This is the third in a series of letters written by people with bipolar disorder to the people who care about them. The first, Letter from a Dysphoric Manic Person from Aaron explains the cold and calculating thinking we can have when our mania is filled with depression and anxiety. In Letter from a Euphoric Manic Person, we met Patricia for the first time. She is pretty darn happy. The letter below shows how Patricia feels when the depression hits. I suggest reading the other letters before this one!
I woke up crying. I know. I know! It’s deression. I have my plan. When I wake up with this depression, I have my plan, right? I have to get out of bed. Beds are for sleeping. I no longer spend the day in bed when I”m depressed.
I have learned this.
So I found myself sitting in a chair in the living room in my bathrobe. I went to switch on the TV and thought, oh God no! Not this! It’s the same as lying in bed all day. I will NOT do this. I will not sit in this chair and watch daytime TV.
I got a bit of energy and made it to the bathroom. I will brush my teeth and I will do something with my hair. I will. I will.
Hands of cement dad. Cement. I dropped the brush. Why do we drop things and trip and cry so much when we are depressed? I mean this in a technical way. I know my symptoms and I know dropping, tripping and crying are on my list of symptoms. I KNOW what this is, but what is happening in my brain for it to happen?
How can mania make me fling things around, cut my own hair and do it well- tie bows to my shoes and call all of my friends while this depression- in the same person, in the same body, in the same brain makes me drop my brush and cry more because it seems so far on the ground? I don’t have the energy to pick it back up. I can cry from seeing a leaf on the ground. Oh, that leaf used to be on a tree. Now, look, it’s decaying and dead. Like me. Like my dead and decaying life.
This happens from looking at a leaf when I’m depressed daddy!
I get back in the chair. I’m not sure how I got there. I just sort of wake up from a daze and I’m sitting. I know the word for this. Catatonic depression. I have catatonic depression. My mind is blank.
I get it that this is my brain. I know this. Knowledge is what keeps me alive when this happens. It’s a fog though. It’s like molasses- or as Gram would say, treacle. Thick, ropey, icky, black goo is running through my synapses. Like gunk in a car. The engine is a knocking but this brain is not rocking daddy!
I can hear you talking to me as I write this. I am so sick today. I am sick in the head. Sick in the mind. If I let my brain run where it wants to go, I would lie down in the street and let a car run over me.
But I am not going to do that Daddy. You know that. I can hear this brain now. I may be sitting in the chair, but I have awareness of what is happening.
I got out of bed. That is what Julie Fast calls the Mt. Everest Moment of depression management. Getting out of bed and brushing my teeth when I’m this sick is claiming Mount Everest.
I just ran out of steam to write you. I feel it leave my body. Like I had full steam ahead to write as we have planned when I get sick. I’m writing to say I’m sick and need some company and a reminder that I’m sick and I feel like I’ve run a marathon.
How does depression take so much energy from me? How does the mania give me enough energy to light my house like a solar panel and then just a few months later, with no change, absolutely no change in my life I can’t life my fingers to type this email? This illness is CRAzY.
What is energy? Is it neurotransmitter created? We think so much is physical. That it’s about bones and muscle, but when I get sick like this- and feel my moods and energy shift this profoundly, I think it’s all chemical.
I can not and will not give in to this.
I have to clear my mind. I’m writing you to clear my mind. This is depression talking. If I look at my list of depression symptoms- if you look at the list I sent you, you will see that I am depressed. I can feel it and see it so much better than I used to.
- imagining my own death. Like that leaf image. It’s morbid and crazy if I step back and l
ook at my thinking!
- thinking of how worthless I am. And I know that just a few months ago I thought I was god’s gift to football players. This tells me that nothing is real when I”m in this mood. The only real thing is that I have bipolar disorder and I’m depressed and the chemical squiggles are changing my thoughts to make me t
hink this dumb way.
- tired. I always lose energy when I’m depressed. I could sleep all day. Or I should say, I could spend all day dozing and crying. I will not ever do this again. Beds are for sleeping. I can hear Julie’s voice. Beds are for sleeping.
- going to write my therapist. She is there for me. I can tell her I’m sick and depressed and she can get out her list of what to do and help me. I don’t have to do this on my own.
- isolating. Oh god, I’m isolating again. Thinking that I’m alone in this. Even though I’m writing you and I have people to call and people to help, I feel like the world’s last penguin on an iceberg in the Atlantic. My god, where does this thinking come from!
- think about meds. I may needs meds for this. I don’t want to take more medications. The mania meds are so hard, but this is months of depression now. I will talk with Dr. Jiminez.
I am depressed. It’s here. I can see it. So what do I do? I have to think. I have Julie’s books. What does Get it Done When You’re Depressed say? Why can’t I remember what I read when I’m depressed? Why does my mind skip beats and my heart slow down! I know, it’s the depression. What does her book say. It says, Think Like an Athlete. I remember that one. It says, Be Your Own Drill Sergeant! Get out of the house now girl. Get dressed and get out of the house!
I can hear my real self breaking through this. Depression is not me. Mania is not me. I am ME. Patricia.
Pattywack. The real deal. I am not my mood swings. My list of what to do when I’m depressed says- stay out of bed no matter what. Brush your teeth and do your hair. Get dressed and most importantly go somewhere.
I am going to do this. I wish it were not my day off. Work would help. I wish I had planned something for today, but I was excited to have some time alone. Now I feel lonely and it makes no sense.
Actually, it does make sense. Depression doesn’t care. Julie says this. Depression doesn’t care. It’s an illness. It is distorting my thinking.
So right now, I’m on my way to meet you for lunch. Thank you for the text. When we have lunch, you know what to do. I have bipolar disorder. I am not a weak person. I will cry when I see you, but I will survive. We can talk about a movie or a book or how well work is going because it is going well.
Depression is not my master. I master my depression. I am not my thoughts- I control my life and my thoughts.
I am putting on my shoes right now and leaving the house. I have to do this before my energy deflates again. I will see you soon.
A Note from Julie: Patricia in both of her letters talks about the plan she and her father use for when she gets sick. I describe this plan in my book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder. You can also find plans from the books written by others bloggers on Bp Hope.
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