Thought of the Week: The Darkness Burning

And so goes by another week of wasted time and workless nights; no writing, no doing, no thinking. Long evenings of dozing and watching Futurama and eating too many bowls of cereal, waiting to be able to go to bed and fall asleep, to forget the emptiness of yet another day.

I’ve been struggling with my maladies for many, many years, but was only recently diagnosed with (or learned of my diagnosis of) Bipolar Type I. I’ve already written about this, but it just all suddenly makes sense. Look at this graph:

Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 9.24.49 PMThis is a chart of my mood over the past six months. As you can see, it goes up and down a lot. I haven’t had more than a week or two of feeling generally stable. What’s much more interesting is the pattern of ups and downs. I need more data to be able to see a genuine trend, but I’ve highlighted above periods of time where my average mood remained below a rating of “5”. They seem pretty evenly spaced, don’t they? A month of up, a month of down.

And so the cycle goes. I’m in a black phase at the moment, entering autumn and feeling overwhelmed with the work ahead of me, both in my personal life and with my novel, and although it seems like it’s lasted forever this time, I can see about that it’s only been about three weeks. Another week or two, and I might be looking up again.

Wouldn’t it be nice? What if I could predict my depression, prepare for it, set things in place to ease the way for myself and my family? “Well sweetie, in about two weeks I’m going to start making your life miserable again; we’d better prepare.”

It probably won’t work out that way. I’m unpredictable, and that’s part of the problem. Ignoring the averages, look at the variation in the above graph: I can go from a 9 to a 2 overnight, and back up again the next day. It’s not easy, believe me.

Unlike typical bipolar disorders, I don’t have especially manic phases. I don’t spend money compulsively, I’m not promiscuous, and I certainly don’t feel like I can do anything and everything in the world. On the best of days it’s a struggle to force myself to do even the things I want to do. However, I do have extremely difficult depressive phases. I’m on four different drugs to try and combat this. And as of this week, I’ve added a fifth: lithium.

That’s right – the dreaded lithium. The certain and dreaded proof, if any was needed, that I truly am bipolar. And I don’t know how I feel about it. If it works – if it softens the downs – I’d be very pleased. The side effects are worrisome, though. I have a mild hand tremor as it is from my existing drugs; lithium may make this worse. In my work I need to have pretty steady hands, and this could definitely cause problems. Weight gain? I gain weight when I’m depressed anyway – my nightly routine usually includes several bowls of cereal. I certainly don’t need to get any fatter.

Worse, I’m both looking forward to and worried about just simply feeling numb. At its worst, my depression nonetheless warms me, a kind of comfort in solitude, in trusting in a known quantity. I know my depression, it is me in the most basic of ways. It’s as much a part of me as my own hands. Drawing back into it is like curling up by the fire in the dark. What am I going to do without it? Will I be able to carry on working, writing, living without as much difficulty? Or will like become even more intolerable without even the escape of withdrawing into the dark?

We’re going to have to see. My doctor hasn’t exactly started me on a low dose of lithium, though there’s plenty of room for increasing it. Part of me wants it, just to see what it’s like – and part of me is terrified.

Which will win?

Featured image from§§14-8/.

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5 thoughts on “Thought of the Week: The Darkness Burning

    • It’s very easy to feel alone, especially when you’re in a bad depressive phase. It’s nice to know sometimes that there are people out there who can relate. Thank you.

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