As any of you suffering from Bi-Polar II know, depression is awful and can be deadly.
After 40 years of dealing with this problem I had developed many coping and self-support techniques. Some came naturally and are part of my personality. Others I taught myself. I thought I might share and start a discussion on this.
Of course coping with depression might never have happened if I had not learned to recognize that the depression came from within and not from external causes. That is the first step in coping.
Stage 1 Depression: As I slid down into depression I found this stage almost comforting. I'd be blue, but I'd handle it by avoiding people and going within myself. My concentration improved. It was like my brain had switched sides, going from the creative, non-linear thinking into something more analytical and introspective.. In school, those were the times I got a lot of reading done, math concentration improved. I'd bump up exam scores in accounting, finance and statistics. I can get a lot of mundane work done if people just let me be and quit asking why I was distant and blue.
Stage 2 Depression: The sleeplessness really becomes noticeable and appetite decreases. I start feeling like I don't want to be involved with life, but I found ways to cope. List Making & Self Reward! I'd force myself to make a list of objectives for the day, the week and the month. Then I could treat myself to the reward of accomplishment. It did not keep me from feeling the pain of depression, but it did boost my spirits and helped me recognize I was a useful, productive person. I became an intense cataloger of things. It grew out of the checklists and became an important part of the successes I've enjoyed in my career. It kept me a bit more balanced during hypo-mania as well.
This is also when training for bicycle racing and weight training would kick into overdrive. I'd ride at max output for hours, lift until complete muscle failure -- jonesing for the endorphin rush. And it competition? If I hurt, I'd want my opponent to hurt worse. I was the king of pain. An animal Sports was self-medication, but it lifted my spirits and built my trophy case. But miss a day or two of practice? That would be one of many aggravating factors that could throw me into the next stage and into the abyss.
Stage 3 Depression: Uh-oh! This is where the problems start. I can't sleep. I can't eat. I can't function. I obsess over my support mechanisms, but the rewards don't come. Thinking is difficult. The mental pain is severe. Out of frustration and in pain I lash out at others. I forget the pain is internal and externalize it. I'd want to escape, roll into a ball, run away. And if I did manage to get on the bicycle it was to medicate the pain and express rage. I was an animal. I've lost perspective.
Stage 4 Depression: Suicidal thoughts. Only once, the time I checked myself into treatment, did I ever admit to these thoughts. I knew the depression was the cause. I still wanted to die. I fought to convince my very soul that better days were ahead. Twice I got my gun out and wrestled with the devil inside of me. The third time I felt the urge I knew if I made it to the gun cabinet that there would be no turning back. I checked into the hospital. That was the best thing I ever did in my life.
Stage 5 Depression: Fatal.
BTW, you see the numbers at the bottom of the page? They are what brought me to these forums. A few months after getting the right treatment, and bringing true joy and peace into my life, I found out I had prostate cancer. As manic depressives, we get manic and wait for the other shoe to drop; happiness never lasts too long. I just thought the other shoe would be a deadly disease.
Having dealt with the beastly agony of BPII -- and beating it -- prepared me for this. Just enjoying the past few months of peace and harmony with the world allowed me to deeply understand there is always hope. I want to live, but knowing joy gives me the ability to face death with a smile on my face. BPII would never have given me that luxury.
Today I got the path report. It appears the cancer was localized and removed. It will take up to ten for the doctor to declare I'm cured. Only now I can face every one of those days with happiness and an appreciation for every day I am given.
I wish everyone the very best in their struggles and will try to help the best I can.
6/12 Cores Positive
1%, 3%, 8%, 15%, 12%
PATH: Not back yet