Remembering in Layers

What I’m finding this time as I move through the extremes of my bipolar disorder is that there are so many layers.  I’ve noted this in my journals before, but I always forget.  Just like I forget how to navigate in the deepest levels of the depression, I forget what these other levels feel like.  I want to mark them again, if only to have a record for next time.

Yesterday I felt myself rise from a prickly, desperate state to something smoother.  The constriction within me loosened.  The day before I could only focus on 15 minutes at a time, scrambling to find an activity that would distract me for that long.  But, in this new level, I could focus on the activity itself.  I spent 90 minutes in the water, just moving moderately with the aerobics class, knowing any kind of movement was positive.  It was a relief to have that block of time taken care of.  I didn’t have to make any decisions about how to distract myself next.  I could focus on moving my body.

When I got home, I noticed I could sit with my magazines and cut out words and pictures for my collages without agitation.  It felt like I had risen into a more fluid layer of depression.  Anguish and sorrow drifted through me like light, scuttling clouds that haze the sky, then move on.  I could feel the gaps between those brushes of pain, and I could let them pass through without being overwhelmed by them.

This is the layer of depression where I’m able to use my tools.  I forget that at the deeper levels, the depression paralyzes me, fills me with such despair that all I can do is thrash around in panic.  I chide myself for not managing this level better, for not being more diligent in using my tools, but the fact is I don’t have many tools for the lower levels.  Most of them are the ways I learned to run from the pain when I was very young—overeating, sleeping, watching TV.  They are deeply ingrained, unhealthy, more instinct now than choice.  I have learned to see the depression, to recognize the twisted thoughts as illness and not me, which is no small feat.  But, there’s more work to be done at these denser levels.

I forget that most of the tools in my toolbox need that looser, smoother layer to take effect.  Exercise isn’t useful if I can’t get myself to the Y.  Calling a friend or my therapist doesn’t help if I can’t pick up the phone.  I can push myself here.  I still struggle to make healthy choices, and the depression drags at me like dead weight, but I’ve built up enough mental muscle and endurance to slog through the morass.

I’ll see my therapist in a couple of weeks.  I want to talk to her about this.  Is there any way to bring consciousness to the worst of the depression?  Can I develop different tools to use there?  Will I remember?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn McCullough
    May 26, 2011 @ 14:10:24

    Incredible description of depression. I know about those places where you can’t help yourself–no matter that you know what to do.

    It concerns me though that you have to wait so long to see your therapist. That seems like a long time between appointments. Is this an ordinary wait for you?



    • Sandy Sue
      May 26, 2011 @ 17:31:04

      It is. We’ve both realized that I’m teaching her more now than she teaches me—which is both sucky and an affirmation. There’s also the issue of money. I can’t afford to see her more than once a month unless I really go off the deep end. While the last few days have been hard, they’re nowhere near the edge of the diving board. What’s helping more are the emails back and forth with my spiritual teacher, who also happened to be a psych nurse in the 80’s. I’m okay. Bless you for your concern.


  2. Sherry
    May 26, 2011 @ 21:40:51

    One of the things I like about this blog is the feedback that people give you. It sounds like several of them have been, are going, or will be again in the same boat that you’re in. You are getting a group experience over the internet. I can always sympathize and try to understand what’s happening to you, but they REALLY do know what’s going on and how it feels. You know you’re not alone. See you on Sunday.


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