Trigger warning: brief mention of suicide
When you are going through an episode of depression, you may think that it is the worst thing ever and you will never get out of it. You may even beat yourself up for “allowing” yourself to become depressed in the first place. I think these are normal reactions to feeling depressed. After all, we live in a society that devalues depression and perhaps even vilifies it.
If you have bipolar disorder, then depression is a very normal state. In fact, you may feel depressed about two-thirds of the time. After all, being in a manic state zaps your energy eventually, so you can only stay manic for so long. That depletion of energy is normal, so you are bound to feel depressed afterward, even for quite awhile.
I encourage you to lean into your depression. Use it to your advantage. Here are several things you can do to leverage your depression so you can take your power back from the feelings of despair.
Use this time as an opportunity to rest and recharge. You may not get much sleep when you are in a manic state. Use your depressive state to heal yourself from your manic state. Give in to the urge to get eight to ten hours of sleep per night. It is recommended that you get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but when you feel depressed, your body craves more sleep. Give in to that urge. But try not to sleep more than ten hours, or else you will feel very groggy when you finally do get out of bed.
Use this time for introspection. When you are in a manic state, you may lose touch with reality at least somewhat because psychosis is a possible effect of mania. When you are in a depressive state, you are actually in a place mentally where you think more realistically, so long are you are not thinking about suicide. This is a perfect opportunity to dig deep into your emotions and evaluate aspects of your life. Take an inventory of your thoughts and feelings about where you are in your life. Journal about it. Get it all out.
Listen to a sad song or watch a sad movie occasionally. It is OK to sit in your feelings of depression while you are in that state, so long as you do not wallow in your feelings and dig into an ever-deeper pit of despair. As such, expose yourself to media that may amplify your depression. It is also a good distraction when your thoughts and feelings get a bit too much for you. Yes, it is OK to distract yourself once in a while.
Eat nourishing (or some not-so-nourishing) food and drink plenty of water. When you are in a manic state, you might not feel the need to eat very much. This could be one of the contributing factors to the decline of your mania into depression. Your body needs fuel to function, and if you habitually skip meals when you are manic because you do not feel like eating, your energy will eventually be depleted. So use your depressive state to eat a bunch of healthy foods, and even some junk food, to get yourself back to your optimal condition. In my experience, when I eat a lot of food when I feel depressed, I start to feel better so long as I do not overdo it and stuff myself beyond oblivion. See a doctor or nutritionist in order to determine your caloric and nutritional needs.
Talk to loved ones about your feelings. Opening up to people might be hard when you are depressed, yet it may be something you actually crave doing. By talking to loved ones about what is going on in your life, you may gain some insights from others that you did not think about yourself. This improves your sense of well-being and you may get out of the feelings of depression sooner.
Keep in touch with your therapist and psychiatrist (or equivalent). When you are in a manic state, you may not think you need help. It is harder to notice your mania than it is to realize that you are in a state of depression. I know I tend to be more in tune with my depression than my mania. However, you still need help when you feel depressed, and you may even want to seek help. Talk to your therapist about how you are feeling, and check in with your psychiatrist in case you need a medication adjustment.
Cry. A lot. You may want to cry when you feel depressed. Crying is completely normal and OK. Even people who do not have a mental health disorder feel the need to cry when a feeling or event triggers it. Crying is healing for your body and soul. After you have a crying spell, you may feel relieved to have gotten the feelings out. Choking back tears is not healthy. You may feel stained emotionally and physically if you keep yourself from crying. So cry. You will be glad you did.
Sit and do nothing. Yes, let yourself sit in your feelings of depression. There is value in sitting and doing nothing. Let yourself become bored. When you feel bored, you may daydream and get into a creative state. And when that happens, put pen (or paintbrush, or some other creative implement) to paper and create.
These are just eight things you can do to use your depression to your advantage. Please do not consider this list complete. You are your own person who has unique needs, so there could be other things you could do to make the most out of your depression. Eventually, I would like to put together a course that gives a tutorial on creating a custom blueprint on how to navigate your depression so you make the most of it.
What do you like to do when you feel depressed? Does it eventually make you feel better?