Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Fasten Your Seatbelts! The Rollercoaster Ride of Manic Depression

rollercoaster.jpgThank you to all the Beyond Blue readers who asked me for an update on my health.


In my post, “Grateful and Depressed? You Can Be Both,” I explained that I have been in a depressive cycle for about nine months. Able to function. Most people probably couldn’t tell, assuming my smile was genuine. But looming over every event, moment, situation was that longing to be on the other side of life (i.e. death), desperate for a relief of some kind for the chronic pain. Although I had lots of good days–even some weeks–I mostly woke up with that familiar nausea and dread you feel when you’ve fallen into the black abyss.


Dr. Smith has been inching up my Zoloft.

I started at 50 milligrams (which I was taking with 100 mg of Nortriptyline and 1050 mg of Lithium). I didn’t notice any change in my depression until two weeks ago, when I started taking 175 mg of Zoloft.

I clearly marked the morning in my mood journal when I woke up without any thoughts of death, and was actually excited to start the day. It feels so foreign, not to have to constantly fight the morbid thoughts. I guess I had grown so accustomed to the depression–applying all the coping skills I have learned over the years–that I figured it was a permanent disposition. You do that when it lasts more than six weeks. You assume the black hole is your home and start buying furniture for it.


Moreover, with me, I always fear hypomania when I start to feel good.

Because the lands of “wellness” and “hypomania” share a small strip of real estate that is forever being contested. As soon as some homes go up, the other says it’s their property and tears them down. Fuzzy terrain … determining what is level and what is at a slight incline. That’s why Dr. Smith inched up the Zoloft by 12.5 mg. I am hypersensitive to increased levels of SSRIs. In the past, increasing the dose by 25 mg has triggered a hypomania.

Now I do love being hypomanic. Not only can I complete today’s and tomorrow’s to-do list done in an hour, but I want sex! I can leave my below-sea-level self-esteem in the ocean because I actually have self-confidence! I believe in my own capabilities and when someone questions that, I tell him to go somewhere warm and don’t think twice. Ah yes. It’s a great way to be!


But what goes up must come down.


And the crashes I’ve experienced after a hypomania are brutal.

You definitely want to avoid them.

This, however, is the message I want to relay to all of you who are fighting chronic death thoughts and waking up with nausea and dread: depression doesn’t last forever. Having camped out in the black hole for three seasons straight, I was beginning to think that I would never ever escape.

But I did.

And so will you.

Getty Images/Business Week.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Therese,
    Thank you for updating us on your health. I’m so glad to hear you are beginning to feel more stable. I hope this is the beginning of a new chapter for you.

  • Steve

    Thank you Therese for your willingness to share freely. I think this is helpful. I will say a prayer for you. We all need it.

  • JLLB

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re feeling better!! :)
    One thing I struggle with when I’m feeling “normal” (and even sometimes when I’m hypomanic – as much as that doesn’t make sense) is that I know I will always fall back into the darkness again. When I’m in that good place and someone says how well I’m doing or that I’m getting “better,” my reply (to my psychologist only, because she is the only one who will not yell at me) is that I always fall again. Or if I’m depressed and suicidal and reminded that I will come out of this (as an argument against suicide), I know that, again, I will return to that place of wanting to die because I always do. I’m always on alert when I feel well that a spiral is just around the corner. I wind up in fear during those rare good times, which probably winds up forcing me into a self-fulfilling prophesy. Meds have never really helped me get stable.
    Has anyone else felt this way?

  • Anya

    LOL – “buying furniture for the black hole” – I love it! From time to time I am asking myself if I am having manic episodes, or it’s just how normal people feel.
    So glad you are feeling better, it’s about time!! I think what you feel is how you were supposed to feel if you you didn’t have this illness. It’s like having Advil work on killer cramps – pure heaven, but that feeling is how you were supposed to feel in the first place.

  • Cheryl

    Yes, I have that same problem, not ever being happy being happy because I’ve spent so much of my life being depressed that I have yet to figure out what is happy and what is hypomanic. I can’t just let myself be happy because I’m always on alert trying to figure out if I’ve gone too far. But what I actually wanted to comment on is how frustrating it is to want sex that much and have no way to get any. I’m impressed you’re so open about that Therese. This is something that for whatever reason I’m completely comfortable discussing with my friends but just cannot bring up with my therapist. I guess, actually, if I am feeling well and do not crave sex then I truly am well and not hypomanic. It’s probably a good indicator.

  • Gayle

    Hey Terese – great follow up. I LOVED grateful and depressed and shared it with some close friends who “don’t get it”.
    Also wanted to share a funny/morbid story with you. Was reading the obits at work yesterday and my work pal approached. I mentioned these two unrelated women, aged 50 and 53, who both died “suddenly”. Naturally that can mean anything from suicide to car accident to heart attack. Now my pal knows all about my daily fight to remain breathing. I told her that I really hated the word “suddenly” in the obits and we came up with a substitute should I ever grow a set of balls or manage to hold on till my kids grow up. Ready? Wait for it . . . “voluntarily passed away”. “Gayle, age 50, voluntarily passed away on . . .” Simultaneously hysterical, morbid and pathetic. Me in a nutshall (no pun intended).

  • rasa

    How brave of you to share all of this! I don’t think I will ever be at that level with folks and professionals. i tend to minimize and deny which has led to hospitalizations. My father brought me up to believe that mental illness comes from bad blood. Emotionally it still binds me. Funny thing is his family is the one that has the mental health issue. My mother never told me and I would have led a such less stressful life if I had known.
    My problem with Bi Polar is PSTD related. At times my therapist has almost broken into tears because of what my family and I have lived through. The plagues of the OT just keep coming. This month the small one was our dog almost died of jaundice. His bloodwork showed he was techically dead. Then my precious oldest daughter was raped six weeks before she graduated. She thinks it was a date rape drug and has done all the right things. My other daughter is about to undergo her 4th scoliosis surgery because of infection. The night before we had the big talk with the docs she shoplifted with friends. Theres more but I get PSTD symptoms with every bomb. Then the depression and guilt hit for my reactions. Stress seems to be in every aspect of our lives and I feel so bad for the kids. Fun should be a part of life!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Joy as well. I want to be the human who handles all with grace and smiles! I wish their were better meds for PTSD and Bi Polar, I would love to be able to laugh without worrying about the next plague falling from above.

  • Christina

    I’m glad you are feeling better and want to thank you, again, for being so honest and descriptive in your writings. You have no idea how much Beyond Blue has helped me. Many times I read your postings and think “Yes! That’s it!” I take medication too – have for a little over a year..I think about going off of it but I know, looking back over my adulthood, that depression and periods of a little too much energy has caused me to make some mistakes due to impulsive actions and not thinking things through. I have regrets but also look at myself with a little less self reporach and a little more compassion. Keep writing, keep feeling better!

  • rdl

    love “buying furniture for the black hole”. great post!

  • Dee

    Your honesty is so profound yet it helps so many by reading your post. So there really is a light at the end of the blcak cold tunnel? Thank you for the reassurance because I am begining to doubt it. Your post keep me going and someday maybe I can be as brave as you and talk to others suffering the same. Right now though I must count the seconds on the clock to make it through until the next minute… God Bless!

  • barb quester

    dear therese, i praise and thank God that He keeps you going, for your family, for us, but mostly for YOU. you mean so much to everyone in your life, and life wouldn’t be the same for any of us — family, friends, your readers if you were not here anymore. i also thank God that you have such a great support system. i admire and appreciate you and your strength, and your sense of humor! hang in there, as you said, what comes up must come down. but we are all here also acting as your support system. my neighbor is bipolar, and even though i don’t know him real well, i do see him nearly every day and see his mood swings. i always make sure he is on his meds. you know what really keeps him going? his parents, for sure, but his 3 pit bulls and his cat. without those animals i fear for his life. i try and make sure and do what i can for him when i am able to, and most of the time, i think of you after we have had a conversation, so, literally, reading what you write daily helps me, and him too. thanks for you. have a good weekend. God Bless you and your family. all my best, barb

  • pinkkd

    So there is hope….. My black hole has been furnished for so long I have been wondering if it was time to redecorate. Perhaps I’ll wait.
    I have been reading your blog for several week now. I am glad you are feeling better.

  • Judy

    Thank you for sharing your stories and for the hope you give the rest of us. I’m so glad that the change in your meds has helped you. I love your comment about furnishing your “black hole.” I sometimes picture myself in my own black hole up to my ankles…head first! As a loved child of God, though, I’m starting to think I deserve better.
    Therese, I thank God for you!

  • Karen

    What a well-written piece. (Loved the line about furnishing your black hole, and your commenter’s note about having been in her furnished hole so long she’s thinking of redecorating). I’m so glad you’re coming out on the other side. I’m on the other side myself, thanks to Cymbalta and a compassionate husband, and this is the longest I’ve spent over here for years. It CAN happen!

  • Bill

    I’m not much of a spiritual kind of guy, but if I were to imagine the best in spirituality; what you’re offering here, Therese, would be the model. I’m simply not capable of saying anything else.

  • Your Name

    Glad to hear the the medication is helping and best of luck getting it just right. Thanks so much for sharing with such honesty. You are an amazingly strong and perceptive person. The parallels to my own struggles with depression are numerous, so I am very touched and strengthened by your willingness to share.
    I am also beginning to surface after about a year and half of relapse depression. I am 40 and have had about 3-4 bouts of major depression since my teenage years. I am an artist and have not had health insurance since 2006. I also don’t like taking medications in general. I’m finally realizing that these factors tend to make me wait way too long to recognize that a medication change or tweek is necessary (this time the wait was a year and a half!)
    I always want to rely as little on meds as possible and hope that my determination and all the tools I’ve learned: self-awareness of negative loops, yoga, etc will do the trick. Now that I’m feeling better, I am so thankful for the wonders of modern medicine and antidepressants. Now that I’m on a new medication, for the first time in many months I’m getting some relief.
    I would love to find more resources about working through chronic depression and recovering from relapses. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, I would love to hear them…thanks Therese.

  • Rita

    Thank you, I was hoping you would mention mania.
    Ah yes, hypomania. Confidence, energy, self esteem.
    I find it funny that I have a moment of worry if I feel good.

  • Kathleen O’Keefe

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings, Therese! I am NOT glad you’ve been in the black hole, but I certainly appreciate not feeling alone.
    You are such a valuable person, and the love you share is priceless!
    God bless you.

  • Sheila

    You say it all too well, Therese. When I am in the black hole I visualize a long rope – you know the ones in the gym that are attached to the beams in the ceiling. I close my eyes and see myself hanging onto that rope. That is how I gage how I am feeling. If I see my body hanging onto the knot at the end by my finger tips then I know that I’m not really doing very well. Sometimes I am sitting on top of the beam above the rope – good days. Where ever I am on that rope I try to imagine myself climbing to the top of it. It is a practice that takes some repeating – for me it helps. I always tell my self that if I can hold on long enough and tight enough the hell of my depression will pass. I try other visualization practices too – but this one is popular with me.
    Keep hold’n on!

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