I haven't had any motivation to write a blog post all week, so it occurred to me when I was driving home from work that maybe I should share with you WHY I have little to no motivation to write blog posts right now.
I don't know if I have mentioned this in any previous blog posts, but I have bipolar disorder. I have had several (hypo)manic episodes, but I struggle much more with the depression side.
Just over a year ago, I was put on a new combination of meds that FINALLY pulled me out of a depression that had lasted, to varying degrees, for about 3 years. I felt "normal" for the first time in SO long.
Unfortunately, mental health is such a fragile thing with this disorder.
I didn't want to see the signs at first, but over the weekend I added up all the pieces and realized that my depression has come back.
Acknowledging depression is a double-edged sword - once you acknowledge it, you can start to get help and feel better. Unfortunately, you are also forced to wonder how far down you'll go and how long you will be down that dark hole. For me, it also reminds me that this is a battle I will have to fight OVER and OVER and OVER for THE REST OF MY LIFE. I usually try not to look at the big picture like that, but a new episode reminds me what a true disease Bipolar Disorder is and that it will be a lifelong battle to try to find the happy zone between depressed and manic.
So now I want to try to describe clinical depression for those of you who have never suffered from it. It's easy for an outsider to say "You'll feel better if you exercise" or "Just stop feeling sorry for yourself," but sometimes those things just aren't possible for somebody who is depressed. I actually WAS exercising - until the depression came creeping back.
Everybody experiences highs and lows in life. There is a certain amount of "sad depression" that a person can expect to experience in a lifetime, like after the death of a loved one. Clinical depression is something different. Clinical depression happens when certain chemicals in your brain are out of whack. This is an actual medical condition and may require medications to fix it. You don't blame somebody with Type 1 (childhood onset) Diabetes for having a pancreas that doesn't produce insulin, so you also shouldn't judge a person who has clinical depression.
Anyway, try to imagine you are suddenly living in a world where you are constantly in neck-deep molasses. Just moving and breathing would become difficult, wouldn't it? The thought of exerting any more physical energy than ABSOLUTELY necessary is EXHAUSTING. It's hard enough to get out of bed in a molasses-filled world, much less exercise.
Your movements become slower.
Your thoughts become slower.
All you want to do is sleep - or you may not be able to sleep at all.
Everything requires 10 times more effort than before, even things you (used to) enjoy.
I've been so depressed in the past that I couldn't be bothered to brush my teeth more than once or twice a week. Same with showering. Exercise? Forget it!
For me, a depressive episode starts with "Meh." That's where I am right now. I don't really care about anything. I had lost almost 40 pounds - then fell off my diet and exercise program AND DIDN'T EVEN CARE. A "normal" person would probably be pissed off that they were starting to gain back weight that they had lost. I just don't have the energy to care.
I had been going dancing again, 2+ nights a week. That's just too much effort and not enough sleep right now. I LOVE dancing - but right now? Meh.
If I am unfortunate enough to have a depressive episode that lasts longer than "Meh," I hit "Blah." With "Meh," I'm too apathetic to even be sad. I just don't care about anything. Once I hit "Blah," I have now realized how much my life sucks. My self-loathing REALLY ramps up at this point. My life sucks and I have absolutely NO energy whatsoever to try to fix it - which of course makes me hate myself even more. Now I am fully aware how much my life sucks, and I continue to feel worse and worse until I hit "Why?"
"Why?" can stand for "Why me?" or "Why now?" or, worst of all, "Why am I even alive?" "Why?" is the most dangerous stage of depression. I have been fortunate in that I have had very few suicidal thoughts - but when they happen, it's in this stage. I usually wish I had never been born or that I would die, but luckily I almost never want to actively kill myself. Still, wanting to die is a TERRIBLE way to live. This is rock bottom, like sitting in the bottom of a deep, dark well and wondering if you will ever get out and see the light of day again.
I am extremely lucky, though. I have an aunt and uncle that help me pay for all my therapy, psychiatrist appointments, medications, and blood tests. I don't know where I would be without their help. It took ALL of that to finally find a good combination of meds and therapy that finally pulled me out of my last depression. And I am hopeful that I caught this depression quickly enough to turn it around before it gets worse. I had my regular appointment with my therapist on Monday and told her the situation, so she is helping me come up with a plan to cope. My psychiatrist squeezed me into a last-minute appointment yesterday so we could talk about my meds, and I upped the dosage of my Lithium, so hopefully that will kick in pretty quickly.
Anyway, I'm terrified, as usual, about how bad my depression will get. I am pissed off that I will have to deal with this periodically for the rest of my life. But I am also hopeful that I will feel better quicker than ever this time around since I finally have a good support system in place around me.
I hope I have been able to explain clinical depression a little for those of you who have never experienced it before. If you have ANY questions or comments for me, please feel free to leave them here or email me. I sort of feel like it is my duty as somebody who suffers from depression and Bipolar Disorder to reach out and support other sufferers as well as educate those who are not familiar with these all-too-common mental illnesses.
If you are feeling suicidal right now, you can find a list of suicide hotline numbers around the world here.
For more information about depression, try PubMed Health, WebMD, Wikipedia, or NIMH.
For more information about Bipolar Disorder, try PubMed Health, NIMH, APA, or Mayo Clinic.