It’s OK to be Depressed

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29 July 1999 – Diary

I’m back to being out of control, drifting. Definitely depressed. Just as I thought things were going to work out. My mom is worried that that things have taken a turn for the worse, but I have been here before, it’s all familiar territory. I am annoyed though, and upset that stabilising over the long term is apparently going to take much longer than I had hoped.

I’ve traced the start of this mood swing from about three weeks back. I was in charge of the office and the work was extremely high stress and I then I became mildly depressed. No reason for the depression; the moods swings come and go regardless of what I am doing. But I had to spend so much energy concentrating to make sure the work got done that I couldn’t find the focus necessary to continue taking medication. So of course a few days later I went hypomanic. Which also didn’t bother me because it was so helpful in handling the work.

Or so I thought – but decisions got harder to make and I started having a hard time focusing on any single thing at a time. I also nearly lost us a client due to irritability – I wanted to stop our contract because he was arguing over a minor matter. Luckily, I still had enough common sense left to back off and let someone else take over.

While I was hypomanic, I started losing the capability to hold to a regular day schedule. And my sleep patterns got weird; I would go to sleep anytime from 10 pm to 5 am and wake up at 6:30 am with no ill effects. Needless to say, I wasn’t taking my medication regularly.

Then the mania cycled into the depressive episode I am currently in. The world has slowed to a crawl – I don’t talk to anyone unless absolutely necessary, I don’t write to C. anymore (after sending mail daily), I’ve stopped going swimming, my eating patterns are mostly KC and take away Chinese, and I hate going to work and have taken to skipping days. When I am at work my productivity is way down, perhaps less than half of normal and I can’t wait to go home and hide in my house on afternoons. Sometime I sneak out from work early. I don’t like myself and I have been getting unsettling visions of me slitting my wrists or crashing the car while driving to work. I feel like breaking up with C. even though every sane part of me knows that we make a good team and that we are good for each other.

I would call this classic mild depression. It’s a damned nuisance. Frankly if I were my boss I would fire me.

My mood cycles are confused, no longer the one week up / one week down. I think the medication is upsetting the regular rhythm. I can’t say I like the unpredictability of what might happen next and I fear that my depression may last for far more than the usual week.

I don’t feel guilty about all the things not getting done at the moment. Some part of me is able to say – “This is a medical problem, not a personal problem, and should be sorted out as such.” But it does disturb me that two years down the line from when I started treating my my manic depressive episodes, I am still having weeks where I can barely function.

I think that ever since I was diagnosed, I held the quiet hope that it was just a matter of time before I came on the right combination of medicines that would stabilise me and I would be cured. I would reach a stage where I could say I have stabilised – the medication is finally working – and I could just take the medication and not worry about being bipolar anymore. But this is apparently not going to happen.

I am only now getting used to the idea that perhaps I will have to live with medication as the base support for my stability, but also I will need a substantial and careful change in my lifestyle and in the things I do in order to remain stable as well. I am not sure I want to do this. Sounds like I will be having to change an awful lot.

The metaphor I would use for being on medication now is:

“Like being in a boat on the ocean’s surface with lurking sea monster below waiting for a chance…To forget the monster can come to the surface is to invite disaster”

I’m glad I told my friends that I am manic depressive soon after I was diagnosed. They don’t expect me to be perfect and when they call me they are concerned, but not intrusive. I can tell them to call to remind me about meeting them, and they don’t fuss if I show up late for Scrabble. They know I try my best and that some things are just not possible. I have told anyone at the office, but they know I won’t be out for work some days. My brother (i.e. my boss) understands and fills in for me without comment. Because others know what to expect, I don’t feel as much pressure as I used to when depression causes things to fail.

My parents give the most trouble. They so want me to be better that sometimes it is a nuisance trying to pretend to be better for them, even when I so clearly am not. Can’t they see that.

3 August 1999 – Diary

I finished reading “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison. In it she talks about the relationship between love and being bipolar. I think about my relationship with C. and I realise she is right. Love does help.

C. and I have been together and apart because of studies, but the periods we have been together correlate with my most stable periods. The times we have been apart correspond with periods of instability. There is too much going on in my life to ascribe cause and effect definitively, but the pattern is there.

5 August 1999 – Diary

Well, I started back taking medication yesterday. My cousin came in from Canada and I was able to use the excitement to bootstrap myself into taking the first dose of medication again. I was also able to use his presence to absent myself from work and its stresses for a day and a half. And my cousin was staying with me so I had someone in my house all the time, which always stabilises me. The combination of the three elements had its effect, and things are starting to settle out. I only dread how much lost time I have to recover and how much I have to catch up on.

The depression feels like a sandstorm which has blown through me, clouding all my faculties and thought while present, then moving on leaving me clear thinking and still. And leaving behind also all the damage it has caused to my plans, projects and self confidence.

It is really annoying being bipolar. I don’t just lose a week to depression (or few days to hypomania’s lost productivity). In addition, it takes another four days to salvage what I can from what had been left undone. Then it takes me another few days to start back any tasks / projects that ground to a halt while I was nonfunctional. That is, if I can remember the projects I was doing – I can’t always. Of course all this catch has to be done in addition to the current work.

Basically each time I become fairly severely depressed or hypomanic I lose about fourteen days overall. Since I cycle rapidly, this happens frequently. I figure I lose about three to five months of my real life each year to being bipolar. Not including all the failed plans and intentions that simply were not followed through.

In this last depression, in two weeks I put back on all the weight I laboriously lost over the previous five week stable period. I have to start back with my exercise / diet and I am despairing of ever beating this creeping weight gain. The only thing that keeps me going is that I want to be able to rollerblade barebacked. In New York. On the West Side. With C.

6 August 1999 – Diary

I can tell the medication is working because all the little things I had stopped doing – making up my bed, cleaning the inside of the car, washing the wares, waking up early, organising breakfast, seeing about my finances, returning calls – are all coming back to me. I can also follow up on actions I want to take.

I knew they would and just as going off medication is a a spiral downwards, coming back on it is a spiral up. Unfortunately the ride down is short and quick and the trek up is long and slow.

I find that the medication is working suspiciously quickly. I’ve only started back on medication about sixty hours and the Epilim / Lithium has kicked in substantially. To my knowledge, these medicines are supposed to take about five days to three weeks to work. I’m hoping that this is not like Tegretol, which I become resistant to after a time.

This scares me. I’ll run out of medicines that I can use after a time. My life without medication is not something I consider appealing.