Breaking My Pattern

As I have mentioned before, I am Bi-Polar II. Bi-Polar II is Bi-Polar disorder but while we get the wonderful experiences of the random deep depressions, instead of mania, we get hypomania (“under mania”). We get a high. We do not get the euphoric high. We get happy, confident and creative. We also get irritable and irrational (“manic” does always not equal “happy”), but not to the extreme Bi-Polar I people do. We spend too much money on shopping, for example. We do not mortgage our house to go shopping and then throw everything out the window at homeless people on the way to Vegas to create a anti-materialist monastery. We’re difficult, but not out of control.

But the depressions are just as extreme.

I take medication for this; an anti-convulsant which also acts as a mood stabilizer. It doesn’t make me “normal” but it keeps me sinking so low I lose the ability to function or start thinking about boarding the fur kids at the Vet’s office while I take a bunch of pills. (Usually “Who will take care of my furkids?” is enough to keep me from seriously considering it, but when it gets that far I call a shrink.) I used to take an anti-anxiety medication, but even on a half dose I found it sapped too much of my energy and made me muzzy-headed. I was taking it for chronic insomnia, so I replaced it with exercise. That seems to be working pretty well.

I’m currently in a “downswing.” The medication mitigates this so I can function, but the shadow of it is still there. And it’s a dark shadow. Depression stemming from clinical issues is not “feeling sad,” it is a hopelessness and self hatred so profound and pervasive that you simply stop…everything. You can’t feel anything but those two things. There is nothing beyond them. You can’t think. You can’t focus. You have trouble remembering things that happened this morning.Β  Doing anything at all requires a herculean effort. You feel stupid. You feel boring. You’re worthless. You feel like whatever gifts you have are gone forever, and that you squandered them. You feel like the rest of your life is nothing but a colorless rut and you have no way to get out of it. There is no future. There is just day in and day out. You stop doing the things that make you happy because you are no longer be touched by them. You are no longer touched by anything. Or anyone.

This is not something you can think you way out of. You can’t ignore it. You can pretend for others. And frequently you do until it becomes so exhausting you don’t want deal with them anyone. But can’t pretend for yourself. No, we can’t “fake it ’till we make it.”

And we can’t connect with people who too often just don’t get it. And they get frustrated with us because we won’t “snap out of it.” We won’t even “try.”

When this song hit the radio it was a kick in the chest because I have been the person this song is addressed to.

Knowing that it was our fault these friendships and loves left us. Wishing we could have stopped ourselves. But we couldn’t, so we start to feel maybe it’s best we don’t get close to anyone.

We feel guilty about not being able to snap out of it. We think we are worthless because we don’t try.

And that sends us down further.

But the truth we have such a hard time seeing in the dark, and that most people in the sun don’t get at all, is that our body is the one that won’t “try.” It can’t.

It’s not software. It’s hardware.

Because there is no cause but chemistry, there is no cure but time. Time that could last days, weeks or even months. In rare cases, it can last years.

This is the single most accurate and eloquent descriptions of living in that kind of depression I have ever read:

Hyperbole & a Half: Depression Part Two

Hyperbole & a Half: Adventures in Depression I

(Trust me, it’s better to read the second one first.)

I recommend reading the rest of her blog and buying her book. She is a hilarious storyteller and unflinchingly honest about herself.

And then when we are in the hypomania where our brain is in overdrive. Everything we experience and feel is extreme. We say and do things that would make us give anything in the world for a “reality rewind button” because we have hurt someone. Either a friend, a family member or ourselves. As we get older, we learn better coping mechanisms, we learn to control some of the damage. But sometimes we simply can’t step outside of ourselves in the moment and go too far. So we tend to isolate ourselves from the people who get frustrated with us for something we can’t control and people we hurt in the moments where we are out of control.

And we become isolated from everything.

I stopped writing two years ago. I loved writing. It made me happy, it made me proud. It was fulfilling, one of the rare fulfilling things in my life. It wasn’t Rudyard Kipling, but I felt good about what I could do.

And then I lost faith. I lost hope. There is no creation without hope. The stories became vague ideas I just had no energy or interest to tell. I don’t feel like I have any story to tell anymore. I know consciously I have good story ideas. I have researched, the characters created and the plot mapped out. It just isn’t in my heart anymore. And the thing that terrifies me to my soul is it, or any story, never will be again. This thing that I loved and was good at, is gone forever.

So I look to someone much smarter than me:

It Will Be Sunny One Day

April 10, 2006

Dear Crystal,

I’m so sorry to hear that life is getting you down at the moment. Goodness knows, it can be so tough when nothing seems to fit and little seems to be fulfilling. I’m not sure there’s any specific advice I can give that will help bring life back its savour. Although they mean well, it’s sometimes quite galling to be reminded how much people love you when you don’t love yourself that much.

I’ve found that it’s of some help to think of one’s moods and feelings about the world as being similar to weather:

Here are some obvious things about the weather:

It’s real.
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.

BUT

It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
One day.

It really is the same with one’s moods, I think. The wrong approach is to believe that they are illusions. They are real. Depression, anxiety, listlessness – these are as real as the weather – AND EQUALLY NOT UNDER ONE’S CONTROL. Not one’s fault.

BUT

They will pass: they really will.

In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes. “Today’s a crap day,” is a perfectly realistic approach. It’s all about finding a kind of mental umbrella. “Hey-ho, it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.”

I don’t know if any of that is of any use: it may not seem it, and if so, I’m sorry. I just thought I’d drop you a line to wish you well in your search to find a little more pleasure and purpose in life.

Very best wishes

(Signed)

Stephen Fry

Β And I cry because I want to believe it so badly, but it’s so hard.
To anyone who wants to get an idea of how hard it is to live with Bi-Polar disorder (and there are many level of severity), this is required watching:
And if you know someone who is going through severe depression, the best way to be a friend is this:
PTSD/depression blanket-nest
And how did I break my pattern?
I’m talking to you all.
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5 thoughts on “Breaking My Pattern

  1. This was amazing. I mean not in the sense that you dealing with this is amazing, I mean as in I am going through this exact same thing. And I mean when I heard that song at first I listened to it over and over again until I was bawling incessantly for no reason other then that it was so perfect to what I felt. Honestly this post was what I needed to read, and I thank you for that. And I hope you know that your writing really helped me. It is nice to know someone else is there on the same boat as you- as shitty as that is.

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