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Bipolar Depression and Feeling Nothing at All

While depression commonly makes people feel sad, it might also make a person feel nothing at all. Feeling nothing with bipolar can be just as devastating.

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.

Because 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

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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

  1. Hi,
    I meet a problem that i have never imagined i would one day cope in my entire life: i cannot cry. I feel the water at the surface of my eye, but it would’t go out. Yes, i’m having problems of my own right now, but i usually tell myself it will go away soon or later. This time, it does not. It stays, and slowly eat away my ability to feel something. I feel nothing. Absoulutely nothing and it terrifies me so much. I feel like there is somehing in my lung and it makes me hard to breath. Also, first time in my entire life, i want to cut myself. At least by doing that I can feel something. Whatever it is.

  2. I’m 16 years old I used to be the most out going fun girl and I been feeling this way for a long long time now I honestly thought it was a stage but I been feeling well basically nothing since i was 12, like sometimes I’ll be okay but most of the times I end up feeling empty like nothing. When people tell me stuff or I see things happen even if it’s bad or sad I feel nothing and it never goes away it always ends up coming back, even worse. I just wanna be able to really feel that true happiness I used to feel .

  3. Hello everyone. Not sure how all of this goes. About 4 months ago is when it started I thought it was just a bad week. I literally feel like it happened over night. I woke up one morning and felt nothing… I feel like crying a lot. I am not sure what this is but I’m scared. I want to be the way I used to. I wanna b happy feel those butterflies around someone. Some days I am fine and have the confidence but the past week has been nothing but not having self confidence in myself and just being moody with everyone. I want it to stop 🙁

  4. I am really struggling to help my 21 year old bipolar son or at least that’s what the doctors suspect it is. He also states he feels no emotions whatsoever. We are seeing a therapist and trying medications. My wife and myself are so worried about him and his destructive behavior. Reading some of the post was really disheartening. Can anyone offer any hope for this bipolar emotionless disorder? W
    Would greatly appreciate some words of encouragement. This is new to us and we feel so lost and hopeless.

    1. Hi Rkc,

      There is always hope. 21 is very young and it can, quite literally, take years for doctors to find the best treatment. I can understand feeling lost and hopeless, that is normal. Do your reading about the illness, learn as much as you can. Being emotionless can end with the right treatment but it takes time to get there.

      – Natasha Tracy

    2. Make sure you get help and make sure you have life insurance,cause if he gets on disability he will not be able to get any life insurance.

    3. @rkc

      I’m the same age as your son, and i have the exact same thing, even though i haven’t let myself be diagnosed with it. I just don’t want that diagnosis hanging over me as well. I also don’t want the meds, as i’d rather deal with the issue than shove it under the rug. I’d rather fight even if i don’t know if the outcome is going to be positive. I don’t want to be a zombie on meds.

      As to how you could help your son: Don’t try too hard. He’ll know and despise it. After hiding it for a very long time i told my parents that i was likely depressed, but i didn’t really know why or couldn’t put it into words. I then told them the last thing i want from them is to treat me differently, that’ll break my heart, because what i’m trying to do is to find my old witty, happy self again. I didn’t want them to bear my burden on their shoulders, because them knowing im struggling makes me even more sad. I know everyone has problems, and i don’t want them to have to deal with mine aswell, it feels unfair and useless. They’ve started treating me like a ticking bomb, almost as if they’re scared of me or what i’ll do, or as if they’re not sure who they’re talking to – which just makes it all worse. I want to go back to having a genuine emotional connection with my family and people again, instead of having to TRY to feel every time i’m with them. That’s pretty much what it all comes down to, having to TRY to feel really sucks, because we know we care deep in our hearts without the slightest doubt, but the physical emotion just isn’t present all the time, and even more so, not when we really need it to be. I tend to lie awake thinking about how much i love my family and that they worry about me, and how much i want them to know i’m trying to show it, i want to go hug them before it’s too late (if someone dies) but the second they step into my room it’s like something snaps and my emotions all lock up and it usually ends with me treating them badly and regretting it the second they close the door again. Makes me feel like a 14 year old shitkid. I know what i’m destructive, but i can’t stop it – i usually feel like apologizing, and sometimes do, but then again that also makes me feel like more of an emotional burden and a bit of a dramaqueen. such a loop. overthinking everything.

      I don’t have a solution, if anyone did neither your son or i would be in this situation. The thought of going to a shrink for help is just awful to me, i’ve tried it, but how can a random person who just read some books on psychology solve my brain if i can’t do it myself? I mean, it’s hard enough for me to think about what it is im struggling with and how i can deal with it – so how on earth would a random shrink be able to put themselves in my exact situation and deal with it properly? I tried it, and hated it.

      My best advice for now would be as previously stated: your son loves you and is trying harder than he’s ever tried anything to get back to his old self and to be able to talk to you normally and act normally again, but identifying exactly what it is is extremely hard. For me, i think a lot of it is about finding my passion in life, because i can’t decide what i want to be or for what reason i want to. I know i need to have a passion for whatever i’ll end up working with or i’ll hate my life as long as i live. There’s just no other option. Just don’t give up on him, because he’s there, just buried deep under some very nasty confusing shit. Also know that he cares, A LOT, but sometimes feels like he doesn’t, and that makes him even more angry with himself. It’s a horrible loop. I have days when i feel happy, but when night comes, i start to get anxious because i can feel the non-caringness pour over me, and i don’t want it to. i dont want to be like this. I used to despise people who are depressed, and never understood why they just don’t deal with it.

      Your son is likely to be very much like me. So i’ll give you as much insight as i can. I analyze conversations as they go along, and think about what the person i’m talking to is thinking, how he expects me to react, how he wants me to react, and then i have to consider if i should act like the person wants me to, or to act like i really feel, which sometimes is just… why are we even talking about something as trivial as this. I just want to be able to have a normal small talk conversation (or any kind of conversation) with someone instead of constantly overthinking, and if your son starts to feel like you’re adapting your conversation, he’ll instantly notice and it’s very disheartening knowing that your parents don’t feel like they know you anymore when you know you’re still you. I’ve beaten myself up over this so much. I also worry a lot about not saying things before its too late. I feel like there’s so much i wont be able to say until it’s too late. Almost as if im waiting for someone to die so i can go to their grave and tell them how i feel then. It’s so fucked up, but i guess it’s just because of the analyzing part of the mentality that comes along with this. I’m analyzing mistakes other people have made, like not expressing their love towards their parents until they were dead and they start to regret it. Therefore i end up hating myself for not being able to be fully open with them and tell them how extremely much they mean to me, like having an entirely human to human open-deep level conversation, but i just can’t get myself to do it, even though after all my analysis, i’ve concluded that all people have these thoughts on some level, but i want to break the barrier and be the one that goes to that deep level, but im sort of scared it’ll weird our relationship out even more.

      I know this was very badly structured, but im just ranting along as i’m trying to give you as much insight as possible. Just came home from a walk in the woods bawling my eyes out and i’m sort of getting back to my normal state now, which (encouragingly enough) is quite a decent-happy state of mind, i feel like i could even have a laugh now, without sounding too much like a robot. I miss laughing as often as i used to though. In general people my age laugh less than we used to because of the stress that comes along with having to actually do things that makes us uncomfortable like going to a shitty job where neither you or your boss really gives a shit. Makes us feel stuck. We all know it, but don’t admit it. For the record, i’m not as boring and nerdy as i might sound, but this truly is a very hard state of mind to deal with. Feel free to ask questions. We’re not that fucked, you can have a lot of fun with your son too, it’s just the periodical fucked-up-ness that really really really sucks to deal with.

  5. This has really helped. I thought it was me. My body language. My responsesto questions are not real answers. Feel like the conversation between people is forced. Thinking on this subject the pattern starts with a situation that involves a third party. I have the Answers and my natural impulsiveness would resolve this problem in a second. But others can’t, so i get irritable and draw to a blank…

  6. Im 17 and when i was in therapy they diagnosed me as bipolar. Im not in therapy anymore and i no longer get any help and noe for the first time i actually understand that im bi polar and its starting to really effect me. I just started a relationship amd i get butterflies sometimes. I like him but other times its absolutely empty and i dont think its fair for him to wonder why im so down while we’re on our date. I feel it creeping up on me and i think its about to get much worse . Id like help but im about to be 18 so its not going to be free anymore.

  7. But I’m tired of waiting. I don’t have the desire to wait any longer. The only thing keeping me going is knowing I’d be taking my mom down with me and I could never do that to her. The minute she’s gone, I probably will kill myself. I was actually so upset and had a nervous breakdown the day I figured out she really did love me. I just never really realized it until after I was in the hospital for threatening suicide (misunderstanding, children and youth are d**ks, I’m glad I’m an adult now). Also speaking of hospitals, they don’t help at all, like zip. I laid in bed almost all day every day and did nothing but be mad they wouldn’t let me leave and logically think of all the ways a person could still kill themselves.

  8. It has been a little soothing reading these posts knowing I am not the only one that feels like it is all for nothing , no one loves me or thinks of me I am just a waste of space , I have no idea why I am still living or how to keep going for reasons that are not clear my children are all young adults and find me to hard to deal with , I just want to FEEL SOMETHING. I just want to be alive I tread water and I am just so exhausted I am so over it all I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up .

  9. Yes, you put it into words for everyone to understand. That is exactly how depression is like and I’ve struggled with it for a couple years in my life, up until I tried MDMA. I know sounds crazy and somewhat dangerous (as long as you get some water in your system you’re good) but it completely changed my perspective in life in general. I’d even say that it saved me from myself. I was lost in the world. I wasn’t present in the moment whatsoever because I just didn’t want to, there was no point to it. MDMA just helped me understand the point in loving the people that love me and most importantly myself. It gave meaning and purpose to life. greatest epiphany of my life up to this point. Note that I’ve only done it once in my lifetime. There are plenty of articles on the web that talk about MDMA assisted psychotherapy. It’s really interesting.

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