It Got Worse in my Forties, Fifties


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23 Aug 2019

I've muttered in the past that your moods are like your eyesight - it gets worse during your forties.

Although I was late in my diagnosis (at age 31), I rallied after the diagnosis and did decently well managing the mood swings during my thirties.

Note that decently is a relative term. However, my thirties were pretty good. I found a partner, settled down, built a house, got dogs - pretty much everything except the white picket fence.


And then the early forties started, and like my eyesight, all the gains I had made during my thirties began to unravel. There was no major faultline or meltdown - things just started to slowly become harder to hold together.

Up to my early forties, I had a super regular pattern for my mood swings - so I could actually plan activities around when I expected to be manic or depressed. It wasn't perfect, but it worked pretty well enough.

More to the point, my depression episodes were short - about 1 week long, which, if followed by a manic episode, is survivable. It's possible to more or less catch up with all the things that unravel in one week.


By about 43 or 44, the depression episodes began to get longer, which had a threefold effect. First, the longer depression episodes allowed more time for more things to unravel.

Second, the longer time frame meant that some of the things that unraveled were serious and some were effectively unfixable - I couldn't go back and sort them out, and they were just, well, gone. For a long time, having things just fall away by the wayside did quite a number to my sense of completeness and worth.

Thirdly, because more things had unraveled, once I came out of the depression episode, I would spend more time fixing and patching problems that had arisen, and much less time, well, moving my life forward.

The manic episodes didn't get longer, by the way - so I didn't even have that benefit to help me deal with fixing the extra problems.


I was aware of the slow erosion of my life, mind you, because common sense and intelligence doesn't fail - which makes watching this all happen feel like a slow moving horror story.

When I wasn't depressed, I tried to take steps to stop or at least slow down the losses. It's during this period that I tried ketamine, and weed, and MDMA, among other things. Because I was desperate.

I even hired a full time person to act as my companion for about three years from about 2012-2015 (see the TV series Monk if you want an idea of what I did). This was expensive as all hell, but it sort of worked. Sort of. It did slow the erosion of my daily life processes, but it didn't stop it. My companion made it possible for me to go to work many days, and provided the support so the many little tasks of daily life got done. So there was that. But while I was able to slow the unravelling of my life, things still got worse.


And Aside: I broke up with C. in about 2008, when things were now starting to get bad and I hadn't quite realised how erratic the mood swings were making me. One of those major mistakes that you can't undo and it's just gone.


Where was I? Right. By my mid forties to about 50, it had gotten to the point where, if I got to work at all, I was appearing in an old T-shirt and jeans and slippers. I could get away with this because it was our family business, and I was back office staff. And when I was there, my work was solid.

Still.

As my mood swings continued to further erode my ability to work, I started formally handing over duties to other people, because I couldn't cope with the multiple duties, and because if they required me to talk with people I might not respond in a timely manner.

Bascically I sunk further back into the back office support tech.

My social life was eroding as well. I went out less with my friends, went to fewer family gatherings, or didn't respond as frequently to telephone calls or WhatsApp messages. I was slowly becoming a recluse, as it were.


Between 50 and 52, everything pretty much came to a head. At the end of 2017, I gave up my job because I couldn't handle it properly anymore. And in March 2018, I had a very major depression episode that lasted for a few months, followed by six or seven weeks of normalcy, followed by more depression episodes.

By the time I emerged in some form of sanity in late 2018 or early 2019, my taking stock looked like this (in no particular order).

  1. Well, I don't have a job, but I do have my own place and I'm reasonably well off financially. This is the good news. This is the only good news.
  2. The depression episodes, when I get them, last anything from 3 weeks to up to 6 or so weeks, so it derails any projects I might have been working on. And it derails pretty much every day to day maintenance task that I need to do (like get the car serviced or doing a bit of gardening, or even washing the dishes).
  3. I don't seem to get manic episodes much any longer. So no extra energy to help me out. The periods of normalcy / mania have now become shorter than the periods of depression, so I'm still losing ground overall.
  4. Over the last eight or so years, the lack of communication with friends (see depression), has unraveled my social networks almost completely. I'm not alone and I have groups and family that will happily welcome me, but they have moved on and my memories of time together are history to them. Rejoining them will be like starting afresh with them. I love and trust my friends, but I also feel very much like the odd man out these days and I don't feel like rejoining the groups or talking with people any more.
  5. I can't do or start any projects. ANY projects. If I have three good weeks, I'll be lucky, but then I'll get a depression episode that will derail or make irrelevant the work I was doing. If the depression is sufficiently bad, I may destroy the work I've done as well. So apart from not having a job, I can't actually pick up a hobby, or join a service organisation, take Spanish classes, or do research on local butterflies, or anything. Mostly I surf the web because what else can I do (I'm amazingly up to date on world politics).
  6. My weight has jumped from 165 to 190 pounds - the heaviest I've ever been. Ordinarily I could lose weight (done it many times), but the erratic and long depression episodes are more than likely to derail any attempt to do so. My current projection is that my weight will keep on going up. This has all sorts of implications about how I see myself that I'm trying not to face at the moment.
  7. Thanks to the multiple depression episodes at the end of 2019 and the early part of 2019 (overall lasting about 8 months), my health is in the worse condition that it has ever been. After being pretty careful for three decades, I've now pre-diabetic, pre-hypertensive, and I'm afraid to check my risk factor for a heart attack (the common killer in my family). Or even to go to the dentist. I know what I have to do to fix it all, but that would be a project, and I can't do projects - see item 5.
  8. I don't take my dogs out for walks anymore. I can't do it consistently because of depression and I'm too unhealthy to carry them for long walks. So while they are pretty well taken care off as most dogs go, I feel terribly guilty that I am not giving them the better life they deserve.
  9. As my life has unraveled over the last 8-10 years, all of my regular patterns or schedules have been lost. Literally. Even the morning pattern of getting up and brushing my teeth no longer exists. On a given day, I just wake up on a morning and do any random thing that seems like something to do. Or I do nothing and surf the web. All day.
  10. It's hard to explain how bad this really is. I know what I need to do to to order my life and move it forward, but I don't have the capability to get any projects or tasks moving (or at least to get them moving and stay moving). I am horrified at what my current position is and I feel trapped in a cage where every action will eventually backfire on me or come to nothing.


From where I stand, it's mostly all bad and not at all what I was expecting my life to look like - not even after I was diagnosed as bipolar. For me, this is an unexpected and rather nasty twist in the direction of my life.

The worst part - the very worst part of this all - is that I am unreliable. Of the many things that I see in that picture of myself, is that of a solid reliable person - the kind you could trust to keep their word and follow through on what they say. That's not been true for years, but I'm finally out of denial. But without reliability, how can you offer your friendship or help to anyone. How do they trust you? This is probably caused more damage to my psyche than any failure in my life.


For those of you who are about to suggest that I try something new, remember that I have been trying new things for the last 10-12 years - LOTS of new things. I am not suddenly in a situation that has been thrust on me. This is not a call for well meaning and mostly useless advice - this is simply a statement of where things are. That said - anybody who can get me access to legitimate quality sources of MDMA, please let me know.

Also, please don't tell me I'm a good person. I know that. I'm just in an awful situation.


At 53, I can't see how to move my life forward. The meds don't work, the depression cycles are now so long that any gains that I make when I'm sane / lucid are wiped out, or more than wiped out. And yes, I'm suicidal, but not yet actively so - and I completely understand why so many bipolar persons tend to off themselves in their fifties and sixties.


My current mode is to pretend that I am in Rehab. I mostly stay in my home. I do simple things, I try to reestablish basic daily patterns that have been long been swept away, and I try to rebuild a life of sorts. Not a great life, but one that I can accept with a measure of peace and one that allows me to go into my garden to be happy while the world passes me by. I'm figuring it'll take me a few years to get this to all work. And if I can get it to work, if I can pretend that I'm in Rehab for the rest of my life, maybe I'll be happy.


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