So far today has been a lot better then yesterday, I guess writing out my frustrations helped to ease my mind, I still feel the same way, but at least the pain isn’t as bad. The odd thing, is how popular the post is. Maybe everyone wants to read my rants and see how bad my self-hatred is, or maybe it’s the title, or the keywords, or just luck. I’m not really certain, but I’m happy people read it. I’m definitely not perfect, and maybe someone out there read the post and realized they aren’t alone in this crazy world. That some days we just feel so horrible, it’s as if our minds are trying to destroy us. Or other days we feel like we’re drowning in the darkness of depression. But one thing is for certain, we can’t give up, no matter how hard it gets. We all have the strength to survive, we just have to latch onto something. For me, it’s my cat Domino. I love him dearly and he’s helped me over the years. In fact, if it wasn’t for him I don’t know how far I would have gotten. Yes I know a lot of it was me, but it helps to have something to grab onto (it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you can hold on tight and know that it will pull you out of your hell). It also helps to have a hobby; mine’s watching TV and playing video games (I love being able to escape from reality and drift off into a new word that doesn’t demand anything from me or judge me, a place where my depression seems to evaporate and I feel invincible).
I guess that’s what today’s post is going to be about, ways to deal with manic/depressive episodes. For the longest time I suffered from severe mixed episodes and/or rapid cycling (it really depends on which doctor you talk to, as both episode types are very similar). I could have multiple episodes in a day, swinging from severe depression to extreme mania and back again- sometimes this happened in the same hour and it got really stressful, even frightening. There were days I just wanted it all to end and unfortunately I self medicated to compensate. It started with alcohol.
Some quick background: In high school I never drank or used drugs. In fact I never went to parties, or hung out with people after school. When I got to college I was desperate to fit in, so I hung out with the football team and started to drink with them. My first night drinking I blacked out after having over 15 beers. I thought it was great, I was “fitting” and I loved the buzz. I started drinking regularly and would party with the football team. My drinking increased as I tried to keep up with offensive linemen and feel to peer pressure. A few months into my drinking, I went to a party at the baseball house and went crazy, I ended up blacking out for almost 16 hours, waking up in a pool of vomit-well there was vomit everywhere. I convinced myself I would never drink again and it was on that day my anxiety and paranoia was born. The football players messed with my head when I asked them what happened and it escalated to the point where I was afraid to leave my dorm room. I was convinced they were stalking me and trying to destroy my life. I was also convinced everyone else was after me, so I locked myself in my room and only left for class. Because of this, I developed agoraphobia and social anxiety.
As this increased I started to drink again, this time while I was alone. I started spending the weekends at my parent’s house and my dad found out I had been drinking. I thought he was going to be pissed, but it was the opposite, he was ecstatic because he had finally found a drinking buddy. It was around this time my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and to cope with the stress I started drinking excessively. It was the first time I used alcohol to deal with depression…my mom is ok now, she has been in remission for over 8 years…Fast forward a few years. I was working the night shift at a hotel and I was a full blown alcoholic. My doctor was worried that I was killing my liver so she demanded that I stopped drinking. She also prescribed an anti-depressant, which actually led me to quit drinking. But at the same time it caused my mania to grow, I just didn’t know it at the time. I was sober for about a week until I started smoking weed to fill the void. Overtime I developed a heavy habit, I also started to abused pain killers and benzos. Because of the drug abuse my mental stability was shattered. I caused my episodes to increase in intensity and frequency. Eventually I was diagnosed Bipolar type I, with OCD, severe social anxiety, PTSD and addiction. It took me a few years to quit using and by the time I did, I ended up in a mental hospital after dropping out of graduate school (sorry for skipping a lot of my story, I’m late for work and it there is to much for just one post. I’ll come back to it in the future) and spent the next two years isolated in my apartment while I recovered. During these two years, anxiety increased exponentially and depression became severe. There were times I didn’t think I would make it, but a few things helped me through this period (well that was a lot longer of a background then I had anticipated, but now we are back to the discussion on ways to cope).
When my depression got really bad, I found that doing something mindless really helped: watching TV, cleaning, playing with Domino, playing video games etc. That Is one of the things I’ve told people to do when dealing with depression (or anxiety, or mania), it doesn’t have to be what I suggested. Rather, the idea is to do something you love, while spending as little effort as possible. The reason is that it allows your mind to relax and escape, you aren’t adding to the stress and you are giving yourself a chance to breath. That’s why I love TV. Not only do I get to relax, but I can lose myself in TV show without spending much effort, further, I can stop anytime I want or go as long as I want. The idea is to just escape. Another thing I loved to do is listen to a book on tape, the idea is the same as I don’t have to spend much energy and I can let my mind wander and for that bit of time I can forget about my struggles. The goal is to find something you love and to have it available so that if you feel depressed or anxious, or unstable you can help yourself heal. Another thing that helps is talking with someone, just having some human contact can help alleviate the stress and again can help you escape from your worries (you don’t have to do this in person, in fact you could just text). Taking a shower is another great way to relax and the concept once again is similar, allowing your mind to wander and for you to have some quite and some peaceful time where you can forget about your worries.
For me, finding something that allows me to escape into another reality helps almost as much as therapy (furthermore, it allows me to deal with my depression without having resort to illicit drugs. Although there are days where I struggle to keep those thoughts in check, but I’m human and not infallible). Also therapy, for me, helps tremendously but it’s not for everyone. The idea is to find someone you can talk to, who is both willing to listen and provide feedback (it can be a friend, a trusted relative, a teacher, a pastor/rabbi, someone you meet on the street, or even a journal. The reason I put a journal, is that it allows you to get your thoughts and feelings onto paper and in doing so, you can step back and examine what you have been going through. It gives a new perspective that you might not have seen before).
I’m going to end this post with question: how do you deal with depression/mania and do you have any tips or tricks that you do to help keep yourself sane (or at least provide yourself with some comfort)? I’m always looking for ways to help myself when I’m struggling and I know there are things I’ve yet to do.
Wow this has been the longest post I’ve written in quite some time.
I hope you are all well and look forward to hearing from you,