*Warning: This post makes mention of suicidal Depression.
“Life is like a game of chess.
To win you have to make a move.”
― Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge
Welcome back to Deskraven, your Mental Health Forum. Today I want to talk about the elephant in the room. I want to talk about the condition we all share. I want to talk about the swallowing horror we are learning to talk about, but still largely hide. I want to talk about Depression.
Depression is characterized by a distinct loss of interest in previous held joys, loss of energy, appetite fluctuations, excessive sleep or insomnia, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, persistent grief or sadness, excessive crying spells, fluctuating moods and agitation or irritability. There are many theories surrounding the influx of Depression in our society, many of which I can get behind. The fact that we have become too civilized for our own good, for example. However, I live with Bipolar Depression which, like me, is a little different from the text book definition.
I experience mixed episodes related to Bipolar Disorder, previously known as Manic Depression. In a mixed episode, the sufferer experiences symptoms of both Mania and Depression simultaneously, and/or in rapid succession of one another. There are so very many different ways we experience mental illness, and Bipolar Disorder is no exception. So, a word of caution should you choose to embark on a conversation of this magnitude: Not everyone experiences Bipolar Disorder the same way. While my episodes are different from that of typical mood swings, my experience of Depression has always been more pervasive than my experience of Mania. More importantly, my Depression has been extremely treatment resistant. Medication helped a great deal in quelling the intense irritability that resulted from the overwhelming guilt I felt as a mentally ill mother. Likewise, medication went to work to tame the instability of my psychology, my insomnia, my paranoia and my psychosis – but there remained an ever present slight slope downward where Depression pulled on my even keel.
Depression is the sound of steel doors clanging shut on your better angels. It is the inability to move, even when movement is what you most need and desire. It is the lie that love is not enough, and you would be better off dead. It is an emotional anguish so significant that you dread entirely its inevitable return. It is an inability, not an unwillingness. Depression robs you of your character, your personality, your passion and your pleasure. It tells you that you are not good enough. That you are a burden. That you are somehow deserving of this inexplicable nauseating grief. That you are nothing more than a self-indulgent cynic. That this life hurts too much to keep going. That the smallest setbacks make mountains out of molehills.
The truth is, when I am un-medicated I drop into a suicidal Depression at least twice per month. True suicidal Depression is not a choice. It is a survivor’s final response to the seemingly endless hour of deeply disorganized, firey, unforgiving madness that is Bipolar Disorder. This is a chemical imbalance. You see, insight is worth less than nothing in the face of mental illness. While it may help you shape your coping skills to better suit your needs and aid in prevention, when you are actually in the thick of that heated, harmful, heady moment staring directly into the abyss, nothing can reach you – not God, not logic, not love – and so you flail, begging to humiliation with bleeding organs and limbs to find the tiniest foothold somewhere along the growing walls of that lightless trench. Suicidal Depression attacks the senses. You can not hear, see, smell, or feel properly, and so you find yourself quickly grappling in the dark. Some describe completed suicide as the final symptom of Depression, and I couldn’t agree more. Completed suicide is the final dark thought and the truth is, it takes a great deal of strength to not grab it.
There are three things that have helped me cope with suicidal Depression, and maybe it will help a handful of the millions around the world who live with this ugly truth. Obviously, the most important thing is to be closely monitored by a physician and practice good medication compliance, but if you’re like me and you don’t have access to health insurance, keep reading.
First and foremost, dismiss. It is important to recognize that when you are suffering from Depression, no matter how real it may feel relative to your experience, your perspective is false. It is essential to recognize the thoughts coursing through your mind. Then, you must find the strength to dismiss them as no good. This takes a great deal of practice as the height of the pain of Depression will completely rob you of the ability to detect the distortion. Be validated in knowing that this is a skill that requires psychological jumping jacks. I like to think of it as meditation, because meditation teaches you to return yourself to the present moment. In this way, I feel that meditation lends itself well to the perspective adjustment we all require when faced with this condition. These gentle reminders can serve you greatly in moments of despair.
Next, distract. When I begin to feel the stinging pricks of Depression, I aim to distract myself as much as possible. Depression is an all consuming monster making it incredibly difficult to get out of your own head. Fortunately, this skill has become increasingly accessible due to our chronically distracted culture. Do try to pay attention to the quality of this distraction, however. I will often find myself buried in a television show, a good book or some form of artistic expression. Do not be afraid to indulge in dark themes, as this can serve as an expressive outlet and comforting validation in a world where those without Depression just simply do not understand. Do, however, guard your mind from themes or content that may trigger your Depression to worsen.
Finally, dig in. Due to the very nature of Depression, we often forget to remember that this too shall pass. One of the great joys of having a mood disorder of this nature is that my episodes are relatively short. While I know people who suffer from chronic Depression (God save them and keep them) for months or years at a time, Bipolar Disorder offers the respite of mania or neutral stability from time to time. This is a blessing dressed up as a curse because while they are not without their own consequence, these phases of Bipolar Disorder allow you to come up for air in a matter of days or weeks.
If you’re suffering from suicidal Depression, call your doctor.
Dismiss, Distract, and Dig in.
For more on this topic read: High-Functioning: When Depression Gets Dressed in the Morning
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!**
For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!
In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!