My Experiences with Bipolar Disorder

Here is an update of how I have been managing, emotionally, with my Bipolar Disorder.


Depression as a Tormentor

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Ken, Iliana and I just returned from vacation in Pittsburgh where we visited my brother and sister-in-law and were also able to see my other sister-in-law and nephews who live in Ohio. Ken and I had 2 1/2 days to ourselves, staying at a hotel, while Iliana attended 3 days at “Camp Auntie Jenny,” which consisted of fun-filled days of an amusement park, science museum, walks, parks, the zoo and bowling. My sister-in-law has done this camp for all of her nieces and nephews the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and it is amazing. Iliana had a chance to not only have a lot of fun, but she also got to have special time with my sister-in-law and brother. Ken and I had some very needed time together. We had not had a vacation since our honeymoon, almost 10 1/2 years ago. We needed it to relax, not worry about Iliana and simply enjoy ourselves doing touristy things around Pittsburgh. If “Camp Auntie Jenny” did not happen, we never would have taken the week off. Financially, there is a reason we have not been able to go away, more so in the past 5 years. It was wonderful for us, individually, and as a family.

Leaving Connecticut and going to Pennsylvania did not mean my depression and anxiety would remain in Connecticut and I knew that. There were lengths of time each day where I enjoyed myself and felt “in the moment” and “involved.” Then there were times when I felt very anxious, sad and a little lost. My therapist and I had scheduled 2 phone sessions but I canceled the second one as the first one only stirred things up and I was not able to meet with her, in person, to work it through. Phone sessions are not at all the same as a live session. She agreed to canceling the second session. It was difficult not to see her as I see her 3 times a week.

It is simply hard to be away from home when you are not feeling very well. It was good to get away and not live by a schedule but the week away did not take away my symptoms as well as my fight against them. It really is exhausting. I am thankful to not be considered having a “severe” depressive episode right now, as I have had 4 times over the past 4 1/2 years but illness is illness and calling this episode “moderate” does not take away its arduousness. 

Many people have difficulty understanding how depression and anxiety are internal issues. When someone says, “it’s all in your head,” s/he is completely accurate. It is a miserable experience and is more painful than my broken arm, abdominal surgery and C-section put together. The thoughts are never-ending, the “as needed” medication is taken more and it is exhausting. My depression’s voice is my tormentor.

For me, part of my experience of depression is having to listen to an inner voice (and this is not in a psychotic sense, but quite neurotic) that is mean, nasty and completely uncaring. I hate myself at times because I believe this voice; every little daily annoying thing that happens to us all is magnified by 1,000. I dropped a clipboard at work today which holds papers that track the day and week and, obviously, this is truly not a big deal, but my immediate response out loud was, “fuck…of course.” In my head it did not end there: “How stupid are you? Come on! You do such stupid things.” My response to small annoying things, which should be laughter or a sigh, is almost always negative against myself right now. This voice inside of me, my depression, is truly my tormentor. This inner negativity is a very big part of my depression and anxiety. My therapist is constantly reality-checking with me and working with me to stretch my thoughts to try to include even a small understanding of the reality of these situations and that I do not need to take it out on myself. It is laborious for both of us.

Unfortunately, when one is ill with depression, you do not get a vacation from the illness. It’s there, stronger at times than others, but is always lurking in the background, like the tormentor it is.


The Wrong Door

It started and I kept going along, ignoring yet feeling it. It came on more slowly than before which fooled me into believing it would come and move on its way. Then, things piled up…symptoms piled up: irritability, trouble sleeping, severe anxiety, fatigue, difficulty feeling connected to others, decrease in appetite…I wanted to keep ignoring it and only described my symptoms to my therapist but never used the word “depression.” My therapist did and questioned if I was falling back but I told her I wasn’t, that I wasn’t totally under water and could still be around people. That held true but not for long and then I could no longer ignore it. I could not say the word out loud though. I emailed my therapist and simply said, “I am depressed.” Of course when we saw each other next, the word was voiced and owned by me.
In the past, my depressive episodes would come on very quickly, sometimes within days from 0-100. Feeling the symptoms pile on one another so quickly is terrifying and does not allow you any time to breathe. This episode is different, certainly not better, but different.
This feels as if I walked through a door and realized it was the wrong one to go through but once I turned around the door was gone and I was stuck in the wrong place. I entered the wrong door to the wrong time to the wrong place with no way out. I walked into utter darkness and even though I can’t see anything, this isn’t the only phenomenon that scares me. It’s not just about being alone in the darkness, but feeling alone. I cannot conjure up feelings, thoughts and memories of those I love very often and hold onto them. The frustration of that only leads to more fear of being and believing that feeling alone is my destiny.
This door has led me to the wrong world and I am seeking an exit. This world is vast, empty and scary. Not only is it desolate but it is not allowing me any comfort. It is not allowing my brain to think clearly and to picture my loves, hold on to them and use those images and visualizations in my head to calm me.
This fucking sucks. I’m anxious with no precipitant. I am numb. I am sad. I am scared. I am irritable. I am so very tired. I feel so alone. I feel I am a burden. My inner dialogue is terribly rude and offensive toward myself (and these are only a few examples): I’m stupid, a bad person, a bad wife, a bad mother and this reel goes on and on in my head throughout the day and now feels normal. My body is in the world but I am not. Life is happening around me but I don’t feel I am a participant.

As I work with my therapist on talking through the many aspects of my current experience, I am also working with my psychiatrist on a medication increase. There is no easy fix and it can take 3-4 weeks to begin to feel a positive effect from this increase which is not easy to tolerate when I feel so stuck.

I didn’t mean to walk through this door into this world. I simply didn’t know. The writer, Dejan Stojanovica, wrote, He tries to find the exit from himself but there is no door. I think I walked through that door because I believed it would rid me of my inner pain, that I could “exit” my self but once through that door, it turned out to simply be a mirage. It wasn’t real. There never was a door to walk through in order to leave my self. This world that feels wrong is actually my world. It wasn’t a mistake, I was merely taking the next step that I had to take as it was the only way to go. I, somehow, need to keep walking though, not to find an exit, but to find an entrance.