My mood has been very low the past three weeks with depression. It seems to coincide with reducing then withdrawing one of my medications for bipolar disorder. One of the worst things about depression for me is the suicidal thoughts. Then not finding pleasure in anything - except chocolate - I self-medicate eating chocolate.
Most of the time, I mask depression. I mask, because I don't want my family to worry about me. But this week, the mask broke through and I cried at work and cried when I saw my therapist. My trauma psychologist was so worried about my low mood that she immediately contacted a mental health nurse (trauma counselling and mental health is separated here in New Zealand which is quite frustrating).
I was asked if I have suicidal thoughts. I do. I was asked if I was going to act on them. I said that I fight against it because 1. if I don't succeed, things might be so much worse (for example brain damage) 2. it would be very distressing for my family 3. even though I feel lonely at times, people do care about me 4. Even though I have suffered (yes suffered) from mental illness for over 25 years, I'm going to not let it beat me by taking my life. I am determined to die with it, not from it. 5. Even though the future can look very hopeless to me when I am depressed, I still cling to a shred of hope that things will get better. 6. Depressive episodes are temporary. They suck but I will have times in my life where I feel purposeful and enjoy life despite the challenges.
I feel purposeful now despite the depression, which is why I'm writing this, after not writing anything for weeks. It's because someone reached out to me. I don't even know what this person looks like. Someone with bipolar who also struggles with depression who noticed I hadn't been participating in a bipolar support group online and they asked me if I was okay. They thanked me for checking on them a while back when I noticed they had disappeared.
They understood what it is like to be like a hermit crab, isolating oneself away from the world. I do that to the extreme when I'm depressed. I've done it when my PTSD has become worse after more trauma. I feel frustrated that I still cannot work full-time because of my mental health issues.
Today, even though my face was a mess from crying after seeing the psychologist, I went to the supermarket. To buy ingredients to make lasagne and also to buy chocolate. Comfort food. I didn't manage to force myself to go for a walk today (stayed in bed for longer instead) but I am glad I made myself a hot meal. A few people (strangers) at the supermarket made a comment to me. I forced a half-smile and reply - I was masking.
It was hard for me to drag myself to work a few days ago. Someone who sees me each week said they noticed my hands and voice were shaking. They said my voice sounded sad. I burst into tears. I had been fighting suicidal thoughts and underneath it all feeling very lonely. This person gave me a hug and told me it would be okay. I had recently confided in them that I had bipolar disorder, PTSD and social anxiety disorder. They had noticed something was up with me.
I felt like someone cared. Depression lies and says that no-one cares, that I have no friends, that I'm a burden on my family and that I have no worth. It's tempting to be like a hermit crab and to shut myself away from the world. I still talk to family, even though I don't let on how bad I feel at times. I talk to a trusted friend every day by texting. They said they can tell I'm down as my messages seem 'flat' and are less frequent.
Sometimes, I've had no friends nearby but what has made all the difference is to message someone who listens and understands. Even someone who lives part-way around the world. Although it has been hard to know who to trust. But there are genuine people out there. Feeling like someone cares makes all the difference. It doesn't take away the depression, but it gives a sense of hope that things will get better. That we will get through difficult times.
Reach out to someone who is suffering. If you're suffering, continue to communicate with someone you trust, even if you don't feel like it. It's your lifeline.
I painted Rainstones when I was depressed. I was attempting to paint raindrops but they looked like river stones. It reflected how I felt weighed down inside. I connected them with brightly coloured wool. At the time, I thought because it was how I felt with everything weighing me down like a big fishing net with weights. But being abstract, it can be interpreted in different ways. Such as people who are going through similar things connecting with one another to support one another. Just a short conversation can show someone that they care. To breathe life and hope back into someone.
Xanthe finds writing and painting to be therapeutic. She has lived with mental illness for over 25 years. She has been diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder after originally being diagnosed with 'treatment resistant' depression with general anxiety.