Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Does Major Depression Feel Like? A Bipolar Patient's Perspective

This post is going to be an ongoing project that I will add to over time, while in different states of mind and mood. I'll record my thoughts while depressed (inside depression) and while not depressed (outside depression). 

I hope this post will become a valuable resource to help people better understand how depression feels and what a person can do to avoid, minimize or pull out of a depressive episode.

WARNING! If you are currently depressed, or in an unstable mood, come back and read this later, not now. The description of depression could trigger you to feel more depressed. If you are currently depressed:
  • make sure you are taking your meds as directed.
  • if you are taking your medication as directed and are still depressed, contact your psychiatrist so he/she can evaluate and possibly adjust your medications.
  • go for a walk! (Even if you don't feel like it. It really will make you feel better.)
  • contact an upbeat friend who you are happy to be around.
  • if you feel like harming yourself, reach out for help. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-HELP.

Outside Depression
I don't spend a lot of time in a "neutral mood." When I am not depressed, I'm usually in some degree of hypomania. Maybe rushing around and being over scheduled is may way to avoid depression.

What hypomania feels like: I feel slightly (or a lot) agitated, propelled through my day. My thoughts rush. I have ideas for creating or doing things that come so fast and frequent that I sometimes don't even have time to write down my ideas before they fly away. I have pressured speech, meaning I talk really fast. I don't want to sleep, and wouldn't be able to without my Seroquel. The more manic I get, the more pronounced all of these symptoms become. When I am very manic, I can be irritable and short tempered as well. I will soon be creating a post with more details on what mania and hypomania feel like.

Wobbly Mood
Sometimes I experience "wobbly" mixed moods where I can be both depressed and hypomanic at the same time. In this state, my moods change rapidly and seem out of control. When I feel like this, I try to be extremely careful to avoid things that might trigger depression or mania. In this state, I can easily be "bumped" into depression, even by minor frustration or stress.

Inside Depression
I plan to be adding to and developing this section during bouts of depression as they occur. I was wobbly and heading toward depression two days ago, so I can provide a bit of insight to start things off. In my recent wobbly mood I was teary and felt on the verge of crying throughout the day. My thought cycles were negative...I can't, I should, I didn't, I suck...kind of thoughts.

What major depression feels like: When I am in a depressive episode it is extremely physical, not just a mood or mental experience. Moving my body is difficult. I feel like both my body and my mind are moving through molasses when depressed. Doing even the simplest things takes a tremendous amount of effort. Crying bouts are frequent. Thoughts are confused and mostly negative, such as...what's the point of living when I will just die and be forgotten anyway, I suck as a mother, my business will never be successful...kind of thoughts.

Here is a growing list of links to descriptions of depressive episodes I have experienced:

Avoiding and Pulling Out of Depression
Although it is not always possible for me to avoid a depressive episode, I have been bipolar long enough (20+ years) to have learned a few things about controlling my mood.  When I feel depression coming on, it helps to:
  • make sure I am taking my meds, as directed.
  • seek out social situations, rather than isolating myself.
  • get some exercise / go outside.
  • have obligations that prevent me from laying in bed all day sleeping and crying.
  • remember that the depression is temporary. It always eventually goes away.