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Bipolar Depression and Feeling Nothing at All

Bipolar disorder is an affective disorder, in other words it affects your emotions (among other things). Bipolar disorder symptoms are often about feelings. Well, they’re about FEELINGS. I feel HAPPY. I feel SAD. I feel IRRITATED. I feel ENERGETIC.

But one thing that’s rarely recognized is that sometimes bipolar disorder is about feeling nothing at all.

Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Depression is one of the two poles of bipolar disorder (the other being mania / hypomania). And myself, being bipolar type 2, I’m darn familiar with it because people with bipolar disorder type 2 spend 35 times more time depressed than they do in hypomania.

Depression and Emotion

And while depression is a “low” mood and, of course, is known for sadness, there is something else you might feel when depressed: nothing at all.

Yup. Nothing. Just a void. You feel an absence, if such a thing is possible. You feel the blank page, silence, dark matter, dishwater. You move through the world, and things happen to you that you know you should feel, but instead of feeling, nothing happens. Like turning the key in your car’s ignition and the car not starting – it’s unsettling.

Yay! I’m Not Sad!

So feeling nothing must be a great break from feeling terrible? Right?

Not in my experience. Feeling nothing just makes you feel like you’re not human, not like you’re not depressed. It’s like being the shell of a person. A walking and talking corpse. Like you’re nothing. The human experience with emotion removed isn’t the human experience – it’s really no experience at all.

mp9004444861Because emotions are how we make sense of the world around us. They are how we remember the day. If you loved the fact that you ate lasagne for lunch, you might remember it. If you ate the same dull ham sandwich for the 14th day in a row, you probably won’t. And what does anything matter if it doesn’t make you feel? If you don’t care about eating ice cream or seeing your kids smile or browsing a book store or taking a bubble bath then why bother doing any of those things? Why bother doing anything at all?

And this is the thing that people fundamentally don’t understand about depression. Depression, bipolar, mood disorders, are about moods that don’t respond as expected and in this case don’t budge at all. There is nothing to do, nothing to say, no strategy to try because nothing moves the needle, even a little. It’s not that I’m not trying it’s that trying doesn’t matter.

And that is a recursive depression. It’s depression that makes you feel nothing which makes you feel depressed which makes you feel even less (because yes, there are degrees of nothingness). It’s depression that breeds depression. Like bunnies. Depression bunnies, all grey and un-hoppy.

What to Do When You Feel Nothing

Now comes the part of the article when I make my stunningly insightful recommendations. Ah. I’m having trouble with that bit because I only have one suggestion: try to remember it wasn’t always like this and it won’t always be like this in the future.

That’s it. Try to remember. Because I don’t have a stunningly insightful recommendation for how to fix the problem, I can only remind you that the problem wasn’t always there and won’t always be there. You just have to wait. And trust.

One day the bunnies will hop again.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Author: Natasha Tracy

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164 thoughts on “Bipolar Depression and Feeling Nothing at All”

  1. Thanks for explaining so well how it is when you feel nothing, especially the ‘non-person’ thing. When I was like that I found a breast lump (which turned out to be benign). The worst thing about it at the time was that I felt nothing – not worry, fear, stress, panic – nothing. But everyone around me felt a lot and endlessly ‘sympathised’ with me and worse, related their own stories of how they’d felt in similar circumstances. I found that harder than the possibility of having cancer. I felt so alone and like a freak and a fraud and very definitely less than human. Thankfully I haven’t felt like that for a few years but my heart goes out to those who are feeling (or rather not feeling) that way right now

  2. I call this my don’t care mood. I don’t care if I eat, bathe, tweet, Farmville, etc. Just don’t care. Blah. Meh. Whatever. Eat? Whatever. I like to sleep because it doesn’t require much involvement. I get 3 or 4 of these days/month. It is what it is. You know?

  3. When I felt that way, I was told ‘hang in there it will get better’ or ‘ it wont
    always be like this’. You know what ! that used to really peeve me because after all wasn’t it bad enough, now ‘they’ want me to be patient and believe in hope, it was just all too hard, when I felt nothing I couldn’t muster up the energy to hope or be patient. After I got through the episode I realised my carer’s were right, but at the time it was incredibly hard, however I agree Natasha, hang in there, It’s about all we can do and now I have been through it once if there’s a next time I at least know there IS a way through.

  4. Great article Natasha. Describes me well. I’ve come to realise that irritability & that sense of nothingness you described are a greater part of my experience than the often mentioned depression & hypomania. I hope many others find this article insightful into their own experience.

  5. Hi Jenny,

    You bring up a good point – there are other times when people feel nothing as well and being in shock at news (like a lump in your breast) could certainly be one of those times. And it is hard when the world around us _assumes_ that we feel very differently.

    But you definitely weren’t a freak.

    – Natasha

  6. Hi MaryAnn,

    Yup, “don’t care” about sums it up. It’s apathy towards everything. And sometimes it is what it is but it sounds like you know that you’ll get through it and that’s important.

    – Natasha

  7. Hi Teresa,

    Well, I don’t blame you for being peeved. It’s hard to hear, “just hang in there” when everything is so awful.

    But that’s one of the reasons I didn’t tell people to hang onto hope. I don’t like telling people to hope. “Hope” is too big a word and expectation for people who are sick. Like you said, it’s irksome.

    Hopefully, just trying to remember than it wasn’t always this way and it won’t always remain this way is a bit easier to gnaw on.

    And yes, there is a way through, even if it is just time.

    – Natasha

  8. Hi John,

    Thanks for the comment. I think what you’re saying is the point of the article – we feel this way but people don’t talk about it. Of course, it’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to put into words. And it’s hard to not feel like a freak because of it.

    I’m glad you found the article helpful 🙂

    – Natasha

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