“Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable…you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t.” — Kay Redfield Jamison
Ever notice how sometimes depression creeps up on you? You’re going along on the day to day, blindly getting sucked into the thick of it, then all of a sudden, in one certain moment, you realize you are, in fact, in a real depression. And you didn’t get to your wellness plan in time. (That is, provided your wellness plan for depression actually works. My plan to avoid mania works pretty darn well. It’s the plan for depression that still needs work.)
Depression starts in with losing the ability to laugh, the lack of drive to do even the most mundane of chores, the fuzzy headedness. The ability to think, to process ideas, to make sense of the simplest things disappears. Then come the aches and pains. The things that hurt in your body (such as chronic knee pain, for example) become incredibly amplified. Following that is the crushing fatigue. Your body becomes like lead. The thought of having to actually lift your arm is impossible. Climbing a flight of stairs takes a miracle. And let’s not forget, for some people there’s irritability, inability to sleep, sleeping too much, not eating, binge eating…the list is long. And unforgiving.
Does any of this ring true with you?
I realized I was in a depression yesterday when it was too late. I already lost almost two weeks of my life. I was still functioning, but barely. Depression crept in so slowly I never saw it coming. Today, after bouncing back somewhat, I looked back at the last weeks and muttered to myself, “What the heck. Not again.” It perturbs me that, after 20 plus years of dealing with Bipolar, I still can’t see most depressions coming. The warning signs are all there, but my brain chemistry must be so sinister that it blinds me from seeing the signs. And I do truly believe that no matter what measures we all take to avoid mood changes (medication, diet, exercise, supplements, therapy, and so on) they can still come unexpectedly. That’s the nature of Bipolar. It’s the duality of predictability and unpredictability.
I’m writing this piece today in hopes that my story reaches others, as a gentle, but urgent reminder to do your best to be alert to the signs of depression, (and mania, of course), so that you can hopefully avoid a full blown mood episode. (This link from Mayo clinic is pretty thorough, although they have omitted physical aches and pains from the depression symptoms, and increased sex drive/sexual behavior from the hypomanic/manic symptoms.)
Here are some things that might also help:
- If you aren’t already, keep a mood and symptom journal. (Hard to do when you have no drive to do anything else, right? I get it, I do.) It’s easier to track your patterns this way.
- Keep track of your medications and supplements in the same journal. This way, all your health information will be in one place. You can see if you’ve skipped taking your meds and supplements, or if you feel that something isn’t working, you can address it with your mental health team.
- Talk with someone you trust to assess your mood. Do you have someone who knows about your Bipolar disorder? If not, it’s time to find a family member or friend that can be of assistance in times of need. But do remember, no one but yourself, will truly be able to see the signs of mood changes all the time. Other people have their own lives to live, too, and can’t assume the roll of caretaker 24/7. Do your best to be your own advocate.
- Don’t cancel your doctor/therapy appointments, no matter how crummy you are feeling. They might be able to see changes in your mood that you can’t yet detect.
I’d love to say that I follow these tips to the letter, but sometimes mood steps in and blindsides me. And then I don’t always follow through like I should. But I do make an effort to get back on track every time I slip. I really hope you do, too. Our lives depend on it.
Best of health to you today, and every day. Have a weekend filled with goodness and purpose.