The fact of having bipolar disorder, which comes with different mood states, is that when you are in one—or in between them—you know it can shift at any time. This is both a feature and a bug: on one hand, it teaches us to live one day at a time and embrace the good days more fully for their goodness; on the other hand, I think we all live with a degree of caution that at some point trouble will return. For that, I say the best protection is preparedness.
Having been formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder more than 20 years ago, I’ve had enough time to prepare a “bag of tricks” that work for me, coping skills I use when that unwelcome interloper, depression, comes to call. I had one very severe breakdown that landed me in the hospital about seven years ago and which placed me totally out of commission for about two and half years. Since then, I’ve had more minor “down” stretches than I can count, some of which involve frantic anxiety, and some that are simply more torpor filled. Whatever the case, I make sure I always have these tools on hand to help me get through successfully.
As an aside, I’m sure my doctor would tell me to mention exercise here, and, yes, exercise promotes the release of endorphins that can counteract depression. I’m not including exercise in my rundown, however, because it has been my experience that whenever someone tells me to try exercise, they come off sounding sanctimonious. If you can work up the moxie to exercise when you’re depressed, it’s bound to be helpful for you. And if you can’t, that’s fine, too.
At the end of the day, there’s just one more strategy I have to
pass along, and that’s when you’re in the midst of a depressive episode, remember
to treat yourself, in all things, as gently as you would treat your very best
friend if he or she were suffering through the same pain as you are. Take
it easy on yourself, and you will get to the other side and
discover that the pain is all through.