This post is going to cover what my bipolar depression meant for me since I have had my diagnosis and can reflect back over this period. This ‘list’ is by no means exhaustive and in another post I will outline what bipolar depression has meant for me since my diagnosis.
In my previous blog I outlined what my understanding of bipolar disorder was. For me the depressive times were incredibly frustrating as I didn’t know why this was going on but could only acknowledge how I felt. It’s difficult to function in life when you feel lethargic; your concentration is low; your memory is shot to bits; your attention span is only five seconds long; you have sleep issues with waking up early and waking up during the night took an hour to get back to sleep; when you hate being alive and who you were (weight and looks); devoid of emotion; wished you were dead; when you had pockets of blackness that threatened to swallow you hole with no way out; and when making a decision was a week long process of inner turmoil and self-doubt – suffice to say this all was crippling.
Although, do not get me wrong, I fought these feelings for as long as I possibly could, looking to preserve rather than give in and go see the doctor. As far as I was aware, this did all signify depression and I had no doubt that had I of gone to the doctors they would have prescribed antidepressants. However, as I said in my previous blog, because I wasn’t down all the time with periods of normality and even highs, I couldn’t be depressed surely? This was the conclusion I reached and thus did not seek help for these depressive times. As I mentioned previously in my blog, I had mentioned my erratic moods to my doctor but this didn’t ring any alarm bells! So I was reluctant to go there again to just say I was depressed.
I think the problem I had during this period was that some of what I was experiencing was manageable – like decision making and trying to sleep properly. Yet it’s hard to pinpoint which was worse or fed into the others as all seemed circular. The self-loathing was one of the most prominent things for me. When you hate who you are it’s difficult to get through each day and circumvents any recovery in other areas of depression. I also had to couple this with detesting life so much and all I wanted to be was dead and over with. If it wasn’t for my spiritual beliefs that life doesn’t end upon death and I would have to pay for that choice, I would have committed suicide a lot time ago. It was very hard at times to hold on to that tenet but it become a core element of my understanding so helped me get through some darker times.
Of course there was a point that everything just became too much for and I did seek help. I had no choice. I spoke to a doctor about what was going on (again with the ups and down) and even tried to investigate cardiological and neurological causes for what was going on with me. The depression needed to be dealt with but a poor memory, lethargy, lack of concentration and poor attention span, could have been the result of heart issues (there’s a lot in my family) or something neurological (the neurologist I saw believed initially that I was suffering from brain shrinkage) could have been the cause. Yet, when these avenues proved to be fruitless, I had no other choice but to listen to the doctor that it was depression. So, I started on a course of antidepressants (Sertraline/Zoloft).
However, I started this course and within two weeks I needed to be signed off temporarily because the side-effects were a little unbearable. It was then during this signed off period that my depression escalated and begun to acknowledge the deep black holes of despair were my entire outlook on life was black and my mind was drenched in dark thoughts. It wasn’t long before my suicidal idealizations resumed and grew more intense. I planned my death many different ways and lived them in my mind. The one thing that I realized later was that while I was planning this I didn’t ‘want’ to do it; I just felt compelled to plan, plan, plan. It was only later in my journey (post-diagnosis and going through drug changes), that I did feel compelled to do it and that scared the hell out of me, brought me to tears and made me sit around others for fear I’d do it. My ideology of life after death was at stake and I was seriously convinced I was going to do it because I felt I had to.
Dark a? Well, I did wonder later if Sertraline was partially to blame as my moods circled a lot, I was darkly depressed and then just depressed and then darkly depressed and depressed – I’ve read that anti-depressants are unwise for Bipolar’s as they can trigger episodes, but usually manic, but when I experienced was circling depressions as stated. It wasn’t until I started Topiramate (Topamax) that my bottoms began to lift and suicidal thoughts eased. I know Topiramate isn’t licensed for mood stabilization, but my understanding is that all anticonvulsants (antiepilepsy) have some degree of stabilization. Either way it was was fortunate and enough to get me through to seeing a psychiatrist and getting on the path to recovery.