Hi, I’m Chelsea and I’m new here.
Like many of you, I have a mental health diagnosis that I have dealt with for many years. I have bipolar disorder. My main demon has been severe depression.
Being able to really embrace the constant truth of my diagnosis has been somewhat of a struggle for me. It’s easy for me to admit I have bipolar depression when I’m in the struggle–when I’m enveloped in the darkness and struggling with the almost constant pain. A long, slow struggle takes place and it seems that the depression will never end. In this space, I know what I am dealing with and I know what I need to do to cope and get back on the road to healing. This is only possible by accepting and embracing the current reality of what I am dealing with: bipolar depression.
As the struggle abates, little by precious little and I begin to see the light, I can still see my need to be careful and to keep on doing all of the self care, and the coping and the lifestyle choices that allow me to make progress and get well. But, after a long long while, when things start to get better, and I feel more like the me that I know and understand– I find myself thinking that I’m home free and the depression is behind me; I find myself thinking that I don’t need to be so careful with how I approach life. I discard some of the practices I employed when coping with my depression and run through life with almost carefree abandon. “Finally!!” I inwardly shout to myself, “Finally I can live the way I want to live. I can do the things I want to do.” You can easily imagine the consequences of doing this. Little by little, I start to slip back into depression and, if I’m not careful, I can find myself right back where I started.
This describes my most recent struggle. After a period of severe depression that lasted a a few years, I finally came out of the pain and then the fog and found myself again. I was so excited! I could accomplish many tasks each day and do them without emotional pain. I could stay up later at night without consequence, it seemed. I felt like I had so much freedom! But, something happened. One day that I found myself in a bit of a funk, and then it seemed to slip downward even more, over the weeks, until my level of depression was deeper than it had been in a very long time. I went in to the doctor and some medication adjustments have been made. I have been more careful to take care of myself each day. It has helped a lot and has brought me back to my ever- present reality which is that I have bipolar depression.
This could have caused me to become discouraged, afraid or to feel down-trodden. However, I have learned something over the years that has helped me immensely. I’ve learned that I may not have control over my mental illness, but I can control my reaction to this affliction. When my depression symptoms came up again as I mentioned above, I surprised myself. I found that I could choose not to be afraid. I could choose not to freak out and feel self pity, as I had in the past. I chose to remember that I’d gotten through it before and I would get through it again. My inner dialogue went something like this: “Oh man, I’ve got depression again. I’m starting to freak out—but why?? I’m not going to let depression have that kind of control over me. I’m not loving this, but I know I’m headed into my doctor next week, so I’ll talk to him about it then. In the meantime, I’ll take it easy and do some extra self care.” I stopped that internal freakout before it got started and found that although my symptoms were unpleasant, they didn’t have to have any control over me.
So, yes, I still have depression. Even now, I find myself struggling with my emotional state every day, even if it’s just a little. It gets old, and I often wish I didn’t have to deal with it, but I’ve decided I don’t want to add to my troubles by being afraid, or by feeling sorry for myself that I have to deal with depression, or by having an internal freakout about what I am feeling. Depression in and of itself is quite enough of a burden–I do not want to add to it.
Don’t misunderstand me–this doesn’t mean that I can make myself feel “normal” or that I’m somehow stopping my depression by thinking happy thoughts. Neither am I pushing down my feelings in an unhealthy way. What I am saying is that I’ve learned to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve learned to sit in the space of having depression without fear, without allowing it to make me upset and without feeling sorry for myself. This is a good thing, because depression and I are going to be joined at the hip from time to time. That is just the reality of my life. And, I am finding, that even with that dark companion, I am going to be ok.