By: KaLeena Genette
Any form of depression is tricky to handle. My form happens to be Bipolar II Disorder, and I’ve been battling that demon for nearly 11 years. Last year I finally broke–really, seriously broke–to the point of being nearly catatonic for about two months. After ten years of “I’ll go see a shrink eventually,” I ended up with no choice if I wanted to keep my job and my sanity.
I’m one of the people who are lucky. I landed in the office of a psychiatrist who made the right call on medication. I wound up on the couch of a patient therapist who watched me lose my mind for weeks until the medication started kicking in and the anxiety and depression started to recede.
Now I’m here, and “here” is still a difficult place to be. Over the course of ten years, I developed unhealthy habits and unhealthy ways of thinking. Even though I have the medication and I’m at the right dose, I have ten years of bad habits to put to rest. This version of life isn’t the miracle I was looking for.
Food has been the biggest challenge. I developed an addiction to food because it just made me feel good, plus it’s delicious. Who doesn’t want to sit down and eat a bag of Doritos while binge-watching The 100? I find myself eating when I’m not hungry just because there’s food nearby, and that’s been the hardest habit to break.
Other habits I developed: spending money on impulse buys (Amazon is a dangerous place for people like me), avoiding anything that I don’t feel comfortable dealing with (like critiquing my employees), and doing nothing.
Those commercials that show people getting out of the house, seeing friends, ‘getting their lives back’? I’ve done those things maybe once a week. The rest of the time I’m pretty much doing nothing because I feel like doing nothing. I thought I’d get the energy back to jump into CrossFit again, or take adventures somewhere, or just generally be more “me.” Now I’m left wondering if “me” was so great in the first place, and that spirals into the thought patterns I developed over those ten years.
When you look in the mirror 7 times a week and 7 times a week you wish you were someone else, that’s a problem. When you spend 6 years in a dysfunctional, all-consuming on-again/off-again relationship, that’s a problem. When you go through high school as one of seven or eight overweight kids in your class and watch all of them “grow out of it” while you’re stuck in a size 16/18, that’s a problem.
The next stage of this journey has its ups and downs just like the last stage. The challenge now is cleaning up the mess I made of myself. How do I fix those habits, how do I change those thoughts, how do I find that person I want to be? Then there’s the underlying fear of teetering back into that chasm of depression, which I’ve seen the edge of recently. If I miss a dose even by ten hours, I spend the next two days mentally paying for it.
I always thought that medication would be the final solution to all of my issues. I thought that I would suddenly take my stressors head on and beat them. I thought I’d immediately stop binging on food and television because I would be too busy being awesome. Imagine my surprise when that didn’t happen.
There’s the additional surprise of relapses. For me, these come rarely, and I don’t have to change my dosage to balance out again. I can feel when they come on, and sometimes I’m able to lock myself away somehow until the storm passes, a few hours or maybe a day. Other times I don’t feel like putting in the effort and allow myself to get pulled into the waves. For someone with bipolar disorder whose manic phases look like new credit card bills and 48 straight hours of energy, getting sucked in is fun but dangerous. For someone with bipolar disorder whose depressive phases look like sitting in a dark closet with the door locked until the world drifts away, just leaving the house is exhausting; work is nearly impossible.
I never believed relapses could be so powerful, so quick, so there. I honestly believed that they wouldn’t exist, but they do. I get them in two parts: first the high of the mania, and the low of the depression. They come in pairs for me, and it’s so frustratingly predictable. The medication commercials just make everything look so easy, and it’s not.
Please don’t misunderstand me: there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Things can be amazing, and life is absolutely worth living, but there will still be serious challenges. Don’t feel like you’re failing when (not if) the depression hits again. It’s normal, and it’s okay.
I have a mantra I say every time I backslide. I modify it for whatever my current situation is, whether it’s grieving over the end of that 6-year relationship, or finding myself swallowed in thoughts of self-hate:
I am okay.
I am angry.
I am sad.
I am grieving.
I am frustrated.
It is okay to be angry.
It is okay to be sad.
It is okay to be grieving.
It is okay to be frustrated,
And because I am all of these things,
I am okay.
This article was submitted by KaLenna Genette, who runs a wonderful blog over at Behind the Barrier. Be sure to check out some of her work there and leave a message below!
Always remember you are not alone.
You are loved.
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Wonderful story and it’s great to meet you! This was encouraging to my heart.
When you feel those relapses coming on, is there a way you can sit quietly for awhile, get outside yourself, and just observe how you cope? Perhaps that is where the undoing of the habits might begin? By saying, hey! I SEE you. We all need to feel seen. Especially, I suspect, by ourselves.
I tend to get trapped inside my head when those relapses come, which makes meditation feel like imprisonment sometimes. It’s hard to be objective when you can’t see anything but your own head.
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I should imagine it would be hard to do.
Thank you for sharing. I’m struggling with something very similar. Just knowing someone else feels this way, too, makes me feel less alone.
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