This was the last piece to the puzzle.

I've had many of these episodes, but I always thought that I had these states because somehow I must have slept that night without realizing it. In these states, I often commented that if this is how normal people feel every day, I don't know why they don't rule the world because if I felt like this every day, I would rule the whole planet. It was like I finally felt normal, so I was going to roll with it. I would stay up for days, and I would be super creative while getting a lot of work done. I would bust out more articles (probably some of my best ones were written in these states) and get tons of photography done. I would get the house cleaned and make it spotless. For me, hypomania episodes are f*&king awesome! It's like the opposite of depression because depression takes all the good feelings away. Hypomania takes away all the bad ones. Self-confidence is through the roof, and everything that I think of is positive. I can do anything and get anything done. I'm the best photographer in the world, I'm the greatest strength coach, and I'm an awesome writer.


The problem is I would roll with these episodes and, of course, because I would stay up for so long while working so much, I would crash very hard afterward and then go into a deep depression. Another bad part of these episodes is that I would take on too much work or schedule too many things that I later had to deal with in a depressed or even normal state. The funny and stupid thing is that I never really put it together. I honestly thought that was how normal people who sleep well felt. For that reason, I never thought much about these episodes and definitely didn't think that they were bad.

A few weeks after I had been researching bipolar II disorder, I had a hypomania episode, and for the first time, I actually knew what it was. I've been gradually remodeling my home and it was about 11:00 p.m. on a work night. Before I realized it, I was walking into my office with my tools all ready to get some shit done. I felt great and was like, "OK, I'll bust this part of the remodel out in no time." Right then, like a bolt of lightning, I got this epiphany. “Hey dumbass, this is the beginning of a hypomania episode!” I turned around, took some sleeping pills and made myself go to bed. It took awhile to slow down my lighting storm of a brain, but I did get a little sleep. This phase lasted for about a week, but it was much milder. I felt as though I could somewhat control it, and the best part was that it faded away into a normal phase instead of a crash into depression. After that, I had a good feeling that with the knowledge I was gaining, I could control this.

There was still a part of my brain that wasn't for sure or didn't want to admit that I had bipolar disorder, but I kept researching and learning about it. I was doing a lot of thinking about my past and the fact that if I was bipolar, did my actions show that? Many things started to make sense and it really all added up. I kept learning more, and as I did, it would explain more about what I had been going through. The different phases or episodes of being bipolar and being an antisocial person made this even more difficult to diagnose. I'm generally only around people for short periods. Normally, this tends to be when I'm normal or in a hypomania phase, not so much when I'm struggling with depression. The hypomania phases are a bit hard to tell, too, because I appear to just be in a really good mood. The only person I was really around all the time was my ex-wife, and looking back, I'm pretty sure that it had an impact on our relationship. I don't imagine I was all that great to be around all the time back then.

I would stay up for days, and I would be super creative while getting a lot of work done.

It seems like many bipolar people go through episodes differently. For me, the hypomania phases typically last only a few days and are way less often than the depression. The depression can last months and it sometimes feels like I'm in that phase more than I am in a normal phase, but I don't know if that's really the case. Something many people don't seem to know is that bipolar disorder isn't always up or down. We do have normal periods, and I would say that over a year's time, I'm more normal than anything.

I did recently learn that it's possible to have both hypomania and depression at the same time, and this is like a whole different episode. Reading about this really explained even more things that I struggle with. These episodes are very difficult for me and the hardest to control. I hate them worse than the depression, except that they usually don't last very long for me. I get over the top anxious and nervous with a brain that moves faster than my vision. The entire time my brain is racing with all negative thoughts. It's almost like I know something horrible is going to happen, but I can't figure out what it is exactly. My brain goes crazy trying to figure it out while I'm just trying to function in regular life. I can't stop my brain or get it to focus on everyday tasks. I also have hyped up energy but am so nervous and anxious that I can't do anything positive with it. It's almost like I'm going crazy. These episodes make it very difficult to get anything done, and if I do, it sure isn't very efficient. I'm working on figuring out a better way to control these episodes.

While I was learning about bipolar disorder, a second ray of light hit me with an appointment with a new general physician. While trying to set up an appointment, I learned that my regular doctor had been let go. It was just easier with insurance to see one of the other doctors. To my surprise, she was very thorough and went through all my previous history. She began asking about my apnea and why I hadn't been to my sleep doctor in so long. My reply was that he was an ass and he wasn't helping me anyway. She was concerned about me getting my CPAP supplies and with how I set up my CPAP. I told her that I do it all online and I titrate my own pressure. After much begging and pleading with me, she finally got me to agree to see a new sleep doctor she recommended.

I have to admit that it was a good thing, and the doctor she recommended is a really cool guy. He isn't so stuck up and arrogant like some of the other ones I've come across. On my first visit, he listened to me explain what I deal with. He said that there were more tests he could do, but because they were expensive, he wanted to get all my records to review everything first. I liked his approach to the problems, and we agreed on how to move forward. I got all my records and he went over them. I'm the kind of guy who likes to research and understand things for myself, so I do a lot of research on my own.

I had forgotten that my last doctor had diagnosed me with narcolepsy, which I didn't really buy. He hadn't explained anything to me and didn't want to give me time to research it. His solution was to give me amphetamines, which I refused because how the hell would that help me sleep? I let it all go because I was pissed off, but once my new doctor went over all my history, he also diagnosed me as having narcolepsy. The difference was in how he went about it.

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He showed me test results from my blood work as well as my polysomnography results and my MSLT test. He actually talked to me about what narcolepsy was and how it has different symptoms. I was always under the impression that narcolepsy involved falling asleep without control at any time. The new doctor was also very willing to listen to what I had to say, so we were able to actually have an intelligent discussion about it. He ended up saying that I seemed like an intelligent person. He had seen that I kept all my records and had a lot of knowledge about the things I went through. He recommended that I go home, take a couple weeks to research narcolepsy to see what I thought and then come back so we could put our heads together to see what we could do. This was a very refreshing experience for me and it gave me a lot of motivation to start researching again.

I did do a lot of research on narcolepsy and it did make a lot of sense. Learning more about it while thinking about my past, it was another puzzle that seemed to fit together. I learned that falling asleep at the drop of a hat and having cataplexy are symptoms, but not everyone has those. With narcolepsy, basically the brain can't regulate the normal sleep-wake cycles. So for instance, when you should be sleeping, the brain tells your body that it should be awake. This makes it hard to sleep, and if you do sleep, it is of very poor quality. The brain then will tell your body that you should be asleep when you should be awake. This is a feeling that can be very hard to fight. Doctors are now learning that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease. Basically, the body's immune system attacks healthy cells, thinking they're foreign. In this case, the body is attacking neurons that produce the hormone hypocretin/orexin in the hypothalamus. As of yet, there isn't any cure for narcolepsy. Most of the medications are amphetamines to help with the excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and some sleep medications, most of which I've already tried.

Upon seeing the doctor again, we had a really good talk. Basically, he said that he would do whatever I wanted, but he also said that it was pretty hard to argue with all the test results. After talking to him and doing my own research, I let him know that I agreed with his diagnosis. It was a good feeling to finally have some answers, but at the same time, it's difficult to know you have something incurable. He mentioned the medications for the EDS, and I explained that I didn't really see how that would fix the problem. In addition, I didn't want to take anything unless I had to. He understood that, and we talked about some other sleep medications that I may want to try at some point. The doctor asked me if I had ever seen a psychologist and if I would be willing to see one that he worked with. He explained that she may be able to help with some behavior things that might help my sleep. I mentioned what I had been researching about bipolar type II disorder and agreed to see her, but I wanted to also ask her about that. Like I mentioned, there was still a part of me that didn't want to admit that I had it. I wanted real confirmation.

I went to see the psychologist, and although we didn't totally click, she did seem to be knowledgeable. She looked at the test and listened to what it was like for me. She felt that I might have a circadian rhythm disorder, which is basically what narcolepsy is (a messed up sleep/wake cycle). We talked about some things she thought might help me like keeping a pretty strict sleep schedule, taking some melatonin at night and getting light therapy as soon as I wake up. I also talked to her about my suspicion of bipolar disorder and she agreed to test me for it.

The test had a ton of questions that I had to answer. All of them were on a scale of one to five. Before the doctor would tell me the results, she asked me what I thought of the test. Being the honest fellow that I am, I told her I thought it was f&*king stupid. I explained that I would probably answer most of those questions differently depending on what day she asked them and I gave examples of specific questions. I also thought that the amount of drug, alcohol and gambling questions didn't make a lot of sense because although people who fight bipolar disorder could have issues with those things, they don't always have problems like that, especially type II bipolar people. She kind of smiled and agreed.

Call it whatever you want, my goal is to control the things I go through and make my life a little better.

The results were that I was positively type II bipolar. Again, in some ways, it was nice to understand what I'm dealing with, but there isn't any cure for bipolar disorder either. There are medications that can help, and I talked to the psychologist about those, too. Again, if I can deal with these things without the drugs, I would rather do it that way. I told her about some of the things I'm doing to deal with mine and that I believe I can get by without the medications if I keep learning. She agreed and offered some of her own advice. If it comes to the point where I need the medications, I will take them, but I would rather control it on my own even if that means a little more work for me.

I've been doing a lot of research on bipolar type II disorder and narcolepsy for awhile now, and I've learned some very interesting stuff. It's always hard to weed through all the crap out there to find what's real. I've read that I can't possibly have both narcolepsy and bipolar disorder because they are so rare. I've read that my bipolar symptoms are all caused by the narcolepsy, and I've read that bipolar disorder is overdiagnosed. I think you just have to use common sense and your brain. If there is a belief, there must be some kind of information out there to back it up. Like a scientist, always have a control in your experiments. I put things together and try to find proof. I look for commonalities to support things that I've researched. In addition, I find that I'm not so caught up in the actual name of what I have. Call it whatever you want, my goal is to control the things I go through and make my life a little better. Narcolepsy and bipolar type II disorder fit and explain a lot, so I'm working off that.

As I keep learning, there are some things that I still struggle with. I've learned that bipolar people often have issues with their sleep-wake cycles. This is interesting because that is basically what narcolepsy is. Is it like a double whammy where I have two things hammering one symptom? Is it that one triggers the other or vise versa? I know that my sleep affects the bipolar disorder and the bipolar disorder affects my sleep-wake cycles. They are intertwined but to what extent? With the narcolepsy and feeling exhausted during the day, how do I know if I really am tired or if my brain is just telling my body that? When you starting thinking about training and recovery, that becomes a very important question. Do I ignore my brain and push forward, or do I really need to back off to get more recovery? Do I take the medication for the EDS even though it's basically amphetamines, and will this mess up me knowing if I really need more recovery or am I just amped up on drugs? If it is just the lack of the hormone hypocretin/orexin, why can't I just inject some or inject a peptide that will help my hypothalamus produce more? I can only hope there is someone smarter than me working on that as I'm writing this.

It's still strange to say or even think that I'm bipolar and narcoleptic because there isn't any cure. I suppose it doesn't really change anything because I've been dealing with this my entire life. Now I just have a name to put to it. The difference for me is the knowledge that comes with those names. More than ever, I feel like I have a chance to get this all under control. I understand that it will probably never be cured and that I will always have to deal with it, but hitting the bottom of the barrel really lets me appreciate even the smallest improvements. Things are improving and I know I can still do more.

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