Surviving Bipolar Depression

It’s like I’m Paralyzed. Not physically but mentally. It’s this gripping fear of facing the day when I can barely muster the strength to get up and hit snooze on my alarm clock for the fourth or fifth time in a row. There’s a relentless knocking of responsibility at my door but I am afraid to answer. I end up flipping my pillow because one side is saturated with tears and streaks of smeared mascara. In these times I feel like a little girl again. I cannot take care of myself. Depression does not care what my plans are today. I close off the world and stay planted in bed. I know this isn’t healthy and I know that I need help. 

You can only hit snooze, cancel plans, isolate, neglect responsibilities, and cry in bed for so long. Eventually, you must find a way to get through the day so you can function in society. This is the painful realization that I had to face. Bipolar depression does not discriminate. It knows no age, gender, occupation, income, talent, etc. The depths of bipolar depression can be down right debilitating. I have spent weeks feeling extremely depressed but not being able to pinpoint a cause. It always followed after weeks of sheer happiness. I would later learn that the extreme happiness was mania and depression afterwards was a bipolar “low”. 

It took me several years to be able to truly say that I am managing bipolar disorder. During my worst times of depression I didn’t know that managing this illness and leading a stable life was even possible. It has been a very long journey and before finally learning how to live with bipolar disorder it wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life. It took a lot of mindful work and I am passionate about helping others cope with this illness. My goal is to share some of my depression survival tips and tell you how I learned to live with this disorder. 

When you are going through depression the last thing you feel is motivation…to do anything at all. I thought this was just “how it’s going to be” for the longest time. When you lack motivation it tends to have a snowball effect on other parts of your life. Basic functions become monumental tasks. Simply showering and basic hygiene are daunting tasks because they require your energy, which you don’t have. Poor hygiene can cause you to feel embarrassed as if you are wearing your depression through your appearance and you will continue to isolate yourself. We also tend to neglect our responsibilities such as school, work, keeping a clean environment, eating, and so on. This can prolong depression. 

How to function with low energy from bipolar depression:

1. Get out of bed. It’s the last thing you want to do but it is really important that you do not stay in one place all day. It can actually make you feel worse to stay put.

2. Take some space. If you feel like you need some time to process how you feel and keep to yourself, do not be afraid to do so.

3. Get fresh air. Even if you simply walk to the mailbox, walk your dog, go for a quick drive with the windows down, etc. getting fresh air and sunshine can help alleviate some of the sadness.

4. Eat something. Try to avoid binge eating or starving. Order take out or make your favorite recipe. Going for a drive or the act of cooking will be an easy way to get you moving around when you have little energy.

5. Show up. Simply show up to your responsibilities, even if you cannot give 100% of yourself. Not showing up could make you feel worse or as if you have to explain why you were not there.

6. Have a pet (or two!). Pets can seriously help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Personally, my two cats provide comfort and entertainment. Pets can relieve the feeling of loneliness and make you feel needed when you are depressed.

7. Reach out. Get in touch with someone who understands what you are going through. Even if it’s your therapist, family member, significant other, friends, etc.

8. Avoid making big decisions. It’s best to avoid making big decisions while depressed since depression can hinder our thinking and make us “foggy”. Wait until you are feeling more leveled out to make any big changes and decisions. Examples: big purchases, major appearance changes, cancelling future plans, criticizing relationships, etc.

9. Indulge in favorites. If you are not scheduled for work, school, etc. and are able to, watch your favorite movie or show. Play your favorite game or cook your favorite recipe. Avoid recreational drugs and drinking any alcohol.

10. Clean up. Make sure to shower and try to keep your environment a little bit tidy even if you don’t feel up for it.

11. Allow yourself to heal. It’s good to try to stay busy while depressed but it’s also important to allow yourself to heal and get past this depressive low. Do not force or pressure yourself into social situations, outings, etc. if you genuinely feel like you are not ready. 

If you feel as though nothing is working and are experiencing hopelessness please reach out. Suicidal thoughts are sometimes a part of bipolar depression and you may feel like taking your life. Do not be ashamed of living with mental illness. You are not flawed, wrong, or dramatic. If you are having suicidal thoughts and want to talk please call: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. It’s totally free! Oh, and it’s actually anonymous too. Pretty easy to talk to them knowing you won’t be judged and they talk you through your feelings and help you out. You can also call them anytime since its 24 hours a day. If you are in immediate danger please call 911. 

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