I’m wondering if any fellow bipolarees have some coping tips for getting through a depressed episode or just a bad day after a period of stability. I ask, because three months ago, my doctors finally found an effective medication combination, and my depression lifted almost immediately. After living for over 5 years completely consumed by depression, when I now have a bad day, I fear falling back into that debilitating place. Up to this point, I’ve been pretty good at reminding myself that bad days are normal for everyone, even healthy people, and I just have to be kind to myself. But recently I’ve been feeling increasingly worse, and am pretty sure I’m having a depressed episode. Any suggestions on how to ride this out, without falling further into the black hole that consumed me for several years? I’m terribly fearful of what may happen. How do you get through difficult fluctuations after finding stability? Do you have any tips on accepting such fluctuations as a normal part of bipolar disorder, and getting through them without increasing anxiety and fear?
As you are well aware, episodes are going to happen even after stability. You said it all yourself. Bad days happen even to “normal” people. (What is normal, really?) The fear comes when those bad days turn into a bad week and then a week starts to turn into two. I am where you are. After a very hostile divorce several years ago, I fell into a deep depression. I was a zombie for a year. It took another 6 months after that to realize I even wanted to recover and another 6 months after that to climb my way back into the semblance of a life. Two years I spent in darkness. And since then I have still been slowly trying to build a life again because I lost everything when I fell. It’s been almost 4 years now since I first fell into my depression and I am healthy and happy, more stable than I’ve probably ever been in my life and I have a home of my own and my kids are happy and we are making it on our own (I’m a single mother). But every now and then those bad days creep up on me and I feel devastated. I don’t want to get out of bed. It’s better if I just curl up on the couch and let life pass me by for the moment. Or at least that’s how I feel. That’s when I take several deep breaths and remind myself how far I’ve come since that awful time in the dark, and how strong I had to have been to pull thru it and I know I can make it thru this day, even if I have to take it one hour at a time, or even 30 minutes at a time. The key is to break it down into the smallest pieces that you are able to handle and face and deal with it at your own pace. Don’t look at it as “OH MY GOODNESS I”VE GOT A WHOLE DAY TO GET THRU!” You may never make it like that. Look at it like “ok, I can make it til 8 o’clock.” Then when 8 o’clock gets there pat yourself on the back because you made it and say “ok, I did it, now I just got to make it til 9 o’clock.” That’s how you get thru the day. Before you realize it you’ll be telling yourself “WoW! It’s bedtime, One more day down. Now I know I can do it again tomorrow.”
Granted, the scary part is when that one day turns into a week. And that week starts to turn into two. This always worries me too. When this happens I always call my doctor because it is possible that your medication may need to be adjusted. If your bad days start to add up don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. Get his advice. It may just be that you need to ride this one out, then again it may be more serious and the sooner you catch it the less you have to suffer.
The best advice I can give as far as dealing with an episode is the same advice we’ve all heard a thousand times, exercise and a healthy diet. When you exercise you get those endorphins moving and when they are elevated it will put you in a better mood and make you feel better. Plus I don’t know about you but when I exercise it helps me burn off my aggravation and clears my head. It helps me think more clearly. A healthy diet also helps. The better you feel physically, the better balanced you’re going to feel mentally. And as I said when you’re feeling upset or overwhelmed break things down into the smallest particles that you need them to be in to process or handle them. It’s all about your well-being.
I hope this gives you a few ideas on how to get thru your down times. I know depression is hard. It is a difficult time for each of us and different for everyone so each of us handles it differently. Sometimes it’s good to have someone to talk to. Maybe find a support group in your area or if you don’t have one already try a therapist. As always if you need to talk further you can always email me here at angel @ askabipolar . com (just remove the spaces)