Depression takes so much energy from our bodies. It makes it very difficult for us to find empathy or be there for others. Treating depression first is the path to ending the “selfish” symptoms that depression creates.
Is It Me or Is It My Bipolar Depression?
Too often, when we are in the midst of a depressive episode, especially if it is long-lasting, those around us can start to feel (understandably) frustrated with “our” behavior. They might not see our outward actions and our words as being symptoms of a mental health condition and, instead, start to assign those behaviors and comments to who we are as a person. They can become convinced that we are too self-centered, trying to get attention, or just plain selfish and mean.
we are not selfish. DEPRESSION is selfish.
we are weighed down by bipolar depression, its words and ideas and actions can seem
like they’re our own thoughts and beliefs. But they’re not.
It’s not that we are unkind or that we aren’t generous and loving. It’s that depression is constantly muttering (or hollering) at us, overpowering our thoughts while masquerading as the “real” us. When, really, we are fighting against this mood episode with everything we have left, or we have been lost in it so long we can’t begin to find a way out. It’s exhausting, being stuck in your own mind so completely. Naturally, then, there’s not a lot left over for other people, too.
Why Do We Struggle to Be Generous When in a
It takes away our ability to see color and life and possibility.
It robs us of hope.
It removes our ability to be future-oriented.
It makes us overly sensitive, or it takes away our ability to feel.
It is mean and nasty—incredibly nasty. (Especially when it brings along suicidal suggestions.)
It tells us that we are the problem, or it tells us that others are the problem. There is no balance or middle ground.
could go on and on here, but you get the idea.
The Mental & Emotional Burden of Bipolar Depression
Imagine all of that is happening in your head due to BRAIN CHEMICALS. Your “selfish” actions and words are not coming from how you were raised. They are coming from a mental health condition, a brain-based illness. And it’s episodic, so all of these “selfish” actions, ruminations, and outbursts might be in direct contrast to how you behave and how you see the world when you’re not depressed.
you are being hard on yourself during or in the aftermath of a depressive episode—or
if you are a loved one to someone who lives with bipolar disorder and struggles
with depression—please, think about this.
Think about this burden.
up with this brain. Going to bed with this brain.
Now, try to be generous.
Try to be thankful and open and kind.
Try to see the happiness of others as a positive.
Try to see the world as a safe place.
Try to work. Try to make love. Try to go to school.
Try to have a rational response to a difficult situation.
always gets in the way.
What Can We Do When Bipolar Depression Takes Over?
Because depression interferes with everything a person living with bipolar tries to achieve—or simply get through—I teach the idea Treat Bipolar First.
Treating Bipolar First means that if you have clinical depression, nothing else matters besides treating and managing the depression and getting a handle on its symptoms.
Because bipolar depression is selfish and narcissistic. And when we’re living with
it, our symptoms come across as personal behaviors, beliefs, and expressions.
Sometimes we can even convince ourselves that the voice of depression is right.
But it’s not. Treating and managing it properly will put an end to the
narcissistic, mean, selfish, and nasty behaviors so many of us experience when
a downswing takes over our lives.
But Don’t Forget about Mania!
Of course, those of us with bipolar also have to treat and prevent mania at the same time as we treat and manage our depression. It’s a double bubble of trouble!
is why we have to Treat Bipolar First. Everything else can follow. But until the
symptoms of bipolar depression (and/or mania and hypomania) are under control,
we will continue to be blown about by our mood episodes, and those around us
might not be able to tell the difference between our episodic illness and our genuine
ONLY path is to deal with the illness that is depression. Then you can be
generous. Then you can be happy for others. Then you can be calm.
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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