Depression is an unfortunate reality for people with bipolar disorder. I mean, bipolar disorder used to be known as manic-depressive illness.
The terms are largely irrelevant, though the original nomenclature was definitely more helpful and descriptive. No matter what you call it, the depressive side of the illness is the pits.
I am lucky in that I do not experience debilitating depressions like other people with my illness do. I’ve read books by people who deal with depressions so overwhelmingly deep they cannot even get out of bed to do the most basic things.
I believe exercise helps me from going that far down into a depression, but when a depression does hit me, it is a concerted effort to get up early enough for a workout. (I’ve written about what exercise means to me here.)
I need lots and lots of sleep when I’m depressed. This is usually how I can tell a depression is approaching; I start requiring ten hours of sleep to feel rested. Usually, I can function very well on seven to eight. Sleeping ten hours is not conducive for having a solid exercise routine.
I also tend to eat more and more unhealthily. As you can imagine, I often gain weight during these times. Never too much, but enough for me to notice.
The worst symptom, though, is what I’ve named Dark Thoughts.
Think Eeyore on steroids.
My natural pessimism gets a shot of adrenaline and usually spends at least one day running rampant through the streets. I have thoughts of death, mine and people I love. Wishful thinking for mine, and dread of other people dying tragically.
I can turn someone having a stomach bug into them having cancer, I’m worse than WebMD. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night. I don’t typically lose sleep over these gloomy thoughts, but occasionally, they overpower my rational thought to a point where I can’t gear down to sleep.
I am learning that these Dark Thoughts often aid in me distancing myself emotionally from the people I’m afraid to lose. I become grumpy and irritable around them, and I can be the queen of assholes.
My biggest fear for myself is never getting married and never having kids. Since I was very young, having a family of my own has been one of my dearest dreams.
My Dark Thoughts machine absolutely looooveees to tell me it will never happen: I’ll die an old maid, never having loved or been loved. My Dark Thoughts are extremely irrational and embarrassingly dramatic.
I’ll share the surface level of these thoughts with my parents from time to time, but my go-to person for these fears is my best friend, naturally. What sucks is she has a freaking bloodhound nose for pity parties.
After I get over being mad at her for calling my BS, I can only marvel at how she sees them coming. Sometimes she sees the pity in my party before I see it myself.
God, how I hate her in those moments.
But I cannot adequately express how deeply appreciative I am that she shuts them down so quickly. She does more than crash them. Crashing them implies she comes to them at all.
She does not.
She spots them from a mile away, and then launches rationality-grenades and destroys my venue. It’s sad how many times it’s happened, but thankfully she’s still my friend.
I am learning. On really special occasions, I can see them coming without her assistance. They don’t happen nearly as often as they used to, but unfortunately, they seem to make up for their infrequency with newfound intensity.
With the help of my friend, they usually cannot gather steam anymore, at least once I share my concerns with her.
I haven’t learned yet not to talk to her at all during my Dark Moods, and I’m pretty sure there is some subconscious part of me that knows I need a good punch in the nose while I’m moping.
It’s tough love, but often that is just what the doctor ordered. People who simply agree with me during these moods just feed the beast, and it grows indefinitely because I’m a glutton for misery.
My friend, however, cuts off its lifeline: my irrational thoughts. She uses rationale, and yes, even some anger, to help me snap out of my funks.
It makes me simultaneously shake my head and grin sheepishly to think of our arguments centered around my doom and gloom episodes.
People who don’t give a flip about you do not try to help you grow. She cares enough to metaphorically slap me across the face—she has really long arms, so I can’t exactly fight back—and tell me to get over myself.
The best part is, no matter how much of an asshole I’ve been, she always accepts my apologies (I’m not so foolish as to be blind to the error of my ways).
I am so grateful to have her as a friend, and I hope everyone has someone similar in their lives.
Depression is the pits, but when I’m merely feeling sorry for myself, I need a good kick in the pants to launch me on a path towards normal and healthy moods.