There is no hard and fast rule for when I know I am depressed but generally speaking a lack of motivation, constant negative or anxious thinking, hypersomnia and a sense of worthlessness characterize my waves of depression. As someone with Bipolar Type One, I am prone to manic episodes but I have had more serious and more often depressive episodes. One depressive episode where I ultimately had to be hospitalized I did not leave my bed for literally three months and became Agoraphobic (scared to leave the house). I literally drove myself mental with obsessive negative thoughts that spiraled further and further out of control until I could not see any way out anymore. Luckily my family and then doctors intervened and were able to turn this episode around (I will write more about this experience one day).
However, I may not need to be hospitalized anymore (or at least for the past five years or so) but I struggle nearly everyday with depression and my depressive thoughts. It’s just not as severe as before now that I have been managing my symptoms with an anti-psychotic. I have been struggling more so the past few months probably due to Winter but have really been trying to push myself to some degree. I struggle with motivation when I am depressed for two reasons. Firstly, I constantly feel low so do not feel like doing anything but sleep and secondly, my negative thoughts convince my brain sometimes that nothing is worth trying cause I will just ultimately fail at it, like I fail at everything. I am not saying these are rational thoughts as I have definitely had some major successes but when my brain dips to that low point, all bets are off on what I’ll think and eventually come to believe about myself. This keeps me stagnant and lacking the motivation to make positive changes in my life that may even help the depression.
To help with my depression, on days where I was feeling more positive about life I made two key decisions which will now at least give my days some more structure. I registered for a course at the local college and signed up to be a volunteer at the local food bank. These are ongoing commitments and even on days when I feel like I don’t want to exit my bedroom, I have put myself in a position that forces me out and into the community. I have essentially tricked myself into having motivation for I am a stickler for follow-through. I find I dread going up until the moment I go and then once I get going, I feel so much better. For example, I laid in bed for as long as I could justify it prior to my first shift at the food bank (feeling slightly dejected and anxious like “what did I get myself into?”). That being said once I got there and started organizing things and even had my first client whom I helped get her and her husband groceries for the month, I began to feel better about not only my day but about myself in general. It is a humbling experience to volunteer with the neediest of the community because it really puts your issues into perspective. I may struggle with a mood disorder but currently am not struggling to find my next meal and that is something I think more than just me takes for granted.
Though I have set more structure to my days, there are still some days that are wide open and gaps in time on the days even when I am busy that I fall prone to hypersomnia – sleeping excessively. If I am not busy I tend to fall asleep around 6, right after dinner. I nap a lot also because I feel like sleep is an escape from my reality and helps me avoid the feelings of worthlessness I so often feel. I slept an excessive amount this weekend that I am even too embarrassed to figure out how much exactly. I am not proud of my coping mechanism for my depression but it brings me some comfort and that is how I rationalize it in my brain. But it has now become part of my depressive and anxious thinking as well and so it is a vicious cycle. What I mean is that I am depressed so I sleep copious amounts then get depressed about the excessive sleeping I am doing. I think to myself about how much time I waste sleeping and it gets me down. I know I could be doing more productive things with my time such as reading a book or going for a walk but I can’t seem to resist those damn sheets.
My depression changes each year and honestly I think it is slowly getting less painful each passing year as I learn better coping strategies and start to understand the way my brain works. This year’s depression is not even close to the year I was Agoraphobic where I never showered and never brushed my teeth. Back then I was also constantly researching ways to kill myself. I was never brave enough to try any but my brain became obsessed with the idea of shutting itself off to cope with the misery. I’ll take hypersomia over that any day but I do realize this is still something that needs some work too. I can’t sleep every time I feel down or I’ll never be awake – sad but true. I hope adding volunteering and school to my schedule will win half this battle but the other days when I am off I’ll just have to brainstorm some ideas to keep my mind productive and distracted from its self-consuming thoughts.
For those of you struggling with depression, I feel your pain and understand that your experience is unique from mine but often the feelings can be the same. We feel like nothing is worth doing and that we are not worth it. We feel like every day is a battle and one we’ve decided from the beginning that we are going to lose. The important thing though is that you get up and try, try, try. If you fall short of what you intended for the day or you’re struggling with thoughts of falling short in life in general, remember this – Tomorrow is a new day, tomorrow you can try again.