This article is written by Zero Forbidden Goals and National Poetry Slam poet, AndYes. To hear his work, and support his art and his message of love, go to AndYesPoetry.com.
Author’s note: I wrote these in 2014, during Depression episodes. They were written with the purpose of people being able to see directly what is in my head and what is going on.
During that year, I lost my job and my apartment because I became too Depressed to show up to work on time. And I attempted suicide shortly after.
The 7th entry is a month later, to-the-day.
These writings are intended for people who haven’t had Depression, and want to learn. And for those who have Depression but don’t understand it.
* * * * *
(UPDATE: This piece was written exactly one month after a suicide attempt in 2014, to capture what was in my head)
These are the days, after a suicide attempt, when I’m most volatile, and likely to be thrown between extremes of low Depression and odd bursts of manic thoughts and impulse. I’ve tried to tame it, before – I haven’t figured it out, yet.
This is a time where I’ve lost friends, because I tend to emotionally swing the most between mania and depression. At times (certainly not always), I don’t act like the laid-back person that people are used to (we’ll get to that in a bit), and it can be off-putting.
The period lasts from about a month after an attempt, and has gone as long as two or three months, in the past.
I – just this morning – caught myself going through it. It’d been so long, I’d forgotten this even happens. So, appropriately, it’s time to write and analyze (because I don’t plan on going through this again, any time soon – and hopefully, I won’t).
I should point out: I have no idea if this is part of the normal experience. But I did want to examine it, because it could be something that happens and we just don’t talk about.
In the rare years when I had repeated-attempts, they’ve always fallen within this time-frame. By recognizing that, I’m hoping to be able to hold that off by intellectualization and changing this from being something that “happens to me” into “something I can recognize, rationalize, and deal with”.
Maybe it’ll work. Maybe not.
Important to note: I do not experience manic swings with my normal experience in Depression. I level out, and I can certainly feel happy, but it’s never manic like this. These swings have solely come after suicide attempts.
I’d done this study a disservice by not defining this term, in the first published draft of this.
Mania, just as its opposite in Depression, is misunderstood. Just as Depression has nothing to do with sadness, being manic does not have anything to do with happiness, joy, mirth, or any sort of emotional state.
Just as Depression is the same as Dispassion, Mania is its exact opposite.
It isn’t uplifting, it doesn’t help you be productive, you don’t feel “normal”. You feel overly-active. For example: I’m missing keys, on the keyboard, right now, because my hands are shaking just enough to throw me off.
To put it in another way: my head’s racing like a Robin Williams standup act.
I’ve had a few people tell me, over the years, that they wish they were manic-depressive, because at least they would have a reprieve from Depression.
You don’t get a reprieve – you get a whole different, unique set of problems to deal with on top of your Depression.
The mindset (during the manic-swing)
I withdraw. I feel like I have more “important” things I could be doing than “wasting” time socializing (I should note: this is not how I think, normally) – there’s a strong desire to make something out of my life, and give myself meaning.
The withdraw makes sense, in the context of how I’ve always dealt with suicide on my own. There’s an association of “sharing myself” with “abandonment” and so I do everything I can to avoid that.
During this time, I pull back from the people in my life, and – in the past – have blamed them for not pursuing, as if it’s their fault I decided to turn away. As I’ve started to look into my Depression, and examine it, I can catch behaviors like this and recognize them for what they are. It’s the benefit of being able to listen to myself.
Social anxiety. It’s sometimes extreme, but usually just an undercurrent of tension that shines through.
Twitchiness. I tend to fidget the most, during this period.
Feeling extremely energetic, mentally-speaking. It’s always been here where I feel the urge to do everything. There’s something about after an attempt that sets it off – perhaps it’s a natural reaction to near-death experiences, or perhaps it’s a influx of Dopamine (and other neurochemicals) finally being processed correctly (or, perhaps, more than they should be).
Decreased blinking. This probably sounds like a weird thing to notice – but I’ve noticed I tend to blink less, during these times. The feeling is actually similar to my one experience with LSD, where – when you close your eyes – your eyelids seem to, on their own, flutter back open. Tension. Like I’m straining to close my eyes.
Impulsive. In the past, when I’ve felt something or thought something, I do it. I don’t question it like I normally would. I don’t analyze it. This has its good and bad. While I don’t go feral, or do anything severely extreme, this is where I tend to say things to friends that I don’t mean. The impulse comes to me, and it hits hard. Less like a desire, more like an imperative – I have to tell this friend they hurt me, or (it’s been awhile since I’ve done this one) start a fight with that guy for laughing at me.
Also, I tend to under-think things (example: this post, which – unlike normal – I didn’t even think to go through and edit before posting, and therefore missed a key point in identifying Mania).
Over-attachment. The people who I do keep around in my life, I tend to get over-attached to. I’ve lost friends over this, as well. I remember, once, when I was feeling the manic episode slipping away, I wrote a girl a note and told her I loved her. I didn’t mean it – I just very desperately wanted some kind of anchor to keep me from falling back.
And that, of course, was the end of our friendship. I remember being so angry, internally, over it. As if it were her fault.
In retrospect, I was absolutely selfish (but, I’ll get to this more, in the conclusion, so it doesn’t derail the post).
The mindset (for Depression the swing)
I went through this yesterday, and I had the good sense to write everything that was streaming through my head.
Instead of listing symptoms, just take the polar-opposite of most of what I’ve written above.
I blame myself for everything, I sleep more than I should, and I sit at home blaming myself.
When the Depression swing hits, my head’s flooded with thoughts – as if, in juxtaposition of all the outward activity of my mania, my depression-swing focuses all that energy internally.
For a couple minutes, I wrote and caught a picture of what the inside of my head is like. I should note, here, that this is not how I normally view myself, or my life. This is a chemical imbalance that is throwing me through mood swings until it adjusts and settles.
I captured this all by using an old method used to do, for creative writing, where I’d meditate, and write everything that was going through my head – images, thoughts, quotes, etc. There weren’t any images, as far as I could recall, which is rare since I tend to be a very visual-thinker. Does this relate to the depression-swing? I don’t know – I hadn’t noticed it before now.
“I’m tired of fighting Depression, I’m unloved (romantically), and friends all find a way to work their way out of my life. I should just get shitfaced and sleep all day, like I used to. I will never let myself fall in love, because I could never do this to someone. I could never inflict myself on someone. But all I want is to feel loved.”
This writing didn’t have anything about body-image, but it does tend to be a typical topic-of-thought, when the depression-swing hits.
The benefits of sleep
In the down-time, sleep can make all the difference. I’ve noticed over-sleeping can be just as harmful as under-sleeping, since I tend to be unproductive.
My dreams during this time – when I remember them – tend to be the most hopeful (even during depression-episodes).
Let me say something that I, four years ago, would have hated me for saying.
If you’re judging the woman I wrote about, earlier in this post, consider this: if you’re friends with someone who has Depression, making yourself co-dependent to their happiness is a waste of time. You’ll only be justifying their descent. You’re making yourself into a crutch for them. And, yes, crutches are helpful at points, but we have to learn to stand on our own.
In short: It’s our job to live – it’s not your job to make us live.
And, odds are, you aren’t a licensed mental health provider. And nor should you try to fill those shoes, because you can very easily – and with the best of intentions – do more damage than help (by being the aforementioned “crutch” for too long).
So, yes, it’s perfectly fine to walk away from someone with Depression (I should write something about this, later), if you can’t take it. Or if it’s becoming too much.
I don’t hate her for doing it. I completely understand, sympathize, and agree with it.
It’s fine to push us to grow, and not be stagnate, but don’t let yourself become co-dependent. It’s our condition to live with. And, yes, we need help from the people around us, but it’s also our job to help ourselves.
We need help. But it is our job to learn to grow, and grow ourselves.