Don’t Let a Few Bad Days Become a Lifelong Depression
Have you ever had that feeling… That feeling that you don’t remember when your down mood began and don’t have much hope for it ever ending? That belief that you’ve always felt that way and always will feel that way? BAM! You’re stuck in the middle of a lifelong depression. It may not last your whole life but at that moment, it feels like it will, and like there’s no way out.
Say Goodbye To Your Obsession with Depression: Live Free!
I know my down moods can evolve into “lifelong depressions” in under four days.
Lately, I’ve been tired. Maybe I’m a little depressed. Maybe I’m a little overmedicated. I checked the calendar to see how soon my psychiatrist’s appointment is. Fortunately I see my psychiatrist soon. But then I realized something else: I saw my psychiatrist about a month ago and I wasn’t feeling this way then. This realization astonished me. Astonished me because for the last few… days? weeks? not more than that… I’ve been feeling tired and feeling like I’ve always been tired.
I don’t know when my thoughts switched from just noticing that I was tired to feeling like I’d always been tired, but the switch was so subtle I didn’t even notice it. And if I didn’t have my last psychiatrist appointment to go by, I would swear to you that I’ve been feeling this way for months.
This self-deception is a problem because it makes temporary disturbances seem like lifelong afflictions. It turns a little bit of fatigue into a full-blown depression.
Whenever you notice a bad feeling or a problem, it’s helpful to really figure out how long it’s been going on using objective signals like appointment dates or other events to mark time. When was your last psychiatrist’s or therapist’s appointment? Did you mention it then? When was your last fun activity? Were you feeling it then? If not, then what you’re going through is probably more temporary than it seems.
Once you can see, with your own logical thought process, that your temporary down has only been around for a few days or weeks, it loses its “lifelong” quality and you are freed from depression. Now you are only suffering from a brief low. Perspective makes a huge difference in how much distress you feel about how you feel.
Freedom from Lifelong Depression is One Small Notation Away
Make a note in your diary or mood journal, on a notepad or even in the corner of your calendar day about how you felt that day. You can use the tried and true 1-10 method where 10 is manic and 1 is depressed – or even just happy faces representing your mood. In the 1-10 method,”euthymic” (or a mood that is neither manic nor depressed but may be up or down) is 3-7. Then, bring your diary, journal, notepad or calendar with you to your next psychiatrist or psychotherapist appointment, so you can tell your helping professional all about what’s bothering you, the date it started and how it’s gone since then.
To Really See Inside Your Mind, Make a Few Notes More
A brief and simple journal can be a great way to orient yourself in reality, and be a stronger partner in your own care. You don’t have to free associate about your dreams or try to come up with far-fetched and unappealing sexual fantasies about adults you knew as a child. Just brief notes about how you’re doing. That will be enough to allow you to go back and see, “Oh… I didn’t say anything about being tired until x date. That’s surprising since I’ve been thinking I’ve felt that way for months!” or “Look, I first had the thought that my significant other was selfish 10 days ago… Before that it never occurred to me… Maybe it isn’t the problem I’m making it into” or even, “I’ve written about my grandfather’s alcoholism nearly every day since I started this journal 6 months ago, I’d better bring it up in therapy and see what there is to deal with there.”
Some Practical Advice on Where to Keep Those Precious Notes
If you like to type, Day One is a great app that you can use on any Apple, Windows or Android device. Whenever you open it, it gives you a fresh clean page and saves the date and time you made your entry. If your device has GPS, it will also save the location.
Instead, I went to Barnes & Noble and found a beautiful leather refillable paper journal. I write my journal out longhand. It’s a little harder to read back and to find all the mood notes but it’s worth it to me because I enjoy the feel of writing longhand so much. It draws me out more than typing would. And I can do it anywhere. On the sofa, in bed, out of town, anywhere. I get the journal refills for $10 each at Barnes & Noble and, writing a lot more than I’m suggesting you do (3+ pages per day), I need about 1 refill every 2+ months. There are many less expensive options on Amazon and elsewhere but I love the feeling of quality paper so this is a place I choose to splurge.
Have you found your mind turning small disturbances into lifelong depressions? Do you have other ways of coping that I didn’t mention in the article? Do you make notes of your moods on a daily basis? Where? Do you do more than that in a journal? How do you use your notes or journal to help you manage your bipolar disorder? Please share your thoughts in the comments!