How to Understand and Manage Bipolar Disorder Part Two: Depression
Good Year Halloween Fans and welcome to the second installment of ‘How to Understand and Manage Bipolar Disorder: Depression’ This installment focuses on coping with depression and fatigue as symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Bit of a slow start to the blog yesterday as I wanted to lay the foundations of the nature of bipolar before steaming in. Anyway, that is done, dusted and polished, so I can now chat in an informal manner regarding the symptoms of bipolar. In this installment examining how to understand and manage bipolar disorder the focus will be on depression.
In the first blog I explained that bipolar is the swinging between the North, or manic state and the South or depressive state and that these two extremes were fueled by empathy and energy. Now we are going to focus a little on the depressive symptoms.
Now, years ago my diagnosis was a very personal matter and I had no interest in sharing it with others. Time, however, marches on and things change. In 2015 I started to publicly share poetry that I had written in secret over a ten-year period. At that time, it was necessary to open up regarding the diagnosis in order to give my writing meaning. The illness and the creativity are not mutually exclusive.
So, over the last two nearly three years I have been honest and up front about my condition. In return I have received a lot of support, a few people have been a bit difficult, but that is rare. I have received some responses to my diagnosis that are bizarre to say the least. For example, one man got up and ran away!! Very nice.
Misunderstanding Bipolar Disorder and Depression
The general, ill-informed responses tend to be either ‘you don’t look bipolar,’ or ‘we all have ups and downs.’ Well, I am not exactly sure what a bipolar survivor is supposed to look like but can only assume that I don’t fit the bill. With regards to the latter response, I tend to spend some time explaining that bipolar is not ‘ups and downs.’ You see, clinical depression is a far cry from having a bad day and one of the key symptoms is fatigue.
When I say fatigue, I do not mean a bit of tiredness in the morning or wanting to go to bed early. The fatigue I speak of is a physical one, one that drives the body down like a huge weight crushing every bone and muscle. Like fibromyalgia, the fatigue can result in inexplicable pains and aches, sore joints, headaches and flu like symptoms.
Whether these symptoms are psychosomatic or due to a neurochemical imbalance remains to be seen. The pain is, for all intents and purposes, very real and the weight of fatigue hard to envisage. I would liken it to having a heavy metal coursing through the veins, whilst laying on a powerful magnet. The sensation is one of being dragged down, stuck and unable to move.
How to Manage Bipolar Disorder Using Coping Mechanisms
I guess everyone who experiences this finds different coping mechanisms. My coping mechanism of choice is to allocate myself certain tasks to do for the day. usually the first task revolves around spring cleaning, if the environment is good then this benefits personal well-being. There is also a certain satisfaction in completing tasks set, especially for bipolar survivors who can struggle simply to make it through the day.
I make the goals of the day very specific, so I know exactly what I am doing. First and foremost, largely as a preventative measure I ensure that the house is well-organised, and everything has its place, go storage!
I take a black sack, spray, mop, dustpan and brush to each room. Tidy all bits and bobs away, clean the surfaces and floors, remove any rubbish and clean the floors. I may add additional tasks for any given day; changing the beds, putting up curtains, cleaning out a cupboard or toy box. It sounds very basic, but it’s easy to get this down to a fine art.
Routine is also paramount to overcoming fatigue; dinner is at a given time, homework has a set time and baths have a set time. The baths are important because there are so many people in our house that we need to ensure everyone has a turn.
How to Understand and Manage Seriously Depressive Days
So, these are the basics; routine and maintaining the environment. There will be days when these lapses happen. As I said previously bipolar survivors tend to overthink things and are in danger of condemning themselves, being too harsh on themselves for failure to complete tasks. Don’t fret, have a rest and start again. The world is not going to end because there is a bit of washing up or a project is unfinished.
Obviously not all survivors have children, and some have different sized houses and different levels of responsibility. First thing is first, spend a few days ensuring housework, work and any other projects are tidied up and at a point where maintenance is less taxing. Do not be afraid to delegate, good support from family and friends is imperative to personal well-being. In the absence of such support there are a number of charities that offer help and I would strongly suggest googling what mental health support is available locally.
How to Understand and Manage Bipolar Disorder: Coping with Fatigue
There will of course be days when a survivor is overwhelmed with fatigue. If this is the case delegate and have the rest that your body clearly needs. Where possible, make sure that you leave the house; go shopping, go for a walk, go swimming, just take time to go somewhere. This escape, however brief, will be extremely refreshing. I also recommend, on occasion, having an Indian Head Massage. This is one of the most powerful alternative remedies that I have found to combat fatigue.
With regards to work and hobbies or projects, spring clean. Examine the state of any outstanding work and force yourself, and sometimes you have to force yourself, to get matters up to date. I found myself side-tracked by personal matters last year and my writing projects went into a strange hiatus. My formatting was poor, submissions slow and editing non-existent. So, I set aside two days to work my behind off and get everything up to scratch. It wasn’t easy, but once complete I felt alive. I had managed to improve my situation and felt better for it.
Breaking the Cycle
So, why I am I suggesting getting up and taking stock of things as a solution for fatigue? Probably because when depressed there is a tendency to let things lapse, especially when the fatigue sets in. When the environment, work and projects collapse the thought of addressing them, the workload that needs to be done, can be too much. It is almost as if a fear of facing the accumulating mess is terrifying, this creates fatigue through stress, fatigue results in further lapses and once again a cycle, or sub-cycle, of bipolar forms.
Plan to spring clean all aspects of life, write a list of what needs to be done and deliberately book days to do this. This spring clean essentially gives a fresh slate for future planning and maintenance. It will be hard work, it may be a battle, but I guarantee it is wholly worth it. Remember I say ‘survivor’ not ‘victim’ because each day is a victory when living with this illness.
How to Understand and Manage Bipolar Disorder Using Rewards
A technique that is fabulous to employ when facing tasks whilst burdened with the weight of fatigue is a self-reward policy. On completion of such and such a task have a small treat. It sounds silly, but it does work. What that treat will be is very much a personal decision. My treat is a romance book (50c from charity shop) and a herbal bath. Costs very little, extremely relaxing and beneficial for fatigue.
There will be days when the fatigue is overwhelming; don’t be afraid to delegate, to ask for help nor to have a little rest. If the body needs to rest, then rest. Also, if you have someone close to confide in do explain exactly how the fatigue feels, use the analogy of the metals and magnets. People will be more supportive if they fully understand your predicament.
So, in summary, the fatigue experienced in bipolar is painful, heavy and entrapping. For further details on depression and it’s symptoms click here. Planning your life is one way to create a good starting point to battle this symptom. Plan, spring clean and set a routine. Don’t be afraid to lapse, don’t see it as failure and rest when needed.
I hope ‘How to Understand and Manage Bipolar Disorder: Depression’ helps someone dealing with this symptom. Please look out for the next installment of ‘How to Understand and Manage Bipolar Disorder.’
Love Valkyriekerry Kelly