A Spectrum of Depression

Blank.

Each time I go to write, I get a blank.  Is it a blank, because I feel as if I don’t have anything important to say.  Or is it a blank, because if I make a certain statement, then it is real.  It becomes something tangible in this world, not only for me, but for others, and I will eventually have to come nose to nose with it.

I’ve grappled with this before.  Making certain admissions.  I do not lie as much as I turn a blind eye.  I rationalize.  I attempt to will it out of existence.  But, it is just not that easy.

Simply – I am in the midst of a depressive episode.

Why was that so hard?

There is a certain hesitation for me to use the word depression.  It is not a word that I use loosely; others use it as a part of their regular vernacular to describe sadness.  Depression is not sadness.  Depression has a depth beyond that of sadness, loneliness, isolation, self-loathing, or any other word.  No amount of words arranged in any way can accurately depict depression, and do it any kind of justice.

The hesitation to term it as depression stems from the idea that, if it doesn’t feel like the worst I’ve ever felt, then it’s not depression.  I have faced more gruesome depressions than this one.  With the admission comes a certain fear.  If I am to term it as a depressive episode, then it really will be such, in the worst sense of that word.  It could worsen the episode itself by acknowledging it.

Blank.  Again.

I have found it so interesting that Bipolar Disorder has this grandiose spectrum to encompass so many different types and symptoms.  However, they are exclusive to mania.  Depression is just depression, and it by itself is MDD, or unipolar depression.  Except, now psychologists are starting to recognize symptoms that are related to atypical depression.  However, by reading through these symptoms, it seems as if it may be exclusive to unipolar depression.

How much research has been done to distinguish unipolar depression from bipolar depression?  So far, the only thing that separates the two is the existence of hypomania / mania.  In theory, there wouldn’t be a difference.  I get the feeling that there is, and it is significant enough to have a separation between the two.

So far, the mood spectrum looks like this:

But, I really think that’s being too broad about it.  I fall smack dab in the middle of Bipolar II, no full on psychosis equals no full on mania, even if I have delusions.  I wouldn’t even suspect that I have full on mania, anyway.  Even with delusional thinking, I can honestly say that there has never been a time where I have been hypomanic where I lost touch with reality.

People with mood disorders are familiar with the depressive symptoms.  But, I’ll sum them up:

Sadness, anxiety, irritability,  Loss of energy,  Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness,  Loss of interest or enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable,  Difficulty concentrating,  Uncontrollable crying,  Difficulty making decisions,  Increased need for sleep,  Insomnia, Change in appetite causing weight loss or gain, Suicidal ideation, and / or Attempting suicide.

Symptoms of atypical depression:

Increased appetite, Unintentional weight gain. Increased desire to sleep. Heavy, leaden feeling in the arms and legs, Sensitivity to rejection or criticism that interferes with your social life or job, Relationship conflicts. Trouble maintaining long-lasting relationships, Fear of rejection that leads to avoiding relationships, Having depression that temporarily lifts with good news or positive events but returns later

These are all familiar.  I’ve bolded the ones that I’m experiencing at the moment.  It seems that I’m bordering on the more atypical part of depression.  This is the kind of depression that no one really tells you about.

I had mentioned my diagnosis of Bipolar II, resulting from non-psychotic “manias” clinically termed “hypomania”.  Fair enough.  Let me put a question out there.  Has anyone ever experienced a psychotic depressive episode?

I have.  And I have mentioned this to doctors on several occasions.  I will have breaks with reality when I am depressed.  I have severe delusions, almost completely the opposite of delusions of grandeur.  I will have severe paranoid episodes – in fact, I just had one.  I can have myself convinced that everyone hates me and is out to destroy my life.  It makes me combative.  I will sometimes invent conversations that never happened, just because my brain contorts a criticism.

Mayo Clinic appended this in fine print below their list of classical depressive symptoms:

When a person with psychosis is depressed, there may be delusions of guilt or worthlessness — perhaps there is an inaccurate belief of being ruined and penniless, or having committed a terrible crime.

Perhaps?  I’m nearly positive that exists because not enough research on bipolar depression versus unipolar depression exists to accurately differentiate between the two.

There are a few questions that remain.  Again, not to just the bipolar population but the unipolar population as well, have you ever experienced a psychotic depressive episode?  Is this more commonly found in MDD, BP II, or BP I?

Because if this is common amongst all populations, then the mood spectrum should look more like this:

Perhaps a more accurate model

The Grey Season

There’s a saying here in Pittsburgh.  “There are only two seasons, winter and construction.”  Although comedic, it is partially correct.  I say partially because winter doesn’t really accurately describe the season correctly.

When someone thinks of winter, they think of the glistening white snow.  That’s not quite the case.  When winter begins to move upon us, we don’t just know it by the chill in the air when the wind kicks up.  Suddenly, the sun is lost behind thick layers of smoke colored clouds.  There doesn’t have be precipitation, but there is an endless, dreary overcast sky.

The clouds darken when the freezing rain comes.  Eventually, it will turn to snow.  However, it is not the pristine white, untouched snow you see on the hillsides.  It is grey, dirty slush, on an concrete sidewalk, and packed against the blacktop roads. The precipitation darken the buildings, and everything is enveloped in shadows.

It’s best described in a personal journal entry below.

“February 23, 2010
‘Tomorrow, when I inspect the world outside my window in the light of the morning, it will be blanketed with snow.  A vast, endless landscape of white.  The ground, the rooftops, and even the sky will be varying shades of grey – monochrome, bitter, lifeless, and uninviting.'”

This is Pittsburgh's third season. The Gray Season.

I have felt grey over the past few days.  I can’t feel for a better word.  Something like, my flame isn’t burning as brightly. It’s a dampening effect, casting a shadow over me everywhere I go.  The vibrant colors of the world filter and leave only the grey inside of me.

I worry.  Is this the start of another depressive episode.  It doesn’t feel like depression.  It feels like blah.  It’s not as if I am despondent or lifeless. Jokes are still funny, and I still feel like getting up in the morning. I’m not crying. My world still operates normally.

It’s just as if everything has lost that little something. There’s no spring in my step. The sun is behind the clouds and only dim light filters through, both literally and figuratively. Everything is dull. I find myself becoming less enthusiastic and more disinterested.

I have ideas, but none that I am passionate about. I read things and find it difficult to find something constructive to add. Or interesting, for that matter. Moments are moving slower. Sounds are turning to whispers.

I can’t hear the rain on my roof.

I am afraid to move or speak. I don’t want to upset the balance. It is a careful balance on the scales that I work so hard to maintain. I have to shake the rain out of my hair, off my coat. I can’t stand the clouds, casting shadows onto me.

Where’s my fire? I seemed to have misplaced my fire.

I’m going to go check the medicine cabinet.