I realize that my blog has been all over the map lately. My topics have streamed from one end of life to another. But since this is a blog about MY life, I guess its just a glance into the craziness of the life that I live.
Manic depression is a severe disorder that plagues a number of people. But it is one of those diseases that is hidden, and never discussed. We often think of people who struggle with manic depression as people who are crazy or unstable. And that can be true. But they can also be your neighbor or your best friend who is trying to get in charge of their emotions.
My father struggles with manic depression. I am guessing that he has bipolar I due to the severeness of his symptoms. He has been in the hospital a couple of times because of it. And honestly, I think it is a large part of the reason we have a strained relationship. I love him, but it has been a struggle to understand things that he has done and decisions that he has made.
Now as an adult, and a mother, I find that I struggle with some of the same problems I saw my father struggle with.
I was diagnosed with manic depression when I was in my early 20s. I had been diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress syndrome when I was a teenager, and was put on antidepressants. For some reason these made things worse to some extent.
I have been through counseling. Lots of counseling. But to be honest, it is far too easy to manipulate every counselor I have ever met. I am able to direct the conversation away from the things that are most helpful, to ignore the biggest issues, to cry at just the right times, and to halfheartedly do the exercises. Sure, I know it doesn’t benefit me to do these things, but its almost like a point of pride that I can manipulate the counseling session. I just can’t help myself.
Its not that I haven’t tried. I have made sincere efforts to make counseling work. I have tried finding different counselors. I have tried different techniques. I have talked to people in my churches. I have confided in friends. I have kept a journal. But the only thing that has ever helped were friends, family, and lots and lots of prayer.
I’ve been really struggling again. Going through an obvious depressive state.And its been really hard.
Let me give you an idea of what a depressive state looks like.
First here is what webmd.com states as symptoms of the depressive state
- Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Fatigue, decreased energy, being “slowed down”
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Persistently sad, anxious, or “empty” moods
- Restlessness, irritability
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
For me, depression includes difficulty concentrating on anything. No desire to do things I love. That includes crafting, reading books (I am currently reading three books and am halfhearted about that even though I am normally an avid reader), and going out to do things. I want to lay around the couch, play on my computer, and not do much of anything.
It is during this time that my “tape” plays most aggressively. My tape is filled with negative thoughts about how worthless I am, how I am a bad mother, how fat I am, how no one really loves me, no one is ever going to really love me, and how my kiddos are going to turn away from me when they get older. It varies from depressive state to depressive state but these are the biggies.
During this time I am exhausted. Constantly tired, and achy. My body seems to fight me and I can’t seem to get enough energy. But I also can’t sleep. I stay up late because I can’t get my mind to shut off and when I do go to sleep I have nightmares. Some times I sleep and sleep and sleep when I am depressed. Other times I don’t sleep as much, primarily because of the nightmares. But my energy level is very low during this stage. There is no way around it. Doing even simple tasks makes me exhausted.
I feel overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks. Doing the laundry or the dishes seems like a huge chore. The house becomes a mess and I just get more and more overwhelmed. I don’t know how to get a handle on it and so I don’t do it. Allowing it to become worse. Meanwhile I feel guilty because it is a mess and beat myself up because of it.
I have found that it is during times when I am depressive that I also tend to get sick. I am not sure why but it is like my body is in protest or something. I battle with migraines and these also tend to come during the depressive stages. I can have days of migraines that make me so miserable!
I struggle with overeating when I am depressed. For me, eating becomes a comfort. It becomes something that fills the void. It is during this stage that I have to be careful not to overeat but I also have to be careful not to allow food to be my enemy. I went through a period of time in high school where I was anorexic. Or at least very close to it. It was short lived, thankfully (I like food too much), but I was fairly sneaky about just not eating.
Anger plays a part too. I am not generally a very angry person. But when I am in a depressive state I become angry over little things and take it out on the ones I love the most. This is probably one of my least favorite, and hardest emotion to deal with that accompanies this disorder. I say and do things that I really don’t want to and it is almost as though I am not myself.
I have not been hospitalized, thankfully. Although I have had many thoughts of suicide in the past. God has spared me from ever actually attempting any of those thoughts. But I can say it has been a huge battle, especially after giving birth, not to give into those horrible thoughts that plague my mind.
Now lets take a look at the converse.
The reason why this disorder is called “manic depressive” or “bipolar” is because there are two sides of the coin. On the one side is the depressive side. And on the other is the manic.
Lets go back to what webmd.com and see what they describe as the symptoms of mania:
- Disconnected and racing thoughts
- Grandiose notions
- Inappropriate elation
- Inappropriate irritability
- Inappropriate social behavior
- Increased sexual desire
- Increased talking speed and/or volume
- Markedly increased energy
- Poor judgment
- Severe insomnia
And for those who have the less severe bipolar II here are the symptoms of hypomania:
- Decreased need for sleep
- Extreme focus on projects at work or at home
- Exuberant and elated mood
- Increased confidence
- Increased creativity and productivity
- Increased energy and libido
- Reckless behaviors
- Risk-taking behaviors
For me, I kind of crossover between the two. I have symptoms of both types of mania and I think it just varies from one cycle to the next.
The first way I can tell that I was in a manic period (I usually don’t know I am in it at the time, oddly enough) is the lack of sleep. When I am manic I can literally go days without sleeping. Not one single minute of sleeping. I have gone as long as a week without sleeping before. A FULL 7 days of NO sleep. (I always get really sick and depressed after I go through one of these periods though.)
I don’t know many people who can go days on end without sleeping. I don’t take any kind of drugs (like no doze) or depend on caffiene. No, this is just the inability to sleep. Sometimes it comes with bursts of energy, but most often it comes racing thoughts and a multitude of creative ideas.
It is during these times when I am super crafty. I can produce one crafty item after another. Interestingly enough, one time of the year when I have been found to be maniac is during the Christmas season. I make one item after another for my family and friends. I decorate, I bake, I craft, I write, I sing, I wrap presents, and I sleep very little. Then Christmas hits and the depression begins to set in again. It is all over, I am exhausted from the months (I generally start after my birthday in October and sometimes can go the whole time from October to December in this manic state) of little sleep and lots of activity.
Plus, the end of the holiday season is the end of my favorite time of year. All the decorations go back in the boxes, its winter so there isn’t much to do, the music is no longer so cheerful, people return to their greediness and complain about not getting the right gifts, and the world becomes dark again.
When I am manic I am also very interested in my husband. I want to be near him and I want to touch him as much as possible. This is a time in our marriage when we are usually the strongest. My libido is high and my desires to make our marriage better is strong. I have energy from whatever gives me energy during the manic stage and I am not sleeping, so I have time.
Our house tends to be far cleaner during this stage. I want to clean and I have the energy and time to clean. So I delve in and clean the little things that don’t get cleaned normally. Crevices and corners that I never cared about before.
I talk a lot during these times. Talk, chatter, ramble at high speed. Sometimes it drives people crazy. And I know that my husband wonders at times why I am rambling so much. But I can’t help myself. Verbal diarrhea. That’s what one of my friends has called it.
Over the last 4 years I have been either pregnant or nursing. While this is a wonderful blessing it requires me to really depend on God and only on God. I am taking antidepressants but I have to take a low dose (due to breastfeeding) and I go off of them while I am pregnant (with the exception of T’s pregnancy) in an effort to keep baby nice and safe.
I loath the antidepressants. I constantly think I can go off of them and then a depressive period hits. I have been told that it is normal to feel as though it is okay to go off the meds during the manic stage. I don’t like being on them, I don’t like needing them, I don’t like something being wrong with me. But life without the meds is so much harder.
Here is one place where I really struggle. On one hand I want to depend solely on God. I want to rely on Him to be my strength. And I do draw my strength from Him. As I said before I have not been hospitalized. I have also not had a true suicide attempt. I have been able to be on a low dose of antidepressants for the last 15ish years. Although a different medicinal path would probably benefit me more, this has done its job. And I have made it through two pregnancies without any medication at all. Honestly that is another miracle.
I would also love to be all natural. I do use essential oils. I love Doterra oils. I use them for all sorts of things. And this is no exception. They helped me through my pregnancy when I was without my meds and it helped me through labor. They work wonderfully with my meds. But even though I would love to depend on them solely, the moment I think I can be without them the world comes crashing down around me.
So I battle this. The line where it is okay to take meds because they are what I need to be the person God wants me to be, and trusting in God to provide for me and be my strength. I can honestly say this is something I have battled for 15 years.
I have heard the platitudes from well meaning Christians who have told me that if I prayed enough, read the Bible enough, trusted God enough…etc. etc. etc. I do have the belief that God could heal me if he wanted to. He has the power. However, he has not done so. He has left me to struggle with this disease. And I think that he has done so to help me to grow and in order for me to help others who are also struggling.
Its kinda like S’s diabetes. I am not going to take him off of his meds. He was born in a time when we have knowledge that we did not have a hundred years ago. God planned that. He knew when S would be born. He knew that S would struggle with diabetes, and he also knew that although there would not be a cure, there would be a treatment that would help him to live a relatively normal life. I do not know why he allowed diabetes to be an issue but I know that God has a plan.
I am grateful every day for the discovery of insulin. For the pump. For the doctors who have knowledge about his disease and are able to help us to treat him. I am thankful for every moment (even the tiring, frustrating moments) I get to share with him, after being so close to losing him a couple of times in his short little life. God has his hand on S’s life and will use S, should he allow himself to be used by God, to do amazing things for other people. I honestly believe that he will turn this disease into something positive.
So why shouldn’t I trust that God had me born during an age where they know about my disease, and can provide a treatment? Why do I struggle with this? I honestly don’t know. Maybe because of the shame the Christian community puts on mental disorders and depression. I am not sure why we American Christians think that being a Christian is all daisies and roses. It most certainly hasn’t been for me.
The difference is where I attribute my strength. I know the meds come from the Lord. I know that God gives the doctors and the scientists wisdom. I know that God gives me the wisdom to know who to trust and what meds to take. If I am seeking him, I know that I will gain the wisdom and strength that I need to battle this disease. I may never be cured, and I may never have full control over the disease, but I can be comforted in knowing that God is ultimately in control and that he has my best interests at heart.
Here are a few verses that have been a comfort for me over the years. I pray they will be for you as well.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”” Joshua 1:9
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
” As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20
“The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” Isaiah 14:24
” But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” John 14:27
If you struggle with depression, I urge you to get help. Talk to those who are close to you. Pray for wisdom and guidance. Accept the love and assistance of those in your life and do not be ashamed of your depression. There is help. There is HOPE. You are not alone in this struggle and should never have to feel guilt or shame because of it.
I pray for you. For all of you who read this. That God will bless you and lead you. Giant hugs to you wherever you may be.