A friend of mine asked me a question (on Facebook):
“Do you ever get advance ‘warning signs’ (prior to an episode of depression), or do you know the things that may be a trigger for you? Or, do things come on suddenly? If there is ‘warning’, is there any way to head things off, or to somehow mitigate the depth of things? Please tell me if this is too intrusive.”
Firstly, I want to thank you for the questions – they lead me into adding more info/details to this (Facebook) thread which, I hope, will be interesting, informative, helpful etc to those following it. Secondly, the questions make me think – they sometimes bring to the fore of my mind issues which I don’t consider, they force realisations to dawn and that is helpful for me – thank you.
Now, I’ll try to answer the question:
Sometimes – maybe half of the time, maybe more times than not – I get no warning, it, literally, just happens. I can be feeling fine, I can be feeling better than fine, I can be feeling good and, suddenly, I just drop – I can liken it to being a passenger on a plane, smooth flight, no turbulence….and then, suddenly, a drop – it can be that sudden. I feel those, I’m aware of what’s happening, I know that those drops ‘in the cabin pressure of my brain’ are symptoms of the illness/depression – this might sound strange but I can’t be sure if those sudden bumps, the depression episodes which start like that, lead into episodes of real darkness or whether the really bad episodes are the ones which hit me unawares.
Next up, there are episodes which comes in more stealthily, I don’t ‘see’ them come in, they envelope me without my being aware of the change from ok to not, I just find myself there – no warning, one second fine, the next, not, but the change from ok to not, to the not of which I’m aware, is gradual, so gradual that I don’t sense it. Thinking about it as I type, I guess it’s fair to say that I can be feeling fine, feeling good but that I’m always on the cusp…I am aware that my sense of wellbeing could change at any moment…
There are times when I’m feeling good and then I drop a bit, find myself feeling less good but still ok but I become aware of a change happening, I can feel the walls closing in, I can feel fragile, like I’m teetering – at those times, I feel emotional, tearful, not as in an episode but kind of straddling the line between ok and not ok – it’s a strange, conflicting time, feeling, simultaneously, fine but like I’m going to burst into tears….what do I do to stop falling off the cliff?? Sitting here now thinking about it, I don’t think I do anything – I guess I hope it’ll pass, not ‘spill over’, and I think I’m so resigned to it all that I kind of let it happen but I do so in the faith that it’ll pass, even if it spills over first – I should be more proactive, I guess – I must give some thought to it!
Finally, there are the episodes which start following what most people would consider far, far from an argument or a cross word but which I perceive as such a whack that I ‘hit the canvas’ (boxing parlance). What do I mean? This: my wife can say something to me which, in reality, is nothing but which I, Sensitive Sam, take as a big personal slight – my wife can find herself, at times, walking on egg shells, she might not even realise that she has said something which has pressed one of my buttons but over the cliff I go – into silence, darkness, pessimism, self-loathing…. I don’t usually perceive those episodes as being related to the illness, they are big drops, they are usually episodes in which I am not looking in at the ill me from the wings, they aren’t the episodes in which I can contextualise what’s happening, they are episodes in which I am consumed, wholly consumed, by the black dog – but he, might be a she – eventually spits me out, thankfully!
If I thought about your questions for longer, I’m sure I could add to this, or make it clearer, but I wanted to reply straight away. I do hope that this helps you – and others!