Emerging from the dark depths of bipolar depression is daunting, and it’s hard to see a way out. Let hope shine a light in the darkness.
, One morning about ten years ago, I woke up feeling absolutely terrible. Little did I know that would be day one of a year-long bipolar depressive episode. My head hurt and I ached all over. I did not want to get out of bed, but I did. As I dragged myself to the bathroom, my body felt as if it weighed a thousand pounds. Although I usually enjoy taking a shower, this day the water felt like an assault on my poor body.
“What am I going to do today?” I asked myself. Getting dressed seemed to require too much effort. Instead of getting ready and putting on makeup, as I usually did, I put on my ratty blue fleece bathrobe and parked myself in front of the television.
Daytime television seemed both boring and inane. So, finally, I decided to have breakfast. I’m a good cook, but the bacon tasted like lead and the eggs reminded me of sawdust. I wanted to go for a walk, but I simply couldn’t force myself to get changed. I looked out the window and saw the sun shining brightly in the brilliant blue sky, but I could not appreciate it. For hours, I sat there, staring out, wishing I had a job or was going to school. I felt that everyone in the world was leading a real and purposeful life—except me.
It doesn’t matter who you are in your regular, non-depressed state of being. Feelings of failure, hopelessness, and pessimism abound. I lacked the energy to do anything other than entertain negative thoughts. “You’re a failure. You’ll never amount to anything,” I told myself.
None of my prior accomplishments seemed to matter. Getting accepted to four great universities didn’t matter. Earning straight As in college didn’t matter. Holding any of my previous jobs didn’t matter. Instead, all I could think about was the things I didn’t have. I had no husband (although I had already had three). No job or car. Not even a mortgage to pay. I berated myself for everything that I was not.
Talking to anyone, even my family or friends, was something I just didn’t want to do. I couldn’t think of anything to talk about, and I couldn’t imagine that they wanted to be bothered. I felt like a huge burden to everyone, and I didn’t want to “inflict” myself on them.
Mania gets all the hype, but the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder can be just as much of a nightmare. Bipolar depression numbs the mind, desensitizing it to nearly all stimuli. Sadness and apathy prevail. I did not care that my eyebrows were in dire need of grooming. It did not matter that there was a layer of dust on my coffee table. When I did get dressed and leave the house (for medical appointments), I was barefaced, haphazardly groomed (if at all), and sometimes unwashed. I felt as if bipolar depression was a big, schoolyard bully who had stomped on me until I was in a pile on the sidewalk.
I remained severely depressed for a year. I became increasingly discouraged until I reluctantly returned to my first love, writing. It soothed me and also gave me a creative outlet. Coupled with the right medication and continued cognitive therapy, my mood improved greatly.
I still suffer periodic bouts of depression, but I refuse to give up hope. I know both intellectually and emotionally, that they are temporary and not my fault. My experience with my lengthy bipolar depression episode, that “huge, schoolyard bully,” has taught me some hard-learned lessons. As long as I take hold of my early signs of depression; work at staying in contact with family and friends; stay on top of my treatment plan; have a spiritual connection; and continue to fight, I am winning.
Printed as “Taking on the Bipolar Depression Bully,” Summer 2019
Valerie Harvey grew up in San Francisco. She attended parochial school from kindergarten through high school graduation. Ms. Harvey attended the University of Southern California and Berkeley City College. She has always loved writing, since the first grade. Some of her interests are: reading and writing good books; listening to great music; and attending concerts, poetry readings and book signings; and shopping for clothing and makeup, furniture, bedding, accent pieces, decorations and other home accessories. Valerie is a published author with two books to her credit: "Love Lights The Way, a Book of Poetry About Love" and "The Problem With the Black Man Is…" which speaks to dating, marriage and relationships within the African-American community.
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