Torture Chamber

IMG_2891

My mind is a torture chamber. On the inside, I’m chained and shackled. I’m being beaten. I’m exhausted to the point of breaking. There is no escape. Darkness is overcoming me. My inner demons are beating me over and over until I have no strength to get back up. I want to scream, but I can’t. I’m literally trapped in my own mind. I’m starting to suffocate. The weight is too intense. The pain is almost too much to bear. I want to escape. I literally feel like I’m being tortured, eaten from the inside, out.

This is how depression feels. This is how I feel more days than I’d like to admit. It’s a terrifying experience, feeling like your own mind is attacking you. Feeling like you can’t escape, because if you run, your mind runs with you. There is no leaving your problems behind when they are carried with you all the time. It’s a parasite, latched on for the ride.

You know those days when you’ve got the worst head cold ever? Or when the stomach flu makes you be curled up in a ball? You say, “I’m so tired of being sick.” That’s what I say every day. Except for me, this won’t pass in 24 hours. It won’t clear up in a week. It stays with me. I have to learn to live with a hidden sickness.

That’s one of the hard parts of depression. It’s hidden. No one knows I struggle with this, except the few people I’ve shared this struggle with. I’m really good at hiding my depression to outsiders. But then I feel fake. It would be so much easier if depression was like a head cold. People could see that you’re sick. They’d see the reason why you called in to work. No one would blame you for getting a head cold. A bowl of chicken noodle soup, cough drops, and a box of Kleenex. People can give you these remedies. But not with depression. If people knew you were depressed, they probably wouldn’t know what to do. There is no easy remedy.

That’s why I don’t tell people. I feel weak. I should be in control of my own brain. I’m educated. I’m 4 months away from getting my Master’s degree. My mind goes through hard things all the time. So why is this so debilitating? Why can’t I have the mind strength to power through this?

But I know it will all be ok. I’m holding to my faith in my Savior, that He will help me back up when I am down. Because of Him, I don’t have to go through this alone. And that thought makes everything a little more bearable. Because of Him, I will be made strong again. I just need to remember that. It’s hard to remember I’m not alone when my mind is in pieces. But He’s there. He’s always there. He died so that I might live!

Endure it Well

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I have a very strong relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I have always had this relationship, and I’m grateful for the knowledge that He is always there.  However, because of the depression, at times it feels like I’m all alone.  It feels like I can’t find Him.  And that scares me.  I feel like I have no one to turn to.  I know that’s not true.  How can someone like me, who always tries stay by the Savior’s side, feel so alone and away from Him?  I feel like at times, I’m losing my faith.

But I know He is there.  Whenever I feel this, an image comes to my head.  It’s a painting I love, of Peter sinking into the water after Christ calls for him to follow Him.  The Savior is lovingly reaching out His hand.

73a7fdd87b4cac3e53f5412094e2a74b

I feel like Peter.  I feel like I’m sinking.  But I know that the Savior is always reaching out His hand for me.  All I have to do is reach out myself, and He will catch me.  He will pull me out.  That reaching out is my act of faith, trusting that my Savior will be there for me.  I cling to that.

I was having a really bad day yesterday.  Again, I felt like my world was falling apart, and I was losing hope.  I sat in the temple, praying for peace.  Three simple words came very strongly to my mind: “Endure it well.”  This comes from one of my favorite scriptures from the Doctrine and Covenants.  It’s from section 121:7-8.  “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”  That brought instant peace into my heart.  I know that my Heavenly Father and my Savior are there.  I know They brought that into my mind, at the very moment I needed it the most.

That’s what is required of me right now.  I just need to endure this trial well.  It doesn’t say endure it perfectly.  Just well.  I don’t know why I have to suffer this trial.  I might never know.  But what I do know is that I’m not going through this alone.  I have Heavenly help.  All I have to do is be like Peter and stretch out my hand to grasp onto the Savior’s extended arm.

This trial is not going to last forever.  It might last throughout my earthly life, but if I accept this trial and allow the Lord to help me, it will be resolved in the next life.  I’m not the only one with trials.  Every single person on this earth has something hard they go through!  No two trials are the same.  We just need to take what the Lord gives us, and learn what He needs us to learn from them.  I know the Lord loves me.  That’s why He gave me this trial.  That might sound weird, but I know I am going to learn more from this trial than I would learn anywhere else.  And for that, I’m grateful!

 

An Unpredictable Mind

Rollercoaster Picture.jpg

My whole life, I’ve been an extremely logical person.  I think about and plan out my life.  I am extremely organized in my thought process.  If I am going on vacation, I think about what to pack months in advance and write a detailed plan for what to take.  If I have a homework assignment, I have to make sure it’s as perfect as I can make it.  I’ve always slightly been an overachiever, especially when it comes to things like school or work.  Why do I do these things?  Because the unknown scares me.  The fear of failure terrifies me.  And feeling like I am not in control gives me anxiety.

That’s why bipolar disorder is hard for me.

Because it’s all 3 of those things.

I feel incredibly out of control of my life, like I don’t have a handle on things like I used to.  I feel like I am failing myself.  And most of all, I never know what is going to happen next.

I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder.  This means that my moods can shift at the snap of a finger.  I never know if something is going to send me spiraling into depression or make me abnormally happy.

Take this scenario: My roommate bursts into the living room where another roommate and I are sitting together, having a great conversation.  She says, “Let’s go to this party!”  One of two things can happen.  1) Sudden depression.  I’d think, “She wasn’t talking to me.  She was clearly talking to my other roommate.  They don’t want me with them at all.”  And then I’ll completely shut down and shut everyone out, even though it’s such an unrealistic thought.  Or, 2) Sudden high.  I’d think, “Oh my goodness!  Let’s go!  This is going to be so much fun!”  And then I’d get this crazed look about me and will be totally unlike my normal self, but I’d be the life of a party.  (Of course, I could have a totally normal reaction as well, but those obviously don’t bother me at all.)

Or take last night, for instance.  I have been keeping a very regular sleep schedule lately, because that seems to help balance out the depression and make it more bearable.  But last night, I couldn’t fall asleep.  I felt wired.  I knew I had an early meeting for work this morning, up in downtown Salt Lake City, about 1 1/2 hours away from my apartment because of rush hour.  I could have been incredibly upset at myself, likely to slip into depression, for not sleeping.  I was counting down the hours of sleep time I had left.  7 hours turned to 6, which turned to 5, which turned to 4.  But I was having another hypomanic episode, and honestly couldn’t care less that I was losing sleep.  I didn’t feel like I needed it.  My roommate came into our room at 1:00, and I have no idea why, but I just burst out laughing.  Nothing prompted it.  But nothing could stop it.

And then later today, after work, I slammed into depression again.  Thinking about it, I have absolutely no idea what happened to cause it.  I can only think that I was so exhausted from my lack of sleep that I was feeling exceptionally emotional.  I have no idea…

This is what my life feels like.  A crazy, unpredictable rollercoaster.  You know, like Space Mountain in Disneyland.  My life is a rollercoaster in the dark, and I can’t see where I’m going next.  I only feel the turns whipping me as I zoom along this crazy track of life.

And that unpredictability is exhausting, never knowing if I’m going to be depressed, hypomanic, or normal.  Like I mentioned earlier, I have no control over what is going to happen.  It just happens.

I have an unpredictable mind.

Swings (And no, not the fun playground kind)

What do you think of when you hear the word “bipolar?”

Is it someone who is extremely emotionally unstable?

Do you think of violent behaviors?

Maybe the weather in Utah?

I think of me.

Yep.  I have bipolar disorder (I know, in my last post, I said I have depression.  Which, obviously I do.  This bipolar diagnosis is a recent diagnosis, which makes so much more sense with what has been going on with me lately).

Receiving a diagnosis is a surreal experience.  I’ve questioned this a lot.  Was I giving accurate answers?  Was I overthinking everything?  When I have my “highs,” are they really highs, or do they just seem like it compared to my depression?  I don’t really want a bipolar diagnosis.  But then I think, “Why?  What’s so different about a bipolar diagnosis than a depression diagnosis?”  Being bipolar doesn’t define who I am.  It’s just an explanation of what’s going on inside my brain.

I consider myself blessed that I don’t have an extreme case of it.  Mine is actually fairly mild.  I have what is called rapid cycling Bipolar II Disorder.  Essentially, this means that my highs aren’t extremely severe.  I don’t have full-on manic episodes.  I have hypomanic episodes, which means that I can still function normally, except for the fact that I’m in a more hyperactive state than is normal.  It feels like I would imagine being high on drugs would feel like… not that I would actually know, because I’m a good girl and have never done drugs.  The rapid cycling part is more of a description of the disorder.  I don’t stay either depressed or high for an extremely long period of time.  I switch back and forth very quickly.

Let me try to explain what it’s like to have a high.  First of all, my highs come out of nowhere.  I could be sitting in my apartment, and then suddenly, I get a crazy spurt of energy.  It feels like I just want to run around everywhere.  I can feel my eyes getting a wild look in them.  If I look in a mirror, I actually do have somewhat of a wild look.  But I’m smiling, and I can’t stop.  It’s my biggest smile.  I can’t really control what I say.  I literally can’t even think about what’s going to come out of my mouth.  I feel extremely impulsive, although I’m lucky enough to be able to control my impulses (Many people with the disorder get into dangerous situations because of their impulsiveness).  I also have the hardest time focusing.  I will find myself looking around the room, randomly trying to find everything that is the color yellow, or some other random thing.  Don’t ask me why.  I know it’s weird.  I just can’t make myself focus.  My roommates can tell the exact second it hits me.  One look at me, and they say, “Uh-oh.  You’re in a mood!”  I never know how long the mood will last.

Each cycle, with either the depressive or hypomanic symptoms, is different.  Sometimes it’s a few hours, sometimes it’s a few days.  I’ve had them for weeks at a time.  During a cycle, I can also have normal moments, moments where I feel 100% like my old self.  It’s during these moments that I question my diagnosis the most.  I feel like because I’m normal, I’m not really bipolar.  I even question having depression at times.  But without fail, each time I think that, soon enough I will have another episode of either depression or hypomania.

Let me explain what it’s like to have depression.  Just like my hypomania, it can literally come out of nowhere.  A strategy from my therapy I have been trying to apply is to think about the negative thought that caused this spurt of depression.  Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes I can’t figure out for the life of me what triggered it this time.  One trigger I have noticed multiple times is change.  So are feelings of loneliness (even though I’m never lonely.  I live with 5 other girls!).  I suddenly lack all energy and motivation.  I want to just curl up in a ball and do nothing.  I have crying spells, and if you know me, you know that I never cry!  I become very quiet, which is again, not at all like me.  I don’t want to go out and socialize, which actually makes things worse for me, because I’m an extrovert.  I get my energy from being around people.  When I’m depressed, I don’t feel like eating anything.  I want to sleep all the time.  My roommates describe me as a zombie when I’m in my depressive moods.

Going back and forth with these two different emotions has been extremely exhausting.  I never know what I’m going to feel like.  I’m trying to apply strategies that I’ve learned in therapy, and they do help, but they don’t take it away.  They just make it more bearable, which I’m grateful for.  At times, I do wish that I didn’t have to deal with this.  However, looking deeper, I’m grateful for this challenge.  I know that my Heavenly Father won’t give me anything I can’t handle, and that when something does become hard, He will give me the strength to endure it.  I’ve learned so much from this struggle already, and I’m sure I’ll learn so much more!

Life

Life.  Sometimes it just comes at you.  Sometimes it feels like it’s swallowing you whole.  Yet sometimes, it can fill you with immense joy where you just can’t stop smiling.  That’s why I’m writing this blog, because life can be sunny, but then the thunder comes rolling in.

I’m using this as a way for me to get out my thoughts and feelings.  It’s a way for me to try to understand my own life, because right now, life doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I see the sunshine.  I feel it.  But I also have this constant rumble of thunder living inside me.

I have depression.

Depression doesn’t mean I’m always sad.  I have plenty of good days!  Depression just means that I’m sad more intensely than normal, and for longer periods of time than is normal.  It’s unpredictable.  I could be having the greatest day ever, then one tiny thing will happen, and I’ll suddenly snap into a deep depression out of nowhere.

This is my journey.  I am a fighter.  Depression will not win.