Tag Archives: learning to cope

Recovery: Taking a different perspective towards Depression

There are several diagnoses that includes depression in the DSM, i.e. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), dysthymia, Bipolar disorder etc, they are just useful in helping you identify what is the core difficulty you’re suffering.

Despite having a rough diagnosis of Bipolar II, I like to think of my rather moderate depression as just a collection of unpleasant sensations. Mostly, I experience a constant low mood, my heart feels empty and cold and it seemed like I will never get out of the rut and it will be a vicious cycle.

There are better ways to view depression or your state of unpleasantness as I would call it. Over a period of experiencing on and off depressive states, I find these perspectives useful.

1)  There’s no point worrying, for you cannot predict the future.

“It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”   (Source: The Fault in our Stars – movie [book by John Green])

When worry / anxiety comes, acknowledge that it is there but adopt the perspective of Augustus Waters in the movie The Fault in Our Stars, “Don’t give it the power”. Brush it off, drop it.

What you WILL lose if you worry is Time. Anxiety uses a lot of your time.

A personal experience: When I get into a depressive state for the night after a few productive days, I fear it will haunt me over and over again. But it’s a FACT that we cannot predict the future, I don’t even know if I will still be alive tomorrow, the next hour or minute.

2) It’s just a collection of symptoms

Your diagnosis you get from your psychiatrist or psychologist and the similar words countless articles on the Internet tells you “It is a serious condition that needs medical attention” etc may scare the hell out of you initially, just as I did.

A personal experience: Back and forth I try to find out if there is actually a problem with me, as I do not understand why I get into intense episodes of low mood and confusion but later feeling ok and have a gut feeling or perception that I was faking it.

3) It’s a daily routine of picking yourself up

It takes patience and perseverance. Just like the economy, it has its peaks and troughs, it’s like a sine curve, it goes up and down then up again.

With depression, it may be very difficult to envision hope and a future when the dark clouds of sadness hover over our heads. Some of the people with depression take medications such as Cymbalta, Zoloft or Lexapro to help cope with the symptoms, but know that you will not be cured of depression by just obediently popping pills like your doctor told you to.

You can take charge the minute you decide to. Be an active fighter, don’t let transient periods of low moments/horrible feelings/delusions or whatever you face bog you down. Soothe yourself down, learn to cope with them if they appear to stick with you most of the time.

About the stigma:

In the country I live in, there are much stigma surrounding the subject of mental illness or people seeing psychiatrist. I feel offended when my peers talk about people being crazy if he/she has schizophrenia. I am unable to explain to them as I would not like to disclose that I go to therapy and take meds. When I recover, I want to become an advocate and not be afraid to share my story. They can judge all they want and I don’t care.

I cannot guarantee you changing your perspectives like I’ve listed above you will entirely be free of symptoms, but I can assure you that you can be hopeful again, you can be a fighter and you can learn to cope with support from your loved ones.

 

Coping with Bipolar II Disorder

Visit to the Doctor

Recently, during my visit to my Pdoc, I received my diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder with some BPD tendencies. I didn’t want to accept it simply because I always thought I only had Depression, a mental illness which is much more common in the society and had less stigma attached to it.  My days were difficult to bear as some days (like yesterday) I would be so sad and unable / do not want to do anything… Just lying in bed was what I always do during these times.  Sometimes, I know the cause of the sadness but there will still be times, I really do not know what is the trigger.

 

Self Pity

This is something I normally do when I get so emotional thinking about my crazy intense emotions flowing all over my body.   I just feel so incapable, nothing seemed possible anymore.  I get even more upset when I am unable to voice this out to anyone around me, such as friends and family.  It seems I would tell many people around me that I am dealing with this disorder, hoping someone would just Understand… No one seems to be able to relate to my experiences except a few of my friends who cope with some form of mental illness.

 

Counselling

I used to go to counselling sessions very often last year to help myself cope with my academics.   My counsellor then seems helpful at some times, yet mean during a few occasions.  I thought at some point what she did was just reflecting what I said back to me, and that did not help a single bit.

There was a short period of time where I was able to voice out some of my difficulties and things I always wanted to say to my parents through one session of family counselling.

But now, it seems everything is back to the way it was.  I am not talking to my parents and family members anymore.  I hide in my room whenever I am in my depressive mood, and just unable to lift my sadness voluntarily.  Telling myself to acknowledge, accept then let go of those negative feelings don’t relieve my negative emotions as they used to.

 

Fear

Most of the days, I am sucked into the whirlpool of Fear..  All I felt was Fear.  I was so so afraid that life would be over for me, I would not have a future, simply because the mood swings (from Bipolar) will always continue. They seemed to be going on forever.

 

Looking at it in a Positive light

Right now, as I am writing in a slightly happier mood, I try to live everyday step by step.  During the depressive state, I tell myself it’s okay.  It (the sad feelings) will soon pass.  I try to encourage myself, there will be a day where I’m able to see light at the end of the tunnel.

          Giving thanks

I tell myself to give thanks for everything that I am able to do.  Like now, I am able to hold a permanent Part-time job as well as work 6 days a week before my university degree course commences.

        It’s only a label, it’s not who you are, it’s simply what you deal with

Bipolar II disorder with BPD traits, this is only a label from the DSM V – The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th revision).  Knowing the diagnosis does not make me feel any better, and it should never make you feel less adequate compared to your peers.  Just like physical illnesses like Hypertension and Diabetes, this illness also affect those who suffer from it.  Mood swings, irritability, major depression are just some of the things people with Bipolar II deal with.  that’s all.

Actively being aware of where your emotions are going to is the first step to begin coping with this disorder.  Then, choose your reaction to the feeling, i.e. anger, sadness, irritability, hyper and anything else along those lines. Know that you can be in control of your own feelings and emotions for it came from within, didn’t it?

 

Google + and Community that I own

I am currently connected on Google + under the name Messy Me.  I am also the owner of Bipolar II Disorder Support and Sharing Group. Those who are interested are welcomed to join and I hope that you will feel much better knowing there are millions in the world who face similar difficulties as you.

Messy Me

How I wish…

Yesterday I went to see my Pdoc and overall I said I was feeling okay recently however still have some bouts where I was really really sad.  I recalled about a nightmare I had about a week ago where I dreamt I was killed / tortured / captured.. I was so afraid. Because I didn’t know what was wrong with me even after 3 months approx of treatment with Seroquel and Lamictal, I asked him what is my diagnosis.

He apparently forgot about what was it because his notes was not with him.  I reminded him that the probable ones are Depression, Bipolar II and BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder. He then said, “It should be Bipolar II with some BPD traits then”.  At that moment i just nodded.. and said “okay”

Later yesterday, around evening I suddenly recalled the session with him. I don’t feel i have bipolar. I don’t feel manic. When I feel happier, I would consider that an improvement from my depression.

I feel so alone, i can’t f***king talk to no one who can understand me.  They just say I am trying to get attention and all that sort.

Sometimes, medications make me feel better but other times I just feel so sad, so depressed as if my life is over.. My future seems bleak. I don’t even know if I can survive University.

Oh God, help me! I really do not know what else to do.

Do I really have Bipolar? Am I really sick mentally? I am still able to function most of the days..I am working in fact, 6 whole days a week. How is that mentally unwell?  Just that I get bored so easily and I forget things..i have annoying mood swings that i can’t control and depressed states which I can’t do anything to lift it up.  I am completely messed up!  What to do? I don’t want my future to be ruined by this thing! Whatever it is!

Journey in therapy #2: Reflecting year 2013

Reflecting year 2013,

Throughout these 9 months, I have worked with my counsellor – I will call her T here – for a large amount of time. I would say I was beyond troubled when I approached her in March. I had so many issues that I don’t know how to deal with. As I recall them now, I felt the same feelings too.
Continuing from my background story, I was feeling good from Aug ’12 to Feb ’13. I wanted to restart my life. Life was great, I was participating in many activities, clubs, societies, events… Really, deep down in my heart, I am happy about my life. Until things got bad.

Academic problems
As I was taking a combination of Science subjects, what they call Pre-Med subjects. I am not sure if writing it here is any helpful to my mind.. sigh.. Anyway, it was tough, I couldn’t handle Chemistry and Physics as well as I thought I could. It was also a dream to study Medicine. I really wanted to become a doctor, an oncologist as I was fascinated with cancer and how to treat it. I wish to find a cure for cancer. Well, reality hit me. I just feel it was so so difficult. I couldn’t store the information in my brain. It’s very difficult. It is just not fast enough. I take hours of brain draining to figure out a question. Put it simple, I am not a fast learner for Sciences. Plus, I was a perfectionist back then.

Flashbacks of the horrible incident
It was horrid when I started having flashbacks of my depression episode. My mind kept replaying those scenes where I was just dysfunctional.. I don’t know what to do. That was when I approached T. It was scary. I was nervous when I went into the room. At first it was another counselor that attended to me. I liked him better actually. But somehow I got stucked to this T. Flashbacks, flashbacks, they reminded me how broken I was back then. they reminded me of my useless, restless self, the days where I would just lay in bed and do nothing. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t study, I didn’t even want to talk. I was so afraid that I will not be able to do my test well. But the end I calmly took the exam. For my piano diploma, I also passed. At that time, I told myself, the medication will work and help me to calm down etc. But during this time, I feel useless and helpless needing to take medication at that time (2012). The flashbacks bugged me day and night, I couldn’t function. What changed within me was, after February, which is two months of happiness. I was fearful, of myself, of the future. My future, to me, was just bleak.

Beginning of Sessions
Somehow, I started session with this T. She was professional, very professional. I can hardly recall how she helped me with these flashbacks. But what I do remember is that I told her my depression episode and how I hated my psychiatrist, how I didn’t want to take those medications that do not work as much as I want, how I hate the Psychiatry field that cons people, how I would never see another psychiatrist again…. the list of what I don’t want went endless. She asked “What do you want?” I was stunned when asked this question. Deep down, I don’t know. But I just replied: “I just want to feel better, and forget everything that happened in the past, and start over” It was also terrifying as I feel I don’t remember what kind of person I was before that episode. It was as if some memory loss. I just remembered life was like a living hell with my mind going almost nuts everyday..

I felt things got better
After a few sessions of counselling, I felt much better. And I feel I could continue my studies well again and I feel I could handle my flashbacks / prevent them as well as let the past go. I left counselling.

I went back to counselling
Well, I couldn’t remember what brought me back to counselling. But I was in it from April all the way to November.. As I wrote a hardcopy journal on a as-needed basis back then in April. I flipped back to the book to find out what was the thing that I was dealing with.

Turns out I was afraid of a relapse. At that time I was seeing a so-called Holistic Wellness lady doctor who said I didn’t need to take psychiatric medications such as antidepressant as it was my hormones that were the culprits. I believed her. However, at the same time, I was thinking about whether or not a problem existed?? I couldn’t do maths in class. I had learned helplessness for Maths. I couldn’t focus for piano classes. My mind would be lost in something painful while I went autopilot on my fingers.

Life sucks. I was so into researching that I read up A LOT about mental illness, psychiatric medications, I even have an iPad application about it. I read about depression, schizophrenia, DID, CBT, even rumination.. Indeed I was ruminating a lot. But I couldn’t stop thinking. It’s like a whirlpool keep spinning in my mind.. So annoying yet I couldn’t stop it.

My academics were failing… I just couldn’t get myself to do anything academic even though I know I have the ability to do it. I was afraid, scared of a relapse all day long. I called Befrienders many many times in the past and I did during those difficult times.

Some issues I struggle with:

  • Perfectionism
  • Over-expectations
  • Couldn’t stop thinking
  • Rumination
  • Feeling useless most of the time
  • Extensive researching and reading a lot
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of future
  • Stressed up all the time
  • Learned helplessness in Maths
  • Fearful that I will not do well in assignments and tests
  • How counselling help me

I guess it was around June to July when I was facing the difficulties listed above. I am glad I wrote some of my sessions overview down in my hardcopy journal. It helps me remember what I gain in counselling. This is an excerpt from one of my entries.

We talked about my fear of failure. What is it that I am scared of that makes me cannot do my work? I am afraid that once I get to my desk , I start to have expectations with the work that I am about to do, then I get very stressed out when I have those difficulties doing my work. I think most of my session I was in my thoughts. I didn’t actually think if I conveyed the message correctly but who cares? I realised T was listening in the process, posing questions during intervals. I realised and guessed there was no need for me to plan what I was going to say. Just let what will be what is Be! I realised what I need is calmness to work on my stuff. I am still very scared of whetheror not I will be able to do it, but I realised all this while, since I have promised myself not to give up no matter what! No matter how difficult a situation may be, because it will get better. I was holding on to a word, a thing called HOPE! T asked me to remember that hopeful feeling whenever thoughts are overwhelming then I will be able to do my work. ……. Appreciate my efforts that I put in and Value them. Where is the learning process in this? I am actually happy I held on till now really! If I hadn’t I don’t know where I would be now. …… I want something more, I believe to a certain large extent, I am in control of my life. Control what we can and surrender the rest to God.

This is the end of this part where these were the issues I faced. In the next part I will talk about another set of issues I faced after July ’13.

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