It’s odd that I haven’t spent much time talking about bipolar depression when I’ve spent so much time being depressed. I’ve discussed mania far more often, even though I haven’t experienced it as frequently because – well, it’s more chaotic. And makes more of an impression on my mind and in my life.
In its own way, however, bipolar depression is far more devastating. It’s like a black tar that seeps into every crevasse of my mind. It affects my body in a similar fashion. Everything – mind and body – moves in slow motion because it is weighed down by that sticky, heavy substance that has invaded life and limb.
I am better at predicting an episode of mania before it happens than I am at predicting a depressive episode. Perhaps that’s because depression is quieter and more insidious in its approach. It’s differentiation from a normal state isn’t quite as steep in the beginning as is that of mania. At least, in my case, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s easier for me to fall down than it is to fall up.
Symptoms of bipolar depression
Symptoms of bipolar depression include the following: loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities; a generally depressed mood; fatigue; loss of energy; insomnia or sleeping too much; irritability; lethargy; restlessness; inability to think clearly; lack of concentration and focus; weight gain or loss often attached to appetite; feelings of extreme guilt, worthlessness or lack or self-esteem; melancholy; suicidal thoughts, ideation and/or attempts.
At lease five of these symptoms must be present for this to be considered a depressive episode. An episode can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. The ‘crash’ of a depressive episode can sometimes be precipitated by a manic or hypomanic episode. It is all the more debilitating for having followed a ‘high’.
Depression symptoms can interfere with a person’s daily life and activities. They can disrupt one’s relationships, family, and social life. They can wreak havoc on one’s day-to-day existence.
A glimpse inside my own depression
Unfortunately, I am not very good at predicting the onset of a depressive episode. I often find myself there before I know what’s happening. When it hits, it hits like a ton of bricks – inside my mind and inside my body as well. The physical and mental dread is enormous. Where with mania there are bursts of color, with depression there is a black void. It’s painful to feel and it’s painful to watch. Because by this point, I become an observer in my own life.
It’s the fear of what I know is coming. My first thought is always that I fervently wish this was a manic, not a depressive episode. As dangerous as they are, they are far more pleasant than the black cloud that hangs over my head when I’m depressed. Don’t misinterpret my words, however. Neither type of episode is good and both are debilitating and dangerous.
My first indication that I am in trouble is when I cannot get dressed, get out of bed, or get off the couch. This can literally happen in the space of a day. As each hour chimes by on my mantle clock, I tell myself that I will get up at the next half hour’s chime. Before I know it, the entire day is gone. I have done nothing, nor have I gotten dressed. I have simply dozed on and off all day and can’t wait to go to bed as soon as I possibly can. And so the days go on until I can get the depression under control.
Depression and others
As a final note, bipolar depression doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you – everyone who is going through it with you. But there’s nothing quite as bad – or as tormenting – as living inside your own mind when you are going through a bipolar depressive episode. You are, in the end, alone in what feels like a very solitary universe; in what is a very solitary universe. It is an eery world that exists within your own brain.
Deb Wilk writes for various publications and she runs her own blog, Living Bipolar.