Somehow I am going to attempt to keep a diary of my bipolar disorder (anyone with bipolar disorder will know how hard it is to keep a diary, but health professionals seems to find them helpful, which is kind of ironic).
Before I begin I want to point out that years ago I learned a lot of coping mechanisms which help prevent depression that came from my way of thinking, and too few people, including health care professionals, seem to understand that in effect there are two types of depression – maybe more.
**Quick Disclaimer – I am not a mental health professional, and the types of depression I describe are not actual recognised “types” of depression (I don’t think) in the same way there are type 1 and 2 of diabetes. Finally not being a mental health professional does not invalidate my opinions, as I have life experience of actually living with bipolar disorder, and understand better what is going on in my head than somebody who doesn’t have a mental illness. That is not to say don’t listen to mental health professionals.**
I will call it Type One Depression
This what I can permanent mental illness depression. It is a type of depression that regardless of how much CBT, or learning to think in a certain way, it will just strike for no reason, basically the brain is just doing it’s own thing. Rarely does bad news or anything else that can be linked to people feeling “down” apply. It is random. It cannot be cured with “positive thinking”. It is debilitating and no amount of going to the gym will help cure it. In fact, there is no way a person will feel mentally or physically able to do anything in a gym when this strikes (going to the gym is a favourite bit of advice from GP’s & mental health professions). This type of depression doesn’t care if you are naturally cheerful and have the perfect life, it doesn’t care if you naturally live your life in a way that we are supposed to in order to avoid bringing negative thinking into our lives.
I fit into this category. I can laugh at bad things happening to me, I can can smile, and for some reason health professionals think this means you are ok. It doesn’t. I hide things from health professionals and when people ask “how are you” because I have learned to get into positive habits I will always answer “good” rather than “not bad” or “mustn’t grumble”. I project myself in this way to avoid negativity, not because I actually feel good.
What I call Type Two Depression – Circumstance/Thought Depression
Type two as I call it (these are not medical terms by the way) is something very common. And is partly caused by lacking self awareness. For example I used to be very paranoid, and that in it’s self helped contribute to being depressed, but having learned to be more self aware, I can better detect what is paranoia or genuine concern.
People with this type of depression can be cured if they want to be, but far too much focus when people talk about depression in general is put on this type. Things like CBT are very good and will help prevent depression if it is Type Two, but the biggest problem with type two is that it is difficult to get these people to change themselves because their problems are learned, often from childhood. And I hate to say it, too often this depression is brought about by being of low intelligence, meaning they are least likely to be equipped with enough about them to spot that if when they do x it leads to y every time, and y is negative, that y isn’t the cause, it is the effect and in fact they need to stop doing x and start doing z instead.
In these cases things like going to the gym and stopping trying to control things that are outside your control can be life changing.
But to use that a formula again. What happened to me was that I stopped doing x and y indeed stopped happening. I had cut out the negativity that then lead to me feeling depressed as a result of essentially my own actions and getting hung up on things outside my control. So baring in mind outside elements no longer had a major effect on my mood either way, and I had an all round more positive, less chaotic lifestyle due to this.
Yet out of the blue no matter how great things were going along, I suddenly hit a brick wall, depression struck. After 10 years nearly of being habitually using all the techniques to cure my Type 2 depression (you can have both at the same time), I am noticing that I am just feeling really bad for no reason (I’m not going to list all of the symptoms here).
That is when I first realised something wasn’t right, some chemical imbalance in the brain perhaps? The problem is, first you have to go through everything that you have already done to get over type 2, because the mental health professionals expect it of you. But even when that is done, and you are being treated with drugs, professionals are still judging you based on that type 2 depression. In order to be depressed you can’t smile, you can’t laugh, you need to be wanting to kill yourself or you need to go to the gym etc. But when I don’t want to get out of bed, mix with anyone, talk to anyone and stop being productive and even doing things I love for months on end, a health professional saying “you need to do these things” is like breaking your neck and a GP telling you that you need to go for a run.
It doesn’t stop me saying out of habit that “I’m good thanks” when someone asks how I am, self-pity makes you say “i’m terrible” and blurt out your life story, that isn’t Type One Depression. And it doesn’t, when you can’t help but be in conversation with someone, like attending those rare mental health professional appointments, stop you smiling or even laughing. I’m not talking about cracking jokes left right and centre, just the occasional ironic laugh or something making you smile. That doesn’t mean I am not suffering from depression. People who have lost someone they love recently still manage to laugh when told a funny story about them or smile about something. People with depression do not have to be miserable 100% of the time, and neither does smiling or laughing cure the depression and suddenly mean everything is fine again. But there is a misconception among too many health professionals that it does. You have to look at the bigger picture.
Mania Currently at 4/10
I will talk about mania in more detail in a later post, I am running out of time now, and I am in a situation where I am having a mild manic episode at the moment. Anyone with bipolar disorder will understand that the mania feeling, isn’t all together a bad thing, I have lots of things I need to do today, and am slightly distracted writing this, I have had some very bad news about PIP and the worry about it is peeping in every now and then as I try to block it out. But the mania is currently helping me in fighting back and remain positive, so at this moment in time, I want to take advantage of it.
But I want to keep a diary as much as possible so hopefully I can show it to my own health professional rather than forget and he think I must be fine. I know I have been incorrect in some of the things I have told him in recent meetings, I didn’t notice some manic episodes that I had or forgot, I have had it so long I don’t always notice when I am having one if it is fairly mild. So it is important I keep some sort of record.
But fellow Bipolar Disorder sufferers, you know how it is. When you are in a state of mania, it is more likely you will lose track of what you planned originally to do and get bogged down doing something totally different before trying to fit in a million other things. Or when depression kicks in, the last thing you want to do is anything. If only we could balance these things out we would be able to keep really accurate diaries and information, but then it would probably mean we didn’t need any treatment anyway. Oh the irony eh!