Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Coming Back from a Depression (Part 1)

When I was younger, it was much easier for me to bounce back from a depressive episode. No matter what the duration or how awful I felt, once I began feeling well again, I used to call all my friends and say, "I'm back." And then I would arrange luncheons or dinners so that I could catch up on their lives--the milestones I had missed when I was ill. There were years when I was a good listener, and I truly was interested in whatever they wanted to share.

As the years progressed, gradually I stopped making most of those telephone calls. In some cases, after so many episodes of absence, we grew apart. In other cases, I just didn't have the energy to hear about everything I'd missed. It's not that I didn't care. It was just that I had spent so many days, weeks, or months--trying to survive--that I found it difficult to return to the rhythm of daily life.

And when they would ask me, "How are you?" I would say, "I'm okay now," and let it go at that. I think some of my friends and family members felt like I was shutting them out. I truly believed I was doing them a favor.

How can you describe what a depression feels like to someone who's never experienced one? Could I feel comfortable saying, "For the last four months, every day I felt like I was dying. Each morning when I awakened, I had to force myself to get out of bed, brush my teeth, shower, dress, and pretend that I could feel joy about anything. Yes, I love my husband and I love my son and there are others, but aside from loving them--I can't feel anything but sadness, grief, sometimes terror, and an overwhelming sense of loss."

Would they feel comfortable hearing these words? Would it make me feel better to say them?

I didn't think so then, and I don't now. How could I ever explain to them that from one day to the next, everything changes for me. Suddenly, after months of such debilitating psychic pain that I don't how I will stand it for one more minute, I'm myself again, and I feel the enthusiasm and optimism that is a central part of who I am--when I am well.

(to be continued)


Tony C. said...

I know that feeling all to well. I have given up telling people how I feel, most cant or dont want to relate to it anyhow.
They say that many actors are bipolar, personally I see it the other way round. Most bipolar sufferers are actors. We have to be to be survive in this crazy world.

Dirk said...

You are a special writer. Thanks!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thank you Tony C. and Dirk for your comments!


Syd said...

I think the sign of a true friendship is one in which two people can pick up right where they left off, whether it's been days, weeks or years since they last spoke. Sharing the details of all the day-to-day stuff isn't nearly as important as sharing the silence when words fail.

mylifewithbipolardisorder said...

Dear Susan,

I can relate to your feelings too. And I fully agree with Syd. I think true friends are the ones who accept us even after long silences, give us space to be alone when we are unwell even when they don't understand what we are going through, and readily receive us back when we are well and ready to relate to them again. Such friends many be few but they are special treasures and they become more and more precious over the years. My favourite quotes on friendships are True friends are those who know all about you and still like you, and True friends go through thick and thin together.

Hope you are feeling much better. May you find much comfort in your cyber friends even if you can't share much with your other friends. Remember that we understand as some of us have gone through or are going through similar experiences, and we can relate to your feelings and experiences :-)

Take care. Have a nice day.

Kind regards,

Smiler said...

This latest depression has been lasting much longer that all the previous ones and I've isolated myself for so long now that I'm finding myself trying to come up with what I'll say to people (friends and acquaintances both) when I start re-emerging. The very idea of it is much too daunting still, so I know I'm not ready yet. But yes, I do understand.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Sydney,what a wonderful way to say it: "Sharing the details of all the day-to-day stuff isn't nearly as important as sharing the silence when words fail."

Nanci, I agree that true friendship is truly about acceptance. But it's taken me a long time to understand that.

Smiler, wouldn't it be nice to be able to say, "I'm sorry I've been out of touch but I've been experiencing a depressive episode" without feeling like you've just admitted you have bubonic plague.

Smiler said...

I think I may just try that. There's a good chance they won't be asking questions after that. lol.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Smiler, actually, it would probably be easier to say you've had the plague, but now you're fine!

Dirk said...

Susan, my doc is now a fan of yours. She's been trying to get me into a group - and I've tried - but it's been intensely uncomfortable. But take a look at the virtual conversation around to this post and tell me that we're not relating and sharing. My doc says this is supposed to help. We'll see.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Dirk,
My research had suggested that support groups are supposed to help as well. I couldn't stand the thought myself. But once when I was truly desperate and tried to find one, the people I talked with on the telephone were so depressing that I had to go to bed for four hours--just to deal with my conversations with them. Needless to say, I didn't join a group.

I'd hope this blog would bring together like-minded people who could help each other. And last December, I almost stopped writing it, because it wasn't happening for me. There were only a few people who ever commented with truly helpful suggestions and shared their own experiences.

But suddenly, a whole new crop of people seemed to have appeared, and they are willing to share their experiences and advice.

Still, I don't know how to turn this into an arena for problem-solving common concerns--which would really be nice.

The problem is that online groups are so time consuming and I can neither assume the responsibility for one or spend that much time online.

But, for the time being, it's sure is nice to find some kindred spirits.