How to Manage the Wave of Depression

A woman covered in a blanket sits by the ocean in the morning.

A tidal wave- the perfect metaphor for depression. My life seemed like a simple and joyful day at the beach, with no worries. Suddenly, I’m overtaken by this wave of depression, sweeping over me, tossing my feelings around as I clutch to some vague sense of security. Security in what? I try to grab for what I know will calm me in such tempestuous times- spirituality. Yes, at least now when the tidal wave sweeps over me, I can grasp for spirituality.

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I turn my radio stations in between 3 different Christian channels. A renown pastor was preaching on Moody Broadcasting. Air1, the alternative Christian music network, resonated with me as a listener spoke about her personal struggles. On WFHM, I listened to MercyMe and cried as I finished my drive home from Walmart on my day off work. The boss finally gave me a day off after working so many weekends. It was supposed to be so joyful. I went shopping at 7:00 am, right after I dropped my kids off at school. The store was quiet and I was able to shop with relative ease and peace. I spent way more money than I had budgeted!

Signs of Depression

I should’ve seen my depression developing. I was irritable and short with my family last night. After being cooped up every day, listening to my kids chew LOUDLY- the cracking and popping sounds emanating from the bowels of their braces and jaws, I just howled, “Stop!”

For the past week, I’ve felt as though life could never be dismal. My thoughts and ideas swirled around my head- I have felt inspired. Now, I feel devoid of anything.

If only I had been attuned to my emotions better, I could’ve taken better care. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much money at Walmart today.

  • Feelings of hopelessness, as though, no matter what you do, nothing will change or improve.
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that once brought joy.
  • Weight/appetite changes. An increase or decrease of 5% of your body weight in a month is significant.
  • Sleeping too little or too much, or waking up too early, or oversleeping.
  • Irritable and Angry. Your fuse is much shorter, people tend to get on your nerves easily.
  • Self-hate- feeling guilty, worthless, overly-critical of self.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling sluggish, or slow. Tasks take longer to complete.
  • Recklessness- Engaging in risky or dangerous activities or behaviors or abusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Unable to concentrate.
  • Frequent physical pains in the muscles, stomach, or headaches.

Risks For Depression

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder, have fewer emotional, social and financial reserves. Many people who suffer from mental illness have fragmented social and family ties. As a result of their mental illness, they may be alienated from friends and family. Many of these people may come from an abusive family or have been affected by alcoholism. Certain factors increase your risk of depression.

  • No social support (family and friends, or other support systems)
  • Isolation, lack of mobility.
  • Unemployment or underemployment (not living up to full potential, not being recognized at work).
  • Relationship problems/marital issues.
  • Poverty, crushing debt, not enough money to live comfortably, unable to meet needs.
  • Early experiences with trauma, childhood abuse.
  • Health problems.

Interestingly, this week I’ve experienced several episodes of anxiety. From nearly passing out at work, to the agony of managing my workload, I also recall feeling diminished and invisible at work. It seems everything else is expected to take a backseat to my job. The moments I get to spend with my family seem fleeting, and at times, my aspirations to be a successful writer/illustrator and entrepreneur, seem hopeless. Last week, however, my dreams were soaring. I tried to imagine being successful and getting another job.

Road Rage

Today, I felt an uncomfortable surge of anger when I was driving to Walmart. The car tailgating me rushed over into the next lane when the road changes to two lanes. It had been raining out, my tire treads are choppy (only $500-$600 to get all new tires). When the light turned green, I floored it to prevent the other driver from getting in front of me. The “slippery conditions” icon was activated on my dashboard, yet I persisted. I could see the other driver turned right just after passing through the intersection.

Feelings of apathy, flatness, are dominant when I’m depressed. My body feels aching, my mind is becoming drained. It will soon become that time when I can do nothing more than “reflect”.

On a positive note, my supervisor informed me that he understood my issues because he experiences anxiety too. When I asked him how he manages, he told me he takes Lexapro. He had to stop using Paxil because it made him feel like a zombie.

I think I tried Lexapro when I was in my thirties. I had to stop taking it because I couldn’t afford it. The doctors offered me the generic alternative, Celexa, which upset my stomach. The Lexapro seemed to work okay back then. I didn’t take it long enough to note anything else.

SSRI’s are not effective in treating bipolar depression. I found this out when I went to my doctor in 2017. She prescribed Lamictal, which is used for both bipolar disorder and seizures. The dosing schedule she gave me seemed unusual. I didn’t want to take any more medications, and I failed to follow-up.

I feel drained at the end of the day. It’s after 5:00 pm by the time I remember to call to make appointments. I hate talking to receptionists. So many times, I’ve been talked to in a condescending manner.

I don’t always know when my depression is going to manifest. Who could know, especially when your mind is busy or clouded by other thoughts? Although I feel hopeless, I want to keep fighting. Every battle scar has a story, and every story has an ending. I know I can rewrite it if I make the effort.

References:

  1.  (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm/).
  2. (https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/bipolar-disorder-anxiety-often-follows-mania).
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What You Should Know About Bipolar Mania

Know The Difference Between Hypomania and Mania

The symptoms of hypomania and mania are very similar. You may feel more social, excited, confident and creative. However, the two conditions differ in severity and length.

Hypomania is a milder form of mania and lasts a shorter period of time- days, instead of weeks. Mania is a condition that is more severe and lasts longer than hypomania- generally, mania lasts a week or more.

Often, those who experience hypomania enjoy the bursts of energy and creativity. On the other hand, individuals who experience mania may feel quite uncomfortable with their symptoms. A person experiencing hypomania may simply be more friendly and active. The sudden burst of energy often leads them to take on many projects at once, or accept more risks and responsibilities.

Somebody experiencing mania will also feel excited, but it is much more difficult to manage the sudden bursts of energy. Instead of simply feeling more creative, the manic individual has difficulty harnessing their energy. Their words pour out quickly and frequently, thus making it difficult to engage with others and allow them to interject. Accompanying that desire to talk frequently and quickly, they feel overly confident, grandiose- as though others don’t have the capacity to understand their special abilities and talents.

The person experiencing hypomania feels that they can perform tasks more efficiently and better than normal. They feel happy, have boundless energy and creativity, and seem to be able to manage their energy, racing thoughts, and ideas.

When somebody is experiencing mania, however, it is difficult for them to organize and direct their energy.

Key components of mania may include:

  • Jumbled, unorganized and racing thoughts.
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks and/or easily distracted.
  • Lack of insight, which hinders the ability to mania as problematic.
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things others can’t observe (psychosis).

Managing Hypomania and Mania

Boundless energy, feeling more attractive and social- people often enjoy hypomania and mania and seem no harm. Their distorted beliefs about hypomania and mania may lead to an incorrect diagnosis, or they fail to follow-up on their treatment.

The first step should be to get a physical to rule out other potential causes. If you are taking any medications, your doctor needs to assess if these medications are the cause of your symptoms, or if any medications or other health issues are affecting your treatment.

Many patients are advised by their doctors to take antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. If you are taking medications, it is essential that you take the medicine as prescribed and follow-up as needed with your doctor.

In combination with taking medications, or instead of taking medications, many people are advised to participate in therapies that involve talking.

Talk Therapy includes:

  • Family-Focused Therapy, which involves working with members of your family to identify certain behaviors and traits that need attention. Problem-solving methods are employed as part of therapy.
  • Interpersonal Therapy examines your relations and how to improve and interact more effectively.
  • Psychoeducation is a type of intervention that helps people learn to cope, either on their own or as part of a group.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)- Therapy that focuses on living in the present and becoming more attentive.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- A type of therapy program that is practical and short-term, that helps people identify and change behaviors associated with hypomania and mania.

How To Help Yourself

Learn to identify triggers:

  • Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Not allowing yourself downtime to enjoy rest, pursue recreational activities, or enjoy time with family, friends or solitude.

Make a plan to manage hypomania/mania episodes.

A management plan may address your triggers. An example of a management plan may include:

  • Keeping track of your moods. Record the day, time and other factors important to the event.
  • Avoiding situations, places, and people that may put you at risk to engage in dangerous behaviors (such as taking drugs, spending too much money, etc.)
  • You may opt to avoid places that are over-stimulating, or too chaotic, busy or crowded.

Apply daily routines to help manage episodes of hypomania and mania.

  • Get plenty of sleep and try to go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Practice proper nutrition and eat regular meals. Avoid skipping meals.
  • Keep balanced! Avoid taking on too many responsibilities. Seek relaxing activities to counteract the stimulating/stress-inducing activities. Relaxing activities include meditating, journaling, reading, working on puzzles, etc.

Support System As Part Of Treatment

Many people who suffer from mood disorders lack quality relationships with family or friends. Take steps to correct this if possible! Many family members or friends don’t have specific knowledge about hypomania and mania, and they may reflect this lack of knowledge in the way they deal with their loved ones!

Clearly, but kindly, express your frustrations with them. Educate them on your symptoms so they don’t falsely attribute every “good” day to hypomania/mania. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to make sure you are getting enough sleep, nutrition, etc.

Family and friends can play an important role in treatment. They may be able to let you see your blind spots (this theory can be applied to all people- not just individuals with mood disorders).

Conversely, if you lack quality friendships or family relationships, you may prefer to find a group that deals specifically with mood disorders. Such groups can be found locally, but more often, people with mood disorders enjoy connecting with others online- for example, online forums, or online therapy (if covered by insurance).

Why I Love My Bipolar Mania!

Mania Can Feel Like Euphoria At Times

Although experiencing “flight of ideas” in of itself is not a mental disorder, it is a symptom of those with bipolar disorder. All that mania and energy needs to be channeled somehow- it is best used in creative endeavors. When I experience the highs of mania, I become the idea person– the person who conjures up dozens (or more) ideas, concepts, processes, etc., only to never really follow through any of them. By the time the idea(s) is(are) manifested and it is time to develop the ideas, my mind is off somewhere else…perhaps I am so down again that I can barely find any desire to become “goal-directed”. This is not a particularly desirable quality for my vocation.

As a result of the flaws of my manic episodes, I can use my moments of mania to augment my work life, but I can’t allow myself time to pursue anything loftier than my menial job. As a middle-aged worker, I am able to look back upon my vocational lifespan and know that I don’t consistently have all the qualities necessary to get the sweet, 9-5 job in an ad agency. Those people, as far as I can see, have a different kind of attitude when it comes to creativity. 

In the arrogance of my youth (or the ignorance of my youth), I figure I would benefit from going to college. I never obtained even a two-year degree in any one course of study. I was neither inspired or encouraged as a young person- I had a desire to go to school, but I lacked the tenacity to finish the one class that was standing in the way of my moving on in college.

Drawing for me is a release- I am able to focus and generate some clarity through these lines and shapes. Through these seemingly benign and naive patterns, I can somehow see the patterns of my life, even if they are mere fragments of a shattered lens.

So, I never completed my Marketing & Sales certificate- or the Graphic Design degree in which I transferred. The Sociology degree I desired to obtain was just too impractical and unlikely. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on education or enrichment. I simply had to change the way I sought these things.

Mania- it can make me feel more creative. Bipolar disorder isn’t as simple as many are led to believe. It’s can be difficult to focus on complex tasks without the help of notebooks, post-its, and my trusted computer. These tools serve as ways to process many simultaneous thoughts and ideas.

When it comes to employment, the volatile and changing nature of the bipolar disorder can limit one’s career choices and success, no matter how much skill or talent one possesses.

Many people who struggle with mental health issues (like myself), may find menial jobs comforting- for they are predictable and help us to feel anchored in some regards. I find that my mind has time to wander, instead of being consumed by mental-overload.

I try to make the most out of an otherwise undesired and limiting aspect of my life and choices. I still have dreams and creativity.

 

When I Realized I Was Addicted to Bipolar Mania

The Calm Before The Storm

When I am feeling “level”, that is, “cool-headed”, or balanced and mellow, I am neither depressed nor elevated and manic. I sometimes wonder when I will become manic or depressed, which will come first. I might have taken good care of my health during these times of feeling balanced. I may have felt in control of my environment and circumstances. It sometimes is a chance that everything is balanced in my life- I might not have been actively involved in shaping my level mood. I sometimes miss the rush from feeling manic.

Sometimes this surge in energy helped me through a tough day at work, or I was particularly motivated to take my family on outings…which is usually a seldom occurrence because I am introverted and do not like to be out with at places where there are crowds of people. I get elated when I see an empty theater or restaurant- makes me feel safe and cozy!

Addicted To Mania?

I surmised that maybe I am addicted to my manic moods. When I say “addicted” I mean that I am aware of the fact that my moods get elevated, as well as depressed. I am aware of this fact, yet I ride the proverbial wave of mania each episode, savoring those elusive times of feeling “on top of the world.” I do nothing to manage my mania or depression before the moods overwhelm me. When I am exposed to environments, situations, behaviors or people that may influence my moods, I do not mindfully assess my triggers. Sometimes, I think certain things are good because they contribute to making me feel happy…these things can also overstimulate my mind, sending it into chaotic bliss, as well as a chaotic abyss.

In my chaotic bliss (mania), I become more extroverted and talkative. I also talk louder and am prone to using an edgier tone (I curse more). It was more intense when I abused alcohol in my youth. People that have mental health issues need to take special care of their minds and be more diligent to steer clear of drugs or alcohol, as these things tend to worsen symptoms of mania and depression.

Medications Diminish Desired Mania

I have tried several variants of antidepressants from the SSRI classification. Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, all to no avail (The Journey Begins). I never wanted to be on medications forever and it seemed that the pharmaceutical industry wants us to use the medications indefinitely. Doctors would tell me, “You have to give it time for them to work effectively”. A few years ago, I tried using medications one more time. This time, I had very bizarre nightmares– morbid in theme, disturbing in context.

I felt I was being disobedient to God by continuing the drug. Also, I did not feel happy- ever! Just one, single, solemn and dull, level mood. I could not even bring myself to crack a smile because my face felt like a somber mask. A mask of plastic- I felt like I had a lobotomy! My thoughts started to become disordered too. I quit the medication cold-turkey and suffered painful withdrawals for a few days. I was agitated and mean and couldn’t wait to overcome the medication!

Self-Awareness To Tame The Beast

In my past, I have been with depression and anxiety disorders. I have always suspected that I may have bipolar disorder (my mother and sister can attest to my moods as well). I feel like there are three energy forces within me- balanced and cool, dark and depressed, and excited/manic. I am not sure if these “forces’ are all attributed to my moods or are components of my personality.

I enjoy my level moods, although they are far and few in between. I loathe my depressed moods and wonder why I am plagued by them periodically. When I haven’t had a manic episode in a few days or weeks, I start thinking about how I can induce happiness in some other way. I do not drink or take drugs. I do listen to music- very manic music. Sometimes I shut off the music and enjoy the clarity that comes through silence. I am learning to recognize music as a mood trigger and limit the time I am being influenced by exciting music, but oftentimes, I want to be the person experiencing the excitement. Excitement- yes, I can manage excitement. Mania, it is my addiction to an unhealthy level of excitement, or so I am beginning to discover.