Living with bipolar is like being on a rollercoaster – all the ups and downs, and twists and turns thrown in. Unfortunately, it’s a ride that never stops and you can’t get off.
It’s important to mention, feelings of sadness are something which everyone will experience from time to time. It can be a natural reaction to losses and painful events in our lives. Over time, these feelings will resolve and go away. But for someone like me, with bipolar disorder, a depressive episode can be much more persistent. It goes on for long periods of time and affects nearly all daily activities and creates a lot of problems.
After living with bipolar for some time, you can start to pick up on some of the signs that you’re slipping up or down… Here are some of the subtle signs to look out for (for yourself or your loved ones).
** The signs on this list are not the only signs that can happen, just the ones I have been able to recognise in myself. If you know of any others I haven’t included, let me know!**
*** TW, some signs have been broken down into examples of thoughts you may have – they are not intended to upset anyone. Brief mention of suicide and self-harm.***
SUBTLE SIGNS YOU’RE SLIPPING INTO BIPOLAR DEPRESSION:
1. You have distorted thoughts (these can be hard to recognise at first, but are broken down into categories…).
- paranoid: “he doesn’t love you the way you love him.”
- intrusive: “you should just hurt yourself.”
- anxious: “they’re going to laugh at me.”
- hopeless: “you’re weak and pathetic.”
- negative: “you’re going to mess this up.”
- illogical: “I know it might not happen, but WHAT IF?”
- filtering: you take the negative details of a situation and magnify them whilst filtering out all positives.
- polarised: things can only be black or white, good or bad, right or wrong – no middle ground.
- over-generalisation: you make a general conclusion based upon a single observation – if something bad happens once, you expect it is going to happen again or worse.
- mind-reading: without the other person saying so, you know what they are thinking or feeling and why they act the way they do. You just know.
- catastrophising: you expect disaster, you are full of ‘what if’s – what if it happens to you too?
- personalisation: you think that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You compare yourself to others. You try to determine who is smarter or better looking…
- control fallacies: you feel extremely controlled, you are helpless.
- fallacy of internal control: you are responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around you.
- blaming: you hold other people responsible for your pain, or you blame yourself for others pain.
- should: you have a list of ironclad rules about how you and others should act – people who break the rules anger you, you feel guilty when you break the rules yourself.
- emotional reasoning: you believe that what you feel is true, automatically. If you feel that you are stupid and boring, you must be stupid and boring.
- being right: you are continually on trial to prove that your opinion and actions are right, being wrong is unthinkable.
- heavens reward fallacy: you expect your sacrifices to pay off as if someone is keeping score of you being a good person. You feel bitter when the reward doesn’t present itself. You lose interest in activities and are unable to enjoy yourself.
2. You feel so unhappy and it doesn’t go away.
3. You start to loathe yourself and lose your self-confidence.
4. You feel extremely tired, both on and off of medication.
5. You start to pick fights over little things.
6. The tone of your voice has changed – you speak slower, with less passion about the world around you.
7. You’ve started to put on weight after you’ve been eating more than usual.
8. You are constantly overthinking… you second guess everything, you analyse things to death, you are constantly expecting the worst, you hate making decisions and would rather someone else decides for you. you regret often, even simple decisions, you find it difficult to let things go, you tend to take things personally – even when they aren’t. you’re a perfectionist.
9. You are very critical of yourself. You are harder on yourself than you need to be.
10. It feels like you can’t turn your brain off.
11. You feel overwhelmed by simple tasks.
12. You struggle to care about personal hygiene.
13. You feel detached – like you don’t belong anywhere.
14. You are more anxious than usual, nothing calms it.
15. You struggle to make and maintain eye contact with others.
16. You cancel appointments.
17. You cancel on friends.
18. Your morning routine starts to fall apart.
19. You start listening to more sad music.
20. You start feeling scared of everything.
21. You find it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep.
22. You crave comfort foods.
23. You start losing track of things.
24. You start having recurrent nightmares.
25. You spend too much money – sometimes the money you can’t afford to spend.
26. You stop turning up to work/university/college/school or call in sick to prevent having to go.
27. You find it difficult to have a conversation with others, you start talking less.
28. You stop talking to people altogether to isolate yourself.
29. You find it difficult to concentrate.
30. You just don’t feel like you anymore.
31. You feel constantly exhausted, despite how much you slept the night before.
32. You feel that somedays it’s impossible to even get out of bed.
33. You feel invisible and yet totally ignored.
34. You are in denial about your own mental health.
35. You can feel your thoughts start to shift and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
36. You lose your appetite and can even lose weight.
37. You have started waking up earlier than usual.
38. You feel restless and agitated and irritated by everything.
39. You have lost all interest in sex.
40. You can’t go to the toilet and just feel sluggish.
41. You’ve thought about harming yourself.
42. You’ve felt suicidal.
Whilst it may seem impossible to recognise a lot of these, sometimes even any, it is an important first step to getting the ‘real you’ back and getting some real help. It can be hard, like really hard to know how you feel, even harder to put it into words for someone else when you’re at your lowest. But help is available, people do want to help you and to listen to you, and you do deserve it – despite what your brain says.
Don’t ever feel like you don’t deserve help because ‘you’re not as bad as other people’ or ‘you haven’t done anything ‘bad’ yet’ – it is SO much better to get help before you need it, as early as you can. Even though some days it feels like things will never be fixed, you’ll feel like this forever, I promise you now it does get better.