Bipolar Breakdown: Bipolar Depression (Yes, There is a Difference)

Bipolar Depression.

In bipolar disorder, you don’t really know which pole is more evil. Bipolar depression is essentially like major depressive disorder. The only difference is is that when you have major depressive disorder, you are very down for awhile and you don’t feel the ups of mania. Bipolar depression, you may be low for a few days, a week, maybe a month, but mania is always right there waiting for its turn. Mania is really what makes it different.

I keep seeing mental illness references in the sky for some reason. 😂 As you can see, the dark cloud represents bipolar depression, as it moves across the sky filling up any source of light.

As we talked about previously, bipolar disorder used to be called manic depression or manic-depressive illness. People feel sad, down, or blue sometimes. Those are normal human emotions. Depression (some people do call this “The Big Sad”) is different in the way that it is excessive, lasts longer, and can be dangerous. It is more encompassing of a person’s life. The way you behave, your mood, and the way you live your life is all impacted by depression.

The way you sleep, eat, see things or think about them, and how you feel about yourself and the world is affected by depression. Depression grabs ahold of you with its many arms and whispers things to you until you start to believe it. Until you eventually see yourself as nothing. It steals your energy, motivation, concentration, positive thinking and joy. It puts thoughts in your head that you’ve never thought about before, it makes you hate yourself. It scares you because of how real those thoughts are but, no matter how scared you are, depression makes sure that you feel worthless and small.

According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association 2000)) a major depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks of depressed mood or the loss of interest/pleasure in activities one once enjoyed. In order to meet the criteria for a major depressive episode, someone must have experienced or must be experiencing at least four other symptoms from a list (below, which is taken from Bipolar Disorder for Dummies, 2013) that includes such things as a change in appetite or weight loss or gain, decreased energy, difficulty with thinking and making decisions, changes in sleep patterns, feeling worthless or guilty, and suicidal ideation as well as plans or attempts for suicide. As long as it changes your usual behavior. Depression alters your ability to function as a person as well as in many aspects of your life.

Major Depressive Episodes Symptoms

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • Markedly diminished interest nearly every day in activities previously considered pleasurable considered pleasurable, which may include sex
  • Notable increase or decrease in appetite nearly every day or a marked change in weight, increase or decrease (5% or more) in a span of one month or less that isn’t due to planned dietary changes.
  • Sleeping too much or too little nearly every day
  • Moving so uncharacteristically slowly or having physical agitation observable by others, not just internal sensations
  • Constant daily fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
  • Uncharacteristic indecisiveness or diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate on a given task nearly every day, experienced internally and-or observed by others
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide (suicidal ideation), a suicide attempt, or a plan to commit suicide.

Another thing needed to meet criteria is that these symptoms must cause significant issues in that person’s daily life. If a depressive episode is caused by medication or substance or a medical condition, it does not qualify. The name given to that is Substance/Medication-Induced Depressive Disorder or Depressive Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition.

For bipolar I, mania is usually the more intense one. Now, I’m definitely not saying that the depression is not intense because I know first hand that it is, and I know lot of people who deal with depression more than mania. For bipolar II, depression is usually the more intense one. Again, hypomania can be more of a problem for some people.

Even for myself I cant figure out which one is worse between mania and depression. In my workbook there was a depression chart. During my really bad episode 2 years ago, I decided to check off the symptoms I had, which was 30/33. When I have a manic episode, I tend to be more risky and spend more money which is obviously not a good thing. When I’m in a depressive episode, I always feel suicidal with the need to self harm that never really goes away. I feel like depression might destroy me a little more because it takes me away from my family and friends. I sleep more and I’m uninterested in doing anything but that. My husband has to really worry about me in this episode because we don’t know how bad it will be from day to day.

I was able to talk to three lovely people for this post who are allowing me to share their stories on here for you to read. Telling these stories is not easy but, I believe that it does help in the healing process to have someone to tell. I’m so grateful to have been one of the people. Thank you for being a part of this and trusting me with your stories!

Being depressed makes me feel empty. I don’t get out of bed if I don’t absolutely have to. I don’t want to talk to literally anyone. Never hungry or thirsty. Perfectly fine with laying in bed for days on end, staring at the tv.”

Depression is heavy. Depression weighs you down. Depression makes you feel like your body
isn’t your own. How does this happen, you might ask? Well the depressive side of bipolar has
many different faces. For me, it can present in many different ways. Some days it looks like a
loss of interest in things I find joy in, my knitting and conversations with friends. Some days it
looks like absolute fatigue, mind and body. I have no energy to get anything more than sleeping
and surviving done on these days. Then there are the blue days, when it feels like I just need to
cry my heart out, and it’s breaking over and over again. I’m incredibly sensitive on these days,
and everything feels like a personal attack. The last, and worst, is when I don’t see any hope in
my situation. I’ve come to this point a couple of times in my life, and have been hospitalized for
suicidal ideation once. This is a terrible place to be in depression, and usually happens after I
have been battling depression for months at a time without improvement. All of the horrible
things you’ve ever thought about yourself run through your head. All of the terrible things that
have been done to you or said to you run through your head. You wonder why it’s worth it to
continue living. I can tell you, this low point is just that, a low point. It may not seem like you can
ever be happy again, but it is possible. Thankfully, with medication and therapy, my depression
now typically lasts just a day, maybe two. Not the months-long depression that it used to be.

A little more than 4 years ago I had just given birth to my second son. He was born on Christmas 2016. Only 15 months younger than my firstborn. Having children is such a blessing. I want to preface this by saying that. I am incredibly lucky that my husband & I get to share in this journey of parenthood and all the joys that motherhood brings. But sometimes joy comes at a price. I have bipolar disorder type I. I was diagnosed in 2013 but was not recommended to take my bipolar medications during either pregnancy. Being predispositioned with a mental illness, the chances of me suffering from postpartum depression are significantly higher. Low and behold, shortly after having my second baby, I started experiencing symptoms worse than the typical “baby blues.” Idealizations of suicide and self-harm started to creep into my brain. My constant state of depression would unleash itself in forms of extreme irritability and rage. It all came to a head one evening over a baby bottle. I had my two boys on a tight knit schedule wherein I felt control was the only way possible I could manage my life and turbulent moods. My husband had told me that he had forgotten to give our baby a bottle and I just lost it. I scratched my husband on the face and he threatened to take the kids away because my aggression was terrifying him. The thought of someone taking my kids triggered me into a manic state. I thought the best solution was to get the police involved. The police came and immediately after seeing the marks on my husband, arrested me for domestic violence. This is the first time I’ve ever shared this publicly. I had to spend the night in jail even though my husband did not press charges against me. I have never felt such a low in my entire life. I was whisked away in cuffs in front of my middle son at the time, just a day shy of him turning 2 years old. I had to spend the day of his birthday in jail. While it kills me to write that and it is something I’ll forever be ashamed about, I knew that it was then that I needed support. I checked into a local hospital outpatient center where I was then further connected with NAMI. NAMI turned out to be exactly what I needed. A place for support and nonjudgement. A place where people can come together and not feel so different. People from all different walks of life come to NAMI meetings. It reminded me that despite our upbringing we are all human. We are all in this together.

Mental health is not a topic that most people want to discuss. But it’s so important. NAMI reminded me that it’s okay to not be okay and if we need help, it’s okay to seek it. Life isn’t the easiest ride, but with outside support, it can definitely feel more meaningful.

I want you guys to remember that bipolar disorder is an illness and doing things to better yourself, such as taking medication, is not a sign of weakness. Even though it is so hard, I am proud of you for fighting back! I’m so glad that you are still here.

I do believe I have a few more Bipolar Breakdown topics to touch on before we move on. They are, in my opinion, pretty important and need their own post to discuss and fully understand them. I really really appreciate you all and sincerely hope you are learning something from these post.

Until next post!

-Bipolar Weirdo

****Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. My blog is used to discuss mental health in a way that is easier for people to understand. My information comes from a wide variety of books by trustworthy authors, my personal healthcare providers, and reputable online sources. If you have mental health related questions, I highly recommend you seek a healthcare professional.*****


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