Much has been made of Robin Williams’ ongoing struggle with darkness culminating with his suicide after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
People have commented mostly on how confusing it seems that someone who gave so much laughter could be visited by such exquisite pain. But we bipolars know all about this. It’s almost like living with two distinct personalities in one head, embodying the heights of joy and the depths of despair as the general norm, not the exception. In other words, I don’t think it’s even remotely difficult to see how one person could exist inside those two extremes. We live it.
And that means we need a plan of action for the dark times.
Yes, meds and therapy can greatly lessen and sometimes even eliminate the darkests of darks. But depression is always a possibility, and because of that, we need a game plan for if and when it shows up, unannounced, to wreak havoc on our lives. Or like Robin Williams, we might have a system for dealing with the regular ebbs and flows of our heads, but still need a plan for a sudden trauma, such as a new illness or some similar loss.
It is hard to keep the viewpoint that depression serves a purpose, especially when it can leads to such tragic results, but I’ve tried to use my own as a sort of forced retreat. When I have a depression, I pull out my list of “Stuff To Do When Depressed”. I keep this list because, when depressed, you don’t have the energy to come up with a game plan. It’s helpful for me to have already thought of a few helpful things to do.
On my list, I have what I call slow activities. I treat my depression time like a few days at the spa. I take long baths, I refrain from taking or making any calls from/to people who might not treat me with the extra sensitivity I need during my depressions and I make sure to watch my comfort movies, eat my comfort food and be in comfortable places. I let bills go, I cancel plans and get out of obligations, knowing that this is a short-lived but very intense time for me to take care of myself. I eat well, sleep long hours and coddle myself. It only lasts a few days and while it doesn’t stop the pain, it does allow me to look at the depths as a time for self-soothing.