As my six-month-long bipolar depressive episode finally started to lift, I felt a shift in perspective inspired by a quote I read in bp Magazine—plus a genuine sense of gratitude for “normal” moods.
Smiling at Last!
I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, so to speak. Well, okay, maybe I became that way after I had a big cup of coffee. I have lived with bipolar depression for the past six months. I came across a very encouraging quote in the fall issue of bp Magazine last year. It was from a profile of sportscaster David Feherty, who shared that he doesn’t say that he “suffers” from bipolar. He says that he lives with it!
What’s the difference? Saying that you suffer from bipolar puts you in the position of being a powerless victim. Proclaiming that you live with bipolar puts you in the driver’s seat, abolishes the victim mentality, and makes it possible to exert some control over how you live your life, whether you’re actively experiencing symptoms or not.
That said, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s easy, because staying alive in order to come out on the other side has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever done thus far.
My 6-Month-Long Depressive Episode
I would wake up every morning with a horrible attitude. I didn’t want to be around anyone, nor did I want to have a conversation. I was preoccupied with finding a way to end it all. The most beautiful sunny day only made me angry! I looked at other people’s lives (from the outside only, of course), and I got so upset because depression told me that even the man without housing who walks my neighborhood while ranting to himself seemed to be in a better position than I was. Bipolar depression had manipulated my thinking.
An Attitude of Gratitude & Bipolar Depression
One thing that makes surviving bipolar depression easier is adopting an “attitude of gratitude.” I could be much worse off … living without a home, terminally ill, incapacitated, and the list goes on and on. Instead, I live with bipolar. No, it’s not easy, but it beats not waking up in the morning.
I received suggestions such as going for a walk to get some exercise, calling friends and family, “spring cleaning,” keeping a journal, taking a class to learn something that I would enjoy doing, etc.
Those are all wonderful suggestions if you have enough energy to get up, shower, get dressed, apply makeup, eat breakfast, and get out of the house! I led a pitiful existence because there was no way that I could do all those positive things. The depression was completely in control. I might have been able to get out of bed and eat breakfast. I may have mustered the energy to take a shower. The bottom line was that I could not coordinate well enough to do all the things mentioned above. I sometimes didn’t shower, because it was just too much of an effort. The way that I saw it, If I didn’t shower, I automatically couldn’t leave the house.
Changing Medications during Bipolar Depression
I was on a mood stabilizer and another medication. I have had extremely poor luck with antidepressants in the past. An antidepressant might help initially. Then, unfortunately, the next thing that I knew, I was as manic as the day was long. It was like flipping a switch. Finally, the depression got so bad that I tearfully asked my medication management provider to prescribe an antidepressant. I’ve been on it for three weeks now, and I am most definitely seeing the difference. I woke up yesterday morning ready to get out of bed and with a smile on my face. I was ready for whatever the day had in store for me. I was grateful to have awakened!
I want to stick around and see what’s in store for me. I’m beginning to live life again. Just think about it. I’m sitting here at my computer, doing something that I love! I’m writing about my experiences with bipolar. God knows that at times it’s been so hard. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Anyone who tells you that living with bipolar is easy is either a liar or has already fallen off the deep end into severe psychosis. But I kept getting up every morning, even though I wished that I could just lie in bed all day. I know now what I always know in my “right mind.” That is that the day I give up fighting against this illness is the day that I die. If not literally, at least figuratively.
The depressive episodes often get shoved to the side in the circus that can sometimes manifest with bipolar disorder. That’s because there’s nothing attractive or exciting about it. Who wants to focus on what it’s like to feel that you would be better off dead? No one, really. The depressions, if viewed after an episode, rather than during it, make the periods of normal mood greatly appreciated by those of us who grapple with severe mood swings.
Appreciating “Normal” Moods & Grateful for “Small Things”
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s going to be hotter than a firecracker around here today. At least I can go for a walk in the sun, instead of staying locked in my apartment, thinking about going through with a halfhearted attempt on my life. That means a lot! If you’ve ever been overcome by that mindset, you know what I’m talking about. It’s about being alive in name only. We all deserve better than that. No matter where you find yourself today on the bipolar mood continuum, try to be thankful that you’re still around. As long as you are, you have another chance each day that you open your eyes in the morning.
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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