“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
-Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Bipolar Depression feels like a black hole; sucking you in and smashing your thoughts into an abyss of darkness. In my years since being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I have learned to focus my thoughts for my mental health. Focus on the positive, you’ll get more positive. Focus on the negative, you’ll get more negative.
It seems simple enough, but for somebody in the throes of Bipolar Depression, the task seems insurmountable. Depression has a way of messing with our minds, making us feel that everything is going wrong, and that there is no light ahead. I have been blessed with several bouts of Bipolar Depression in my life. I say that this depression is a blessing, because it has taken several depressive cycles to learn how to combat the dark, seductive side of Bipolar, and it has made me a stronger person.
Several years ago, I recorded a video of myself in the middle of a Depressive episode, which was eye opening and healing for me. I would release the video three years later, in January of 2017, in order to share with those struggling with Bipolar Depression and their support systems (friends, family and colleagues) what happens to an individual experiencing the low side of Bipolar Disorder.
What impacted me most about the video I recorded, three years later, was the belief that everything around me was so dark. My prospects seemed non-existent. I was newly-divorced, I had ended a relationship with the man who was the catalyst of my divorce, I had lost my house, and lost a tremendous amount of money due to two manic episodes two years prior. Everything was a loss, everything was destroyed and burnt to the ground, and the fire had been caused by my own doing, under the influence of Bipolar.
That bout of Bipolar Depression would last for almost a year, which was a devastating loss of life and time. It ended with a visit to the hospital, which was both healing and revealing. I had spent a year mourning my losses, with little light and joy permeating the darkness.
One thing I’ve learned about Bipolar is the cyclical nature of the disease. Which means that it will end, eventually. Another thing I’ve learned is the fact that you can see it coming, with prodromes like those of a migraine headache, warning you that darkness is ahead. This is when I go into triage-mode, and nurture myself and invoke a regimented self-care routine to ensure that I can dodge the bullet.
Here are seven steps I take to stay positive and focus on the good things in my life, in order to lessen those pesky depressive episodes:
Remember that this too shall pass. It always does; just give it time.
Be gentle with yourself. Avoid judging yourself and your diagnosis. With Bipolar Disorder, there will always be ups and downs; allow them to come and go without judgement.
Take time for self care. Getting good sleep, for example, is key during a depressive episode. So is eating healthful foods that will nourish the body and spirit.
Ensure you are drinking enough water. You should drink half of your body weight, in ounces, daily. This will ensure that your body and brain are well-hydrated, avoiding any side effects of dehydration that simply exacerbates depressive episodes.
Take time to do things that you enjoy. You deserve it. Invest in your hobbies, and get out of the house often when you feel a depressive episode coming on. Those who practice this important step report shorter bouts of depression.
Focus “out”. When you are experiencing depression, it is easy to become self absorbed and focus on yourself. To avoid this, I strongly recommend taking time to volunteer for an organization you have a passion for. Take a friend to lunch, call your family members on their birthdays, and let the focus remain on others. This isn’t to say that you can’t ask for a little support yourself when needed, but focusing on others will keep you from miring in the depths of despair.
Get moving. Take a walk, stretch, go to the gym for a power session. The more depressed you feel, the more important it is to get moving and get the blood flowing. You’ll experience greater clarity and focus, assisting you to counteract your depression with positive action.
Do you have other ideas that will support individuals experiencing a depressive episode? Please leave your ideas in the comments!