One blue day is all it takes for me to start worrying that I’m relapsing into acute depression. This morning I woke up and felt the tugging sensation of low mood deep in my chest before I’d even opened my eyes. It’s a feeling that always accompanies my depression, as if I’ve swallowed a stone and it’s sitting inside me, heavy and indigestible. It replicates how it feels after something terrible has happened – a bereavement, a relationship break-up – so this morning I lay still for a while trying to remember what the terrible thing might be, before I realised that there is nothing. I feel miserable and there is no “reason” that I can identify. During the past few weeks, my days have felt too short to accommodate all that I want to achieve, but today feels frighteningly empty, stretching out ahead of me. That’s when the thought pops into my mind: oh, no, here we go again.
I’ve had plenty of exposure to cognitive techniques – I use them all the time at work with clients, for goodness sake. I know what I’m supposed to do to control the worry and challenge depressive thinking. Panicked Me is yelling, “You see this? This is just how I felt last time when I was beginning to get depressed. I thought I was past that, but it’s back again, I’m getting ill!” I look to Sensible Me, to see what my Wise Mind has to say about it. Sensible Me is always full of good advice, and today is no exception. “Don’t get carried away! This is just one low day. On the scale of things, your mood’s not even that low. This is absolutely just a blip. You’ll probably be fine tomorrow.”
Trouble is, although I know on an intellectual level that Sensible Me is probably correct, on a gut level I believe that Panicked Me is correct. I’ve had two days in a row of sleeping much more than usual, often a sign that my mood is dipping. Last week I felt clear-headed and “normal” following two weeks of mild hypomania, and maybe I’m due for a pendulum-swing in the opposite direction. My bipolar moods are like a Newton’s Cradle; it may take a short while for the energy to throw my mood in the opposite direction, but it always happens eventually. All I’m clinging onto right now is that just as the balls on a Newton’s Cradle swing progressively shorter and shorter distances, so are my moods since I started treatment. I’m still hoping that sooner or later, I’ll achieve the still point that is emotional equilibrium.