The Big Lie

I am just coming out of a depression. I don’t remember going into it, instead easing into it as if it were just a change of season.

I reminded myself that I was not feeling depressed. There was no self-flagellation, no remorse, no desolation. That was the big lie — that my reclusive behavior, my flat affect, and my resignation to being (in my eyes) a failure wasn’t depression.

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Telling my colleagues that I was fine if they asked me if anything was wrong (and they asked me at least three times) was another lie. I am known in my workplace as being bipolar, and thus I feel I have to be on my best behavior lest they think I was going to the hospital again. I told my colleagues again and again that I was doing great, and maybe I even believed it because the temporary bubble of positive attention (that I felt I didn’t deserve) buoyed me. But then I fell back into the grey of my life this last winter.

It’s only now that my mood has risen with the Spring that I discovered how low I had fallen. I have depressive tendencies in Winter, but I didn’t expect to have fallen to the place I was this winter. The scale said I’d gained weight; I didn’t pay attention to my looks. I did very little. Too many times, I accepted negative self-talk as the truth about myself.

What could I have done differently? First, I could have caught the mood change sooner. I need to find some signs of the doldrums before they become depression. Second, I could have been more honest with myself and others, and maybe I would have accepted a medication change. Third, I could have been better to myself, but only after the first two were in place.

Bipolar Disorder is a weird disease, seeking balance in a body that wants to go to extremes. In fact, I am watching now to make sure I don’t tip in the other direction toward hypomania with its endless elation and debilitating restlessness. This is my life, and it’s not that bad. Maybe the biggest lie is the stigma I surround myself with that isolates me.

Exciting and Positive

I want something exciting and positive to happen today. The word ‘positive’ is important here, because I know people who would welcome a disaster as ‘exciting’. I may be involved in emergency and disaster management, but I don’t like that kind of excitement. So, I’m specifying exciting and positive.

I see excitement as something that will come into my life by an external happening. One thing I’ve noticed is that, at age 60 (almost), excitement doesn’t come from hard work. Hard work yields … more work to do. I imagine this revelation at a game show, where the emcee says, “And for your hard work you get … more hard work!” I don’t mind doing hard work, but it’s certainly not adding up to exciting. Or positive1.

I guess I’m looking for an opportunity. Or the Bluebird of Happiness dropping something good in my lap. Something to break the monotony and turn my emotions into something happier instead of ennui.

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  1. Moulage gives me positivity.

How to Talk About Not Being Okay

How do we talk about not being okay?

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Being vulnerable is that scary, that human. It’s scary to risk rejection because we have been a sloppy mess in front of someone. It’s scary for society to witness the breakdown.

The alternative, however, is that we stuff our feelings until we explode. Or we manipulate others so we don’t have to feel. Or we try to control everything until we cannot function anymore. None of these are good ways to deal with feeling like a mess, but ironically, those methods can seem more functional in the short run. They give an illusion of power — power over oneself, power over other people, power over situations.

I have very raw moments in my life. Although it’s kept well under control, I have a mental disorder. I have breakthrough times in February and October. During those times, I have sleep disturbances that keep me exhausted, severe anxiety, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed. I have to talk about it because it’s an overwhelming bad feeling and, at the time I have it, I feel like it’s always been there and will always be.

I’ve come up with some rules for myself on how to talk about not being okay:

  • Choose wisely who you will talk to and how much to disclose.
    • Mere acquaintances might rate an “I’m under the weather right now.”
    • Coworkers might rate very simple situational statements, like “My father died.”
    • Good friends, if they can handle things, might rate a description of what’s going on with some frankness, like “I have seasonal affective disorder right now and I’m doing pretty poorly.” This list is to protect you from the people who might reject you or the message.
    • The best thing, though, is to approach people who are supportive toward you.
  • Don’t use your friends as therapists.
    • Don’t rehearse negative scenarios on them and expect them to argue endlessly against you.
    • Also, don’t unleash your worst behavior on them. Treat them like friends and honor their feelings.
  • Apologize if you have behaved badly, just as you would when you’re not overwhelmed.
  • Do not expect your friends to keep dangerous secrets, like suicidal or homicidal ideations, for you.

If you are dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, or other mental health issues, your best support system is not a substitute for therapy, whether that be psychotropic prescriptions, talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or others. Reach out to your health care providers or get yourself some providers on your side.

I hope this has been helpful. I feel like I’ve clarified some things for me, and I hope that I’ve helped others think about this, because all of us have heavy times.

The Dreary Months

We’re officially past Christmas and New Year’s, and I’m officially done with the first draft of my next October release, and the skies are relentlessly gray. For someone with bipolar (II) disorder who uses the holiday season to hide from the darkening days, I am officially in the dreary months, or those months where I’m at risk for depression.

I’m tired all the time right now, and I’m weepy. I feel bogged down by a pretty normal workload. The answer to the question “What am I looking forward to?” is “A nap”, but there seems to be no time for that. I might nap on Wednesday. I have meetings all afternoon this week. On Friday I have an appointment in large letters: “NATHAN”. I do not remember who Nathan is or why I’m meeting with him. Since it’s in all caps, it must be important.

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What I need to do is get some strategies in place to help boost my mood:

  • A sun lamp. I don’t know if these really work, but they give me a sense of control
  • Naps when I can, even if this means while sitting under the sun lamp drinking coffee.
  • Things to celebrate. (I need help making this list)
  • Cat therapy
  • Possibly a phone call to the doctor

More coffee and booze are not on this list, as these will make my mood worse.

I’ll keep you posted.

Hello! I’m Back! (and a little about depression)

How long have I been gone?

According to my log of posts, I have been gone exactly a month from writing. It feels like longer. I need to write again.

Why have I been gone so long?

I could say “things got busy”, but that’s not the whole truth. I had free time, but I slept much of it. Writing my novels fell by the wayside, although I proofed a couple novels using ProWritingAid, because it was easy and didn’t take too much thought on my part. I dealt okay with routine things, but did nothing truly creative.

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I have to break out of the cocoon that depression wraps around a person, the lassitude, the negativity, the self-loathing. I’m working with my doc to remedy the depression on the medication front. The rest is up to me.

I was depressed.

I’m still depressed, but I realize that I have to reach out again to break out of my solitude, just in case someone responds. I have to put myself in the stream of humanity, so it reminds me I am part of it.

I have to go back to writing, to find my soul within the flow of words.

Hello again! Expect my usual content soon.

A Mess of Impostor Syndrome

Negative self-talk all day

Part of the reason I think I’m getting depressed is because I have non-stop negative self-talk in my head: I don’t know why I think I can get traditionally published. My writing isn’t good enough because it’s not like other people’s. I have the wrong kind of book covers. I like the wrong kind of book covers. I’m awful at marketing. I don’t have sex or nudity or grittiness in my romances. The dialog never ends.

The best I can do

It’s hard staying positive with a barrage like this. The best I can do is keep my head above water with cognitive therapy — “You don’t know this, you can’t predict the future, that’s black and white thinking, don’t call yourself names.” And I believe in cognitive-based therapy.

Cognitive-based therapy, at least in the version I use, utilizes picking out cognitive distortions (“I’m not a good writer”) and assigns to it one or more cognitive distortion labels (such as black-and-white thinking) and asks the person to write contradictions for their statements. This really does work, but when getting a barrage, it’s hard to eradicate all of the negative. This is why I wonder if I’m going into depression, because usually these are not so constant.

Question

What do you do when you have the blues? Drop me a line in the comments.

Feeling a Little Blue

This is part of my life

I have bipolar disorder — Bipolar II to be specific. This means that I have hypomania — a feeling of exhilaration and irritability — and some pretty severe depression. I take a cocktail of medication to keep me on an even keel, but sometimes the erratic moods break through.

Down or depression?

I’m feeling a bit down right now — sleeping too much, waking up tired. Feeling uninspired. musing over the past (there is a lot of it) and crying inside, not feeling inspired. Rejections are weighing heavily on me and I’m second-guessing everything I write. This feels like depression.

Which depression?

Generally, when talking about depression, there’s two basic categories — situational and biological. The former is depression based on external events; the other is internal. It’s hard to determine which is which.

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For example, is my pile of rejections the cause of my depression? It very well could be I tend not to react very badly to single rejections, but I’ve had a string of them lately, and I can’t find the right thing to fix them so that they’re accepted. I feel like giving up. This could be the cause of my depressions.

It could also be that a biological depression (that is, bipolar depression) could create the stress and negative feelings toward my life. (Right now my brain is diagramming this as a path analysis (a type of social studies research equation) as if I could quantify each factor and measure and research. Not now, Satan.)

The only way to tell

The only way to tell if this depression is biological is to sit with it for two weeks. Given the relatively minor nature of the situational roots (rejections can be let go pretty easily) I should be done with it by then. If it lingers after two weeks, I call my psychiatrist and we tweak the meds. I’ll be bummed (oops, I am already) because this med combination has been working wonderfully for at least three years.

But this is bipolar disorder. Untreated, and it’s like someone else is running my life, laughing my laugh, stoking my rage. I won’t let them do it for too long.

Handing it to you

If I have anyone who identifies with this and wants to comment, please drop a comment.

Is this depression?

I am fighting a down mood that may or may not be depression. The seasons can set people with bipolar up with either mania or depression, and this article suggests that there is definitely a link between manic or depressed state and weather.

I won’t know if it’s a true bipolar state until I’ve held it for two weeks or more. This came on rapidly on Friday, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s an actual mood swing or just me beating myself up over something. I can be negative on myself sometimes. Or it could be a bad few days, which I’ve had. Or it could be burnout, because a lot of us in education are going through it after COVID.

So I’m resting and being patient with myself. I’m accepting that maybe the inner nagging voice is right and I’m a bad teacher these days, but I still have worth as a person. Maybe that will get me through.

The Feeling of Living

Daylight Savings Time. And a storm. On a Sunday. I slept until 7 because the sun did not peek through my windows.

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I almost stayed in bed all day. I just about asked my husband to bring me breakfast (pancakes and turkey sausage) in bed. But if I had, I would have missed Bowie Symphonic Blackstar through the speakers and the sight of the trees bending in the wind under sodden grey skies.

I have plans for today. I will work on the pre-beta reader edit on Kringle in the Night. I might binge watch Monsters Inside Me because of its medical drama and wonderful illness simulation. I can watch some Babylon 5 with my husband and gaze at the porch swing rocking wildly.

This is how I can tell I’m not depressed, because there’s something to come downstairs for. I seek out productivity. I try to make things happen in my life because that’s who I am.

A touch of depression

Trying to wake up after 12 hours sleep. I feel like I could sleep more.

This is the sign that I’m in a bit of a depression, although whether biological or situational I don’t know. 



I’m convinced that I get into this state every end-of-semester, and that I can hold it off until then. My end of semester wasn’t until now because I had an intense summer class I just got over with. 

So what does depression look like? At this stage, it feels like sleeping all the time and wanting to sleep more, and avoiding email. Feeling a bit down about things and not wanting to engage. Taking things a bit harder than I normally do. 

The trick here is to not go in further. Get the things done I need to get done. Not take 2-hour afternoon naps (although that’s hard). Try not to think too negatively. Do cognitive exercises if I need to. Push myself to write.

If I don’t get this knocked down in a couple weeks, it’s time for me to see my psychiatrist for a medication adjustment. I hope it doesn’t come to that.