Monday, January 7, 2008

A Virulent Depression

I thought I was better last Wednesday but then this depression came back with full force and I spent the last five days holding on by my my finger nails. When I'm well, I've got all these clever little activities I do to remain well, but during a depressive episode, none of them work.

I played my Autoharp (music therapy) and the guitar. The Autoharp made me think of my mom and I sobbed. The guitar wasn't very satisfying because my skills aren't nearly as good. Since depression destroys my memory, I couldn't remember any of the new notes I was learning. I blew in an out on my harmonica but it didn't even make me smile.

I gardened or at least did a lot of yard maintenance (I think I removed every weed and leaf in our backyard and while it was important to remain outside (when it wasn't raining), it didn't improve my mood in the least. What it did provide was a focus to my day and a sense of completion.

I tried to research this illness online to see if there's anything new in treatment or medication. I didn't find a thing and, of course, that made me feel worse.

I reread the bipolar books in my library--which are always depressing. I wonder if any of these authors have truly experienced depression and have a clue about what they're writing. Marja, I do like your book (Roller Coaster) but praying just doesn't work for me when I'm ill. I prayed every day for six years when I was unbearably depressed (and so physically ill because of the medication that I truly thought I would die) and the silence was deafening. Now, I can only pray when I'm happy or for other people...but not for myself.

What works better--but not well enough--is writing essays in my mind. The sad stuff makes me feel worse. But I've created this imaginary character, Suki Schwartz, who's sometimes my Bipolar Angel and sometimes my Bipolar Wellness Warrior and I write the words from her that I need to hear. Or I fantasize that she's taking me on journeys to healthy places where I'll be "cured." Or I have her tell me what she likes about me, the good things I've done.

When my mom was very sick, I used to sit by her bed and tell her how much I loved her. I would read poetry she'd written and poetry and essays I'd written about her. I would tell her things about her that I admired...remind her of fun vacations...of wonderful things she'd done for others. I would chronicle the parts of her life that made her happy and tell her how proud I was to be her daughter. Many times, I just lay next to her on her bed and stroked her hair and kissed her face.

When I'm so sick I can barely stand it, I take an old Gerber's baby cap with Alex's picture in it (that he made in preschool 15 years ago) and I clutch it in my hand like an amulet. I silently repeat over and over, "Alex, I love you so much; I will never abandon you. I want to be here for all the wondrous things that will happen in your share your happiness and sorrow. I love you so. (Well, you get my drift.)

My friend Sydney wrote me daily and reminded me of my strengths, and told me why she loves me. She thoughtfully responded to a wide range of silly ideas (that never make sense when I'm well), and provided never-ending positive enforcement.

My aunt wrote and so did my friend Annie. And I appreciate your kind words. Since I can barely speak when I'm depressed, it's always nice to read words of random kindness. I didn't always respond but I want to thank each and every one of you.


Merelyme said...

i find holding something tangible helps too. i have a stuffed bunny i like to hold. sometimes chanting or rhythmic swaying helps to bide the time.

i have written a small post about are welcome to come by and add your comments. or if you are wanting stillness right now i can understand.

JayPeeFreely said...

I think yor post describes many of the things you do in coping with your feelings during these periods.

It must feel like a switch, that you wish you could adjust, not to flick on/off, but to adjust the intensity of things at times.

But believe me, you are not alone in those feelings.

Take care Susan.

Polly said...

When I'm well, I've got all these clever little activities I do to remain well, but during a depressive episode, none of them work.

I'm exactly like that, too. I can stave off episodes for a long, long time, but when one does hit, I'm either not capable of doing my wellness activities or they don't help.

I'm sorry you're having a hard time right now.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Merelyme and Jaypeefreely. Also, thanks Polly. For some reason, a few months ago, I went through my blogroll to check links and got a totally different blog than yours--on your site--or so I thought! Maybe it was just me.