When he follows me, he stays in the background. It almost seems as though he is there to protect me. Sometimes bad things don’t happen to me because of him. I don’t go out, so I don’t get mugged or hit by a car, or have my purse stolen. I don’t talk to friends so I don’t get involved in gossip drama. I don’t work hard so I don’t have to worry about misunderstandings at work about “who is credited for this wonderful work”. No, depression keeps me safe from all of those things. I am safe from life.
Depression is a jealous friend. I can only be friends with him. As such, I am alone. I would say this is also bad but I have lived alone in my head for most of my life so it’s not a traumatic experience when it happens. In fact, being alone – or retreating into my own head- is a coping mechanism for me. I have used it many times to escape the current reality. As an adolescent, I escaped in my head more times than I can remember. It’s ok when I do it. It’s different when depression forces me to do it. Being alone in my head is my retreat, my safe haven. I go there when I want to. When depression imposes it on me, it’s different. It’s darker. It’s harder. I don’t have control of when I will be released. That is the one thing that I do fight. I fight depression when it keeps me isolated an alone longer than I feel is necessary.
Most of the time I will allow depression to “run its course”. I allow it to take me and keep me for a little bit. I figure it’s ok to be disconnected for a few days and let depression walk with me then fall back as it does. But sometimes depression will walk with me a bit too long. He will put his arm around me and pull me close as we walk down the path of my days. He won’t let me talk or smile to anyone. He won’t let me enjoy my life. I’m held captive much like a jealous lover. It’s an abusive relationship that I have learned to cope with. But unlike a human abusive relationship, I cannot and will not ever be able to rid myself of him. I will have to learn to cope with him as I grow older.
As for my hypo-mania, I have learned to control her. She is not as controlling as depression but she can get out of control and take me down the wrong path. When I was younger, I made some very bad and dangerous choices. She took me on self-destructive tours. I am lucky I was not killed or hurt in any terrible way. I am also lucky I had the clarity –even in the depths of hypomania- to not use drugs. I did smoke pot in college and after but I did not use any sort of cocaine or other manufactured stuff. I was around it when I had zero self-awareness. It was easy for me to start doing that stuff. I cannot explain why I didn’t. I can only be grateful that I never did.
Hypomania can be wonderful at first- especially if she comes after depression leaves. She is happy and energetic and wants me to reconnect with every single person I ignored while depression was around. She has a sense of urgency to do stuff, experience life, talk to people, create and be everywhere at once because she knows that depression is merely hibernating. She knows he is resting up for his next visit. She feels a sense of responsibility to me to make up with my loved ones for the absence depression causes. I like her when she arrives. I hug her and welcome her. She is indeed a sight for sore eyes. I used to believe she was here to stay every time she came home. And it took me 20+ years to realize that wasn’t true. Hypomania is a fickle friend. She is not stable. She is flaky. She arrives unannounced and leaves without saying goodbye. I have learned to tame her influence on my though. I don’t listen to her all the time. I don’t follow her lead on stupid plans. I smile and say “yeah, that’s a great idea” and then I try to figure out if her invitation to something is worthy of my time and whether or not I can continue on that plan after depression comes back. I am still working on this part of my relationship with bipolar 2. It’s hard to placate hypomania. She’s so full of energy and she seems so happy. But she’s also potentially dangerous and destructive. It’s like babysitting. That I can do. Sometimes….
The best and easiest way to survive depression and hypomania is to ride the wave. You can’t stop it. You can’t avoid it, but if you recognize it, you can ride along and keep safe. It’s a lot harder than it sounds but it’s what works. I have not perfected it. I am better at riding the hypomania than I am at riding along with depression. That is harder because it’s debilitating. It takes the world away from me. Hypomania wants me to see and experience the whole world in one day. It’s not debilitating, but she’s dangerous.
I feel that any story I write must include some of these characteristics. Mirrored characters are important to a good story. I love those types of stories. They can speak to many people. The way a story is told is perhaps as important as what the story is about. Perspective is one thing (POV) but the lining up of characters or the setting, the time period the speed of the story all combine to tell a great tale.