Bipolar depression is overwhelming so it’s critical to have tools when it happens
Research from Boston University School of Public Health revealed that depression among adults in the United States tripled in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic—jumping from 8.5 percent before the pandemic to a staggering 27.8 percent. The elevated rate of depression has persisted into 2021 and even worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent. This means that 1 in every 3 American adults has experienced Major Depression in the last two years.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a Major Depression is defined as “at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.”
Know the facts about Depression and Bipolar Depression
Even pre-pandemic, Major Depression was one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. An estimated 19.4 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.8% of all U.S. adults. In addition, the prevalence of major depressive episodes was higher among adult females (9.6%) than males (6.0%), highest among individuals aged 18-25 (15.2%), and also highest among those who reported having multiple (two or more) races (13.7%).
My most significant depressive episode happened when I was in my early twenties. It was the epic crash to my highest manic episode. The acute phase of that depression lasted about four months. I spent most of my time sleeping. Sometimes twenty hours a day. I filled my waking hours with daily required outpatient therapy sessions and eating. I gained close to forty pounds courtesy of my new meds.
If, like me, you are a child of the eighties and saw the classic film, The Never Ending Story, you may remember the evil force that threatens to destroy Fantasia — The Nothing. When I was depressed, I was entirely consumed by The Nothing. As a result, I existed in a state of complete apathy.
If you have never felt that, and I pray you haven’t, it is tough to describe how terribly unbearable, painful, awful, and exhausting that state is. There was quite simply no point in being awake. Nothing brought me joy. Nothing brought me sorrow. I was living permanently behind this sort of grey film that kept me apart from the world.
People, mainly my family, would check on me, interact with me, but I did not care. I did not care if they came or went. I did not care about them, nor did not care about myself. I never had any intention of harming myself or any suicidal ideation, but if I happened to fall asleep and not wake up one night, that would have been fine with me. I didn’t feel pain or sadness, or grief. I truly felt nothing.
It’s critical to have professional guidance and help with bipolar and major depression
I cannot emphasize enough the need for professional help during a time of Major Depression. I am also an advocate for medication in this acute phase. I have encountered so many people in my life who are literally drowning in their depression. But they don’t know another way to be, so they think it is the way it is. As I have told many friends suffering, get help and listen to your
doctor. Medication does not have to be permanent. Whatever you need to do to get your head above water long enough to begin the actual work, do it.
Our brains exist in a world that our brains weren’t evolved for. No wonder sometimes the chemistry goes awry. Additional to the brain chemistry and apathy of major depression – are shame and isolation. This added component is almost like fuel for the depression. Loneliness and shame, and isolation feed depression to this cycle of depression.
So, I was supposed to give you some tips when you lose hope. Here they are:
1) professional help and 2) medications. All the positive thinking, yoga, fresh air, self-help, affirmations will not do a damn thing amid a Major Depressive Episode. Time may help. Your brain may self-correct without professional help and medication, but you are making it harder on yourself.
To this day, reflecting on that state of being and the idea of revisiting it terrifies me.
Of course, many factors helped with my recovery, and I wrote about my healing path in more detail in my article on acceptance. Still, one of the most significant factors that have kept me committed to the path of recovery and committed to mental health is my fear of returning to that deep of a depression.
Now, if you are not majorly depressed — just your run of the mill kind of blue and down, then, by all means, positive affirmation and asana the shit out of that state. I find it helpful to indulge the blues with, you guessed it – a little bit of the blues (music). I find Nina Simone particularly helpful in these states. If you are sad and languishing, embrace the feelings. Give thanks for your sadness – at least you are feeling something! There are so many people suffering right now from Major Depression who would love to feel anything, even if it was sadness or heartbreak.
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