Help! I can’t decide what to watch! I woke up this morning, after a raft of disturbing dreams, and I realized in short order I had some extra bipolar depression to deal with. I realized this when I sat in front of my television and couldn’t decide what to watch. Or if to watch TV at all. I had a whole whack of programs recorded in front of me and every one felt “wrong.” I stared at the TV. I stared at the computer. I couldn’t make the commitment to pick up the computer nor turn to a TV show.
A decision like this would normally be made in moments. Maybe seconds, at the longest. And I would guess that the average person wouldn’t see the difficulty with this situation. But this type of decision can make a depressed person freeze. This type of tiny, meaningless decision can turn a bipolar brain in to a bipolar rock. This type of decision can be so overwhelming that it eclipses all else and produces a state of paralysation.
Bipolar Depression and Indecisiveness
Indecisiveness is a symptom of depression. It’s not one that people tend to talk about, but it is one that causes problem in daily life. We make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions a day – some conscious and some not – and just imagine if you brain couldn’t make them. Just imagine going into the kitchen to decide what to eat and becoming incapacitated at the choice between chicken and fish.
Again, I think this is hard for the average person to wrap their head around but the choices seem impossible to make. It feels like Sophie’s Choice over simple things like what to wear. I can’t tell you why choices feel so overwhelming, I can only tell you that they do. I can only say that every choice seems like the wrong one.
Maybe this is due to apathy. Maybe this is due to anhedonia. If you don’t want anything, or if you don’t like anything, then no choice appears better than any other.
I suspect there is more to it than that, though. I suspect the problem lives deep in the roots of whatever bipolar depression really is. It lives somewhere in the decision-processing parts of the brain.
Making Unimportant Decisions with Bipolar Depression
I think, when incapacitated by indecision, it’s important to step back and remember that few choices truly matter. So if I step back and do something else entirely – like take a walk or pet the cat or clean the bathroom – somehow it’s easier to remember that the decisions are mostly meaningless and any choice, really, is okay. Just pick one – any one – and go with it. (Because I will say that the choices feel less “wrong” once you’re committed.)
[Of course, if the decision really does matter then it’s much harder, but I’ll have to save that for another article.]