Taming My Mental Illness

Quite a while ago I was told that during spring and summer I would most likely be controlling underlying mania and during winter I would be fighting depression. This is because medication doesn’t work very well for me, my moods are very seasonal and I have the type of bipolar that would make me constantly unwell if I didn’t control it. This is something I still think a lot about. 

When I heard this I felt so very tired. At the time my mania had been bubbling under the surface for weeks if not months and we had fought hard to control it with extra mood stabilisers, anti-psychotics and ECT. I was constantly having an inner argument with myself. One voice was calling me a killjoy, that I deserved this mania after months of being dangerously depressed and that I could have been doing great things if I just went with it. Another voice (the rational one) would point out how well I was doing and how I still achieved the things I wanted while stable. 

During times when mania did break out for a few days I was excitable, buzzing and full of ideas only to have been brought back down by my own hand shoveling sedatives into my mouth. Constantly fighting with myself was exhausting, and having these conflicting personalities – my manic one and stable one share my head was confusing and frustrating. I resented myself for not letting myself have carefree, manic fun and I also felt proud of myself for learning how to control my mania. The thought of having to do this for the rest of my life was tiring and didn’t leave me with optimism for an easy future. Summers won’t be as fun any more but instead overshadowed by the fear of mania rearing it’s destructive head. 

But controlling mania pales in comparison when it comes to fighting my depressions. I am defenseless when my depression hits. I can be on any number and type of medications and they’re no match for the black monster of depression. Most anti-depressants make me manic or put me in a mixed state and the anti-depressant that I am on slows the descent into the black pit but can’t dig me out once I’m in. 

I have tried lots of CBT and psychotherapy but once I am severely depressed it is useless. The only thing that can be done is to rely on other people to keep me safe until it lifts. I have been aware of my depressions longer than my manias and for the past few years when I have felt them coming on I have tried everything to prevent a major depressive episode, but the inevitable can’t be stopped. 

I felt hopeless and defeated when I thought about having to battle a depression, but during an episode last year I discovered ECT and that has been the best treatment so far. However the memory loss can be annoying. I am still discovering holes in my memory stretching back over a couple of years and I am still having trouble forming new memories. When I returned to work after a course of ECT I was wandering around the department and felt very lost because I had forgotten where equipment and rooms were.  However, I would take this small side effect any day over the months of constantly fighting the choking black grips of depression. 

Yet, I remind myself that I have come a long way in the short time since I was diagnosed and will continue to do so. I have learnt strategies to help reign in the manias and fight the depressions. Extra sedatives and a regular sleep schedule calm my excitable highs and ECT and hospital keep me safe and are my weapons against depression. 

Of course I am never alone in these battles. I have the help and support of family, friends, colleagues, my counsellor and my psychiatrist. All of who recognise signs of changing mood states when I fail to do so and can steer me in the right direction to regain stability. 

Sally also blogs for bp Magazine and has written for Youth Today, upstart and The Change Blog. To read more of her IBPF posts, click here.

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