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How My Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression Are Like a Storm

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Some people have nicknames for their depression. “Ball and chain,” “the blues,” and “rough days,” are a few I’ve heard. I know a few who have described it as if mental illness could be its own person. I sort of refer to my depression as a storm cloud.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I’m diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD), so when my moods swing, depression is the most intense and the longest part of the cycle.

I call it a storm because, like storms, I know when it’s coming before it happens. When bad weather starts, clouds form overhead, so you know to stay inside and take precaution beforehand, right? Well, my mental illness is the same way.

It’s usually predictable from what I’ve noticed over the past near-decade. If I’m in school, for example, my grades start to suck because I subconsciously refuse to pay attention. I get more and more groggy, relying on caffeine just to stay awake. Right before the full depressive mode shifts into gear, and the rain starts pouring down, I have nightmares. Vivid, graphic nightmares about some of the things I have gone through that I push back in my mind to avoid.

The “storm” lasts a couple of weeks at most (haha, like this nasty Midwest weather, am I right?) It’s basically self-harm, not sleeping much (or at all), a couple of crying episodes, isolating myself, avoiding people, avoiding food and lacking interest in things I normally love. The big boom, right before the clearing of it all, is when I crash. Self-harm gets nasty, I sleep too much, and I melt down, moods cycling faster than I can even register them in my mind. I’ll go from manic to overly emotional to irritable.

The calm after the storm is great, which seems a bit strange to most of the people I’ve told. I’m relaxed, easy to talk to, better in school or at whatever work I’m doing. I communicate better, especially with my counselor. I get so creative; writing, drawing and playing the piano. Those are some of my favorite things to do. I try to make the calm last as long as possible, and I’m currently there, almost a month clean of self-harm. I’ve been building my support system, trusting in them and pursuing my relationship with my boyfriend of almost a year, who’s my sunny day during those storms. The little ray of light in the clouds. Finding things and people you love can make a difference. I try to find new ones every chance I get.

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

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

Unsplash photo via J Scott Rakozy

Originally published: June 7, 2017
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