Tips to help you stand up to the enemy.
Every time it hits, it’s with an earth-moving impact, like running into a door in the middle of the night.
In a flash, everything goes dark. You stop caring about the world and all that’s in it. Everything feels pointless.
It’s bipolar depression, and it’s just as devastating every time it comes.
After each episode, I try to convince myself that it really wasn’t that bad. I tell myself it was only the depression that made me feel so awful, but the next time I won’t sink to such lows.
And every time I’m wrong.
Bipolar Depression Has No Schedule
Bipolar depression comes on its own timetable.
For me, most often it shows up after I’ve been pushing myself too hard. It’s the stalking companion following mania or hypomania, both which you can induce by pushing yourself too hard.
Pushing yourself is a double-edged sword.
Sometimes you have to push because there’s people depending on you or work that needs to be done, but the resulting aftermath is always devastating.
It’s Not the End
I imagine that it’s in the midst of a bipolar depression episode when many people lose their battle with bipolar disorder.
When life has no meaning, and all color drains from the world, it’s hard to keep going. It’s tough to convince yourself that things will get better when every fiber of your being is telling you it won’t.
Because bipolar depression is so destructive, it’s vital that you live intentionally the rest of the time. When you take positive action on the good days, then it’s easier to survive the gut punch of bipolar depression.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it will be easy. Bipolar depression is never easy.
But it can be easier.Start Today!
Preparing for Depression
What things help me keep going when my world goes dark? Here are three.
Reading my journal. When bipolar depression is at its worst, I can’t write. No words will come, no matter how hard I try. My mind is an endless void filled with nothing but hovering ghosts and dried out tumble weeds.
But, I can still read.
This is where the true value of journaling comes in. When you can read in your own words how life can get better, it’s a little easier to believe it. Reading through your journal in the tough times can give you the strength to know that things will improve again.
I’ve got decades of entries in my journals, and most of them help me remember that the worst times are just episodes.
And every episode ends.
Shutting down for a while. I can’t say that it is the healthiest approach, but one thing I do when bipolar depression knocks me down is take some alone time. I isolate myself from almost everyone, and I do it for two reasons.
One, I do it so I can shut down and feel whatever is going on inside of me. Sometimes depression comes from exhaustion. Other times, it’s because you’ve been fighting something you need to face.
When I take the time to be alone, it allows me to feel what’s in my heart and examine what’s happening in my life. The time alone without outside stimuli helps me focus on getting better.
Two, I sequester myself to protect others. I know how vicious my bipolar mind can be. The words spilling from my mouth in a depression episode are horrid. I’ve damaged too many relationships, and ended several, while battling a bipolar depression cycle.
Now, to protect me and my relationships, I spend some time in solitude.
A word of caution here: If during depression you’re also fighting thoughts of self-harm, then being alone might be the wrong choice. When you need outside support or even a hospital stay, then it’s vital to be around others.
When I isolate myself, I have no intention of hurting myself. I simply want to heal and get better.
Focusing on gratitude. When bipolar depression turns your sky black, there’s not a lot of room for gratitude in your heart. I even despise every breath of air I take into my lungs.
Why do I have to keep living? I’ll ask myself. And I know the answer.
I still have work to do. So do you.
Gratitude may feel impossible amid an episode of depression. Knowing this, it’s even more critical to make sure you’re practicing it all the other days.
Many benefit from keeping a gratitude jar. If you add one or two reasons to be thankful on every good day, then there’s a jarful to fall back on during the gray days.
On the bad depression days, when there are no happy thoughts to add, take out a slip of paper from your jar. Read it and meditate on why you felt grateful in the past.
All the beauty in life doesn’t disappear just because you feel bad. Seeing the best of your life in your own handwriting can help you hold on to hope. It’s a safe haven reminding you things can and will get better.
You just have to hold on.
When Depression Stays With You
Bipolar depression comes when it wants and stays until it feels like going.
The dark cycle can last for weeks or even months. If you’ve been in the void for a while, make sure your care team and support system know what’s going on. It may be time for a medication change or dosage adjustment.
Most of the time, though, bipolar depression eventually goes away. Like the early morning fog lifting, your world starts to come into focus again.
Bipolar depression is a gut-punching bully that will suck all the color from your world. But it is survivable as long as you’re committed to always keep fighting.
Make good decisions on the better days. Focus on the positive things in your life. Commit to staying in the war, no matter what. Then, ride the horrible wave until it ends. It will end.
Things will always get better. It may hurt like hell for a while. I’m not going to pretend it won’t. But the episode will eventually pass.
You just have to stay strong until then.
Until next time, keep fighting.