Now that I’m out of it, I can almost tell when it started…mid-March, the beginning of the time of year when I’m inundated with sad memories. I didn’t even notice it creeping in, slowly wrapping a black fog of despair around my brain, choking out the light of hope. It moves so slowly and unobtrusively that I don’t even notice until it’s too late. My manic episodes attack, pounce, are in-your-face, screaming loud. They’re scary, but depression is even scarier. It waits in the shadows, then quietly tiptoes in, slowly pushing me towards the edge of the cliff. Then I’m falling in slow motion, and there’s nothing to catch me. I just curl up into a ball and fall like a boulder. No reaching out for a branch to slow down my descent, no calling out for help, just quietly falling, falling, falling…
They’re so different, these two “poles” of bipolar disorder. They are not equally awful, nor are they equally treatable. My manic episodes are generally agitated mania. Terrible, uncomfortable, skin-crawling, yell-until-you’re-hoarse episodes. They come on suddenly, and I’ve learned exactly what to do to deal with them quickly. I can control these outbursts of unpleasantness. I can be more mindful of my behavior, slow down my thinking, meditate, use essential oils, balance my brain, check in with my chakras. I’ve had perhaps three major manic episodes over the past year, not one lasting more than a couple days, if that long. But depression is insidious. I don’t know how to catch it in time, to recognize the early warning signs, to grab control of my brain and prevent the depression from becoming all-consuming. When I went over the edge of the cliff this time, something somehow got me to crawl up from the depths and stretch my hand out for help.
It’s still hovering around the edges of of my psyche, I can feel it there, taunting me, trying to convince me that it’s so much easier just to give in to it’s enveloping, choking, mist. But I won’t. I’m climbing back up the side of the rocky crag, but I’m not alone. There are people who will push up from the bottom, and pull up from the top.
It’s difficult to say which is worse, depression or mania. They’re both horrible, but for me it’s easier (for lack of a better word) to get out of a manic episode than a depressive episode. Someday that may no longer be true. Someday I may be able to stop at the edge of the cliff and hang on, but for now I’m grateful this time the specter of depression didn’t win.