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When Depression Returns

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I forgot what it was like. It seems funny I would forget since it’s such a terrible state to be stuck in.

For more than two years, I’ve been battling diagnosis after diagnosis. Chronic illness is here, and it’s here to stay. There’s no escaping it.

Everyone asks when I will get better. The answer is never. That’s what chronic means. Chronic illnesses are lifelong diseases, which almost always end up compounding on each other so that you end with more issues than you started with.

I’ve always said that my mental illness journey eight years ago prepared me for a life of chronic illness. Going back further than that, there were a few open heart surgeries. This is the life I believe I was meant to lead, from the very beginning. Normally, I handle it pretty well.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the mental illness coming back, the overwhelming and crushing waves of depression. You would think I would remember how terrible it feels to be depressed since I spent about a year in a serious and deep depressive episode. Yet, I don’t. I don’t remember these feelings.

Somewhere, in my memories, perhaps locked away to protect me, is the feeling of depression from years ago. All I know right now, regardless of how my depression manifested itself in the several major episodes I’ve had since early high school, is that the depression is here. It is here, and it is immobilizing.

I can’t think about going out of the house. I cry at everything. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I isolate myself more and more each day, not returning phone calls and texts. I’ve canceled and rescheduled more appointments than I care to admit in the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to listen to my favorite music or write most of the time.

I just can’t do it. I can’t find that motivation to do anything. I just want to hide.

I want to be in my room, with the curtains drawn, the lights off and my headphones on full blast. I want to lie in bed and sleep all day and all night, but when you’re struggling with insomnia that’s a little bit difficult. I have no appetite. I don’t want to be alone, but I can’t stand being around people. Every time I think of leaving my little cave, the task of getting ready and going out into the world is so daunting and overwhelming I just choose instead to stay in my safe spot.

I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for almost 10 years now. I was lucky to go six years without a major mood episode. I am lucky that my mental illness has not reared its ugly (and uninvited) head during the last two years as I’ve battled my physical ailments.

However, now, it’s here, and it’s suffocating me.

I’ve been through this before, many times. Yet, each time is just as hard as the last. The only solace I have is in knowing that “this too shall pass.” I’ve made it through all of my episodes before. I always come out of them, although I never know how long I will be in there for.

For now, I’ve made appointments with my psychiatrist and my therapist. I’m setting up my safety nets and support systems. I at least did that right. For now, I just have to sit with it. Every therapist I have ever had has always told me that sometimes you just have to “sit with your feelings.” The only way to sort them out is to feel them.

That’s great therapeutic advice, and I understand what they mean when they say that, but have you ever tried to just “sit” with a major depressive episode or raging anxiety? I don’t want to “sit” with it. It feels terrible already, and you want me to “sit” here and feel it more? I want it to go away. I want it to go back to the recesses of my brain, a place it has stayed for several years and not ever come out again. I don’t want to be depressed. I don’t have time to be depressed.

Depression doesn’t seem to care. It’s here, even though I did everything I could to stave it off. It’s terrible. It is absolutely and completely terrible. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone, yet it’s the leading causes of disability and an estimated 350 million people around the globe live with depression. Clearly, there are a lot of people out there right now, struggling just as I am.

When I say depression, I’m not talking about the fact that I’m sad my phone is broken and eight days outside of its warranty period. Sadness is not the only symptom of depression. Other symptoms include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling unworthy
  • Feeling guilty
  • Losing interest in things you previously had interest in
  • Socially isolating yourself
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss/weight gain
  • Low libido
  • Suicidal ideation

So no, I’m not just sad. Sadness is not the same as clinical depression. I can check off almost every one of those boxes, and if you looked at the DSM-V criteria for a major depressive episode I, then the consummate overachiever, got close to 100 percent.

It comes in waves. Sometimes, I’m fine, laughing with my partner, but at a drop of a hat, I can be in tears, have a panic attack or start sliding down that slippery slope that depression is best friends with. The slippery slope is a cascade of thoughts, and they each lead you further down the road of despair.

Depression is a liar. Depression poisons my brain. It takes over my normally rational thoughts and replaces them with toxic, negative thoughts. Although I know rationally these thoughts aren’t accurate, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have the ability to reason with my brain. Mental illness, no matter what kind, does not respond to rationality or logic.

Depression has no rhyme or reason. It can affect anyone, anywhere. If you are struggling, then there are resources available. Sometimes, it’s too overwhelming to even look for them, especially if you don’t know where to begin to look.

I have a protocol for just these types of episodes. I know what to do when I’m manic. I know what to do when I’m depressed. Yet, I just can’t. I can’t do anything. I guess my therapists were right after all. I just have to sit with it until is passes.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 8, 2016
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