I’m totally writing this for the cathartic experience, but I offer no apologies if it’s all a bit morbid and depressing. Guess what? Depression is depressing.
I spend a lot of my time when I’m depressed trying not to feel sorry for myself and trying to be grateful for the good things I have in my life.
All the personal development courses I’ve been on, and the books I’ve read, talk about positive thinking in improving our lives and wellbeing. Challenging times and events in our lives are viewed as times of growth, which I do agree with, even though I’m kicking and screaming through each one!!
But sometimes it doesn’t work.
I think there are times in life when you can’t look at things through rose-tinted spectacles. Sometimes you need to see things for what they really are and to accept the downright shittiness of them.
Like now- I’m back to a depressive episode. I can only walk exceptionally slowly and probably not further than about 100m due to psychomotor retardation. And, do you know what? I’m not gonna suck up my pissed-off feelings behind a forced smile anymore.
Without really feeling those shitty feelings, without really experiencing them deeply, there is no authenticity in the experience. There is no real grounding in the depression.
I do feel sorry for myself. I was taught not to. I was taught to always be grateful. But I really want to feel sorry for myself. I don’t want to compare my experience to anyone else’s anymore. I know there are Syrian refugees going through enormous hardship out there, but trying to suppress my authentic feelings about my depression isn’t going to help them, or me, one little bit.
I think half my issues are wrapped up in the fact that I don’t let myself really feel my feelings. I was taught from a ridiculously young age not to feel, unless it was gratitude or empathy or some kind of joy that others could benefit from.
But right now I feel angry. I feel angry that I have to go through this experience yet again. Why? I’m getting nowhere fast in life. I don’t think I particularly deserve to wake up in the night with violent visions and impulses to self-harm. I don’t think I particularly deserve to feel so damn scared all the time. All the time. Of life in general. I’m so exhausted from going through this whole process.
The last couple of months have been really good. My walking speed has been back to normal. In fact I’ve felt fitter and walked with so much more energy!! To feel well was such a blessing! Now I’m back to the psychiatric-shuffle.
The Psychiatric-Shuffle (my term, not psychiatry’s)
This basically involves walking, but 20 times more slowly than everyone else. Commonly seen in psychiatric inpatients. A symptom of depression referred to as psychomotor retardation– thanks psychiatry for another fabulously empowering term.
It might sound very simple, but actually it feels like your brain and your body are working exceptionally hard to put your left foot forward then your right foot forward. Your legs are protesting every step.
It’s also highly embarrassing. Yes, people do notice. Today a child kept staring at me as she walked past holding her mum’s hand. She kept looking back at me. Bloody hell, do I really look that awful? It’s so embarrassing. And exhausting.
Back to the post……
So many great things have happened in the last couple of months- I’ve enjoyed them so much. Then a couple of weeks ago my good energy switched to bad energy and the surging prickliness and agitation coursed through me in an all too familiar way. When out in the street or on the bus I’d feel intensely annoyed with people I wasn’t even interacting with, my voice in my head became louder. I wanted to shout at people. Then it switched to anxiety about a week later, my heart was pounding, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Then last Thursday the exhaustion kicked in.
Before the ‘bad energy’ I hadn’t really considered that I was a bit hypomanic, but looking back, I had been getting more obsessed with ‘collecting’ things (this has happened a few times in the past) and had spent quite a bit of money I couldn’t really afford. I was feeling much more in touch with my spiritual life. I probably only had about a week where I was sleeping much less and still feeling really great.
Bipolar is exhausting.
Not just the symptoms of exhaustion.
I mean the endless cycle of it all.
I still feel like it’s my fault.
I’m so tired of it.
I’m so bored of it.
What is the point?!!!!
But all the years have given me the experience to get through it, to really know that it gets better. In my early depressions I felt that I was literally going to die, that I would never ever feel joy, love, peace, or anything positive ever again. But even though I’m depressed now, I know from experience that I will get better.
Stephen Fry has made another deeply insightful documentary about manic-depression/bipolar disorder- The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. It is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer here. (Warning- it can be triggering).
In it he talks about his own experiences of the disorder and re-visits the lives of those he interviewed in his previous documentary- The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive- which aired 10 years ago.
I must admit I found this new documentary difficult to watch, particularly when hearing about Mr Fry’s suicide attempt in 2012. The whole incident felt very close to experiences I’ve had and I felt suppressed memories bubbling to the surface- things I didn’t really want to look at.
The first documentary has 2 parts and is available to watch here (warning- can be triggering):
The second part can be watched here:
All the documentaries are so refreshing in their courageous look at what it is really like to have Bipolar Disorder- the interviews really get to the nitty-gritty of mental illness. Stephen Fry adds so much heart and depth with his own experiences, he is so endearing and so strong in his open-ness. I kind of love him for it!
Watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time yesterday, I felt a profound connection to the idea of the dark and light side of the Force, and how something seemingly fictional, relates so well to us as human beings, particularly going through the extremes of Bipolar Disorder or spiritual awakening symptoms. (Bipolar Disorder as Spiritual Awakening)
The opposing symptoms of depression and mania could be likened to the dark and light sides of the Force. But also, as humans beings in general, I believe we all have the capacity for light and darkness.
The inner struggle of Kylo Ren between these light and dark side of himself is evident in his scene with his father, Han Solo, on the bridge. He wrestles with his own will and decision to embrace the dark side, and his inner light which he is reminded of by his father, and perhaps his own need for love.
Personal Experience *Trigger Warning*
I sometimes feel that my own spiritual journey (which has indeed been a journey with symptoms labelled collectively as Bipolar Disorder) has led me to experience a similar inner battle.
I have flown to the heights of euphoria, felt completely at one with the world, believed I could achieve anything, felt surrounded by God’s love, angels and the most beautiful Divine creatures and beings.
The devastation caused by my dark side can only be described as the most destructive tidal wave imaginable surging through my life.
I’ve felt surrounded by demons, by beings preying on my soul, manipulating and terrifying me for their own amusement. Psychosis one might question? It felt very very real to me and my own belief is that I should trust my experiences, feelings and intuition- this was real.
Self-destruction felt inevitable. Implosion of my soul, annihilation felt like the only possible outcome. To wrestle with the desire to take your own life is no mean feat. You are at the depths of human darkness with seemingly no way out, ready to commit murder of the self. To describe the devastation, the terror, the utter hopelessness is nigh on impossible to those who have not experienced it.
I called out for help amidst the soul-chaos and I was calling to the Light. I chose the Light and the Divine answered my call. I am so blessed. We are all so blessed. All we have to do is choose, and call out for help. Help finds us when we open our hearts to the Light.
I believe some humans are born into this life to experience extremes of emotion for their own spiritual growth and for that of the planet. I believe that all the good we create, the love we experience here is present in heaven. I believe any darkness created here in our lifetime is cancelled out by the supreme unconditional love of the Divine.
The Force Everyday
I also believe a battle between our light and dark sides exists in the everyday, in the mundane.
When we choose to believe a negative statement that automatically runs through our minds, we are choosing to believe in the dark side for example.
Upbringing may have left us believing that we are not good enough. The statement “I’m not good enough” may automatically play through our minds over and over. The darkness takes hold when we choose to believe this. We end up constantly playing out “I’m not good enough” in our lives, as some small failure or other, because our ego needs to know it is correct- it feels safer.
But we can turn to the light by recognizing when we are thinking or playing out “I’m not good enough” and choosing more self-supporting and loving thoughts about ourselves. We can create “I am good enough” and play this out in our lives to create a more joyful and fulfilling life.
In the case of my own particular challenge, binge-eating, I could give into the darkness to prove that I am correct when I tell myself “I have no self-control”, and give into the cravings to binge eat and ignore my emotional needs.
I could reassure myself that I am an incredibly strong person, as demonstrated in my own fight against self-destruction. I could acknowledge my emotional needs and meet them, not with food, but with my own love and light. I could tell myself that I have the capacity for self-control and that I have the power to make a more self-loving decision. I can accept any pain that is bubbling up inside me and have compassion for myself by doing something self-nurturing, possibly comforting to my inner child, like colouring, watching Harry Potter, or singing. These are just my own personal coping mechanisms. (For more ideas see 10 Ideas to Distract Depression: Don’t Feed the Monster.)
Everyday in life we can choose between the light and the dark- whether it be through an epic battle as seen in spiritual awakening experienced as Bipolar Disorder symptoms or otherwise, or through more subtle interactions.
May the Force be with you (the light side obviously).
“Woah! Did that really happen?!”
Sometimes the pain of what I’ve been through emotionally seems completely unreal- like, did I make it all up? Was that a nightmare?
I can remember how I felt and what was going through my mind, but it feels detached somehow. Almost like it was a different ‘me’ experiencing it.
When I’m feeling better, I tend not to look back too much at what I’ve been through. But I saw a TV programme with someone talking about their mental health experiences and it came flooding back.
In the darkest depressions I just couldn’t see any point in living. Life felt so empty and despairing and only full of pain. My belief in a loving God was challenged to the max. I felt dark spirits around me. I felt evil around me. I felt like I was at the point of letting the evil overpower me. I felt like I was dying. I absolutely hated myself. I rejected and abandoned myself.
Images of hurting myself, and strong impulses to do so, filled my mind. I’d wake up scratching myself and pulling at my hair in the middle of the night.
At the time I remember feeling 100% positive that I was completely to blame for what was happening to me, and that this was all I was worthy of. I didn’t see it as depression, I saw it as a weakness in me, and something I was going to be punished for.
It is only now I’m feeling better that I see how much darkness I had survived, and that I was ill. Sometimes I really do have to remind myself that this is an illness, and there is a biological basis to it. I don’t necessarily believe it to be 100% biological. I think environmental events/traumas all play their role, and some of us are just more sensitive to these things than others.
Sometimes I can’t even believe I survived it all!!
Right now, I’m so grateful that I’m feeling more myself at the moment!! I’m not going to dwell on these past times, but I will remember to rejoice in my strength- right from the Lord!!