Understanding and living with depression


Despite the multitude of resources and information available, as a person who has experienced depression in many forms and contexts, it is my experience that most people – even those who may have gone through a depressive period – don’t actually understand depression, it’s many forms, and how it manifests differently in different people.

The society I live in, and probably most modern societies, tends to pay lip service to acknowledging how debilitating and dangerous living with untreated depression can be while at the same time making receiving actual treatment of the type and duration needed virtually impossible to receive.

There’s an awareness and informational understanding that depression is physiological: hormonal and neurochemical, in nature. However, there is an impatience and stigma for those who are medicated to try to balance out the biochemistry. Those who find medications too difficult to stay on and slide back into symptoms after going off meds are looked down on and criticized, often treated as if they are responsible for their illness, “I don’t understand why she won’t stay on her meds. She just doesn’t care how she affects others. If she did, she’d stay on her meds. She’s just selfish and self-centered.”

Women experiencing postpartumn depression get judged and labeled as bad moms because they have fears and feelings, outside of their control, that society says no mom should ever have. When the truth is that, as human beings, we all have scary, negative thoughts that we don’t like to have, about even the ones we love the most. A woman experiencing postpartum depression just has less ability to filter, censor, and control those thoughts and feelings. She recognizes and understands on an instinctual level that those filters and control are fragile and absent and becomes even more anxious.

People in our society – I include my past (and sometimes present) self- have learned mental health terms, then use them as labels to criticize, demean, and judge others by. We stop seeing individual people and just try to assign the label so we can determine the appropriate amount and kind of time, attention, and care we should invest. We place unrealistic expectations on those experiencing depression, whether it is ourselves or others.

What follows is a list of various forms of depression that I or those I love and care about have gone through or are dealing with now. I have provided links and brief descriptions. It is my hope that the next time you or someone you know starts showing signs of depression, you will remember this and seek compassionate, empathetic responses, offering understanding and patience instead of platitudes, minimizing statements, and the attitude that they, or you should, “just get over it.”

Major Depressive Disorder, via the Mayo Clinic:

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of. Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment, like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Dysthymia, via Medline Plus:

The main symptom of dysthymia is a low, dark, or sad mood on most days for at least 2 years. In children and adolescents, the mood can be irritable instead of depressed and lasts for at least 1 year.

In addition, two or more of the following symptoms will be present almost all of the time that a person has dysthymia:

• Feelings of hopelessness
• Too little or too much sleep
• Low energy or fatigue
• Low self-esteem
• Poor appetite or overeating
• Poor concentration

People with dysthymia will often take a negative or discouraging view of themselves, their future, other people, and life events. Problems often seem more difficult to solve.

Bi-Polar Disorder, via

a category of serious mood disorder that causes people to swing between extreme, severe and typically sustained mood states which deeply affect their energy levels, attitudes, behavior and general ability to function. Bipolar mood swings can damage relationships, impair job or school performance, and even result in suicide. Family and friends as well as affected people often become frustrated and upset over the severity of bipolar mood swings.

Cyclothymic Disorder, via PubMed Health:

Cyclothymic disorder is a mild form of bipolar disorder (manic depressive illness) in which a person has mood swings over a period of years that go from mild depression to emotional highs.

Think dysthymia with episodes of hypomania.

Postpartum Depression, via Web MD:

Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can occur in the first few months after childbirth. It also can happen after miscarriage and stillbirth.

Postpartum depression can make you feel very sad, hopeless, and worthless. You may have trouble caring for and bonding with your baby.

It is now recognized that “you can have postpartum depression any time in the first year postpartum.”

PMS/PMDD, via Psych Central:

For a woman to have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with her social or work life. Severe cases of PMS are diagnosed as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Symptoms of PMS and PMDD include those for depression as well as breast tenderness, headaches and joint and muscle pain.

Women who have a family or personal history of depression or postpartum depression are at higher risk for developing PMS or PMDD. PMDD affects five percent of menstruating women.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, via

The symptoms of depression are very common. Some people experience these only at times of stress, while others may experience them regularly at certain times of the year. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by recurrent episodes of depression, usually in late fall and winter, alternating with periods of normal or high mood the rest of the year.

Atypical Depression, via Discovery Fit & Health:

it’s a very specific subset of the mental health disorder, with careful criteria for diagnosis. All “atypical” means here is that some of its symptoms are the opposite of what doctors had come to expect with depression.

Melancholic depression is what most people mean when they talk about being depressed. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat. You can’t concentrate on anything. And nothing seems to bring you out of it. Things that used to make you smile leave you feeling empty.

With atypical depression, some of those symptoms are reversed. Patients oversleep (hypersomnia), overeat (hyperphagy) and exhibit mood reactivity — they’re able to brighten up in response to happy news; it just doesn’t last long. Because of that latter quality, they may not even know they’re depressed. They may think that their baseline of depression is just how everyone feels.

They do know, however, that feeling like your limbs are so incredibly heavy that you can’t move is not normal. This symptom, leaden paralysis, is different from a lack of energy — it’s more like being physically anchored to your bed. With actual metal anchors.

Atypical depression tends to set in fairly early, in the teens and young adulthood, and it’s more common in women.

Situational Depression, via

Situational depression, also known as reactive depression: This type of reaction is thought to be universal and frequently seen in patients who have had to cope with events of personal injustice, humiliation, frustration, and helplessness (Linden et. al., 2007). A stressful life event (SLE) can be events that would seem insignificant to others, however, to you the event was perceived as an offense to you. A feeling as if there has been a small pinch to your inner self. Any situation that leaves you feeling deflated and helpless can be considered as a SLE. When this happens, it is imperative that you ask yourself some difficult and honest questions.

When did I start to feel this way?

What was said or done that served as a precursor to my ill feelings?

Do I feel ashamed?

Do I feel embarrassed?

Do I feel humiliated?

Do I feel exposed?

Do I feel powerless?

In my research, I found that three of these depressions can also be exhibited with signs of psychosis, where the people experiencing them can also suffer hallucinations and delusions that can be dangerous and frightening for them and for those around them: major, bi-polar, and postpartum depression.


I was first told I was experiencing depression in my early teens by a school counselor. I later received a diagnosis of dysthymia. I have had a couple of major depressive episodes and experienced postpartum depression after each of my three children were born. I recently realized that I do have periods of hypomania, PMDD, and SAD.

It seems that every year or two situations occur which trigger a situational depression that often coincides with or leads into one of these other forms of depression.

Lack of consistent access to treatment, incomplete/inaccurate diagnoses, and the subsequent treatments which may include medication have led to additional problems or issues. My own poor and incomplete understanding has played into exacerbation of symptoms at times. I have been afraid of judgment, stigma and how the assumptions and misunderstanding of others, especially those in positions of power and authority over my life, could and have impacted my life.

I’m doing better than I’ve done in many years. At least I’m more in tune with the symptoms and triggers. I’m more cognizant of my own thought processes and choices that can help manage the symptoms or make them more difficult to manage. Sometimes it’s a moment by moment daily struggle. Some days I feel like I’m done with the depression, only to be frustrated when the signs start popping up again.

I’m still here and I’m still fighting.


Hypomania Interrupted


Yesterday felt like the beginnings of a hypomanic episode. These were some of the signs present:

• Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)

• More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

• Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing

• Distractibility (e.g., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)

• Increase in psychomotor agitation

This is how these symptoms manifest for me:

• Insomnia kicks in and I wake up after one or two hours of sleep,

• Even if my body is still tired, my mind just jumps from one thought stream to another,

• I feel an insistent and urgent need to communicate – since no one is usually present for me to talk to, I feel a compulsion to write.

• If I can write, I wind up with five or more tabs open while I “rabbit trail” with the different streams of thought and trying to link to this idea/concept or find a new quote, then try to create an image to illustrate what is going on in my head and emotions, all while Facebooking.

• If I can’t write, my agitation and irritability increase and I will find myself wandering in and out of the various rooms in my apartment, picking things up and putting them down.

So, when I woke up around 1:30 in the morning yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep, after an hour and a half, I risked waking my daughter up and got on the computer to write. I spent an hour writing then an hour editing and rabbit trailing while I got ready to hit the publish button on the post. By then it was around 4:15-4:30 and I still couldn’t sleep. So, another hour or so was spent on Facebook, until my body crashed again around 6 am. I slept for 2-2.5 hours then had to get up and get Luna ready to go to her respite care program. Once she got on the bus, I went to the pool and swam laps for an hour and a half. The perfect place to get out the psychomotor agitation and let the thoughts just flow.

Some other things were happening for me as well:


• Sadness or hopelessness

• Anxiety or tension

• Extreme moodiness

• Marked irritability or anger

When I got home, I discovered I was locked out. The anxiety and panic tried to take over and I began feeling really frustrated with myself for not taking my key and with those who locked the door without realizing my keys were still hanging in the entryway.

I remembered that the kitchen window had recently been opened and figured it hadn’t gotten locked again. So, I removed the screen and was able to slide it open. The next task was to figure out how to haul my 266 lb body through it and avoid all the boxes and bags of stuff stacked in front of it without causing injury or creating a mess.

I did it! It was a huge accomplishment to get through all of that in the way I did. However, it was also a LOT of energy and effort, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally, because all I wanted to do was throw a tantrum, go into panic, and be pissed off.

I soon got my wish. I went in the kitchen to cook myself some eggs only to discover that despite all the cleaning that others had done in there the previous night, the sink was full and the counters were covered, as was the stovetop, with an accumulation of unwashed dishes.

Then I discovered 2/3 of the myzithra cheese, which I had been saving for a special pasta dish I’ve been craving, was gone!

I. Was. LIVID!

Within 30 seconds, it seemed, the one responsible for me having been locked out, the likely culprit of the cheese theft and major contributor to the kitchen mess, returned my phone call.

Uh huh. What followed was less than pretty.

She laughed at my description of what I went through to get into the apartment then turned the cheese thing around on me, raising her voice in the process, deflected and told me I was yelling, talked over me, then hung up.

Over the past year and a half or so, I have worked hard to create a different response when this sort of thing happens. I usually just let the matter rest until everyone is calm again. Often, that means the apologies are said later and the issue just blows over.

This time, however, my mental and emotional state was so overwhelming and I was so agitated and righteously pissed, that I just kept hitting redial while she kept sending me to voicemail, until she answered the phone, talked at me and hung up again.

By that point I was in a fury and so frustrated, hurt, and angry that I started pacing around muttering and crying. I even slapped the wall at one point, which hurt, stinging my hand so bad it made me cry harder.

The feelings of not counting or being treated with the effort, courtesy, consideration, and acceptance were swirling and roiling like a tempest through my heart, mind, and body. The depression started trying to rise and all the fears and worries about our financial circumstances started. My throat constricted and all the energy just drained out of my body.

That’s when I remembered that there were a couple of friends I could call, whom I’ve been reconnecting with. I got voicemail with the first one, but the second one answered. We talked for probably an hour.

The conversation started with me stating that I hated the life I’ve created for myself. We talked through what had happened and the history and established patterns of my family relationships. She empathized with me, validated my feelings, and sought to understand what was really going on. I shared about the things I’m learning in my Circle of Security parenting group and the realizations I’ve been having about some key things about how I grew up and how those things had carried through into my parenting, especially with my adult children.

The best thing about the call though, was that I was able to not make it all about me and my stuff. We talked about her experiences in these matters and I asked about a health issue she’s been having. That may not seem like a big deal to many, but it is a huge indicator of how much I’ve grown and healed.

After that call, I was able to cope better and follow through on scheduled activities, which, even as recently as a week or two ago, I may have wound up canceling because of how crappy my day had been.

That evening I was able to talk through the issues that had happened earlier in the day with the one(s) who had contributed to my earlier distress. Eventually, Luna and I made it to bed.

Miracle of miracles, I slept . . . Through the night with minimal waking moments which I was able to return to sleep from.

I think that a few things were key in the disruption of what otherwise would have turned int a full-blown, four plus period of hypomania:

1) I’ve been exercising. Everyday during the month of May, I have walked a minimum of a mile or exercised at least 20 minutes. Whether I felt like it or not, regardless of what else was happening or who else was in distress, even when it was the very last thing I wanted to do, I exercised Every. Single. Day. Since Tuesday, May 21st, I swam three miles and today I walked over 4.5 miles.


So, physically, my body needed the downtime of sleep to rest and repair, regardless of what the neurochemistry and hormones were doing to my brain and emotions. The exercise also satisfied the psychomotor agitation and allowed space for the thoughts to just flow through and not get stuck.

2) Community support. In addition to knowing I had three different people I could call and safely talk things through with, there are some online communities I’m consistently engaging with where, not only can I get encouragement and support, I am actively participating in the support and encouragement of others.

3) Practicing presence. As painful, frustrating and difficult as it was to go through yesterday’s experiences, I stayed in the moment and didn’t short circuit the process by numbing out on television and/or food.

I’m not out of the woods and there is still a long and winding path ahead. However, I finally can see and am realizing that I am growing and changing. I am now able to recognize that I am a new me and while things like PMDD, Cyclothymia, and Fibromyalgia may always be factors in my life, they no longer have to fully define and dictate the person I am.

When hypo-mania meets a fibro-flare

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It’s 3:21 a.m. and I’ve been awake since 1:37 a.m., if I remember the numbers on the clock correctly. This is usually the first sign that a hypomanic episode is starting. It makes sense, now that I understand the cyclical patterns of cyclothymia, since the previous hypo-manic onset was about a month ago, April 22nd or 23rd. However, I must confess, that I was seriously hoping that it had somehow, miraculously gone away. After all, I don’t officially have any “real” diagnosis. Also, I’m in the midst of the fourth week of my 28 Days to a New Me journey, and I’ve been doing great with it. I’m exercising every single day, regardless of how I feel or what other things are going on in my life. I even exercised two hours with a migraine last week!

Hmmm, migraine, I guess I should have seen this coming. *sigh*

Why should I have seen this coming? Well, last week about this time, I had to struggle and push through a depression episode that was triggered by the fact that Keith was experiencing another disruption in his work/home time cycle and, yet again, our finances are swirling down the porcelain bowl. I did push through it with the support and encouragement of people in the 28 Days group. It also is kind of a requirement that when Keith is home and going through his stuff, that I work through whatever it is I’m experiencing to stay present and engaged with him and Luna.

But, let me tell you, even having all the encouragement and support, prayers and validation that I did, for the first time in what feels like forever, and being open to receiving all of that, only took the edge off. I’m not whining or throwing a pity party here, but I’m just being real and honest.


Being depressed is not just being down and needing a pick me up and a quick change of attitude or perspective to turn things around. Being depressed isn’t a choice. At this point, it is a biological, neurochemical imperative; a downhill slide in an uphill battle, pushing one hand against the mountain that feels like it’s crumbling down around you while you try to reach all the leaking holes in the breaking dam with the other hand.

Having the knowledge and the tools of things like The 12 Steps of Recovery, scriptural promises of God’s love and provision, psycho-social knowledge of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other related treatments, and being responsible for the well-being of a child are the things that help me fight through it without the help of or access to medication and consistent treatment by a professional. I’m grateful to have reached this point. However, let me be clear, it is one of the most exhausting things in life to be in a state of depression. It’s even more exhausting fighting through it when just about everyone around you expects you to continue functioning at the same levels as when depression isn’t active.

And so, I pushed through the latest episode of depression and kept going . . . at a cost.

The weather went from dry and warm back to blustery, cold, and wet at the same time as I was pushing through the depression. Then, I thought trying a Zumba class for the 55+ set would be a great idea. The juxtaposition of all of these things combined to trigger a fibroflare of severe pain and fatigue. I’d already been experiencing severe numbing and tingling, mostly in my hands, arms, and shoulders, but also in my feet. At my last screening via the Lions club, last October?, I wasn’t diabetic and the numbing/tingling thing has been going on for more than 20 years.

So, deep fatigue, brain fog, sharp, shooting pain, deep tissue achiness is all combined with the stiffness and pain from what is probably arthritis in the knee and a herniated disc in the lower back with a pinched sciatic nerve are all happening at the same time as my body is going through the rigors of consistent physical exercise after becoming so sedentary that taking a shower had become a workout.

I have concluded that swimming is the only exercise I can safely and consistently do at this point. Even if I have a migraine or any of the other symptoms, I can still swim. I swam a mile in an hour and a half on Tuesday, then again on Thursday. While I was in the water, I was alert, energized, and feeling fine. I felt strong, powerful even. My body functioning and responsive to my commands. I could feel the engagement of my muscles, throughout my body, as my arms and legs pushed and pulled against the resistance of the water. Smooth, buoyant, and purposeful. I didn’t want to stop when I hit the mile mark. Within 15 – 20 minutes of arriving home, the fatigue settled on top of me like a lead blanket and I slept for an hour to an hour and a half. When I woke, my brain felt sluggish and disoriented.

I have concluded that life would be easier if I could live in the water, like a merperson. This conclusion restores a childhood memory of my enjoyment of the show, The Man From Atlantis, and how I would try to swim underwater with the full body waving movement and arms tucked to my sides. I wonder if merfolk deal with things like depression, hypomania, and fibromyalgia?

It’s 4:15 and I’m exhausted, but not sure if I can sleep. I’ll try anyway. Maybe I’ll dream of the ocean and being the purple mermaid Luna told me she dreamed I was the other night.

Managing hypomania: The best way to learn is to teach

Ever since I learned about this thing called Cyclothymia a couple of months ago, you can read about it here, things have been kind of better, somewhat confusing, and all over the map. Perhaps I should say, I have been all those things.

The day I wrote about Neverending Story was the onset of another hypomanic episode for me. I didn’t quite realize it at the time I was doing my writing. I actually didn’t start recognizing it for what it was until it was time to lie down and go to sleep and my brain was just spinning, spinning, and spinning with all the things I want to write about and craving conversation, debate, and interaction with others who all seemed dormant in my preferred interactive forum of Facebook.

Tuesday at 11:09pm: Why is it I get so amped after writing? Feels like synapses are not going to settle down and let me sleep.

I gave up, got up and went out into the living room and logged onto the computer so I could use a full size keyboard and sit upright without disturbing the other sleeping bodies occupying the bed, Luna and her daddy.

I found another late night insomniac who I met through my daughter almost two years ago when she couch surfed at our apartment. We’ve chatted a few other times during 3rd shift when sleep eluded us both. We wound up discussing the difficulties with feeling out of control when she posted this statement:

I know I’m doing really good for myself right now… But why do I feel soooooooooooooo bi polar…I just wanna put my head through a wall!

The public conversation included me offering information about cyclothymia and then went private as she asked questions and shared about her experiences with relationships and how to cope with these kinds of overwhelming and out of control thoughts and moods.


“The best way to learn is to teach.” ~ Frank Oppenheimer

I found myself responding to her questions and plaintive expressions of pain with the following:

Sometimes you have to focus on what you know, instead of what you feel, think, or believe. I KNOW I am loved and worthy of love, although much of the time I don’t feel, think, or believe it. Taking action on that knowledge helps me stop reacting in negative and harmful ways when other people whom I love don’t treat me the way I want and need them too. It helps me to respond differently than I otherwise would and has gone a LONG way in healing my relationships with my adult kids and Keith. Especially once I take into account how long and difficult the journey has been for me to choose loving action in the face of overwhelming feelings of rejection, depression, and judgmentalism, theirs and my own. 

“Yessss…I definitely understand your words and they are actually helping me in ways…I never understand my feelings and when other people tell me I’m negative all the time.. Or I’m depressed all the time or they don’t know what to do… Its like Ummm… Neither do I so why don’t you relax cuz neither of us understands it….! I just have been trying to stick around true souls and positive people… But I miss some people a lot and I’d give anything to keep them in my life and make them see.. Its not them… It is me… But Theres only so much I can do at times and others need to accept that. I’d accept my friends if they were homeless, lost, and had nothing to give… I’d give them the shirt off my back… But yeah…”

I could see the she in me when I read those words. It brought so many thoughts and memories about the lost and broken relationships in my life, as well as the lost and broken dreams.

Thankfully, because I’ve been doing the research on cyclothymia and working through my own healing and recovery process, I can look at recent history and recognize that new and healthier relationships are forming while bent and damaged ones are being healed and restored. So, when she asked, “What are some coping skills you have learned work well… Maybe its worth a shot for me ta try…,” I had a constructive response:

The 12 Steps of recovery have helped. One fb page, Codependent Life, has a lot of good stuff that helps me to reevaluate how I deal with people.

I started writing on my blog in December 2011 and was attending some recovery groups online and in person. I wrote about what was going on inside of me, in my life, and writing out some of the steps and meditations I had been reading through and studying.

As time went on, little by little, I started connecting with other bloggers who were experiencing various mental health, physical health, and relationship issues. I would read and comment and really think about what I was doing that was contributing to the problems I was experiencing and just praying, wishing, hoping for ways to move out of that negative head and heart space.

Acknowledging and taking ownership of my powerlessness in these things really helped me to start refocusing on what WAS in my control. I had to reevaluate my beliefs about God and His love for me and others. I realized that the only way I was going to heal and get unstuck was continually turning everything that I couldn’t control over to my Higher Power and trust that I would come out on the other side.

Step 1: I can’t. I was powerless over my own emotions, attitudes, and even actions. I still am to a large degree. My life was unmanageable and I was overwhelmed by everyone and everything in it.
Step 2: God can. Whether it is the “Christian” God or Love or the Universe, I had to recognize that a power greater than myself could and is restoring me to sanity.
Step 3: I think I’ll let him. I had to let go of my fierce desire and need to control the outcome and get people to understand, love, and treat me the way I wanted to be understood, loved, and treated. I had to trust that the Law of Attraction was strongly at work in my life and all the negative energy I was generating and focusing on was coming back to me in all areas of my life. I needed to find ways to turn that negativity over and find ways to reframe my negative thoughts.

The next day, I realized that by engaging with her about these things and sharing my own experiences, I had actually been reinforcing and teaching myself about managing my own hypomania.

To be continued . . .

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Click here to find out more about Blog for Mental health 2013

There goes that idea . . .

Oops, I did it again . . . no, I’m not Britney, but it seems she and I may have some things in common: mental illness and/or personality disorders.

As I watched her transition from a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Mouseketeer to teen pop sensation through to her very publicized and very famous meltdown in 2008, I may have criticized some of the choices made in marketing her and making her transition from kid clean to teen queen, however, I always felt that she needed more compassion, empathy, and acceptance. Perhaps I saw a bit of myself in her. At any rate, the reality is that the stigma around mental health issues is so great that this beautiful and talented young woman garnered much derision, criticism, and various forms of bullying by media, anti-fans, fans, family, and the court system. She fought her way back and continues to pursue her life in the context of whatever her mental health issues are and within the confines of medical and court systems that have deemed her unfit to see to her own affairs.

The disparity between how she has been treated in terms of access to treatment as well as restrictions on her autonomy as compared to the thousands (millions?) of people with mental illness who do not have her combination of talent, money, and celebrity is damning in our society and illuminates exactly how much prejudice and stigma there is, not just in relation to mental health issues, but also in regards to the child entertainment industry. It is my humble opinion that had she not been a child entertainment commodity and treated as such by the adults in her world, the signs and symptoms that spiraled out of control in 2008 could have and might have been recognized and addressed prior to the devastating events that her own young children wound up subjected to. I suspect that the signs were there and evident, yet minimized, ignored, and possibly incorrectly medicated so she could continue to perform, entertain, and earn millions for the people around her. If my suspicions are true, then, those in a position and with a responsibility to help her failed her because of their own blind ambition, unwillingness to take on a battle they didn’t have the time or inclination to pursue, or unrealized mental health and personality disorder issues of their own.

Adults and children who are seen as having something to contribute to the benefit of others, i.e. earning them lots of money, are at risk of having their needs and symptoms overlooked until they reach a point where other people’s benefit is endangered. Then they can be forcibly treated and have legal restrictions placed on them so that their issues don’t interfere with the flow of other people’s lives. On the other hand, those of us who are not recognized as having extra benefit or contributing more than others are at risk of being marginalized and if our conditions and issues affect our ability to provide for ourselves, we may wind up stripped of housing, family, and access to treatment.

There is a middle scenario. The place where someone dealing with the biochemical, developmental, and neurological issues that affect one’s behavior, personality, and thought has encouraging, safe, supportive people around them who support their autonomy AND recognize that even the most functional of people needs assistance at times. This middle scenario includes access to consistent treatment and care with knowledgeable and skilled medical and mental health personnel, capable of working WITH the patient in identifying all the symptoms, triggers, and sources of what is happening as well as in determining constructive courses of treatment.

I suppose that third scenario does happen for a fortunate few, however, at least in these United States of America, it is anything but the norm.

A couple of days ago I posed this question


One of the people I have recently opened myself up to responded with a link describing Cyclothymic Disorder. Since she is an MSW of Social Work and an Assistant Professor at a state university, has worked in various aspects of child welfare and social service organizations, and has experienced her chronic health issues herself, I valued her input. This is what she had to say about it:

“People with cyclothymia usually go get treatment for depression and do not recognize the hypomania because it feels kind of good/the bad part is the “down” that comes after, which feels/looks like plain old depression. However straight depression meds can make the negative symptoms (poor sleep, agitation, anxiety) of hypomania worse, so having a good diagnosis is important. Your complicating factor is the fibromyalgia, because pain-related factors and depression-related factors are so connected, and because it’s typical for people who are having non-flare days to feel motivated, hopeful, “hypomanic” even in their desire to accomplish much- and the overwhelming pain crash looks similar to the normal transition between hypomanic and depressive stages. It’s tough to figure out. One of the ways it is done is through pharmacology- if lithium helps then it usually means the cychlothymia diagnosis is right. Backwards diagnosing. Art+Science, most of this stuff we call medicine.”

So, what is the idea that went and what was it I did again?

The idea that moving into an isolated manufactured home only two years younger than I am on the bank of a river and five miles distance from the main road would be the place to move for our family where I would be on my own and away from the services and little bit of socialization I get now. What I did again, was to take that situation and idealized it in my head. I got the spinning, racing thoughts that seemed to be problem-solving and thinking outside the box for identifying creative solutions to our housing and cat dilemmas. I couldn’t shut off my brain or close my mouth and let the unfamiliar and unaccustomed feelings of excitement rule and reign. I created unrealistic expectations, packaged them up, put a bow on them, and handed them to Keith, knowing that his personality issues would not respond well if the situation didn’t pan out. The problem was, I didn’t honestly believe they would not happen and the compulsion to share was so strong that despite my knowledge, understanding, and intent, I bulldozed through anyway.

At least now I have a new place to start on my Do-It-Yourself journey of figuring out, managing, and working through the symptoms of the last 30 years of my life with this apparent “mild” form of Bi-Polar Disorder.