Bipolar (or major depressive) episode denial – Wanting to be stable

moodchart example

The topic of this post is not denial of a bipolar or major depressive disorder diagnosis, though that is extremely common, it is rather when you accept your diagnosis, but don’t want to accept that you’re in an episode.  

Many of us who accept our diagnosis sometimes still lack insight into episodes. Maybe as a person with bipolar disorder, feeling extremely good for a change feels like you think you “should” feel. Meanwhile, others around you who know you well can easily spot the symptoms of hypomania or mania. They may even say so and recommend that you talk to your doctor. Or your doctor suggests that you take more of that sedating medication that you dislike. Maybe that angers and frustrates you. After all, who wants a pleasant hypomania or mania to stop? Perhaps in our past we felt that pleasant hypomanic state was even our “baseline” mood. 

After 12 years, I will say that my insight into my elevated moods has improved. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it takes a couple of days until the light finally goes on in my brain and I say “Hmm? I sure have been doing a lot of shopping and flirting with guys lately. Maybe, just maybe, I’m a little elevated in mood.” And I’ll confess that I’ve been known to ride that bit of a high until someone does notice. Usually my husband, therapist or psychiatrist finally says something and I do the good girl thing and take the “as needed” Seroquel, or whatever else my doctor prescribes. In the end, it is a very good thing. The insight, increased knowledge of my hypo/manic symptoms, and quick action, has kept me out of the psychiatric hospital for about eight years. 

As strange as this may sound, my insight into my depressive episodes is not as keen. What?!?! No, I’m serious! People may think “Well, you either feel bad/sad/down or not.” But what if you want so much to not feel bad/sad/down that you convince yourself that you’re not, even when you actually are? Let me give a couple of examples. 

I have been on disability. During this period I clearly had episodes, and clearly had some times when I was mentally stable, but sometimes the depressive episodes drag on and on and I just want them to be over already. I try to convince myself that they are, if only for a brief moment. So I’m in bed (almost all day long), typing away on a blog post, and the topic of the blog post is generally pleasant. It is a story about the good ole’ days. I’m smiling when I type it. Then after I publish it the pleasure is gone. I’m binge eating. I’m not playing with my pet bird. I’m still in my pajamas. Listening to music or watching TV would feel too stressful.  I don’t feel like cleaning the house. I dread running an errand. My mind will not dream about the future. It just settles on a kind of nothingness, except for maybe the moments when a “like” appears next to my post. My dad then calls and asks how I’m doing. I answer “I’m fine!” But am I really? Though I try to focus on the positives of the day as much as I can, I could still easily check off enough boxes in the depression category to qualify for the episode. 

Then there are those days I make myself “stable”. I push myself to run a number of errands. I clean up the house. I play with my bird. I write in my blog. I chat with a friend. Maybe even I force myself to put the radio on during my driving. Everyone see me smile! Even if it is exercise to make that smile happen. I go to my therapist and she asks me how I am. I say “I feel just fine! I did all of these things. I’m heading forward.” She happily writes that down in her notes, and then I leave. I go to sleep that night and have a hard time waking up the next morning. I relive the day I wrote about in the previous paragraph.  But that’s OK. Yesterday was a busy day. 

Time goes on. If I’m lucky, the old “fake it till you make it” will actually seem to work. Or, one day I wake up and my stomach is upset and I can’t even get out of bed to make my husband’s lunch. I then wonder “Am I depressed? Was I depressed?” And the answers are “Yes” and “I don’t know.” 

Issues like above have made it very difficult for me to use online or paper-based mood trackers. When I have, I later realized I made some dubious assumptions about my moods. I’ve found myself going back and changing moods for multiple days. Was my “upswing” really a hoax?

20 thoughts on “Bipolar (or major depressive) episode denial – Wanting to be stable

  1. picturethepositive November 15, 2017 / 7:04 am

    I’m struggling with mood trackers too! And I really enjoy my hypomania sometimes, that often leads to denial! It’s hard, keep fighting x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oldmanfromms November 15, 2017 / 10:24 am

    WOW! Some of that sounds WAY TOO FAMILIAR… dealing with a lot of similar symptoms myself. I guess my blogging is really my vent for some of those feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight November 15, 2017 / 1:51 pm

      Thanks for sharing that, oldmanfromms! It’s good to have a place to get stuff out. Sometimes I even, after the fact, see things that were going on with my moods that I didn’t see when I was writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight November 15, 2017 / 2:18 pm

        Yes, it’s become one of mine, too.

        Like

  3. marandarussell November 15, 2017 / 4:15 pm

    I find that most bipolar people don’t seem to deny the depressive episodes really, but sometimes do the manic or hypomanic ones. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is partly fear? Or they enjoy the feeling and so don’t want to change it? Or just an inability to recognize it in themselves? I don’t have a hard time personally admitting when I am hypomanic, but I do sometimes enjoy the feeling.

    Like

    • updownflight November 15, 2017 / 5:11 pm

      I guess I’m one of the exceptions. Obviously severe and often moderate depressions are clear to me, but the mild ones are more confusing for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kate Dawson November 15, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    Wow, I really can relate to the denial. I, too, am disabled and go through periods where I don’t do much during the day, all the whole thinking I’m ok. I definitely try the “fake it til you make it” and it doesn’t always work. I have a hard time keeping up with mood trackers and last time I did I kind of obsessed over it so I’m hesitant to try again. They sure do reveal my moods in a different way than I think I am!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight November 15, 2017 / 10:17 pm

      I definitely finally acknowledged that I’m in a depression right now. My psychiatrist is playing with my Seroquel XR again. I pressured him to lower it, and he did a bit, but he also threatened to increase it if the lowering strategy fails. I have to confess to both yelling and crying in his office today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kate Dawson November 16, 2017 / 12:42 am

        Aw that’s tough. I’m sorry. Med changes are so difficult, but I’m glad you can try it out and that you’ve acknowledged the depression.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight November 16, 2017 / 12:51 am

        Thanks, Kate! I was just so surprised with the anger that accompanied that acknowledgment. I’ve calmed down a bit since my pdoc appointment.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Suzanne November 15, 2017 / 10:37 pm

    When I start to have an episode of depression, I find myself blaming my external situation for how I’m feeling. In other words, I think things like bills and car problems and relationship issues are what’s causing me to feel down. I wouldn’t exactly call it denial but it has the effect of allowing me to continue to become more depressed without doing anything to try to impact my mood symptoms.
    I’m finally at a place where I can sometimes have enough insight to realize that I am filtering all of my experiences through a depressive lens, rather than solely having everything around me go “wrong.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight November 15, 2017 / 10:59 pm

      Thank you for sharing that, Suzanne. It’s interesting how many ways we try to either warp or influence our perspectives.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lindsay November 16, 2017 / 12:34 am

    This explains so eloquently what so many people have trouble putting into words. I know this feeling very well. The situations that we try to break down into a science, but are happening no matter how much we attempt to explain it away. It’s often so hard to say “this is happening and I need to see it through for what it is.” It’s frustrating to pin it down when it’s pinballing in your head.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight November 16, 2017 / 12:49 am

      “Pinballing in your head” is a great way to put it. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Like

  7. My Valley of Baca November 16, 2017 / 10:45 pm

    I can totally relate to this and I feel less alone after reading this because I’ve been dealing with this a lot lately. I find that it’s especially hard to know that you are in an episode because your brain is playing tricks on you more than normal. How are you supposed to figure out if you are depressed with a depressed brain? I’m constantly coming up with a million and one reasons why there’s no reason I should be depressed and I think I am fine because every other minute I am happy. I think? Or like you, am I just saying that I am? Generally this state of confusion is a good indicator that indeed I am depressed and it is freeing to accept instead of fight it. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight November 16, 2017 / 10:51 pm

      You are so right that it is freeing, and yet for me (now that I have finally accepted being depressed) it’s now a challenge I must finally face up to. But at least I’m now getting the treatment I need. My mental healthcare team is working to help me instead of being fooled as much as I fooled myself.

      When I wrote this post I finally accepted my current depression, but as I have so many times, I looked back and realized the early signs. It’s funny how we blind ourselves or cup our ears.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. kadynomlid December 12, 2017 / 2:33 pm

    Hi! Im Kadyn, I have bipolar depression and have just started my own blog. Please join me on my journey! kadynomlid.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

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