Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

Right now I am in the middle of a fairly deep depression. It has gone on for days, which is unusual now that I am more or less stabilized on medication. But there is no let-up in sight.

This time is one of those I-have-nothing-to-look-forward-to moments; plus the holidays; plus the need-to-see-my-therapist thing; plus the have-an-appointment-with-new psychiatrist-but-it’s-not-till-March thing; plus the whole no-spoons-to-get-out-but-really-need to-get-out-of-the-house feeling; plus the various catastrophizing-about-finances-and-the-IRS problem; plus the there’s-something-I-really-want-to-happen-but-if-it does-it-won’t-be-soon-and-may-not-happen-at-all.

Let’s see. Is there anything else?

Oh, probably, but that will do for starters. Of course to a lot of people, those would be everyday annoyances and I would be having your standard pity party. But for a bipolar person, with my brain chemistry, it’s an invitation to a deep, dark pit.

So what are the things that help pull me through, or out, or up? And what are the things I can do while I just ride it out?

Well, there’s music. I’ve written about that before ( There are two long-form musical bits that have been known to lure me out: The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance. Occasionally when I haven’t gotten out of bed in a while, my husband will put on a DVD of one or the other and wait for me to appear in the door of his study. There is usually beer or snacks, and I can sing along (badly but loudly) to my heart’s content. Heart’s content – now there’s a good thing. Going to see live productions of Gilbert & Sullivan was an activity my sorority used to do, and one of my best memories of otherwise-difficult sorority life. (I mean, really, can you picture me in a sorority?)

Then there are distractions. These don’t actually improve my mood, but they can help me avoid dwelling on the above list of what’s-wrongs. If I have the concentration needed to read, that’s my go-to choice. (I’ve also written about “comfort reading”: I usually try to keep one fiction and one nonfiction going, so I can switch back and forth.

Sometimes, though, I don’t have the concentration to make it through a chapter. Then it’s time to try TV. Something familiar, non-challenging, not too fast-paced. Cooking shows work, or something like Pawn Stars. True crime or true medicine. Shows where I already know the characters and the back-stories: Castle, Bones.

When I don’t even have enough concentration for that, I go for stupid clicky games. One round of Candy Crush Soda Saga is about as mindless as you can get and still be breathing. Even playing out all five lives takes about 15 minutes. Or I can turn off my brain entirely, play obsessively, and get lost for hours of not-worrying about anything more important than making six-letter words in AlphaBetty.

Occasionally I can do light-as-popcorn forms of social interaction. Phone calls with a depressed friend or one who always has a silly joke ready or one who reads the same sorts of things that I do. Instant messaging. Facebook.

Sometimes, though not often in this state, I can force myself to work a little. Or work on my blogs. It’s difficult and not really satisfying and sometimes even painful, but if I can do it, it’s probably the best thing for me. Accomplishing something – anything – helps build a step out of the pit.

As for the usual advice – rest, exercise, nutrition, meditation – I usually can’t manage those. Except for sleeping. I’m a world-class napper. Also a world-class insomniac. Don’t ask me how I manage that. It’s a gift. I have a new exercise regimen that involves walking up and down the stairs more times than I really have to. My husband makes sure I eat at least one good meal a day. For meditation I pet a cat.

Then I wait.

I know that this will not last for weeks or months or years the way it used to. I’m just going to be miserable until I’m not anymore.

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