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When Depression Makes Your World Slow Down

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When depression starts to seep in, everything seems to gradually slow until it pauses completely. Or rather, you pause. The world still goes on around you. People wonder why you’re standing still. I recall one particular episode where it got to the point where I was sitting on the couch, staring at the wall, tears slowly sliding down my face for no reason in particular. I was practically catatonic. I’d given up on everything. My mind was running incessantly, but I was paralyzed. I could not sleep. I didn’t want to shower, I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to do anything. I thought of every single thing I’d ever done wrong, every mistake, every failure ran through my head. I could dredge up things I hadn’t thought about in ages, the smallest of situations amplified. We’ve all heard “depression hurts” thanks to Cymbalta, but this statement is true. It was describing this episode to the psychologist that almost got me misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder instead of bipolar 1.

When I start to slow down, that is a good indicator that depression is coming. And I don’t mean slowing down from mania, I mean stalling out from normal daily activities. At first I may sleep more than usual, but then I stop sleeping altogether, as in mania. Some sleep a lot more in depression but I’m the opposite. I am stuck inside my head 24/7, haunted by my thoughts. It gets harder to do day to day tasks. The dishes pile up. My work load gets heavier because I start to neglect it. When everything in your life is piling up, it is added weight to the already crushing pain of depression. My self-esteem gets worse because I feel like a failure, like I can’t do anything right. My anxiety and rumination skyrockets. Depression is a miserable existence. And it is just that – an existence. You stop living your life.

I used to think I’d still write during depression, that perhaps what I wrote would be heavier and less creative and, well, depressing, but I’d still write. Truth is, I can’t write anything once deep depression sinks in. I am filled with words, with memories, with everything, but when I try to write nothing happens. This is incredibly frustrating and disheartening, a writer that cannot write. It adds to feelings of failure. The one thing I do, and think I do well, I cannot do.

I dread depression, but like mania, it always comes. That is the nature of bipolar disorder. The goal is to slow down the episodes, to stop the extreme nature of them, but if anything my episodes seem to be speeding up, with less time in between each one. This could be a result of medication, of not finding the right ones yet, or my condition might be worsening. It’s still early on in my new medication regime so I’m hoping we’re getting close to the right ones, but I live with the fear we may not find it. I’ve been through so many different meds already, it feels like there’s not much left.

Depression is like rusting. It becomes harder to move, less fluid. But I know I have to keep moving, keep fighting, keep pushing through so that I don’t stop completely. I don’t want to veg out on the couch again, collecting dust. So as much as it hurts I’ll keep moving. Easier said than done, I know, and it’ll be a lot harder when it comes, but perhaps the weight won’t be as heavy next time, and if it is, I’ll deal with that as it comes instead of anticipating it like I usually do. I need to live now, not in the past, not fearing the future.

I’m still relatively new in my diagnosis in that I’ve only had a few episodes of depression since then, and so far none of them have been as bad as pre-diagnosis, so I’ll take that as good news, that even though it may not feel like it, treatment is helping. I haven’t been able to maintain my routine in depressive episodes yet, so that is my goal for the future: to maintain as much normalcy as possible, without overwhelming myself and giving myself some grace to stumble a little. If I fall it doesn’t mean I can’t pick myself up again.

Follow this journey on Decoding Bipolar.

The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

How would you explain your mental illness to someone who doesn’t understand? Tell us in the comments below.

Originally published: May 11, 2016
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