By Finder blogger: Andrea McKenna
What it’s like living with depression and bipolar disorder
I have a history of depression, particularly as part of my bipolar disorder diagnosis, which I received in my early 30s. Prior to that, I supposedly only suffered from depression. I want to tell you what it was like for a three-year period of my life.
I hated myself. I was unhappy every second of the day and I thought nothing was ever going to get better.
Things I used to love, like music, made me cry and I could not listen to it anymore. I never took photos and I basically have no record of these three years.
I ate too much and gained weight, at one point sitting on the couch every day after work for months eating Veggies Stix and drinking chardonnay. On the chardonnay point, I was drinking a bottle a day. I often wondered if the people at the liquor store noticed I came in every day…they did.
I never laughed. I visited friends in Chicago and they noticed. I was wearing plain clothes, no colors, no style, none of my usual flair. I was flat.
At a party, I was holding a dessert tray with cocoa on it. The wind blew and the cocoa went all over my black top and pants. Everyone laughed. I felt nothing.
Feeling nothing, I often sought to activate something inside me. I did this by watching scary movies and episodes of “Ghost Hunters.” Even fear wasn’t getting through. However, eventually, I became convinced my Mom’s house in which I was living was haunted. (It was!)
This is all pretty dramatic, and clearly indicated a larger problem.
I was put on medication by a doctor that helped lift this cloud of gloom, but it took a while to get the dosage right. I can tell you that eventually the meds did work and I got significantly better! So much so that the liquor store people thought I had moved away because I stopped going in.
I pulled out of some dark times. It took a lot of work but I am quite proud that I was able to overcome it.
But I had awareness. I educated myself. And I took medication. Not everyone is so lucky.
I get a lot of questions about what to do if someone they know is depressed. Everyone is different, so my above story may not resonate with everyone, but there are a few main behaviors to take note of.
Signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Appetite or weight changes
- Sleep changes ( too much or too little)
- Anger or irritability
- Loss of energy
- Reckless behavior
It makes me laugh (now) to see that I had every single one of these symptoms in my above description of my life. Man, what at trip!
The most important thing to do if you or someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms is to talk to a medical doctor. Medication is the best defense we have in modern times to combat the lows of major depression.
Mental health is not a hot topic here in Asia. There is stigma, yet another topic I will tackle another time. But the point is there is help and there is hope. The first step, however, is to recognize that there is a problem. Don’t be afraid to take that first step.
About Andrea McKenna
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.