A depressive trigger was recently tripped in my brain and started off a depressive cycle. I felt my brain down shift about a week ago after a conversation with a good friend. I feel like this is a good opportunity to illustrate the shift, how I view it, what I do about it, and how I attempt to minimize the damage. In a majority of my writing, I aim to provide reasonable hope and the more positive point of view that medication and self-management has helped a lot (which it has). This post was written in a depressive state of mind so you can get a glimpse of that other me.
As for the inevitable flood of worry I know I’ll get from certain readers; I’ll be fine. My depression of today is nothing compared to my depression of 20 years ago. No suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm; just the void. On a scale of about 0-10 with 0 being suicidal; I’m at about a 3-4 whereas the last several months I’ve been more at a 5-6. I attribute this to meds and self-management techniques.
So let’s dive into this cesspool.
The Depressive Trigger
The trigger? The trigger was my fault. I thought more than I talked and created a misunderstanding with my on again, off again “it’s complicated” friend. I’ve long looked at relocating to a place where I could pursue my career goals. The area I’m in doesn’t have the population or resources available really. My “it’s complicated” friend and I were making plans to share a place. In my mind, I was thinking this was a significant repairing of our last schism that had been on the mend for awhile and an inevitable next step. It also happened to coincide with several of her goals and needs as well as my desire for relocation.
After floating an alternative idea; it was realized that she was focused more on the practical sides of the arrangement. It made the most logical sense to her in that way. I drew conclusions and connected dots that weren’t present while she was fairly clear in communicating her perspective. The revelation and realization that I had got this wrong was my depressive trigger.
“But Dennis,” I hear the normals asking, “aren’t you just sad?” Fucking no. Sad is sad. Depression is a numb, empty void. Depression is nothingness. My brain dropped and shifted gears like an automobile. I was in a good mood, relatively placid; and then it felt like someone shifted from 5th gear to 3rd gear. My brain slowed down, my mood dropped into nothingness; and here I sit writing this. It’s been a week. It’ll probably be many more.
Since I know my friend will be reading this; I know you felt like an asshole and terrible about it. It’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just the nature of dealing with a Bipolar person.
(Addition) After reading the initial drafts of this approach, my friend pointed out that I told her that I had informed her that I had hit a trigger in the conversation; which I didn’t remember. (Thanks for nothing, brain!) Anyway, I told her that I had hit a depressive trigger and that if I seemed to withdraw and become distant in the coming days, that’s why. She pointed out that this was helpful to her so she would know what was coming and not worry over the change in my mood, withdrawing, and increased introversion. Given that she has her own mental struggles as well; my telling her reduced her own anxiety and wondering about what was going on in my head. Hopefully, this is a solid demonstration of the benefit of open communication between partners/friends/family/whatever.
The long and complicated history I have with this woman was a significant catalyst. The connection I felt for her was immediate when we were youngin’s. I didn’t understand it, didn’t understand my mind, or the very different way my brain and emotions work as a High-Functioning Autistic. It also coincided with the emergence of Bipolar Disorder and puberty. It was not exactly a great time in my life. I engaged in some misguided behavior that could be construed as stalkery until she simply kicked me out of her life for good. That I could deal with.
As a High-Functioning Autistic, my brain tries to interpret everything in black and white. I could deal with being nothing or in mutual love. What I couldn’t deal with was an unrequited love that was so strong. I had no fucking idea how to handle that. I also didn’t know that what I was experiencing was abnormal. I never talked about my feelings because I never saw a need to and because my brain suffers in the conversion of emotions to vocalization- a common autistic trait.
That trigger took me back 20 years. It took me back to the pain, confusion, and misery. It was a stark reminder that even after all the time I’ve spent working to counter this bullshit; it can still sucker punch me out of nowhere. And over what? Dormant feelings from 20 years ago that I got over awhile ago. But unfortunately, my emotional processes are fucked.
My introversion is back in full force. Discarded my real life gaming group that I look forward to out of pure apathy. Just don’t give a fuck at the moment because I’m depressed, unsure, and aimless. Plans I saw as crystal clear shattered to pieces. Doubts I had rationalized and fought back all flooded back, particularly in regards to doing what I do with wanting to pursue a career in mental health.
It’ll probably be better for me to just get a run of the mill job and just continue to work through my website and personal writings. Maybe I’ll be able to finally finish the e-book I’ve been working on if I’m not trying to generate income by writing professionally. Is everyone else right? Should I be softer in my tone, language, and approach? What the fuck am I doing? Where am I going? What do I want to fucking accomplish? HOW do I accomplish it? Doubts, doubts everywhere. Doubts that were previously conquered and answered. Doubts that I had previously made decisions and plans on that now threatened to become unraveled because of depression.
Minimizing The Effects Of The Cycle
The moment I felt my brain downshift I knew what was happening. My brain shifting cycles feels a certain way; in the same way that slamming your fingers in a door does. You don’t slam your fingers in a door and say “FUCK, MY FOOT!” You know it’s your fingers because that’s what hurts and the event occurred to your hand.
So I didn’t question it, I just started enacting my damage control plans for a depressive cycle. There is a period of time where the brain is in transit to where its new baseline is going to be for the duration of the cycle. During this period of time, you have a little time to try and keep it from getting out of hand. To slow and interrupt the decent; I did the following…
1. Wrapped up the conversation as soon as possible so I wouldn’t have to think about it. Adamantly shoved it out of my mind. Every time my thoughts would drift back to it, I would force myself to think of something else. I handled the little bit of time she wanted to discuss things; but when I felt the time was good I would shift the conversation away.
2. I immersed myself in activities that would take up my thought processes and not allow me to think about it. For me, that’s complicated video games and studying finance, economics, and liability law for my work and other projects. All of them are complicated as shit, all of them require a strong focus to make sense. This was complicated by my thought processes slowing down as the result of the depression; but shit happens. I dealt with it and stuck with the plan.
3. I stepped back from my mental health projects for a day. Didn’t want to think about the Disorder, my problems, or the problems of anyone else for about a day to give my brain time to reach its new baseline.
4. General conversation with some of the more positive, energetic people I know to let their energy help lessen my crash. It is absolutely true that your moods will feed on and reflect from the people around you. If you surround yourself with negative or depressive people; that’s where your brain is going to go. That doesn’t mean to sit around and dump your depression around; but general conversation with people who aren’t in the same dark place can help.
5. Music. Music helps me a lot. So I’ve been listening to a lot of upbeat, heavy, or speed type music that normally boosts my mood. If you sit around listening to dreary, depressing music; it will feed your depression and make it worse. And I assure you, I listened to that dark stuff plenty when I was less understanding of what my brain does when it’s being a pile of fucking shit.
I feel like using damage control for about a day after the triggering circumstance is long enough to let my brain hit its new baseline. Your mileage may vary.
In the past, a circumstance like this would have crashed me to about 1-2 with suicidal and self-harming thoughts. Nowadays, it’s more like a 3-4 which is depressed but not too morbid. Mostly just feeling null and void for however long the bullshit lasts.
Why Didn’t You Talk To Me?!
I know I’m going to get an earful from a handful of people when this runs. I’m not writing this post for myself. I’m writing this for people to see that I do still deal with my own shit. I’m writing it so normals can hopefully get a better idea of what’s going on in their loved one’s heads. I’m writing is so my Bipolar and Depressed readers can see that there are means to lessen the impact of unwell cycles if they learn their illness and how it affects them intimately.
This? This cycle is nothing compared to the morbid dregs of depression I used to dwell in.
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