The other day, a friend asked me what they could do to help whenever I am depressed. And it’s a funny question because, WHEN I am actually depressed, I don’t think I am worthy of helping. It’s also a timely question because I’m nose diving into a low after weeks of blissful stability.
My lows are not only sleeping for days, though that is definitely involved. They mostly consist of such a dearth of love for myself that if I saw it in my own family I would be terrified. The things I say to myself go behind playground bullying and hinge more on horror movie. They paralyze me.
So, to answer the question, when I am depressed, when I am in a low; I need to know that I am loved. I need to know that I am worth fighting for. I desperately need to know that people care about me. I also admit that this is a tall order and not for everyone. But if you’re able, even if I push you away while I’m down here, reach down to me until I start to reach up.
Usually, I don’t read the articles on Yahoo because, quite frankly, I’m a snob and I find them to be poorly written or alarmist. But this one was excellent, probably because it is less of an article and really just quotes from my brothers and sisters on the mental health battlefield.
27 Ways to Be an Ally for Someone Who Has a Mental Illness
This one in particular was striking. It amazes me how many people do this.
No, the weather is no bipolar. I AM. The weather is weather. It is controlled by gulf streams, and pressure, and magic and pixie dust. I am controlled by the chemicals in my brain that will not allow me to enjoy my daughter’s birthday party and the demons in my head who are constantly -just- on the verge of breaking free. So the weather, or your non bipolar friend who decided to NOT go to the movies with you today because she’s having a bad day, or your cat who was in your lap and then flipped out and bit you? Again. Not bipolar. But me, in bed for the fourth day in a row, wondering how it is that people can even stand the SIGHT of me, even though six weeks ago, I was the life of the party and handing out my phone number like candy? Yeah. Bipolar. My diagnosis is not slang. Don’t use it as such.
What’s interesting about mood disorders, or at least, what’s interesting in my experience, is having the ability to tell when my next high or low is coming. I’ve been feeling this manic episode building for the past couple of days and I know it’s right around the bend. Even as I type this, I’m frequently having to correct mistakes I’ve made because my hands are shaking too much to type with my normal accuracy. I have my next sentence planned before I’ve finished typing this one. Which, reader, has made for some interesting fixes in the proofreading stage. I’m sure I’ll find more edits after I hit publish. I always do.
Anyway. i have no profound update today. No great story to tell. Just my racing heart and thoughts and the knowledge that in the coming days and then for a week or so, it will only get worse. However, until I crash again, I’ll be damned if my kitchen won’t be spotless and maybe I’ll paint another bedroom.
This is an article that was published on huffingtonpost.com a couple of months ago that I found to be really interesting. Of course, I related to the first bullet point: that people with concealed depression try to look okay. Of course we do. We try so hard to pretend that we are fine. Before I started this blog, and really, before I started being honest with myself, I was so scared that someone would see how deep my pain ran and I would become even more isolated than I already was. But the point that really stuck out to me was number 3: “They may have trouble with abandonment.”
Sometimes I find myself bugging my friends too much. Texting them at odd hours, or way too frequently than what is deemed polite or normal. And when I don’t hear back, I create scenarios in my head in which I have failed them and they have finally become tired of my endless neediness. I worry they have abandoned me. In my heart, I know they are busy. They have lives, kids, jobs; and endless slew of appointments and obligations that keep them from mindlessly reassuring me that they love me all day. However, this is in my heart, not in my head. My head tells me that they have finally seen the light and have realized that I am nothing if not clingy and weird. That I cannot go a day without a pat on the head or a nod in my direction.
It can be so difficult to be friends with someone with any kind of invisible illness, and I am so grateful to those who really have stuck by me throughout the years. And I have also come to forgive those who have had to walk away. I understand now that some people have had to disconnect for their own sanity and have had to put themselves first. As I have grown I get that now; I would do the same.
I know it’s been forever, and I’m not even going to attempt to give any explanation other than: Life.
In an attempt to get myself out of my house and into the world, I accepted a job at a florist. I was only supposed to be a driver, but the boss almost immediately promoted me to… I don’t know… florist office do-everything person. I’ll admit she can be a difficult person to work with, but I love her and I love my job. It’s been a little over three months and I’m incredibly happy there. However! There has been a bump in the road because I had to have unexpected back surgery. Anyone who knows me knows I have back issues. Pain, arthritis, sciatica, blah blah blah, whatever. It’s not abnormal to see me walking around with a limp and a grimace. I finally went and received an MRI and saw my exceedingly attractive neurosurgeon. As soon as he walked in the room, I knew. He wanted me to have surgery immediately, but I needed time to prepare and I was able to convince him to give me three weeks. So, here I am now, strapped into a plastic breast plate, unable to move most of upper body, with four screws and two rods in my back. It’s been three weeks since the surgery, which consisted of a one-level spinal fusion, which is when the surgeon fuses two vertebrae together. Fun!
I’m trying to stay positive, but it’s difficult because I feel as though I had made so much progress. Staying at home all day is definitely counter productive to my mental state. It’s not that I’m bored exactly, (I am, don’t get me wrong) or even lonely, (I am that too), but I feel the old urge to sleep. That quiet call from my bed and my brain to return to sleep so I don’t have to think about the pain I’m in or what I might be missing. The days pass by faster in a haze of waking and returning to bed, with a couple of hours in between to groggily watch Doctor Who on Netflix. The brace I’m wearing is, quite literally a prison. There is so little I can do to help my family, I feel so much like a waste of space to them. I know it’s only temporary, but when you have a mental illness and you’re suddenly paired with a physical problem; everything feels inescapable. Normally, the depression and fear that I live with is a horrible swamp that I am under. I can see a light above me, and all I have to do is fight the current and the detritus until I break the surface. But now, I have a stone tied to my ankle. It’s not so heavy that I can’t get my head above the water, but it’s exhausting. I’ll make it, it’s just taking time.
If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you are well aware that my daughter has ADHD and a sensory issue. Something I DON’T talk about very often though, are her physical issues. She has a very weird and difficult to diagnose gastrointestinal disorder. I’m not going to go into details for the sake of her privacy and my sanity, however, I will tell you what it’s like to be bipolar and have a kid who’s plumbing isn’t hooked up quite right.
The emotion I feel the most often is guilt. I feel a crushing sense of guilt and defeat because I feel as though somehow, I am the one who did this to her. As though there was something I did, some great rage or lull I had when she was in utero that made her tiny parts come together incorrectly. Was it that time I had sushi? Or that time I fell into a depression and slept for three days? Maybe I laid on my left side too much and she got squished? What exactly did I do to hurt her?
Even parents who aren’t Bipolar suffer from these feelings of guilt. I think from the very first second you see that positive test, your guilt levels rise. For the rest of your life, your actions really have consequences that could ruin a life OTHER than your own. Scary.
Besides the guilt there is often a serious anger. Why my kid? With all the other things that happen in our lives, why MY KID? This feeling is always followed by that familiar weight of guilt the second we walk through the children’s hospital doors and I realize I have no idea what it is to truly suffer. At the end of the visit, I will walk my daughter right out of those doors again, get back in the car, and she will sleep, unencumbered by tubes and wires and beeping machinery, in her very own bed. The selfishness of my feelings is often overwhelming. How dare I be upset that there is this hiccup in her health? But don’t I have a right to be angry? There is no “winning” in this situation, just getting by.
Today, she is missing school because of her problem. This is the fourth time this year so far. And today, we are getting by. One hour at a time, but we’re getting by.
This is a picture of my bed. It’s really not that pretty, but it’s more or less made. I try to make the bed every single day; regardless of time or circumstance. When I am going through a depressive episode all I want to do is crawl back into bed. I get my daughter dressed, fed and out the door, and then I collapse back into my blankets and pillows; thankful that I can block everything out for a few hours until she gets off the bus. Often, this “second sleep” is dreamless and not refreshing. I wake up even more upset with myself for having wasted a whole day feeling “sorry for myself.” My daughter, who is far more intuitive than I give her credit for, sees my messy hair and that I am still in my pajamas. I tell her I’m just tired and that I’ll feel better tomorrow. She doesn’t believe me, she knows that it will be days or weeks before I am able to be present in her life again.
But I’ve come up with a trick. And that is the made bed. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I stand and shake out the sheets. I place the pillows back where they belong and smooth down the blankets. I leave the room feeling more or less confident that I won’t get back into bed. When I go back upstairs after the morning chaos, I see my made bed and it reminds me that sleeping is over. It’s time to get dressed, go downstairs and live. My made bed tells me that I can face my life instead of wrapping myself in a cocoon for five hours. It reminds me that I have a life outside of my depression; and that I can fight the havoc in my brain. The siren is covered and my will returns. Most days, my made bed propels me out the door and back into my life; but sometimes the weight in my head is too much, and I slip back in; knowing that I will only be disappointed with myself later. But these instances are becoming less and less frequent, and I know I am getting stronger.
As a side note: cats are jerks.
This is an excellent explanation.
Back to school can be such an infuriating time for someone who struggles with mental health issues. For me in particular, it fills me with such a mix of strong emotions; I often end up conveying the “wrong” ones. When I was a kid, the return to school was panic inducing. The night before would usually find me in a fear stricken ball in bed. Suffice it to say, I was not a popular kid. Overweight, too eccentric and smart is not a good combination when you’re trying to fit in. However, there is also the start of something new. A fresh beginning that is so utterly irresistible that I can’t help but get swept up in it. Of course, my daughter has no idea what’s going on and is simultaneously dreading waking up early again, and thrilled to see her school friends.
Even as an adult, I dread back to school because it means once again feeling inadequate at my lack of “room mom ability” and the awkwardness of the bus stop pick up. When you’re bi-polar, it’s difficult to commit to things such as volunteering in the classroom. Usually, I laugh off my unwillingness as just being lazy or afraid of kids. The truth of the matter is I am terrified of disappointing people when the depression hits. The day that I’m supposed to be at the school sharpening pencils and cutting out cardboard circles will instead be the day that my blanket is a lead weight on my chest and I can’t handle putting on shoes, let alone handling scissors. My daughter wants me to help out so desperately and I have no idea how to explain to her that sometimes Mommy’s illness gets the best of her.