Yesterday afternoon I saw my psychiatrist at group therapy. After confessing that I’ve been spending over ten hours a day (honestly, probably far more) on social media and that I’ve been unable to fall asleep at night, my psychiatrist told me that I am socially overstimulating myself. He pointed out that my online activity is a form of social stimulation and reminded me that social stimulation triggers hypomania in me. He also pointed out that I went from no social interaction outside my family in January to over ten hours a day in July. So, my dose of Depakote® (divalproex sodium) has been increased by an additional 250 mg a day, and I have to limit the hours I spend online, especially at night after dinner.
Dinner serves as an organizing and defining event of the day for me. Family dinner time is more or less unplugged; although, honestly, we do allow our son his iPhone on which he watches YouTube videos. We sit in front of the TV as we eat. The three humans in the family enjoy unwinding and more or less passively watching the television as we alternate between watching our son’s favorite shows (“The Simpsons”) and our shows, shared favorites include “The Big Bang Theory” and old “Twilight Zones”. Even our huge labradoodle Thumper joins in watching. Thumper has been a member of our family since my son was six which makes him nearly eight-years-old now. For a dog his size, he’s well past middle-aged. Our younger, smarter, more rambunctious poodle Coco does not find the television nearly as interesting. He’s more curious about the physical world around him. Coco has earned the nicknames The Scientist and Quality Control, for he always notices and has to inspect by touching his nose to and licking anything new or different as soon as he enters a room.
Okay, so here’s my new plan (in addition to more Depakote): dinner, TV, then READ. I’m okay if I use a black background screen with dim grey text while reading in bed beside my sleeping husband. What I must NOT do, because it stimulates me and interferes with my sleep, is switch back and forth to surf the Internet to research something that I read nor can I check on social media and email. I MUST limit social interaction if I am to tamp down this hypomania.
Last night, I must confess (and to my husband’s gentle dismay and disapproval), after dinner and leisurely watching TV while playing solitaire (relaxing, not stimulating), I did quickly go through my email before heading up to bed. I didn’t want to wake up to fifty emails. I already had over twenty. I have reset notifications on my various devices, so that there is no sense of urgency. No more badges telling me how many tweets, Facebook posts, or emails I have. I never allowed them noise-making notifications — OBNOXIOUS. The only apps I allow to notify me are cell phone text messages (mostly from my husband and my son and I want to communicate readily with them) and phone calls (again, mostly from family).
Let’s see how it goes…