Bipolar Depression Has Nothing to Do With Lack of Gratitude
The concept that people need to be grateful for the good things in life has been around probably forever. It’s a form of positivity. Rather than being upset you don’t have the Ferrari the guy next door has, be grateful that you have a Volvo in which to take your kids to school. Seems reasonable enough.
And the movement of gratitude leading to emotional wellness really hit its stride when Oprah started promoting the “gratitude journal”. Basically you write down what you’re grateful for every day and then, “you'll become a deliberate attractor of positive vibrations”. In Oprah’s case, I’m guessing that’s one really fat journal, and apparently lots of vibrations.
I’m grateful for many things: I live in a beautiful, free part of the world. I have an apartment with wood and tile floors. I have friends with which I enjoy brunch and I have two cats I absolutely adore. All good. And any day you ask me, I can tell you that I appreciate those things and my life wouldn’t be the same without them.
But this doesn’t make me feel any better.
Depression and Anhedonia
One of the things people fundamentally do not understand about bipolar and depression is that many of us suffer from anhedonia – an inability to feel pleasure. An inability to feel pleasure. No matter what I do, no matter how much I may have liked it in the past, no matter how much theoretical pleasure I should be deriving from it; I do not. I do not feel any pleasure at all.
I understand why people don’t get this. They think I’m making it up for some reason. People can’t envision a world in which pleasure cannot be felt. Lucky them.
Turn That Frown Upside Down
Depression isn't about attitude. It's about a brain illness.
For Gratitude to Matter, You Have to Be Able to Experience Happiness
While I can say I’m grateful for lovely brunches with my friends, they often make me feel nothing. I mean, I eat, so I feel full after that (assuming I’m not on drugs that make that impossible). I appreciate seeing them so I can spend some time talking to something outside the walls of my apartment. I’m aware that, therapeutically, spending time with others is important. But happiness? No. I don’t really feel that.
So while I’m grateful they’re there, and for the friendship, and for the French toast, it can be pretty hard to motivate myself to actually leave my apartment and to actually do the activity. It’s not that I’m not grateful; it’s just that I don’t feel any happiness around it.
Go Head, Be Grateful
So be grateful. It’s a good thing to be. We all have things in our lives that we appreciate. You can put them on a list if that’s helpful. It even makes some people feel better. But gratitude is not a cure for depression any more than it’s a cure for diabetes.
Tracy, N. (2010, August 23). Bipolar Depression Has Nothing to Do With Lack of Gratitude, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2010/08/bipolar-depression-has-nothing-to-do-with-lack-of-gratitude
Author: Natasha Tracy
Honestly, that does sound like ADD more than bipolar. Have you told your doctor this? Are you sure you're correctly assessed? Lots of mental illnesses can be confused for others so make sure you get an accurate assessment so the treatment will have the best chance of working.
On motivation: I understand this. If you are depressed, one of the symptoms is a lack of motivation and interest. That's normal. If you're depressed that may be part of it.
But let's face it, some of us just have more follow-through than others. For myself, I set goals and work towards them whether I want to or not. For example, I want to get a book published, but I have no desire to research agencies, send them query letters, get rejected over and over again and have to wait for a year maybe for anything to happen. When I pick up the book with a list of agents all I want to do is put it down and watch TV. But I don't. I force myself to do what it takes because in the end, I want the end goal.
I hate to tell you to "force yourself" but I really think that for many of us we have to. I'm never going to _want_ to do most of the stuff I do, I just force myself.
The one thing I will say though is that you do have to know who you are and what you want before you can set a goal that matters. Therapy can help you with that. But I do believe you need a goal, and just going to pottery class probably isn't it.
Well, perhaps some romantic relationships interest me and I feel them intensely, dreaming, thinking, analyzing about my relationships but then I burn out quickly. After some time it feels like I'm exhausted from this person, feel bored with him whereas he hasn't even shown me 1/10th of his personality.
I don't know what to do with this. So I'm trying to find sort of meaning to my life, and it seemed like there are many good things to be motivated about, but I don't feel enough motivated for them. People can call it lazy. I hate this word though, it shows average person's aspiration to simplify difficult process. Same as Natasha gave example of others who would say : snap out of it. People tell me: u're smart, you're just lazy. I think they don't understand the issue. And besides, the word lazy doesn't contain any constructive information, doesn't contain any solution. it just labels some feature of a person with a judgemental shade. I remember my mother being frustrated with the fact I never understood it her power word: Because I have/must do it. Like I have to fight my disease because I have to. Never explaining WHAT FOR I have to do it. Thanks after finding out about my bipolar she tries not to press on that much.
I do really identify with the loss you feel. I've had all those thoughts.
You're welcome. I hope it helps.
I cry for all the lost opportunities, the unseen and not enjoyed life´s beauties, life´s moments. Yes¡ I know life is beautiful, the thing is sometimes I don´t have the tools to enjoy it. I love music, poetry, literature, movies, history, food, sex but sometimes I don´t care nothing. I would like to write but depression takes away my motivation.
Anyway thanks a lot for your posts, the envy that goes with my depression is not enough to prevent me of apreciating and enjoy your witing, the beauty, sadness and tragedy.
Well, to be fair, religion does help some people. Perhaps not you or I, but for some it does.
Yes, when someone tells me to cheer up I just want to smack them. But to be fair, it really just indicates their ignorance, and ignorance isn't really smacking people over.
Fixing? Oh, yes, that. Maybe that'll be my next article.
I had never heard of this Anhedonia before now, I guessing I suffer from it at times but, not always. There are days when nothing feels good or bad for me, I could care less what happened in my life. This has helped me to understand some things. Now, how do I fix them or can I fix them?
I found your entry interesting do I've added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)...
Perspective? When you don't even know your have this illness, the views pretty different. Having the perspective be what you thought was "crazy" all your life almost becomes a relief to find out you are BP, OCD, ODD, etc.
You aren't alone. Our perspective can affect our thoughts. And certainly if someone looks at everything in a negative light and refuses to see what does work in their life, however small it may be, that is a problem. One of the reasons therapy helps people is because it can change perspectives.
However, what I'm saying is that gratitude doesn't fix a brain disease nor does it "attract positive vibrations" whatever it is that is supposed to mean.
You are welcome. I try to put authentic words together.
Yes, I despise people telling me to "find my passion". I think I already have, it involves writing and an unavailable human being. Somehow, I'm not feeling better.
Now, I must admit, I'm not religious and I don't like religion. However, that being said, it does help some people. But it certainly doesn't help everyone.
I had a doctor once who told me that I "just needed a boyfriend". Really? An undergraduate degree and ten years of medical school and all you have for me is get a date? What is this, an episode of Sex and the City?
I'm sorry to say we all go through the motions a lot of the time. Fake it 'til you make it and all that. Sometimes I'm convinced that's a stupid thing to do but more often I'm sure that it isn't. A good answer, I know.
School can actually be a good thing. It does provide structure and socializing and learning. I would consider that a positive step. And maybe you will find something that really engages you there. I'm not saying it's a fix, but I'm saying it could be good.
Yes, I wouldn't mind some MRIs myself except for, of course, they would kill me (I have a vegus nerve stimulator installed).
Ah, music. I love music. I know that I _cannot_ listen to sad music. Not ever. Not at all. Music has to be happy and upbeat or it makes me feel depressed. Sometimes music can improve a mood slightly, but more often than not it can have an negative effect.
That's just me though. I couldn't find any freely-accessible research on the subject although people are studying music therapy and psychiatric conditions.
Thanks again. Learning so much from your articles. Would love to be seeing the MRI's of my knoggin when I'm going thru these phases. Any thoughts on why music has such a profound impact? One of the few things I'm becoming more aware snaps me into a better mood and gets me dancing again. And yes I gotta work harder on what goes into the body.
Thank-you. It's nice to know it resonates for some.
Do you find you choose unhealthy food? I find there is a drive to select sugar and fat. Which is funny because it doesn't make me "feel better" but it just doesn't make me feel worse, I suppose. There is evidence to suggest that people in a depression crave carbs (sugar) because of the positive effect they have on the brain. (The brain needs carbs to function properly.)
Are you saying you do go out, visit friends and watch TV, or that you don't? Sorry, I'm just not quite sure which one you're saying there. For me, TV is a much-chosen activity. I suppose because it's just distracting enough but without being emotionally activating.
Thank-you, Peter, for your comment.
Yes, I get frustrated with people telling me to "change my thinking". If I could change my thinking I wouldn't have bipolar, now would I?
I do understand why people _thinks_ this works. It works for others. I get that. But those people have unsick brains.
The anger I feel over this misconception is so great that I can not see to think clearly on it.
@ the big O and Co.:
The secret is that there is no secret! Just moments of clarity as numerous as the stars....