Big Black Drop Sheet 

13 Apr

 

Over the past month and a half depression has come over me like a big black drop sheet. Big black drop sheet is the way I described my depressions when I was first diagnosed with bipolar in 2004. This particular depression has surprised me, almost come out of nowhere but not: having to stop my meaningful plans, change tack, lie in bed for days, have insomnia, tolerate crying unexpectedly and uncontrollably. Depression has hit me again, and I thought I was an old hand at picking up the signs.

This time sadness, shame and self-hatred have been the most overwhelming emotions surrounding me. For someone so clearly capable to keep banging up against a crashing amount of self loathing has been hard to take. I cry like a little girl, so I’m told, and that is probably true. For the things that I am presently mourning for today are the very same things child-Nicky was attempting to deal with years ago. I know that this is not unusual, maybe something we are all faced with at some point.

I have bipolar II which means I have hypomanias and not manias (hypomanias are energy-based and not psychotic). You also have more depressions than ups.  With bipolar II if you track back there is usually a history of the depressions getting increasingly more severe with fewer and fewer hypomanias in between. Bipolar II is also not regular. There are no regular cycles. It can spring up on you at anytime. You can’t predict it, so it is therefore quite hard to manage.

Since my diagnosis, and the therapy that followed, I’ve gone about my life trying to emphasise the well parts of it, which can make you, and others, almost forget that you have an ongoing illness that sits behind your well periods. I’ve come to realise that this attitude isn’t necessarily healthy for me although it might seem like it should be. My capability and energy can unhelpfully mask what illness I have. Over the last 20 + years I have been regularly depressed after anything I have achieved: jobs, creative projects-you name it. Stress triggers my bipolar. It’s hard for me to consistently hold anything down for a length of time.  This is a bitter pill to swallow and face. This is further complicated by the fact my self-worth isn’t derived from what I do. It’s derived from how well I look after myself, and generally I do that pretty poorly as I tend to ‘become’ things when I do anything. All my self-care subtly vanishes as I flounder, sabotage and watch my self worth ebb away.

 

Brain

 

Out of what has happened to me lately I can see that the strategy of treating myself like I don’t have an illness, that I am a ‘well person’, doesn’t necessarily work for me despite its inherent positivity. To keep myself well and catch things early I have to have the fact I have bipolar right in front of me so I can catch things. This is important because symptoms can appear from out of nowhere, escalate and dig-in and before you know it I’m a ‘goner’. I forget that. Like in the summer last year, when all of The Nine Realms threads were coming together and I was very stressed and working 60 hour weeks. I started to change: started hitting myself and becoming very aggressive whilst still feeling full of energy and highly functioning. I became a different person for a while, which I came to understand in hindsight was me in a mixed state (where you are both depressed and energised at the same time). For about three weeks I was not myself, felt dreadful, but was fully able to work and was driven by my intention to follow through on every aspect of The Nine Realms. This state incremently and subtly crept up on me, and from that state the seeds of depression were sown.

I didn’t catch the change in my behaviour because we weren’t being vigilant enough. Maybe if we (and by we, I mean my mother and I) had been actively on the lookout for changes I might not be lying in bed right now. I’m not saying that I need to be treated with kid gloves or stopped from doing anything that might trigger me. No, I’m not saying that, but maybe a new strategy needs to be put in place. A few signs in my house need to be put up that remind me that it’s a good responsibility to manage my illness. That I have an illness, that despite being on medication, comes up and slaps me merrily on the rear. It’s not nice, it’s not pretty but it is the cold stone truth.

This depression is the first time I haven’t been comatose, which you would think would be a turn up for the books, but it doesn’t feel like that. The extensive period of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  I had for 7 years has taught me that there is distance between myself and my thoughts. I know I am not my thoughts, and I also know how to challenge my thoughts. However, despite having this knowledge, because of my miswiring, it doesn’t stop me from feeling the negative emotions attached to them which then spirals me downwards. So I still get powerfully locked into the negative loops in my schemas (established, entrenched patterns of thinking). In this last week I have just started to use again the CBT techniques I was taught. I think the fact, that this time, I haven’t become my thoughts is what has saved me from becoming comatose. It’s lessened my feelings of helplessness. I have mind tools to deploy. My therapist (who was a specialist in persistent severe depression) taught me well.

This is the moment (you would think) I would be cracking open the champagne (if I drank), pulling the party poppers and celebrating the fact I have been given these tools, but I have found this half-processing state to be far worse than the familiar comatose depression state. In the comatose state you’re out of it at least, you’re not feeling anything other than awful; or you’re so out of it it doesn’t matter. In what I’m feeling now- this half-state- you feel so consciously cornered by your head and your schemas. You feel everything, and you are constantly batting off negative thought processes and delving into, and staying with, emotions. It’s tiring, all-consuming and scary (even if the process has the hidden positive of reminding you you can still feel). This strangely makes the thought of the comatose state more attractive. Tackling my negative thinking constantly is wearisome. Writing things down, charting why I feel what I’m feeling. It’s tiring, even though I do know in my heart of hearts it’s probably a healthy responsibility but……nevertheless. It just doesn’t feel like it. If I take on the new ‘I have bipolar’ strategy, I have a lifetime of charting and managing ahead of me, and sometimes (in all honesty) it feels like it would be better for it all to stop. These types of thoughts are the worst and still come back again and again.

It usually takes me a year to recover fully from a depression. Getting through this bit where my constant rumination and negative processing get in the way of me moving forward. However, I absolutely intend to put my ‘I have bipolar’ signs in the house so I don’t forget (even if it looks a bit bonkers). With a new strategy maybe I can catch my negative core beliefs and thoughts more quickly, treat myself more kindly and live a little bit more of an honest life that actually knowingly supports my vulnerability (which is something we all share). This might help prevent the big black drop sheet from dropping down so quickly in the future. It will come back but maybe the next time it might be a little bit more translucent.

 

Nicky

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14 Responses to “Big Black Drop Sheet ”

  1. loonyliterature April 13, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

    So sorry that you have been through so much.

    • ArtiPeeps April 19, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

      My sincere apologies for not having got back to you sooner. Thanks so much for responding to what I’ve written. The piece rather wrote itself, I have to say. I keep thinking that I’ll get used to having bi-polar but I never seem to- something to always work towards perhaps, which may be no bad thing.

      I appreciate you taking an interest.

      All good wishes,

      Nicky

  2. nordicblackbird April 13, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    What a poignant and powerful insight, Nicky. It takes so much courage to (1) deal with it, and (2) share it with the rest of the world. You are a rare breed of survivor, as well as a wonderful woman 🙂

    • ArtiPeeps April 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

      Nat, my apologies for the length of time it has taken me to respond to your very kind words. I really appreciate your support and the sentiment behind what you have said. This piece wrote itself when I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I had better post it. I was scared, I have to say.

      Thank you for your friendship.

      Warm wishes,

      Nicky

      • nordicblackbird April 21, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

        No need to apologise, dear Nicky. You have my friendship, and I have yours. It is beautiful 🙂
        It is water, flowing :)) X

  3. Gill O April 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    Oh Nicky, this is a powerful thing you have done. One of the many things that you are is a wise owl – your self-knowledge and insight is not only admirable but inspiring. Would that we were all so wise and honest. Your description of what has happened and is happening to you is very meaningful and a real education in what being bi-polar can be like. In sharing this, you will have helped other readers as well as, I do hope, yourself.

    Strategies are one thing, putting them into practice is whole other challenge, infinitely moreso when, as you so eloquently put it, you can sabotage the practice either knowingly or unknowingly. So, well done on your strategic plan – your intended signs don’t sound bonkers at all! Be kind and loving to yourself. Thinking of you, Nicky.

    • ArtiPeeps April 23, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

      Dear Gill, Apologies for taking so long to respond. I was so frightened about putting this post out I’ve found it difficult to go back to it. Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot. The post wrote itself one night when I couldn’t sleep; and, as I said, in reply to Nat’s comment, I always try and post out the pieces that come that way.

      My intention was to let people know a little bit more about bipolar II with the view in mind that it might help a little. I’m glad you think it did.

      Love, Nicky

  4. Jane Dougherty April 14, 2016 at 7:21 am #

    I’ve only ever suffered from mild depression so can only have the very sketchiest idea of how you’ve been feeling. What I do know is the feeling of complete isolation beneath that black shroud with no crack for even the tiniest bit of sunshine to creep through. I’m glad you have a strategy for dealing with it, and I hope with all my heart it continues to work for you 🙂

    • ArtiPeeps April 27, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

      Dear Jane, A 1000 apologies for not having replied more quickly. I really appreciate what you have said and your support. It’s much appreciated. I have every faith that the new strategy will work. It’s worth giving it a good go at least. I’m trying to get some gumption to start applying it.

      Warm wishes,

      Nicky

      • Jane Dougherty April 27, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

        Anything sensible is worth a try, and this sounds sensible. You have a lot of well-wishers. If you can find a way to draw on well wishes, you’ll be stronger.
        All the best xxx

  5. adrianajgarces April 18, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

    Hi Nicky. I’m truly saddened to know of your circumstances and for anyone suffering through depression at any level. We all have our ups and downs, yet I know you have the strength to move past the negatives. As a creative person, I know the best way to let anything all out- is through this we share: creative expression. No thoughts required 🙂 I sincerely hope you are better soon and that nothing will be more pressing than caring for yourself first. Much love and respect for you!
    ~Adriana

    • ArtiPeeps May 9, 2016 at 9:11 pm #

      Adriana, My sincerest apologies for my very tardy reply to your very thoughtful comment. It is much appreciated. I am very determined to get out the other side of this. I always seem to, however tiresome and lengthy the recovery process may be. I really appreciate your concern. With warm wishes, and I hope all is well with you and your art, Nicky

      • adrianajgarces May 10, 2016 at 1:12 am #

        No apologies necessary Nicky. I understand it’s not an easy path and truly wish your continued progress to be swift and complete.
        Thank you as well for all of your continued support.
        Hugs and much love!
        ~Adriana

  6. nannus December 3, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

    How are you?

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