I have tried to write this blog countless times over the course of the past few weeks, but the words would not come.
Come to think of it, I’ve tried to do a lot of things over the past few weeks, until eventually I just gave up, sinking into my own private despair. Putting forth the effort to clean the house, to do my coursework for graduate school on time, to shower regularly, to write – it was too much.
It wasn’t until I paused for a moment, looking at the mound of laundry on the chair in the living room and then at my calendar with a list of items not marked off, that I knew something wasn’t right. But then I looked within and I realized. I saw only emptiness. This was real. I’m depressed.
It has been some time since I’ve had a full blown depressive episode. I almost felt distant from it, like it wasn’t really happening to me, but that was because I was gradually shrinking away from the world. The messiness of my home can be fixed, and tasks can be completed. I can find a way to drag myself to the shower – but what of the emptiness? Who or what is going to fix that?
This is not to say I do not believe treatment works. It does. It has kept me afloat, with only a few disruptions. But that hollow inside amplifies all the mental and physical anguish that depression brings. It echoes in the silence.
When you are in a depressive episode, sometimes the first step is recognizing that is your reality at the moment. But you can’t stop there. You can’t wallow in it. So, what comes next? What steps can you take to ease the degree to which you experience depression?
What do you do when you’re stuck in a depressive episode?
1. Reach out
Your instincts say to withdraw, to avoid social events and stay home for days without stepping outside for even a moment. This is a time during which you should not trust those instincts. Isolation only makes depression worse. Now, that is not to say that you should become a social butterfly. In fact, it might be a good idea to take it easy so you do not become overwhelmed. But reaching out to others instead of withdrawing inward is an important step in coming out of a depressive episode.
2. Keep moving
Sometimes, when we are depressed, our world starts to slow down. We stop doing things we normally enjoy or let responsibilities slide. While it may be a good idea, or even necessary, to lighten the load a bit during a depressive episode, it is important that we do not stop moving completely. When you stop moving, you settle into the depression, rusting in the endless rain pouring over you.
3. Track your symptoms and try to maintain a schedule
Tracking symptoms helps not only you, but your doctor, as you progress forward. Additionally, it is important to try to maintain a healthy routine, which includes diet, exercise, and a normalized sleep schedule.
4. Seek help
Treatment is an important part of managing bipolar disorder. This may involve therapy or medication, or a combination of these two. I believe that treatment also extends to our lifestyles – our diet, exercise, and sleep cycles.
5. Remember it gets better
Episodes end. This pain will end. Sometimes we have to endure it for a short time, and other times it may seem unending. In all honesty, we don’t know how long an episode will last, and that can be discouraging or scary. But the nature of bipolar disorder is that episodes end, and we can continue moving on with hope and stability.
These are just tips that help me, and in reality, no one thing is going to take away your symptoms. But I believe it gets better. Even now, as I sit here writing this one word at a time, my mind numb, I know this will end. I have hope; and that hope brings freedom from all of the negative thoughts that tell me I’ll be here forever – though I’ll admit, sometimes I still believe them.
You can find relief. It may take time and a lot of hard work, but remember, episodes end. It isn’t forever after all.