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How It Actually Feels to Be in a Depressive 'Episode'

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It is often hard to talk about bipolar disorder when you’re actually in an “episode.” I hate using that word. It sounds like a sitcom show full of canned laughter and overly bright lights. I tend to tell those closest to me “I’m having a bad day/time” so they know to either approach me with caution or be there on standby when I’ll inevitably need them. One thing I do know is writing has always been cathartic for me and a way to explain to others what I’m going through at any given time. When I’m ranting and raving or crying and cowering in a corner then there’s no way for me to express that, but generally, and thankfully more and more these days, I understand myself in a way that means I’m able to express or explain myself, especially through my writing.

At the moment I’m experiencing a depressive period in my life. This is not to say every day is terrifying or awful, but it is to say I’m generally feeling a little flat and have an impending sense of what I always describe as “doom.” Like something bad is going to happen to me or those I care about and I’ll be alone and die and get eaten by my cat before anyone notices… extreme, right? That’s how my brain is working right now. To survive, I continue to slap a smile on my face and play the part of main protagonist in my own life. I do this because I need to be accepted by the wider community and by my colleagues who don’t know anything about my mental health issues… or do they? Are they actually whispering about me behind closed doors, calling me the “crazy lady” on the second floor? No, I highly doubt that because I’m 32 and well practiced in getting by, but sometimes my paranoia gets the better of me and I freak out.

On days like today I’m a rambling whirlwind of emotion with no start or end point. I’m like a kite whose string has been released, fighting against a strong wind that might suck me up entirely at any given second. I’m many things – some of them wonderful, others not so. Today I’m complicated, cutting and “catastrophizing” over everything. I’m an unwelcome house guest at my own party. I’m alone in my head but not in my physicality. I’m scared, then I’m not scared, and then I’m terrified.

The length of my depressive periods vary, just as my hyper manic episodes vary in length. There are things I can do to ease the symptoms – surround myself with good, honest people who genuinely care about me, eat well, get fresh air, stroke the dog and try to eliminate stress.

The best way to look after yourself is not to put pressure on yourself. The episodes, or “storms” as I quite often call them, will pass in their own sweet time and you just need to know how to stay afloat until they do. Stop trying to explain yourself. No one expects you to, and if they do, it may just be because they want to support you. My partner knows the best thing he can do when I’m falling into a depression or am already in the depths of one, is to sit quietly with me, hug me and remind me it will pass. He doesn’t need to know why I’m feeling like that, but he simply accepts I just am and that’s OK and he will be there with me until I get out the other side again, like I’ve done so many times in the years we’ve been together.

The one thing I’m sure of today, if nothing else, is that this vessel I call my body will weather this storm like the battleship it has fought so hard to be, and I will have my victory again and again and again. I will try hard to be kind to myself and to others, and I will always strive to love every part of myself because it’s the only self I have.

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Thinkstock photo by Transfuchsian

Originally published: January 27, 2017
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