It’s not laziness it’s depression!

As much as I would like to beat depression into a pulp sometimes it beats me.  That’s when I know it’s bad, when I can’t seem to pull myself up at all.  There is no such thing as “talk your way out of it” because it is overbearing and powerful.  I still try to use all those coping mechanisms, like positive self-talk.  It keeps the depression demon from getting worse and that’s saying something really important—do what you can from allowing it to get worse.  Control the things you can control—this is what I tell myself.

Depression is a cruel stealing disease.  It takes away from every aspect of life including social and financial realms not so silently dismantling a person’s life.  I know first hand how the days feel when everything I do requires extra effort especially simple tasks.  Things are heavy and the view is about as clear as a thick fog blocking the horizon.

On the worst days I sleep well into the afternoon.  I open my eyes and wait for a sign—some kind of feeling that tells me if I will have good energy for the day.  I contemplate whether I can keep struggling through all the emotional pain caused by this nasty chemical imbalance that has no cure.  Then I tell myself to be kind and focus on all the positive things.  I try to put this depression into perspective telling myself, “it’s not my fault I have this illness.”

I struggle with the whole idea of being lazy because when depression takes hold I have no energy for household chores.  On my good days I savor the moments when the unbearable fog has lifted.  I try to get things done and feel very productive when I have completed tasks.  And at the end of the day I reinforce the fact that I’m not lazy at all and that some days are going to be better than others.  The key is holding on in between the good days and the bad ones.

I read an article yesterday that said winter time was the worst season for bipolar depression.  Clearly the lack of sunshine has something to do with it, if anything no sun makes the condition worse.  There are plenty of suggestions to help relieve symptoms but the biggest thing that’s helped me has been what I tell myself when I don’t feel well.  I learned I must use extra discipline and not allow negative self-talk to dominate my brain.  In fact the more negative I am the worse my symptoms get.  It seems like I have no fight if I keep focusing on how bad I feel and believe me sometimes I do want to give up.

But today, for whatever reason, I feel better.  I just shake my head in complete disbelief.  I didn’t take any new medication.  I simply got up and got ready for my part-time job.  I came home feeling better.  I wish I new the secret to staying well all the time, but that’s a fantasy when you live with bipolar disorder.  You just never know when the mental illness Gods wave their magic wand and “BAM!” you feel good.  The only thing I know to say is “savor the moment!”  It is worth the struggle.

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The Letters After My Name

Laura’s post is so powerful and through her words I found a kindred spirit, one who could understand exactly how I feel.

Bipolar For Life

Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA, FAAP.  What do these letters mean, of themselves, and what do they mean to me?  Why do I use them, here on Bipolar For Life?  What, if anything, do they have to do with bipolar-ness?  And most importantly, why do I insist upon using them when the professional qualifications they symbolize are now meaningless?

MD: Medical Doctor.  A passion since childhood, hard-won.  I put myself through college (oh yes, another set of letters: BA, Bachelor of Arts) by holding down three jobs while taking a full course load.  I know, I know, hypomania.  But it was fun, and I would have graduated with honors except that the required Honors Seminar conflicted with one of my jobs.  Oh well.

The MD turned into a combined degree program in Medicine and Medical Anthropology, six years.  Graduated with a perfect grade point average, 5.0.  Number One in my…

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Mental Illness and Get Well Wishes!

Slide1I was recently talking with a friend of mine who has schizoaffective disorder and he told me a story about when he was in the hospital.  He said, “It was the most lonely time in my life.  I was sick and in the hospital with my mental illness at the same time my father had a heart attack and was in the hospital.”  He went on to say, “My father got all kinds of cards and gifts, I never got a single card much less a visitor.  It was like I didn’t exist.”

It wasn’t the first time I had heard the same theme to a story I too had experienced.  Hospitalized:   sick, scared, alone and not one word from a loved one.  It sure seems like when you have a psychiatric illness people all run for cover.  Another friend told me, “It’s like everyone just said, “she’s off the deep end again” and left me to fend for myself.”  To which I had no response other than to nod my head silently.

I wonder if we changed the name of mental illness and replaced it with brain disorders would we have more compassion and understanding?  Would people start to realize when a person has a psychotic episode his brain malfunctioned not his character?  How much has to change in order to receive a card or a get well message instead of a non-compassionate “she’s just crazy” comment?

I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do have strong opinions on the subject.  First of all, the last time I remember hearing a friend was in the hospital I immediately felt bad for her.  You see when I hear hospital I think sick.  I don’t start blaming someone for not taking her medicine-I try and understand what if anything I can do to help.

Second, no matter what the circumstances were for my friend who needed hospitalization I wanted to visit her to show my love and support.  She mattered enough to me to to find out about visiting hours and go sit and interact with her for a couple of hours.  It was the least I could do.  Maybe if I wasn’t as close to her I could have simply sent a card or email or Facebook message – just something to show her I cared.

Third, if someone wants to keep her mental illness a private matter I can still let her know I care.  Once again I can send a message and let her know I’m thinking about her.

How many times have you heard the same story about feeling all alone?  Isn’t it time for us to stand up and say, “having a friend who cares makes a difference in my recovery?”  Is it not time to question the rationale for why anyone would be left alone during a time when she needs the most support?  Maybe we simply need to let people know it is perfectly acceptable to send a card to someone in a psychiatric hospital or lying at home suffering in bed from depression.  It doesn’t have to be a social taboo.  The more we tell people it’s alright the more chances we have for change to occur.  Agree?