Don’t lose hope and give up on yourself if your depression is relentless. Hopelessness is not the path out of depression––it’s what keeps you anchored in the emotion.
It’s ok to feel hopeless when bipolar depression is relentless. What else are we supposed to feel? But, we can’t live in this emotion. It isn’t the path out of depression. I want all of us with bipolar depression to find a way out of the chronic nature of this illness. I’ve been working on depression management for over 20 years and I have been able to manage the symptoms and stay alive. In many ways, I have been able to enjoy life far more than I ever thought possible when I was originally diagnosed with bipolar in 1995. I still get sick and it’s still truly terrible, but having a plan makes is possible for me to have a life.
Here is what I do to handle my serious, chronic
1) I recognize my symptoms for what they are
If you’re familiar with my books or my ten years of articles, blogs and videos for Bp Magazine, you will always hear the same message: we can’t end what we don’t understand. We must intimately know our depression symptoms in order to truly manage our symptoms. I call this being a Bipolar Detective. Knowing our symptoms intimately gives us the power to change and we need to know there is still power within us when the depression is sapping our strength and making us feel weak. We are not weak. We simply have an illness that tells us we are less than we actually are. Fight it.
2) I force myself to get out in the world
You know what it’s like to get out when you feel so down. It’s like walking in mud. I hate it. But, to get better, we must leave our beds and we must leave our rooms. Then we must leave our house and see the WORLD. I don’t care what you do, but if you’re reading this and you have been isolating, it’s time to get out of the mud. Do one thing to remind yourself that being alive is what matters. Get out and look at a tree. Look at a dog or a cat. Find a car you like and touch it. Use the camera on your phone and take pictures to stimulate your creative mind. You, the essence that makes you unique is still in there. Depression is only a mask. It is not who we really are. I am depressed as I write this, but I’m out in public at a book store coffee shop. I looked at books. On my drive here, I saw orange roses next to purple lavender. I forced myself to look up and look out. It is the only way to train my brain when I am this depressed. I promise you one thing, you will NEVER feel worse for getting out in the world. You will feel worse if you stay inside and isolate. That is what depression wants us to do. Don’t listen to depression. It’s a liar.
3) I examine my triggers
Once again, this is my idea of being a Bipolar Detective. My depression has been a lot better in the past few years. I found a medication that worked without making me manic and I was able to see a future without the constant tinge of my chronic depression. Over the past few months, the depression has returned. I have examined my triggers and think that one of the treatments I’m receiving for a head injury I received from a biking accident is causing the surge in depression. How do I know this? It has happened before. When I had the treatment a few years ago, I also had a bout of depression. The treatment was helpful for my memory, so I decided to try it again. Yes, it has helped my memory, but the depression is back. The only way for me to know if this is the trigger of my latest episodes is to stop the treatment and see if I get better. I am doing this as of my appointment tomorrow. Saying no to a helpful treatment that is beneficial for my head injury just to ease my depression is very frustrating, but it’s something I need to do if the depression is serious. My book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder explains my trigger management plan.
I wrote Get it Done When You’re Depressed to help myself and others with chronic depression get on with life. These strategies are here for you whether you have bipolar depression or care about someone who does. I use the ideas in this book almost every day. Don’t give up on yourself if the depression is serious. We are in this together. I know the pain you are feeling. I can tell you that getting out of bed this morning and getting out of the house and finally sitting down to write was not easy, but I absolutely feel better for getting out in the world.
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She is a columnist and blogger for bp Magazine, and she won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Reintegration Achievement Award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for ShareCare, a site created by Dr. Oz and Oprah. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals, including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists, and general practitioners, on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis, and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.
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