The Experience of Depression: The Flip-Slide of Mania
The title of this post suggests that I am focusing exclusively on bipolar disorder and this might be true in content, but the symptoms and the experience described below are common within the spectrum of all chronic mental illness. It is a shared experience among those who are diagnosed--and not just with with bipolar disorder--highs and lows, in part, define mental illness.
The Experience of Depression
Picture this: You have been diagnosed with a chronic mental illness. Perhaps the diagnosis is recent, perhaps it is not. That part does not matter at the time. What matters? You are lying in bed. If you have blinds they are closed. Tight. The small amount of light coming through them is like daggers to your eyes. You pull the blanket over your head.
Maybe you can sleep; maybe you cannot. You should probably eat something, take a shower, get out of bed. But you can't move. Really, you can't. Your body is not your body. Your mind is holding you hostage.
It's safe in your room, nice and dark, dark like your mind. Maybe you live with people, hopefully, you do. They knock on your door. You ignore them. They walk in. You curse under your breath. Whispered words. They mention getting out of the house, how much better you would feel, a nice meal...perhaps, an appointment with your psychiatrist?
This is the land of depression and you have, regretfully, arrived.
The Experience of Mania
Picture this: You are not in bed anymore. Maybe you cannot recall the last time you slept. Was it last night? The night before? Last week? It doesn't matter. The last time you ate? You cannot settle on the thought for more than a few seconds. Your mind is spinning bullets and you're just trying to keep up. The blinds are open now; the light is dancing through your quickly moving mind.
You can't stop to think. You need to be doing something--anything at all--you clean for six hours, you try to bake something and give up halfway through, if you have money, well, you don't have it for long.
You probably feel good, you feel great, the world is yours, moving just for you! But things start moving too quickly, you cannot keep up, life becomes a bit scary. Whispered words again, but the content is different this time, those who love you mention your flying a bit high, it's time to see your psychiatrist, and hopefully, hopefully, you do.
Welcome to the world of mania, here is to hoping you don't visit long.
Depression and Mania are Frightening
I would be hard-pressed to find a single person who would tell me that they enjoy severe depression, no, I am certain I would be told that the experience is terrifying. It feels as if it might never end; the feeling may never leave us.
The experience of mania, or inappropriately increased mood, comes with a different set of feelings: maybe we miss it, hopefully not too much. Mania or hypo-mania, a milder form, eventually leads to disaster. Loss of friends and of family. For some people, myself included, an inclination to abuse drugs and alcohol. We probably find ourselves in strange situations with people we probably just met.
Mania, a fast friend initially, can quickly turn our world upside down and just like depression, we need to recover. And, sometimes, we need to let people help us find our way back to a stable state of mind and a life that compliments this.
Both of these experiences, the diagnosis and experience of them, is disastrous. And not just for us. For those who love us, those who watch us spiral up or down and try to help us.
Recovering From Mental Health Relapse
The experiences described above are not exclusive to a mental health relapse, no, they might be the first time you experience an episode of mania, depression, or other symptoms that indicate mental illness.
This is when you need to let people into your life. When you are unable to understand what is happening, those surrounding us usually can, they may not know what is going on, but they know something is wrong. In order to recover we need to listen to them! Yes, easier said than done, but your recovery depends on it.
Allow yourself to become well again; remind yourself that a break in stability can be part of chronic mental illness. That is the nature of the beast. But recovery for a sustained period of time is possible.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health relapse listen to those around you, try your best, mental illness can be frightening, but recovery? Enlightening.
Jeanne, N. (2012, March 11). The Experience of Depression: The Flip-Slide of Mania, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2012/03/the-experience-of-depression-the-flip-slide-of-mania
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
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I do find it hard to be around people when depressed and sometimes when I'm manic. My patience is reduced and I get irritable, definitely better to stay away from people at those times. Luckily my husband is loving, supportive, and understanding; he keeps me grounded. He listens, well or not well. I find not all people have that gift.
Thank you for your article! I have not had the privilege of "relapse" as it this illness continues with me daily in one degree or another. I agree with you one hundred percent. Letting people in your life is extremely critical! My wife of thirty years does not always understand what it is like, and she may not know exactly what is going on but she is there for me - she listens when I feel like talking, and she gives me my space when I need it. I encourage everyone to find a friend or family member that will be there for them. They will help smooth the edges of these mood swings.
It really is impossible for people to understand if they have not been 'there'. the scary place that defines mental illness sometimes. great advice to readers!
Thank you for your comment,
So well written and spot on. I have been in the mania like phase myself of late. I am finding my ground, my stable place.
So glad we are all writing about it and talking about it. That is the only way healing will happen for ourselves and others.
I am glad you can relate to my words . It helps when we talk about it!
Thank you for your comment,
I very much appreciate the concise descriptions of depression and mania. For me, it is a huge breech of mental health management to isolate or withdrawal myself, which I tend to do during depression. During relapses, I tell myself I need people, I need my meds, I need to get up and out. This is easier to type than do, but I want to be well.
Thank you for appreciating my article! It's close to my heart. It's important, as you mentioned, to recognize when we need help!
Thanks for your comment.