Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Little Voice vs. Reality: a Conversation


It stops you from contacting you psychiatrist. Pride does. Because, even though you’ve been some shade of depressed since mid-December, and it’s getting worse, you don’t want to be dramatic with your lower case “d” depression, that is scaring the shit out of you. And you want to handle it, of course. You and your big girl nine and a half months out of the hospital. You can handle little d depression.

Reality check: in the last four years, how many times have you handled little d or big D depression well, on your own? 0/100

It has always required a medication adjustment, an increase in therapy, a trip to TeleCare, or a stay at Good Sam. Because little d depression becomes big D Depression which becomes immobilizing and debilitating and horrifically terrifying.

But. But says the little voice inside, this is a long-term dysthymia. Dysthymia isn’t dangerous; agitated major depressive disorder status depression is dangerous. And you’ve managed these feelings for almost four months. Maybe you’re getting stronger? Building up a resistance to depression?

Horseshit, says reality, you’re playing with fire.

But, probes the little voice, don’t you think this depression only feels as bad as it does because of your anxiety? You exacerbate your own symptoms by worrying.

True. I don’t know what to do, says reality.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Acceptance and Acceptable Fighting

I’m tired of explaining myself. I understand that my history makes me high risk. If I can be thoroughly suicidal for weeks on end, multiple times within a twelve-month period, then I’m high risk. I get it. But it does get old, telling therapists and administrators the worst of my story. And feeling obligated to do so. But, compared to the best, it still shines pretty brightly: fucked up.

And worrying about every mood swing gets old too. Becoming frightened when I dip depressive, or hypomanic, or agitated, or all three in a period of twenty days. I can’t help but wonder, will I ever be stable again? Which begs the question, what is stable?

I guess being stable, to answer my own question, is walking through the mood swings, the highs and the lows, the agitation and the sloth, and letting them coexist in my presence, but not envelope me. But therein lies the problem. “Coexist.”

I’m not that pleasant of a person. I don’t simply coexist. My gut reaction is to, well, react: to raise my fists and fight. Which only makes it worse, doesn’t it? Because, I’m fighting an aspect of me. I am not depressed. But I have depressive moods. It’s a part of me.

The varying versions of Annie. Help. I don’t know how not to fight myself. How not to love a portion of myself and hate, with vehemence, other portions. How do I treat all parts of me equal? With respect, care, and utmost gentleness?

The depression allows me to be sensitive and empathic. The hypomania allows me to appreciate slow days. The agitation reminds me what an illusion control is. The euthymia makes me thankful for safe energy and manageable emotions. No. The euthymia makes me paranoid that stability will end when I get comfortable or the moment I take it for granted.

It's just a mood, Annie. It’ll pass. That’s what the psych tech told me in the hospital. She’s right. And she’s wrong. It’s not “just” a mood. It’s a mood in all its glory and hideous strength. But it’s not me, is what I think she was trying to say. It’s not permanent. (Nothing is permanent in the world of bipolar.) The mood puts a pretty convincing faƧade on reality, but it’s not reality.

Reality is I will feel depressed, hypomanic, agitated, and euthymic all over again. Reality is I will make it through with some amount of dexterity, and with some amount of pain. Reality is it’s so much more complicated than coexistence or fighting—it’s both. Fighting what I cannot accept and accepting what I cannot fight. Reality is, I can’t do this alone. So I will be explaining myself to therapists and administrators because I need them to understand and I need them to be on my side when what I can’t fight isn’t acceptable.

I don’t like it. I don’t want it to be this way. But I can’t continue to fight everything and accept nothing. And I can’t do this alone.

Friday, April 20, 2018


Loneliness is a breeding ground for depression. Loneliness begets depression. Depression begets loneliness. Because who wants to be around someone who is depressed? And how does one feel when no one wants to be around them? Low. Worthless. A vacuum.

Our culture makes loneliness worse. Be busy, we’re told. Not, connect. But when you’re depressed you’re neither busy nor connected. You can’t focus on your reading. You drag through work days.

But there’s nothing to be done but “fake it ‘til you make it.” Because your friends are married, or engaged, or married to their jobs. And you, you are just melancholic by nature, so snap out of it and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Or. You could do what the Good Sam psychiatrist suggested and get a boyfriend. Since they pop out of the ground around oaks and redwood trees; no problem. Because, a boyfriend, a good one, would provide connection multiple days of the week. It would be a mutual “I’m pouring into you, and you’re pouring into me.”

Or. You could put all your energy into therapy. Figuring how to be okay by yourself. Except your therapist is out of town, so you’re left to call substitute therapists (good, but not the same), and wait by your phone all day for the hopefully “yes, I can see you the next two weeks.”

It’s difficult. Being lonely. Because I want desperately not to need people. But I spent six years emotionally and socially shut down, and that didn’t work either. So I have to find a balance. I have to find friends who have a moment. I have to be patient in the meantime. And, most magically, I have to not let the depression and loneliness hijack my path towards health. I have to coexist with the madness and silence and deep emptiness and try to know that it will work out.