Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What it's like, just in case anyone wants to know

So you've already surmised, if you've been here awhile, that I do not have *one thing* that I write about. I would really get too bored.

Right now, I cannot concentrate at work. Nothing is working, I'm getting error messages, and people who could help me aren't around. So, I thought I'd craft a quick post.

Depression sucks. It's like having cotton in your brain. You can't concentrate, you want to cry, you want to eat everything or nothing. There is a heaviness, and sometimes actual physical pain. You don't want to do anything, like get out of bed. Even brushing your teeth seems like too much of an effort. Laundry piles up, junk mail piles up, dishes pile up.

Mania feels good, but if it goes unchecked, it breeds depression (see above.)
Mania feels like racing thoughts, you can't concentrate because every thing reminds you of something else and they're all good ideas, no, great ideas, ideas that could win you the Nobel Prize. You can't sleep, you don't want to! You don't sleep, and you aren't tired. Everything is fast fast fast. You talk loud, dress loud, act loud. Sometimes you get a lot done. Sometimes you just pretend to get a lot done.

Right now I'm not in either of these, which is why I can write about it lucidly. I am in a funk, but it's situational, which means my funk is based on situations in my life, not a chemical inbalance.

People that experience mental issues have an amazing tool that often backfires: it's called masking. (Well, that's what I call it.) It's that plastic smile when your world is crashing beneath your feet and the light at the end of the tunnel is really a train ready to maul you. It's what keeps people from asking for help because you'll feel better next week until next week becomes next month and next month...I masked my bipolar for about eight years before it became so out of control that I had to be "airlifted" to my parent's house. So I left Pittsburgh and recovered for three years.

Anyone that tells you "suck it up," or "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" has never really been depressed. That feeling you get when your dog dies is not depression. That feeling when you realize you are out of cash and payday is two weeks from now is not depression. Depression is when for no reason you cannot pull it together. There is no shame in asking for help. This is when you will find out who your real friends are. And this is when all sorts of people will come out of the woodwork and you'll realize that more people than you know are taking Zoloft, Ativan, Wellbutrin, and/or Prozac.

Cling to what you love. If you love pink flamingos, surround yourself with them. Find a book that can take you to another time and place. Find something that can make you laugh. Find someone that will give you hugs. Find more than one person that will give you hugs. Someone that will hold you as you sob on their shoulder, or into their stomach, depending on their height.

I once described having Bipolar to my dad sort of like having an email account. When you're depressed, everything piles up, in your inbox, in your spam box, and you couldn't care less, you don't even open anything. Or nothing is happening. It doesn't matter how many times you hit the "check mail" button, nothing is coming through. But when you're manic, suddenly, all the messages come through, and everything is important. (The analogy made more sense to me before...)

And then one day, the meds kick in, and your therapist gets what you've been whining about, and the sun shines, and you feel normal. It happens. I promise. I've been there, and I know these things.

So take a walk. It may not work, so take one tomorrow too. Keep taking them. One summer I took a walk every morning and NOTHING happened. Except that my mother wouldn't talk to me until I'd at least tried to take a walk. That was the year I stopped being just a Children's Librarian and split my hours to also become a Cataloguing Librarian. It is also the year I took five weeks off and then three months...and then worked half time until I finally felt better.

Oh, look, our time is up. (Don't you hate that?) Back to the salt mines...


MsCellania said...

Thanks for posting this, SL. It's been 'We Don't Talk About This' for so long. In the few months I've been in the BlogWorld, I've found more honesty about mental disorders than dozens of friends have been able to tell me in 30 years.

I may be a rube about this, but it certainly appears that writing through the bad times, when one can, is a big part of hacking through the haze.

Really, you cannot know how important it's been for me to be able to read about what so many of my friends have been suffering for years. I'm sad that anyone has to have such uncenteredness in their lives. I cannot even imagine.

I wish we lived closer. All I can offer is a very heartfelt wish that you keep writing. Whatever it is. I will read and appreciate the process behind your words.

Carolyn said...

That was a very good look into bi-polar depression. I liked your e-mai analogy.

I am not bi-polar but have struggled with depression on and off in my life.

I actually attempted suicide when I was twelve and am extremely grateful that I did not succeed.

I am glad your medications are working for you. And thanks for the education in bi-polar.

Oh, and your letter is "P". Because it suits you.

Carolyn said...

Because of the pink sneaker thing!

Sarah Louise said...

Thanks guys! It's been on my mind as I see others struggling with depression in my life and on the blogosphere. I figure if I can talk about it, it makes it less weird for other people to talk about it. I'm all about getting folks to talk about stuff--get it out in the open!!

and I'm so excited about my letter! oh, to not have to work for the next hr and 25 min...

PJ said...

I'm sending you healing thoughts, good wishes, and hugs.

I don't know what it's like to be bi-polar, but I have walked thorugh dark times and all my good thoughts are with you.

catsteevens said...

If I may add to what people are taking....Effexor.

Thank you for this post.

Joke said...

Illuminating! Thanks!


wilsonian said...

What a generous thing you've done here.

We need to just keep kicking the lid off this, because shame and fear can't grow in the Light.

Sarah Louise said...


One of my favorite quotes is from Bruce Cockburn (pronounced Co-burn) "Kick the darkness until it bleeds daylight."